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Archive for the ‘Toys – Videogames’ Category

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Gauntlet

Posted by Big Boo on November 30th, 2009

gauntletI remember being blown away the first time I saw Atari’s Gauntlet arcade machine. What stood out immediately was that it had four joysticks instead of the usual one or two that most arcade cabinets had. The idea that four people could play at once was relatively new back in 1985, yet the fact that the game could be played by just a single player still made it a real winner.

The game was set with a classic fantasy setting of warriors and magicians. Each joystick was on a different coloured panel, which represented the colour of your on screen character. You could choose from four classes of character, each with differing abilities. These were Warrior, Wizard, Valkyrie and Elf.

Unsurprisingly the warrior was the strongest character, whilst the wizard was the best character for using the magic potions that could be picked up in the games levels. The Valkyrie had the best armour (ironic considering she was only wearing a chain mail bikini) and the Elf was the fastest character.

Apparently the characters all had names, but this was lost on me at the time. Their names were Thor (Warrior), Merlin (Wizard – unsurprisingly), Thyra (Valkyrie) and Questor (Elf).

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Tomytronic 3D

Posted by Big Boo on November 25th, 2009

tomytronic-3dLooking like a pair of futuristic binoculars, the Tomytronic 3D range of electronic games were much sought after when they were released in the early eighties. The bold claim that these games had was that the action was depicted in three dimensions, making all those other resolutely two dimensional games seem old fashioned and dull.

This claim was probably a little over the top. Yes, the games did appear to be more three dimensional, but only because they worked in a similar way to one of those Viewmaster toys. You looked down two eyepieces so each eye saw a slightly different view of the same image. This made your brain see the image pop into three dimensions.

Sounds good, but given that these games were still limited to only being able to display the graphical images in fixed positions you weren’t going to get smooth movement or animation, and the games were limited to the standard fodder of space invader clones and driving games where you could be in one of three different lanes and all you had to do was switch lanes to dodge oncoming cars.

The games were also not all that good for your eyes or your posture! The game screen was only visible if you had a fairly strong light source coming in through the frosted plastic on the top of the unit, and of course you had to hold the thing up to your eyes constantly in order to play it, so aching arms quickly ensued.

That said, at the time none of that mattered to me and I was deeply envious of anybody who had one of these games, as it made my Grandstand Munchman look dull and boring…

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Nintendo Game & Watch

Posted by Big Boo on September 25th, 2009

nintendo game and watchYou may well think that it was with the Gameboy that Nintendo gained a strangle hold on the hand held videogame market, but they were doing very well before it was released with the Game & Watch range.

The idea for Game and Watch came from Nintendo designer Gunpei Yokoi (who incidentally also came up with Gameboy) who saw a bored business man playing with a pocket calculator whilst sat on a bullet train. Realising that a pocket sized electronic game could be a big seller he came up with the first in the series, called Ball, which was a juggling simulator!

The original Game & Watch games consisted of an LCD screen and a number of buttons for playing the game. The LCD screens had all the graphical elements required to animate the game mapped out on them, and the games logic circuits just switched the different elements on and off as necessary. Any permanent parts of the display were printed directly onto the screen, yielding a little colour to the proceedings. Later models added extra screens and the now famous cross shaped D-Pad which Nintendo have used on just about every gaming system ever since!

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Ghostbusters The (New) Video Game

Posted by Big Boo on July 17th, 2009

ghostbusters the video gameAs we near the end of Ghostbusters week here on Child Of The 1980’s it would be wrong of me to leave out the latest addition to the Ghostbusters storyline, that of the recently released Ghostbusters: The Video Game.

If you live outside the UK then you’ll probably already be enjoying this if you’re a Ghostbusters fan on whatever games console you happen to own, but in the UK you’ll currently only be able to play on a PlayStation console as Sony have got an exclusivity deal going at the moment.

I’ve been playing the PS3 version, and whilst I’ve barely scratched the surface yet I’ve had a whale of a time so far.  The graphics in the game are really very good, and the likenesses of the actors are surprisingly good.  At times they’re plagued by that horrible waxiness that human skin seems to be rendered with on modern videogames, but for the most part they look and, more importantly, sound like the original characters, and so they should since the movie cast lent their voices to the game.

You play as a new recruit to the Ghostbusters team, working alongside Venkman, Stantz, Spengler and Zeddemore catching ghosts.  Whilst being trained you accidentally let Slimer out of containment, so the first proper level takes place at the Sedgewick Hotel, a fitting first level as it lets you live out your fantasy of smashing up the hotels ballroom just like in the film.

