Any child of the early Eighties will sigh and smile and the sight of these little beauties: the Game and Watch series. An early attempt by Nintendo to drag us all into the modern age by producing a series of hand-held electronic games that set the age-old precedent of having a built in clock as a major feature.
Game and Watch gizmos soon covered the nation teaching kids lighting-slow reactions as they whacked the left and right keys, not having the slightest idea what was going on. This was mainly because graphics were provided by crude black liquid-crystal shapes that could be turned on or off; a series of sprites in fixed locations. As a result, the games themselves are the cave-paintings of the digital age. To us, it was witchcraft.
But who cares! Fun! They are surprisingly addictive as gameplay is necessarily simple (normally, nothing more than left and right) and levelling up just makes things go faster.
These two examples appeared as we were cleaning up our garage. They are from my wife’s childhood home of Hong Kong. ‘Chef’ requires you to move back and forward catching falling pancakes and ‘Popeye’ requires you to move back and forward catching food. See a pattern? It’s not exactly Portal.
Both are in lovely condition and to all our surprises worked perfectly after a clean and some new batteries. However, it’s hard to impress a 12 year old who normally plays Angry Birds.
The legacy of Game and Watch is still with us. Nintendo introduced the dual-screen version (Mrs Evans swears she has a Donkey Kong one around here somewhere) which later on provided design inspiration for the DS series.
If you would like to immerse yourself in this world, I found a remarkable site that uses what appear to be photos of the original displays to re-create gameplay. It’s in Russian but the site itself is beautifully designed and could easily suck up some of your free time. http://pica-pic.com
‘Chef’ and ‘Popeye’ Game and Watch: Lots 2 & 3 in PJ’s Home for Disowned and Discarded Digital Detritus