Tag Archives: board games

Five Things – 1.30.17 – I Guess You’d Look Like A Garden

Isaac Asimov’s Robots VHS Mystery Game

This 1986 VHS game envisioned a murder mystery set in the universe of Isaac Asimov’s Robot books.  Loosely based on the book Caves of Steel, it’s an ambitious effort and carries a high production value – particularly for the mid-1980s, when so many were getting away with so much less.

Robots follows Detective Elijah Bailey, an Earthling, as he is assigned to the murder of a member of a rival faction, the Spacers.   Was an Earthling behind the killing? A Spacer? A (gasp) robot? The Earthlings have their own robots, but they’re pretty crude.  Sorry, really crude.

Bailey’s  got 24 hours to solve the case before the Spacers destroy the Earth. Ok.  He’s sent to “Old New Jersey”, a city that’s been modernized as a Spacer embassy on Earth, and is paired up with one of the Spacer robots, a much higher grade of production.

The sets of “Old New Jersey” are pretty impressive, for a mid-80’s production. They look positively ’90s!

Unlike some VHS games, there’s no fast-forwarding or rewinding around to different points of the tape to play the game. The story plays out pretty linearly, with prompts to pull clue cards at significant plot points throughout.

Depending on the clues selected, and your keen eye at noticing details during the episode, you either convict a legit criminal or an innocent person.  There’s no video payoff, though – it’s all up to the cards at that point. The game box boasts 256 possible storylines, but that’s a stretch.  There are really only a few outcomes, and the general consensus seems to be that there’s no replay value to this game.  A shame, given the clear effort to make this a big production. Here’s the VHS:

And here’s an ad for the game:

Call me when there’s a Foundation VHS game.

(Seriously. Call me.)

 

The Prom: It’s A Pleasure (1961)

Coca-Cola sponsors this short film filled with instruction on how to properly prepare for and attend the high school prom.  Who knew etiquette was so by-the-numbers? I have the feeling that any attempt to turn a high school prom into a formal cotillion generally ends in disappointment.  Still, the film gives good general advice, like don’t give a flower corsage to a girl who’s got a dress with daisies on it.  Tips that anybody can use.

Do NOT forget to say goodnight to the chaperones!

 

Polaris Nuclear Submarine

I’m fairly certain that this “Nuclear Sub” was little more than a pointed cardboard box, but I’d probably have fallen for this ad.  “Controls That Work” is a particularly bold feature.

 

Evel Knievel Commercial

From the motorcycle to the drag racer to the skycycle, this is a pretty impressive array of Evel Knievel toys.

 

Batman & Superman Sesame Street Ad

On the surface, it’s interesting that Batman and Superman are promoting the premiere of Sesame Street. It’s charming – they hold up the CTW letters, they refer to themselves as stars.  But, really, what are they watching? Themselves, promoting Sesame Street?

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Five Things – 08.22.16 – Hasta Luigi, Baby

Nintendo 1993 Holiday Demonstration Tutorial

This is the Poochie of corporate training videos.

Nintendo Training Video

Sent to game retailers before the 1993 holiday season, this demo employs a Bill S. Preston/Jeff Spicoli/Zack Morris hybrid being to take employees through the steps of acting properly as a Nintendo representative.  It tries so hard (and fails) to be cool that it doesn’t really accomplish anything else.

Nintendo Dancing

This guy hangs out on the couch for the majority of the tape, in varying levels of splay.

Using a blend of sharp graphics, blaring rock music, grating ‘attitude’ and roleplayed scenarios, employees learn about the differences between the NES, the Super NES, the Game Boy, the advantages Nintendo has over the competition, and how to set up and maintain the various display systems.  There are also some heavily stylized interludes of kids playing video games that make no sense.

Nintendo Rock Out

I really can’t overstate how hard this video tries to be cool.  Its attempts at being playfully subversive results in it not being clear who this is actually targeted at. I can’t imagine a retail employee getting anything out of this video and a consumer would see right through it.  It’s a pretty good example of how corporations viewed kids in the early ’90s, though, so at least it’s worth that. Check it out.

 

Captain Lou Albano Anti Drug PSA

A good message in this 1980s anti-drug PSA, but a strange one once the religious blanket gets draped over it.

 

Manhunt Board Game

A group of players travel around a board gathering clues to eliminate suspects of a crime. Sounds like Clue, right? No – it’s much more complicated.