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Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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Ghostbusters – The 8-bit Videogame

Posted by Big Boo on July 15th, 2009

ghostbusters-c64The original Ghostbusters videogame was created by David Crane (creator of legendary Atari 2600 game Pitfall) for the Commodore 64, although versions also appeared for the Spectrum and Amstrad home computers too.

The game had several sections to it and took most of the main elements of the original film as inspiration, although it added a few new ideas of its own.  You were starting up your own Ghostbusters franchise and the idea was to make as much money catching ghosts as possible.

You started with limited funds with which to equip your business, and had to buy a car and ghost busting equipment to begin with.  A choice of four cars ranging from a Volkswagen Beetle to a sports car are available, as well as good old ECTO-1, although you could only afford the Beetle the first time you played.  Ghost equipment included the obvious stuff such as ghost traps but also add ons for the car including a rather odd vacuum cleaner that sat on the bonnet to suck up ghosts!

Once kitted out you were presented with an overhead view of the city.  Buildings start to attract ghosts so you must guide your little Ghostbusters sign to the haunted houses to do battle.  Once a building is selected you then get to drive your car, catching ghosts with the ghost vacuum if you have it.

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Wimpy Restaurants

Posted by Big Boo on July 10th, 2009

wimpy logoBefore McDonalds came to the shores of Blighty we had our own brand of fast food burger restaurant in the form of Wimpy, or Wimpy Bars as the restaurants were often referred to.  Wimpy took their name from the character J. Wellington Wimpy from the Popeye cartoons, as he was a bit of a burger addict, although this character was never used to promote the restaurants as far as I know.

The first Wimpy Bars opened in the 1950s but they were at their most popular during the 1970s and 1980s, although by the time the eighties arrived McDonalds were already doing a good job of crushing poor old Wimpy under foot.

Whilst some of the Wimpy Bars worked under the counter order system this was originally seen as being far too un-British, so the majority had waitress service initially.  The burgers were more to British tastes at the time as well, since they were far more plain and simple than McDonalds with all it’s weird relish and those yucky slices of gherkin (I hate those).  Of course, as time has gone by British tastes have become more American, and Wimpy is now all but gone from the high streets of the UK.  These days you’re most likely to find a Wimpy at a motorway services.

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Type In Computer Listings

Posted by Big Boo on July 1st, 2009

print helloIf you had an 8-bit computer when you were a kid then chances are this image will bring back many happy memories of going into all the shops that sold home computers and making them run this little program.  Of course, you may have made it display something other than just “HELLO”, but whether it was just extended to include your name (e.g. “BIG BOO IS COOL”) or something a bit ruder was up to you.

In those days just about every computer you could buy had a built in version of the programming language BASIC (who will be first to post the answer as a comment I wonder?).  This meant that you could write your own programs (which normally meant games) if you could be bothered to learn all those weird commands like PEEK, POKE and GOSUB.  For those that didn’t want to learn all that rubbish, there was always the type in listing.

Back then magazines such as Your Computer (remember that computer buffs?) printed pages of listings for you to type in yourself at home.  Normally these were written in BASIC but occasionally they were written in machine code, as it was referred to, which was the native instruction set of the central processing unit.  On many computers this meant typing in a BASIC listing first which then let you type in thousands of hexadecimal numbers.  What joy!

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Cool Handheld Pacman Game

Posted by Big Boo on June 8th, 2009

arcade classicOne of my favourite arcade games as a kid was Pacman, and when Santa brought me the handheld Grandstand Munchman game I was over the moon.  It may have been an incredibly simple version of Pacman but I played it for hours on end, attempting to beat my highscore.

Anyway, the good people at Hawkin’s Bazaar have just let me know about their new Arcade Classic handheld game, which though badly named in my opinion (Arcade Classic could mean anything – Space Invaders, Asteroids, Frogger, Donkey Kong, etc.) looks as though it’s incredibly close in style to my old Munchman game.

You’re still chased by ghosts but for some reason you play as a smiley face in a cowboy hat, and instead of collecting cherries you collect pieces of jewellery.  It looks like it has a very clear display, and has a little joystick instead of the four directional buttons that Munchman had, so would appear to be a bargain at £14.99.  Now, Father’s Day is just around the corner, and this year will be the first time I get to celebrate it, so maybe I should drop some hints…