Today there probably aren’t many kids who don’t own a Nintendo Gameboy or one of it’s many variations. Back in the 1980’s such technology was the thing of Science Fiction, so we had to make do with our Palitoy Pocketeers instead (or the less catchily named Tomy Pocket Games in the US).
Pocketeers were hand held games that took the old Christmas cracker “roll-the-balls-into-little-holes” games a step further. Some were little more than larger versions of said cracker novelties, being mazes that you just had to roll one or more mini ball bearings around by tipping the entire toy. Others added little spring loader flippers and pushers to the mix, allowing the player some more interesting ways of interacting with the ball, and the ultimate addition was to have some form of movement thanks to a clockwork mechanism. Best of all though, the Pocketeers range were available at pocket money prices.
The pictured example is one of the games that I owned as a kid, and is called Space Invader (hmm, wonder where they got the idea for that from). A wind up mechanism moved the three stripy barriers from side to side, whilst you attempted to flick your little ball bearing between them to hit the alien mothership at the top of the game. Doing this caused a little score counter to the side of the alien to flip round. As you can see it was pretty simple, yet also surprisingly involved at the same time, as the mechanics of getting the thing to work were quite interesting.
Another game that my sister had was Smurf Look-A-Like. This had the bodies of a boy and girl Smurf with a little window above them. The Smurf’s heads were on two rotating wheels which spun round like crazy when you pressed a button on the side of the game. The idea was to stop the spinning wheels by releasing the button so that the Smurf heads matched, that is they would both be laughing, or sticking out their tongue, or crying. Since the wheel spun so fast this was really down to luck rather than judgement, but it kept us amused on long car journeys.
I vaguely remember the TV advert jingle, which went something like “Pocketeers! Pock-Pock-Pock-Pocketeers!”, but if you remember these games and need to refresh your memory further then look no further than Stu’s Excellent World Of Pocketeers, which brought back some happy memories to me.