It’s the early 80s. Exciting new video games like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man were appearing in 7-11s and pizza parlors. I wanted to bring these games into my home where I could play them to my heart’s content without the need for quarters. I had only a few options to do so. There are the Atari 2600 ports of these games which unfortunately were often lacking in the graphics and sound departments. There were the Coleco Mini-Arcade versions which were cool but not quite. There were other handheld electronic versions, particularly the Game and Watch variety. And then there were the board game versions.
Board game versions? That’s right. The geniuses at Milton Bradley took all the digital beauty of Donkey Kong and Pac-Man and captured it on plastic, paper, and cardboard. Sound lame? It’s not. Not at all. Both board game versions had 3-D interactive pieces that moved and acted. In Donkey Kong, there was a plastic Donkey Kong that actually dropped barrels when his arm was depressed, and in Pac-Man there was a plastic Pac-Man that gobbled up marble dots when he landed on them (actually, there were four Pac-Men; there was not just a yellow Pac-Man but a green, blue, and red one as well). The games then basically played like their pixelated sources: ghosts chased Pac-Man, Mario jumped barrels, etc.
Now both these games really suffered from the Mousetrap syndrome; the game pieces were more interesting than the game play. But that’s not such a bad thing. I had plenty of fun with the Donkey Kong and Pac-Men pieces. In fact, I think there were actually a couple of video game cross-overs; Pac-Man would get into Donkey Kong’s game and vice versa. You can’t do that on Atari.
There is a ton of video game-related merchandise out there, particularly Pac-Man and Donkey Kong merchandise: clothes, stuffed animals, toys, and other games. And I had a lot of it. But these two were some of the best. Hey, they were at least as good as the other versions of the time.