I recently bought off eBay a fondly remembered tabletop game from my childhood which I thought my kids would get a kick out of playing, called BARNSTORMER by MARX. Even though it stated in the auction’s heading in bold caps, “WORKS!”, it did not arrive in working condition. Such is the chance of buying second-hand off eBay. And even though my kids were slightly disappointed, I was not. Inside the original box was an original MARX Games, pamphlet-fold style, mini-catalog showcasing some of the forgotten games I played with, or coveted, in my youth of the Seventies!
The MARX Games mini-catalog is 4.5″x4.5″ folded up but once unfolded to refer to it as “mini” is a misnomer since it’s just over 18″ long. Let’s take a closer look at each panel of the catalog to get a better view of what MARX had to offer in ’75:
Well, it looks like you’re either shooting animals or shooting hoops with MARX in ’75. Even though toy guns were culturally on the outs by the mid-Seventies it looks like MARX wasn’t necessarily bending with the winds of change. Also, this was long before the requisite orange tip was required at the end of the gun barrels too. Which means Little Johnny could probably stick up the corner candy store with that handgun from the Jungle Hunter Set. By the way, who goes hunting in a jungle with a handgun? It seems that the handgun and the rifle of Targetland were each in the wrong sets and should be switched.
So your folks won’t pony up to get you one of those latest and greatest PONG video game systems that’s all the rage? No worries, MARX has a cheaper alternative for you by eliminating all that expensive video and computer circuitry:
Now here’s the (non-“WORKS!”) game I bought for my kids, basing my purchase entirely on foggy fond memories:
I recall the exciting fun of playing BARNSTORMER. What I didn’t recall was the utter frustration of playing BARNSTORMER. The airplane was tethered to a wind-up motor in the “hanger” and, since it was wind-up, the airplane would start the game looping around at a very fast speed. Young kids without finely tuned gross motor skills, like me, didn’t stand a chance building their silo tower. It wasn’t until the motor’s winding was becoming spent did anyone have a shot at getting all their silo tower pieces stacked up. There were also calls of “Foul!” whenever someone used the back of their hands to block the plane while they were busily building their silo. Thinking about it, I’m kind of glad BARNSTORMER arrived on my doorstep not working.
What kid in the Seventies didn’t want their very own pinball machine in their own home?! At one time in their life, every kid in the Seventies asked their parents for a big, plastic pinball game similar to these two MARX beauties. Very few actually got one of these pinball games in their home because the parents of the Seventies knew how much LOUD NOISE these big, plastic, buzzing, dinging, banging, thudding pinball games made!
LOVED the MAGIC SHOT GALLERY! I had one of those, my cousin had one, every kid in the Seventies probably had one. Ingenious in its simplicity and safety design, the multitude of ball bearings were kept in the shooting gallery behind a clear plastic window. A metal rod with a magnetic tip stuck out of the tethered gun’s barrel. It’s magnetism allowed you to drag a ball bearing up the plastic window to the desired position for a shot at a target. When you pulled the trigger, this “Magnetic Muzzle” recoiled with lightning speed, quickly “shooting” the ball bearing at its target. Sure, it seemed MARX’s concern for safety had all the bases covered for this game but my sister and I had a habit of putting that recoiling muzzle against bare skin, pulled the trigger and, “OW!”, did it sting! Live and learn, the MARX way.
Spiral Ball looks like a fun variation of Skee-Ball. I didn’t have the Spiral Ball game when I was a kid but recently I did get a reissue of both Spiral Ball and Magic Shot Gallery by a current company who’ve revived the IDEAL brand. In fact both games can be found on Amazon: Spiral Ball and Magic Shot Gallery.
ELECTRO SHOT GALLERY!!! It’s “a miniature amusement park”, you say? SOLD! It’s looks like a Magic Shot Gallery on steroids! Compared to the Magic Shot Gallery, the Electro Shot Gallery was way bigger which to a kid meant it must be way better. But for some unknown reason, the Electro Shot Gallery never showed up under the Christmas tree. In fact, I don’t recall anyone I knew having gotten it. Therefore I never had an opportunity to shoot that “electric machine gun” of the Electro Shot Gallery. It seems this was one of those elusive toys from youth that just never seemed to be destined to be had.
The total opposite can be said for the true MARX classic, Rock ‘Em – Sock ‘Em Robots. This game is one of my earliest kid memories and I have had this game a couple of times during the course of my childhood. What made this game a classic? First off, it’s the only game for its time that gave kids control over robots. Need any more be said?! And no other game gave one the thrill of making that robot-fist-to-robot-chin-connection feeling, causing a robot’s head to pop up. Classic.
FRENZY looks kind of fun to me…now. But as a kid I can see why I wouldn’t want it; FRENZY doesn’t have that kid-friendly flash and fun than the other MARX games. It seems that FRENZY was aimed at our parents to pull out during their swinging Seventies cocktail parties.And it seems that the current IDEAL company has revived Electro Shot Gallery and Frenzy (called Frantic now). . Mattel has recently reissued the classic Rock ‘Em – Sock ‘Em Robots.
So, back in 1975, how much would some of these MARX games set your parents back?
Thanks to WishBookWeb.com, here are a few MARX games you could’ve mail-ordered from the SEARS 1975 Christmas Catalog:
Ah, the coveted Electro Shot Shooting Gallery! It was only $16.99!
Why, oh why, did I never get this?!
Oh. I know why. It costs $16.99 in 1975. That’s kind of steep for a kid’s toy back then. Do you know what that is in 2014, adjusted for inflation? Almost $75.00 bucks!
But look at this commercial for the Electro Shot Shooting Gallery. Totally worth the 1975 equivalent of $75, right?
If you had any of these MARX games, or other MARX games not seen here, tell us about your childhood recollection and whether it hit or miss the mark with you.
I like to look back at our collectively-shared Pop Culture history and write about it, but mostly I try to buy it all back off eBay.