Welcome, monochrome maestro. Before Mario began his illustrious career of jumping on the backs of turtles before merrily kicking their mangled corpses along the path ahead (the fate of a stray leprous cat that once strode drunkenly over and shat on my shoes, incidentally), we had only the repetitive shenanigans of a freakish stickman to keep us entertained. The Game and Watch series was a range of portable consoles developed in the ‘80s, containing all the technological prowess of a heap of horsecrap. Like those one-millionth of a watt lightbulbs they give small children to dick around with at school. (for an experiment as part of a lesson, I should clarify. not some alarming electric-shock-inducing negligence. Sir! Tony is spasming uncontrollably on the floor! Plus, I think he’s shat himself. Again.) They were created by Gunpei Yokoi, after supposedly watching a man amusing himself with a digital calculator. (How precisely he was doing so is unclear. Spelling boobies upside down? Even I’ve wrung that of every ounce of comic value by now. Perhaps this was a math teacher, laughing uproariously at some quadratic equations while taking a dump. Those teachers are a disturbed bunch. Although not to the extent of Yokoi himself, clandestinely leering at this dude while he’s trying to have a crap. I try that often, and it rarely ends well. The police have a deeply unenlightened view of that sort of caper. Even so, I was rather proud the day I made it onto the news. Look ma, I’m on that there telly-box!) The great man’s train of thought, I presume, delivered him to a disturbing station called: What can I possibly come up with that’s even more nut-numbingly tedious than what that guy’s doing? (The calculator-play, that is, not the turd-dropping action.) The answer? remarkably simplistic games that make Pong appear as strategic and convoluted as an eight-hour Dungeons and Dragons 10-die geekfest. (“I have the +10 sword of valour!” “Terrific. Perhaps you should go outside now, though. It’s been a year or so. There’s mould growing on your face. Not to mention the cobwebs on your balls.”)
The Game and Watch is the forefather of portable consoles. Each unit plays a single game, invariably the kind of thing you’d expect to have existed back in the Neanderthal era. Those hirsute hominids largely just spent their days scratching their balls in front of this new-fangled fire thing and dreaming wistfully of the future, when the women wouldn’t have just as much body hair as they did. The likes of Ball pictured here, in which you manoeuvre a pair of Mr Tickle-esque lanky arms, wouldn’t even challenge their half-witted brains too strenuously.
These basic time-wasters are becoming a little more prominent today, with individual titles seeing a budget release on Nintendo’s eShop. They’re almost exclusively a novelty now, for those interested in gaming’s ancient and decrepit roots. (rather like the old dude in the retirement home again. Sure the stench of piss is overwhelming at times, but he has a few tales of celebrities he’s done the dirty with, the old dog. The geriatric bastard keeps calling me Sandra, and the stories are most likely utter bullshit, but they kinda-sorta-almost make it worth the visit. That one incident where he mistook that viagra for his heart medicine aside, that was traumatising for all concerned. I attribute that day to my mortal fear of randy octogenarians.) I myself missed most of the ‘80s, not having entered the world, pissed off and festooned with unpleasant bloody viscera-leavings, until 1988. As such, I was a little entertained, briefly, by some of these. Vermin, where you simply move left or right to take out emerging moles, is strangely addictive. I’m sure animal rights campaigners would disapprove of the humongous mallets you smash their moronic mole-brains with (and the gleeful abandon with which you leave their shattered, leaking mole-carcasses strewn about the playing field, before piling them up victoriously and declaring to the heavens I IS WINNAH!), but they’ve always been a pernickety bunch of bastards like that.
On reflection, I had been drinking rather heavily when I played Vermin, so that last may not be fully accurate.
The series mascot himself is enjoying a minor resurgence, owing to his inclusion in Super Smash Bros. He cuts a bizarro figure indeed in Nintendo’s all-star brawler, but is a real player-favourite. Each of his special attacks is taken directly from an action in his creaking LCD games, and the animation is fantastically faithful to its source. This may have also contributed to interest in Mr Game and Watch, the eponymous games, and the history of the medium. They’re as archaic as they come (quite literally, we’re in the realms of text adventures and other such octogenarian horrors here), but they’re important, which is reason enough for a revisit. The Game and Watch Gallery series, as you see here in actual colour (try not to shit), makes them a little less offensive to the senses of contemporary players.
Here’s Mr Game and Watch in Super Smash Bros Brawl, proving that diminutive stick-dudes can kick ass too. Watch, agog, as he beats Rayquaza (pokémon and all-round gigantic snake-beast) to death, unfazed by the fact that he’s scarcely the size of one of its testicles.
What a guy.
Article by Chris Littlechild
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