My youngest son has recently taken an interest in the Disney Pixar Cars Dashboard that Father Christmas delivered to him half a year ago. This ‘game’ looks amazing at first glance and I’m sure my 18-month old loves ‘driving’ Lightning McQueen but, for me, it is a little lacking. I think the problem is that I had something a little more special when I was younger, I had the Tomy Turnin’ Turbo Dashboard.
I was around 5 or 6 when I played this driving simulator and it was probably my first proper introduction to video gaming. Of course, this wasn’t really a video game; the innards are mechanical, the various car functions are handled by timers, and there are no goals to accomplish. All of that didn’t matter though, this thing looked like a Porsche and the road moved along at great pace in top gear, and that was more than enough.
I’m certain that the practice I put in on this toy has since helped me conquer many racing games!
Tomy not only produced the Strolling Bowling game we all loved, but it also produced a set of simple, wind-up, T.H.I.N.G.S.-like games called Skill Squares. There were many great Skill Squares (including Rescue Copter), but one of the best was Goin’ Ape.
Not to be confused with the Tony Danza movie of the same name, Goin’ Ape was a little game in which you tried to knock colored balls into the looped arms of a swinging monkey. If successful, the monkey would drop the balls into a bin on the other side of the square. You could then rate yourself by the categories listed on the back of the square.
I unfortunately couldn’t find any video or other pictures of Goin’ Ape anywhere, but this one is still for sale on Ebay!
I loved blinddog’s post on the Hubot earlier today. It got me thinking about the Omnibots which we’ve also talked about. All these bots were very attractive to a young me in the 80s for several reasons: 1) They were high-tech, like all good 80s prodcuts. 2) They were similar to the robot from Rocky IV as Drahken said. 3) They were the buddies I’d always wanted from my toys.
Much as I wanted (and never got) an Omnibot, I’m sure I would have wanted this even more. Behold the robot that can give the Rocky IV bot a run for his money: the Armstrong Mobile Command Ride On Omnibot!
Admittedly, I don’t know much about the AMCROO. All I know is it is a Tomy robot you can ride on, and that’s all I need to know to desperately want it.
Now I would probably have been too old to ride the AMCROO even when it first came out, and I’d certainly be too old for it today. But had I know it existed back then, I would have wanted it anyway. And I still do.
Note: I got the picture and video from The Old Robots Website. There are tons more pictures of the AMRCOO as well as just about any other 80s robot you can think of.
Saturday World’s recent post about handheld LCD games made me think of some of their mechanical equivalents. Most of these involved getting small steel bearings through a maze or into holes, they also often had a timing devices of some kind. The higher quality games were made by Tomy, though there were a real glut of cheap-o ones too. In fact, you can still often find ones similar to the cheap-o ones at dollar stores today, usually attached to a tube full of candy.
I remember having two different maze ones by Tomy (actually the same game, rebranded). You would pull down a slider to between 5 and 20 seconds, then try to get the ball through the maze before the table came up & squeezed the ball against the window so that it wouldn’t move anymore.
I also had this fishing one. The idea was to rock the fisherman back & forth with the slider, knocking all the fish into the hole, before the time ran out. You could actually cheat though by turning the switch to “stop” before time ran out, then taking as long as you wanted to get the fish out.
In the realm of the cheap-o games, most of them were some variation or other of “pinball”. This confused most of us, since there were no flippers, bumpers, nor anything else we associatie with pinball these days. Instead, these all had either spring loaded launchers or tensioned plastic arms to launch the balls (of which there were many) up into the field & try to get them into high scoring holes or cups. What most of us didn’t realize is that this was how pinball originally worked (the “pin” in “pinball” comes from the fact that nails were used as obstacles & to form the cups). These were actually outlawed in the 1940s because they were viewed as being gambling games. Flippers were lated added to transform them into games of skill & make them legal again, thus leading to the pinball machines we’re all familiar with.
These toy “pinball” games are essentially a throwback to the old days of pinball. Interestingly, the japanese game Pachinko is very close to both this original pinball concept & to the toys.
While not really “games” as such, there were also handheld puzzles that worked in a similar manner. These were commonly in the shape of a transparent cube, with a piece of opaque plastic in the middle and one or more small bearings. Sometimes the goal was to get all the bearings to the other side of the opaque plastic, sometimes it was to get them all into holes, sometimes it was to get plastic rings (free-floating within the cube) around each of the bearings. You can often still find these puzzles in dollar stores too.