Manhunt Box

In Manhunt the players are all detectives.  A crime is agreed upon by all players at the beginning of the game and entered into the Clue Scanner.  As players move through the game they are given the chance to insert probes into the Clue Scanner which gives more information to the nature of the crime. This information can be used by the players to whittle down their list of suspects and ultimately determine who done it, winning the game.

Manhunt Board

So, Clue.  But with a Crime Computer, a Clue Scanner, a Probe, a Detective Handbook, and some other stuff to complicate it up.  Still, it’s got a great look and if I had seen this game as a kid I’d have been all over it with all of the devices. Now, a game based on the PS2 game Manhunt? Take my money, please.

First Color Videotaping

In 1958, NBC recorded and rebroadcast the first color videotaping, a speech by President Eisenhower. This video starts in black and white and NBC president Robert Sarnoff flips the switch to color a few minutes in. A pretty great capture of a pretty amazing moment, and the movement in the video looks so snappy for 1958.

 

Rowntree’s Ad

There’s something in 1940s ad for Rowntree’s Fruit Gums that really grabs me.

Rowntree's Ad

 

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Five Things – 07.25.16 – World’s Tiniest Engineers

Ghostbusters

No, not that one.

In 1975 Filmation had a live-action series about a couple of guys and a gorilla who hunted ghosts.  It was about as different from the 1984 movie that would come as you could imagine; it was aimed directly at children and focused on slapstick rather than actual paranormal enthusiasm for its comedic value.  It was pretty hokey, and it died on the vine after only fifteen episodes.

Obviously, after the mega-success of the 1984 film, there was interest in making a television series.  After an unsuccessful attempt to work with Columbia Pictures to produce a cartoon that tied in with the movie, Filmation chose instead to resurrect the original series in animated form.  Because Filmation owned the rights to the title, they were able to come to the table with a cartoon simply titled Ghostbusters – tricking second graders all over the country into watching their show.  Myself included.  Columbia Pictures, whose cartoon actually did relate to the film, had the ante-upped title The Real Ghostbusters.  Columbia Pictures had the superior series, but Filmation’s effort wasn’t without its charm.

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters featured the sons of the 1975 series’ protagonists, Jake Kong Jr. and Eddie Spencer Jr.  Tracy the gorilla was the bridge between the two generations, working with both teams.  Rounding out the team are Belfrey, a pink talking bat, and Skellevision, a skeleton television.  While there were gadgets involved in detecting and catching ghosts, the show on the whole was consciously low-tech but also high concept; the characters rode around in an old haunted jalopy named Ghost Buggy that could also fly.  This was a pretty big point of distinction between this series and The Real Ghostbusters.

Skull Phone Ghost Buggy

Sixty-five episodes were produced for daytime syndication, and a toy line followed.  It fared better than you’d think it would but it was really no match for our Ghostbusters – either on screen or in the marketplace.  Still, there’s something fun about it – it celebrates the supernatural in a sweet, goofy way that you saw less and less of in the ’80s, and still less today.  Plus, it’s gorgeous. Check it out.

 

How You Can Help Win The War

Here’s an interesting wartime pamphlet about things civilians and laborers can do to help win the war.  It’s interesting to see things like “drive carefully” and “don’t get hurt” included with the more obvious “don’t blab what you know”.

How You Can Help Win The War

 

1991 Canadian Anti-Drug PSA

This 1991 Canadian anti-drug PSA plays like a Tim and Eric sketch.  To say it didn’t age well is an understatement – would this have resonated with kids even back in 1991 when it was made?

That “COOL” gets me every time.

 

Frustration 1973 Box Art

I love the painting of the family on this 1973 Frustration (known as “Trouble” here in the U.S.) box art.  Particularly because it looks like that kid is in some serious pain.

Frustration

 

Exciting Ant Farm

From the “Always Wanted, Never Had” files…

Exciting Ant Farm

 

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Five Things – 05.16.16 – Less Than You Think, Jack

Prodigy Commercials

The internet was introduced to my house in 1990 through Prodigy, an early online service that touted all of the features of online living we take for granted today in a crude, difficult-to-use format that was still the best experience of the era.

Prodigy LogIn

Prodigy came to us bundled with a 2600k modem and a pre-set user ID that was a nonsensical combination of letters and numbers that could not be changed.  You had to memorize this user ID or keep it written down next to the computer or you were hosed.  Once you logged in you could do some rudimentary shopping, play some basic games, pay more money to play some good games (looking at you, MadMaze), or read the news.  Each of these experiences involved a roughly 3-5 minute load time between each screen.  Then there were the message boards, which were the real meat of the experience for 11-year-old me.  I became the secretary of the Sierra Hint Club, an organization of nerds who provided hints for the Sierra adventure computer games for anyone who wanted them.  Yeah.  Pretty great way to be eleven.

