1. Vectrex – The Vectrex was a little late to the gaming party, but at least it showed up with style.
Released in November 1982 by a company called Greater Consumer Electronics and then later by Milton Bradley when they acquired GCE, the Vectrex boasted its own monitor which displayed vector graphics in a fashion similar to what you’d see in an arcade. They also had two peripherals – a 3D headset (that actually worked, thanks to the vectors), and a light pen that let users draw on the screen.
(Their marketing materials were fantastic, too.)
These things made the gameplay stand out a bit from its console competitors, but the project wasn’t without its hiccups. It was a monochrome monitor, so the system used overlays to simulate color. Strike one, although it worked better than you would think. It retailed at $199 ($479 adjusted for inflation today), while the mega-hit Atari 2600 retailed at $125. Strike two. Although there was no way to tell this, the industry was poised for a huge crash in just a year that would sink even the most solid investments. Strike three, and Milton Bradley ended up taking a bath on their Vectrex efforts.
The system is fondly remembered today, as it was a pretty powerful machine for the time and the games themselves were good. Here’s some box art for a couple of Vectrex games:
And here are some commercials for the console:
2. T&C Wood and Water Rage – I’m not sure if this was true everywhere but in elementary school in Central Florida in the ’80s, T&C Surf Design shirts were a sort of social currency. The shirts featured their iconic mascots and were basically a one-panel comic. Whoever had the newest or never-before-seen shirt got an exorbitant amount of attention. Most of these people had never or would never touch a surfboard or skateboard in their lives.
In 1987, LJN (publishers of the Karate Kid game mentioned last week) released a T&C game called Wood and Water Rage.
The game basically had two phases – surf and skate. As a surfer you were Thrilla Gorilla and your job was to ride a wave for an unrealistically long time, avoiding wipeouts and other flotsam that would come your way.
As a skater you alternated between Tiki Man and Joe Cool and basically did a platforming level on your skateboard, avoiding typical skate-level things like huge holes in the ground and construction barriers. And unfinished parts of interstate highway that you’re apparently skating down:
The game was, like the shirts, wildly successful in my neck of the woods and alongside Karate Kid could pretty much be found in any kid’s library. The difference between this game and Karate Kid is that this one is actually good. Here’s some gameplay:
3. Karate Kid Action Figures – Speaking of Karate Kid, here’s a commercial for some action figures. To the kid doing Mr. Miyagi’s voice: you can dial it down a bit!
4. Junior Vampires of America – Not the Twilight kind, the Grandpa Munster kind. Call now!
5. Disney’s Peter and the Wolf – Finally, here’s Disney’s recording of Peter and the Wolf, a staple of my childhood. Voiced by Sterling Holloway, a regular voice actor for Disney films of the time, I used to think it was Winnie the Pooh telling me the Peter and the Wolf story.