The sixth in what must have been an exhaustive series of overpriced VHS tapes designed to milk ’80s gamers out of their hard-earned dollars in exchange for broad suggestions on how to play select games competently, this Game Players Magazine tape actually has some visual merits to it.
The frustrating part about the content is that these are games that actually need tips; the video covers Ultra’s TMNT, Metal Gear, Defenders of the Crown, and Skate or Die – pretty tough games.
The TMNT “tips” are frustrating in their broadness; “use Donatello against Rocksteady” doesn’t really constitute a tip. Also, 90% of the TMNT tips are “use Donatello”.
There’s an odd appearance/interlude by “the Creator”, a creepy hype man for the games featured in the video. Sort of a circular internal commercial for the games included in the video that you bought to help you beat the games that you already bought.
Metal Gear’s tips consist of “hey, recognize this screenshot and do the vague thing we’re telling you to do here”
If the flaming tips included in the video weren’t enough, there’s also an ad for a hotline to give you even more secrets for who-knows-what games! Seriously, you don’t know until you call, and at that point you’re at least two dollars deep.
Skate or Die’s tips include taking advantage of a turbo controller and getting a buddy to mash buttons while you get air. Sweet exploit, I guess. Another hot tip: be sure to land right, or you’ll fall. Money well spent, here.
Insert an odd ad for a wireless NES Advantage rip-off that is nothing short of amazing.
The tips for Defenders of the Crown are, at this point, predictably awful. “When jousting you want to hit your opponent, but not his horse.” Thanks!
A disappointing offering but hey, that’s the eighties for you. Silver lining: the video quality is fantastic.
McDonaldland gets some flak for its suspicious similarities to the world of H.R. Pufinstuf, and alot of that flak is deserved, but at least there’s some charm and originality to McDonaldland that redeems the effort. Burger King’s 1976 attempt to rip off McDonaldland, on the other hand… there’s no redemption here.
We’ve talked about the original Burger King mascot here before, that man who performs basic magic tricks for children in the lobbies of the fast food restaurants that bore his name. He’s the leader of the “Burger King Kingdom”, a realm that involves an underwhelming roster of supporting characters and also takes place in our world and also is barely magical.
Sir Shake-a-Lot is a knight wearing milkshake armor. He’s a human who shakes a lot, that’s his whole thing. It’s supposedly because he’s cold because he likes milkshakes so much, but it comes off like he’s mocking an actual condition. His catch phrase is “Great Shakes!”
The Duke of Doubt is the main villain of the Burger King Kingdom. His power is…doubt. He doesn’t seem to cause any real trouble, doesn’t steal hamburgers or thwart plans or anything. He just doubts that things that are true are actually true, and is typically proven wrong by the end of the commercial. His catch phrase is “I doubt it!” Clever!
The Burger Thing bears the worst name of the gang and has the appearance to back it up. He’s a giant Hamburger puppet with a disturbing human face and the voice of Frank Welker. Total nightmare.
Lastly, the Wizard of Fries is….actually pretty cool. He’s a robot who can take one french fry and duplicate it endlessly.
I will admit a certain bias toward McDonaldland; I was a McDonalds kid growing up, and I have a head full of fond memories of the McDonaldland gang in all of their various toy/cookie/playground-ride forms. I like to think that I can rise above this bias, however, look at the two realms objectively, and still say that the Burger King Kingdom is garbage. If you need specific evidence, look no further than the leaders of each realm. Ronald McDonald is a magical man, a clown being who can manipulate the world around him and travel seamlessly between his dimension and ours whenever the children of our world need him. The Burger King is merely a man who knows magic, a man who lives in our world, apparently in our very country, yet declares himself king and attempts to impress us all with parlor tricks. One is a pale, pale version of the other.
Here’s a string of Burger King Kingdom commercials. That robot’s pretty cool.
This 1970s predecessor to Peanut Butter M&M’s was one of Wonka’s few chocolate efforts, few compared to what you might expect given the man’s, you know, chocolate factory. Oompas were half peanut butter, half chocolate, wrapped in a thin candy shell. The packaging was fantastic.
They’d later experiment with fruit flavors instead of the chocolate and peanut butter, but the whole idea ended up being a bust.
Ski or Die
A spiritual sequel to the arcade and console megahit Skate or Die, this game tries to apply the grit and style of 1980s skateboarding to the less-popular-but-still-popular-but-not-really-gritty world of skiing.