Mad Maze

Anyway, I loved Prodigy and it obviously has a special place in my heart.  I soon learned that the modem could be used for other things like BBS’g and got into all that later, but Prodigy remained the family internet portal until AOL sucked everything up later in the ’90s.  I came across these early 1990 ads for Prodigy and really love the way they sum up the promise of the internet.  Nobody would really deliver on this promise in a game-changing way for quite some time, but they did the best they could and going from zero to this was really something.

In the mid-90s when competition was a bit stiffer, they had to up their “cool” game a bit.  Barry White helped. Still centered around the message boards and communities, though.

Did I mention you had to pay for X number of hours per month? Could you imagine having to measure out your internet like that now?

 

Sugar PSA

This ’90s Fox Kids PSA about the effects of eating too much sugar is very ’90s and very horrifying. The kid goes to Sugar Hell!

 

 

1975 Sesame Street Greatest Hits

Selling soundtracks on TV in 1975 was a pretty crude effort, apparently.  Here’s a Sesame Street ad that features some terribly off-model plushes and some really awesome animations from the show mixed all together into a really weird combination.

 

Q*Bert Board Game

There is everything to love about this commercial for the Q*Bert board game.

 

Dungeon! Ad

The font on the “Dungeon!” part kills me.  I love it.

Dungeon!

 

-ds

Five Things – 05.02.16 – Much As They Actually Exist In Space

Whatever Turns You On

Did you know that You Can’t Do That On Television had a spinoff?

Whatever Turns You On

Whatever Turns You On was an early attempt to take what was clearly resonating with kids and prime-time it up a bit. This was in 1979, before the show had appeared on Nickelodeon and become a hit in the U.S.  The move to prime-time brought with it Ruth Buzzi, live music performances, and a little bit more of this:

Whatever Turns You On

At the end of the day it was still a kid’s show – the bulk of the cast was carried over from YCDTOT, the jokes were still of the bathroom variety, and there was plenty of green slime to go around.  It’s definitely a little more in the Laugh-In direction than YCDTOT, though.  Check it out.

Whatever Turns You On failed to really distinguish itself from its kid-show counterpart, and was cancelled after only 13 episodes.  You Can’t Do That On Television, though, would soon go on to huge success.

 

Yar’s Revenge Theatrical Trailer

This epic ad for Atari’s Yar’s Revenge played in theaters in 1982.  The trailer explains things in a way that the game itself never did. I actually almost understand it now.

 

The Birth of Cosmos Game Ad

This game looks amazing. Is it played on top of an iPad?

tumblr_nm7qehOfHQ1qztcdbo1_1280

 

Buffalo Bee Fun Page

This full page magazine ad for Wheat Honeys and Rice Honeys reminds me of a time when kids were really hard up for fun activities.

Buffalo Bee Fun Page

 

1989 Sesame Street Book Club Commercial

You may have a stronger brand identity, Sesame Street, but you’re still no Sweet Pickles.

 

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Five Things – 08.03.15 – Chili Can Be Served With Cheese

1.  Disneyland Haunted Mansion Special – In typical Disney fashion, here’s a special produced to celebrate the 1970 debut of the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland.  This one’s a little more sedate than some of the other specials I’ve featured in Five Things; it seems a little more natural than the overblown specials of the 1980s and 1990s.

OsmondsThis one features the Osmond Brothers, E.J. Peaker, and a very young Kurt Russell.  The Osmonds and Peaker arrive to perform at the park and Donny and Jay quickly run off to ride some rides and check out the new Haunted Mansion ride.  The bulk of the special consists of the rest of them scouring the park to find Donny and Jay.  The odd thing about this show is that it assumes that you already know all about Disneyland; the cast travels around to the different attractions but no effort is made to point them out and explain what they are.  Like I said, sedate – something they’d quickly remedy in later specials.

Kids of the KingdomThere are about five musical numbers in the special plus a really cool featurette at the end about the construction and design behind the Haunted Mansion ride.  Then the Osmonds and E.J. go through the ride.

All in all, pretty fun.  A beautiful look at the park in 1970, if nothing else.