You basically did what you did in Skate or Die, just replace anywhere you would “skate” with the word “ski”. There was limited open-world interaction, mainly getting to and from events which were the real meat of the game.
I dunno, it’s not awful. There are definitely worse games. Here’s a playthrough:
1980 Radio Shack Christmas Commercial
Radio Shack’s your place if you’re looking to pick up the latest Kingman, Zackman, or Alien Chase video games!
This recipe/ad for a Seven-Up punch is breathtaking.
This short lived Game Show featured an amazing set, a strange format, and good old Rod Roddy.
Whew! is basically a string of lightning rounds with a little twist – in the “normal” part of the game one contestant tries to get through the board in a set amount of time while the other places ‘blocks’, little land mines that take away five seconds each time they’re uncovered. If the blocks are uncovered, the defending contestant gets the money.
The first contestant to win two rounds gets to go to the final round, which is basically the same thing but with ten ‘villains’ delivering the questions and no blocks. If they can make it through each villain they get the grand prize, $25,000.
The set is pretty fantastic, but I have a hard time putting my finger on specifics. It alternates between a grandiose production and something in somebody’s basement, but you can tell someone had their eye on design in all components – even in the live, composited stuff.
Whew! lasted just over a year before being cancelled – April 1979 to May 1980. A pretty wacky show, and it moves really fast. Here’s an episode.
Home Alone (NES)
Of course there was a Nintendo game for Home Alone; there was an everything else for Home Alone, so why not a game for the NES?
Different versions of the game were made, each platform having its own format and objectives. In the NES version (developed by Bethesda, current developers of the Elder Scrolls and recent Fallout series!) the premise is pretty simple: evade Harry and Marv for 20 minutes until the police show up. Kevin picks up different traps and places them around the house to slow the Wet Bandits down. It’s not as easy as it looks. Get caught and it’s game over.
Here’s a longplay.
I wish I knew more about this fantastic 19th Century poster. What I do know is there’s a wrong way to put a bunch of different fonts together, and then there’s this way. I can’t stop looking at it. It’s beautiful.
What is Pippin?
A somewhat dry intro to Apple’s ill-fated video game console, the Pippin. Would you have paid $700 for this in 1995?
Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli never fail to scratch the itch.
In the summer of 2001 ABC tried to create a televised version of the crazy successful trivia video game show You Don’t Know Jack. It was not successful, but it did end up being kind of crazy.
The show was pretty loyal to the game’s format. Instead of the game’s regular host Cookie Masterson (who still performed as the show’s announcer), Paul Reubens played Troy Stevens – and did a really great job at it.
The guests selected were pretty colorful people, some with pretty colorful talents.
The “standard” trivia questions were typically worded or executed in a unique way, true to the video game’s style. There were also mini-games throughout the show, just like in the game, that offered bonus money.
The “Dis or Dat” minigame picked one player and gave them two categories. Troy would then run through several items that the player had to place in the correct category.
Narrative arcs sometimes carried through the shows as well, centered around Troy. The final round is the same as in the video game, the “Jack Attack” lightning round that pits the top two contestants against each other . Reubens really puts on his Pee-Wee hat for this round.
All in all, a fun show – I guess America wasn’t ready for game shows that didn’t involve asking if you wanted to be a millionaire or what’s in a briefcase. You Don’t Know Jack ran for six episodes and was cancelled.
Here’s an episode.
This bizarre 1982 arcade game has two types of rounds. In one, you are rescue workers saving stock brokers who have jumped out of windows in attempts to commit suicide.
In the other, you are presumably a banker or stock broker running through the streets of a foreign city destroying tanks that are pursuing you and collecting large sums of money.
Here’s some gameplay. I don’t understand. I mean, I understand the gameplay, but not the container that the gameplay was placed in.
In 1918, the YWCA provided personnel to assist the Armed Forces in World War I. Here are some gorgeous posters from designed to raise money for the effort.
This mid-’80s McDonald’s training video features a Michael Jackson ripoff encouraging employees to clean the restaurant. I use the term “training video” loosely, as there’s not much how-to here other than “clean it”!
The score for the original Castlevania on the Nintendo Entertainment System is real funky! Who knew, or remembered?
1. The Solarnauts – Here’s the UK’s almost-answer to Star Trek, the 1967 pilot for The Solarnauts. While Star Trek‘s a pretty good title, I think I actually prefer Solarnauts.
While both shows are very of-the-era and there are a lot of similarities between the two, the jazzy and brassy soundtrack of Solarnauts really sets it apart and traps it in the sixties. Star Trekdidn’t really suffer the same fate; for all its camp and dance scenes and female alien fashions, it’s a pretty timeless show in comparison. The set design is great. There are a few neat “what-if”s, like this egg-cushioned pilot’s chair:
For the most part, though, it’s a broadly inspired design that comes up a little bland on details. Still, beautiful stuff.
It’s a flat tie with Star Trek on the planet sets, though. Solarnauts wins in the costume department, but comparing their outfits to Star Trek‘s uniforms seems like an unfair fight. These helmets!
It’s easy to see why this show wasn’t picked up – there’s not much to like about the characters, the action’s kind of iffy, and the whole thing just kind of falls stylishly flat. Still, it’s charming, and it would have been interesting to see what the series grew into if it had been picked up. Alas, this is all we have. This brassy intro song is serious business.
2. Jeremy – Here’s an adorable stop-motion children’s show from TV Ontario featuring a bear called Jeremy. This show aired in the 1970s and 1980s, and it’s beautiful and impressively light on dialogue.
3. Baby Boomer – This unlicensed NES game has you manning the Zapper to shoot down threats to a baby that is crawling through heaven and hell to find….something? I guess he’s just exploring. Anyway, awful.
4. Weebles Treehouse – Enjoy this commercial for the Weebles Treehouse playset.
5. Gobblin’ Food! – I know its a few days late but here’s a gorgeous Halloween themed print ad for Sugar Crisp.
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.
This 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.
There 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.
1. Protect and Survive – Coming right out of the gates with a downer!
Protect and Survive was a 1970s series of Public Service Announcements in the UK aimed at educating people of the things they needed to take care of in the event of a nuclear attack. Unlike a lot of nuclear propaganda from the time there’s not really a lot of paranoia here, just a stiff upper lip and a level-headed rundown of what would need to be done. The even tone of the PSAs makes the whole thing even more chilling, particularly when they’re explaining how to bury and tag a body in terms even a child would understand.
The thing is, horrific what-if aside, there’s a lot to love about this series. The graphics and animations are great and the soundtrack is a chilling synth dream.
The opening graphic of each PSA.
A visualization of what the attack siren will sound like.
A visualization of the Fallout Warning.
The top two floors are bad for fallout!
An unnecessary but beautiful graphic of the radio making…sounds.
Watching this compilation of PSAs really affected me in a way a lot of these nuclear attack preparation videos haven’t. I think it’s that the practical approach to survival and daily life highlights the reality of just how horrific this situation would be for a family. This was a genuine concern back then, and finding something that doesn’t over-dramatize this already dramatic situation makes it more…real.
1. Country Gentleman Covers – I fell into a rabbit hole this week when I stumbled across an old Country Gentleman magazine on the web. Country Gentleman was an agricultural magazine that was published from 1831 to 1955. A good run! The covers are Saturday Evening Post-like in their Americana essence – some covers were done by Norman Rockwell here, too, so it makes sense – but Country Gentleman’s covers also branch out a little bit more stylistically than the Post did. Here are some of my favorites.
This one might be my favorite of the bunch – the clowns!
1. 1979 Sears Junior Fashions – Retrospace has the hottest Juniors fashions from Sears in 1979. It almost looks like a parody of a Sears catalog. Almost. First, from the “is it a robe or is it a fancy dress” category:
Anyone who was hoping to make a splash in the lunchroom or the hallways knew to take their fashion cues from Mork & Mindy:
Except for those who were a little more…career-minded. At 13.
1. Soundwave and Blaster – While I was stripping my Transformers Dinobot toys of all future collector’s value by playing with them in a chlorine swimming pool, some children of privilege were playing with what I consider the coolest Transformers toys ever made. Soundwave’s alternate form was a microcassette recorder. The toy featured a functioning cassette player, and you could swap out different microcassettes offered by Hasbro – microcassettes that were Transformers themselves!.
There was also an Autobot toy for Blaster, which was a larger boombox. Probably cooler, overall, but I was a Decepticon man myself.
Here’s Soundwave’s commercial – love that kid’s face when he does the “Robots in Disguise” part!