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Five Things – 07.27.15 – Gourmet Video, For People Who Know And Love Video

1.  Magnavox Magnavision Demo Video – In 1981, Leonard Nimoy held a secret meeting with an alien emissary that appeared in his apartment and translated specific instructions on how to operate a Magnavox Magnavision Laserdisc player.  Thankfully, this meeting was recorded and is now available for everyone on YouTube.

MagnavoxNimoy’s never looked better than this, and his apartment is pretty much the apartment I dreamed of having as a kid.  That late ’70s/early ’80s ‘futuristic’ style really gets me.

NimoyApartmentThe video mostly consists of this rock that lights up and beeps, and Nimoy repeats what it said back to it to confirm his understanding.  It’s their one trick, and they stick with it.  There’s a few examples of Laserdisc technology, like rewinding and slowing down an epic football tackle or skipping to your favorite moment in an ABBA song (there’s a LOT of ABBA here), but for the most part it’s beeps and words.

Laserdiscs ConversationIt’s a charming video, for sure – this disc was included in the packaging of the Magnavision so that users could get a quick tutorial on the ins and outs of the machine.  I can’t really tell if it succeeds or fails at that, but it’s got a lot more character than it probably should have.  Here it is:

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Five Things – 6.29.15 – Thrill To The Awe And Mystery Of The Hidden World

1.  Secret Video Game Tricks, Codes, & Strategies, Volume 1 – Whew! That’s a mouthful! This video is one of dozens of “How to Beat Videogames” tutorials from the 1980s, most of which focus on exploiting glitches and bugs to gain advantages in difficult parts of games.

VIdeo Game Tips TItleThis one’s no different, except that it features exclusive tips from the US Video Game Team (a real thing!)

Video Game TeamThe video takes you through glitches and scoring tips for some of the big names like Gradius, Contra, Adventure Island and Castlevania II as well as some of the more obscure ones like Ring King and Iron Tank. While usually you just get a bunch of gameplay video in these things, this title sets itself apart with wacky 80’s graphic transitions and what appears to be a studio setting in which the team members execute these amazing tricks using NES Advantages.

VG Transition AdvantageThat second picture looks like something from the  Spaceship of the Mind in Cosmos.

Here’s the whole thing.  Let me know if these Metal Gear passwords work.

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Five Things – 04.27.15 – Computers Are Not Especially Good At Acting Like Real Creatures

1.  Children of the Dog Star – Tommyknockers for kids? Sign me up.

Children of the Dog Star

OK, not really Tommyknockers, but darn close.  Children of the Dog Star was a 1984 children’s series set in New Zealand, about a group of kids who discover a bunch of alien relics.

RelicAcross the first few episodes they uncover more relics and figure out how to assemble them. Conveniently, a brass weathervane at Gretchen’s uncle’s farm turns out to be the catalyst for the machine, and they activate an old probe that is linked to Sirius, the Dog Star.

Activation

The probe turns out to be a teaching probe named Kolob, sent ages ago to teach science to humans. It also knows the kids’ names by scanning them. It then seems to go haywire and ‘pauses’ the entire town so that nobody but the three kids can move.

Names

The kids are somehow able to establish a communication link with the aliens who sent Kolob in the first place, and are chastised for having re-assembled Kolob.  There’s a nice moment of First Contact, and then both species team up to destroy Kolob and hide the weathervane to prevent any future assembly.

Aliens

Contact

If we’re being honest, this probably could have been a three episode series.  It holds up a lot better than a lot of stuff from the ’80s, though. The alien design is pretty inspired and you can tell they were really trying to do as much with the effects as they could on their budget.

Here’s the first episode.  That intro!

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Five Things – 02.23.15 – In Order to “Do” Electricity

1.  Nintendo Arm Wrestling – Nintendo had a unique arcade cabinet set-up in the 1980s.  Their Punch-Out!! and Super Punch-Out!! cabinets had two screens, a prelude to their later success in the handheld business.  It’s debatable whether both screens were necessary – the top screen served little purpose but to show your player’s stats or play time remaining to anyone standing behind you – but the cabinets stood out.

In 1985, following up on the success of Punch-Out!, Nintendo explored the next level of combat, a more intimate level of combat.

Nintendo Arm Wrestling

Arm Wrestling was basically Punch-Out!! with arm wrestling as the activity instead.  That’s not a bad thing.  The roster of opponents was unique and memorable, the graphics looked great, the voices were adorably bad, and the challenge was…well, challenging.

Arm Wrestling Ad

(Spoiler: Mask X is revealed to be Bald Bull)

Here’s some gameplay.  What a cool little title.


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