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[The same intro sounds as always]
[Medieval style music, filling the air with sounds of wind instruments, and fear of piety]
You might think that torture devices were a thing of the past, a medieval relic from
the darkest depths of human imagination. Well, you're wrong because I've got 3 of the worst
right here. These put the rack to shame, honestly.
[Medieval sounds fade away, just like the monarchy]
[Funky funfair style music begins, to inject a dose of intended humour, where absent from the script]
Yes, welcome to the bizarre world of Tiger and Grandstand in the early 90s. A time when
most of us had to make do with Tiger handhelds for portable gaming. Especially when an Atari
Lynx set you back £179.
[Deranged cat sound]
These little LCD devices were fine for a bit of amusement,
but that's about as far as they went. You weren't going to be throwing your Master System
out and replacing it with a set of Tiger games.
But Tiger thought otherwise. They thought that their marketing machine was so good,
that they could have the audacity to package tiger handheld games up into table-top experiences
and get away with it. They even had the balls to sell them side by side, like some kind
of sick collection. Not only that, but they'd use half the world's plastic in the process.
Let's start with this culprit, the Outrun Electronic LCD Game.
[More amusing style music, but getting a tad more serious to denote the serious crappyness you're about to witness]
Now, you may note the
Grandstand name on the box, and that's because this is the UK release of this Tiger monstrosity.
By the year of it's release, 1989, Grandstand were well and truly established as the electronic
toy importer and distributor for our little island. Not just for big products like this,
you'll find their name splashed over Tiger handheld models too. In other regions you
might find this branded directly as Tiger. This was actually the cheapest of this trio,
priced at around £35 in the UK.
about the same as a decent Master System game.
So what other insights can we gather from this somewhat tatty box?
Well, it's got SUPERSOUND, apparently. A realistic steering column and controls
and it of course, is based upon Sega Arcade Game.
I'm not sure why the 'Table Top' is in quote marks there. Why is it being all sneaky about
what constitutes a Table Top. It also has a Large LCD Screen and Smart car
body styling.
A quick flick of the manual yields nothing really of note. I mean, it's a Tiger game.
And here it is, in ALL its glory.
Look at that truly MASSIVE screen.
And this is where you realise how ridiculous these things are. LOOK at all this plastic,
all these controls. These stickers. Wheels. That whole bonnet. More Stickers.
All of that, for this tiny LCD screen. The same size LCD screen as you'll find on a Tiger
Handheld. I mean, come on.
COME ON.
2AA batteries power the LCD component of this hulking slab, whilst 2 C batteries provide
power for those extra inputs and features. One of those being that SUPERSOUND.
twee sounding *bo da di do di do di do di do*
*churning electronic engine sound*
*First Gear!*
Ohhh yes, you won't find this on the handheld version. Which incidentally, is exactly the
same game otherwise.
But only here can you get the full experience.
*car crash sound*
Immediately, the timer is ticking and we're into the action.
The gear stick provides us with High and Low gears, as well as brake. They're not gears
in the traditional Outrun sense, it's really just 3 different speeds. So we can drive off
in High Gear no issue.
Then our half steering wheel, although being analogue in styling, inputs digital commands
to our little Ferrari. This is an interesting thing, because given you have to move the
wheel 45 degrees to the left or right, you lose the reaction speed you'd find with traditional
controls. You're not really gaining, anything, other than a sense of realism that only a
9 year old could appreciate... and to be fair, in the 80s, I DID appreciate it, although
it's not the easiest of LCD games to get used you.
Corners. They're a thing. When they occur, your car will just start drifting to the opposing
side of the screen, and you have to, well steer. You then have to judge when the corner
is ending exactly, otherwise you'll start veering over to the other side of the road,
and potentially hit a car. You get used to it, but potentially tricky for a small child.
After each timed level, we get a fork in the road, which you can navigate by moving to
the right or left. You're then thrust into the next level, and yes, there are 15 tracks,
just like the original Outrun. Not that you'd be able to differentiate one from another.
Any time you saved from the previous round also carries over, like the game it's based
on.
I mean, from a certain point of view, it looks amazing. So many controls and coloured panels.
But it's just so bloody absurd.... and it's the fact that it's literally just a handheld
game which gets to me. I mean there are other tabletop games, but most of those have larger
more colourful displays. Sometimes vacuum tubes, or other methods that make the whole
thing, more of a spectacle. This is just.... this.
[An atrocious, ear, soul and mind breaking version of Magical Sound Shower begins to play]
[and it continues, possibly until you die of anger]
An infernal noise box, which thankfully has an off button
and some chunky controls thrown in for good measure.
*engine sound lingers*
At least Tiger went to the effort of putting a plastic radiator grill under the bonnet.
So that's nice.
[Top Gun style music begins]
But, even with all that, its not as bad as this one. Yup, it's Afterburner.
Tiger were so proud of this one, they even had an advert for it..... an advert that showed as little
actual game-play as possible. But lots of POWERFUL effects to make you think it was
really something.
*Movie trailer voice* Machine gun or Missles! >Lock on<
>Enemy in sight<
>FIRE<
Eighteen stages of play.
Make AfterBurner a true test of a skilled jet fighter.
Where do we begin?
[Comedy music intrudes] Well, again, this is the Grandstand model, released in the UK during 1990, but you can
find this in the United States published directly by Tiger in 1989, and actually that's the
same with all these machines. There's also a version without the Sega branding, distributed
by Yeno and called Super Fighter. This version also has slightly different graphics, differentiating
it from the Afterburner series. You could expect to grab this for about £38.
Anyway, this version is the same as the Tiger Afterburner handheld model, but with a few
additions.
The first is clearly this joystick, attempting to mimic a fighter jet cockpit, it moves left
and right, but with no vertical operation. The top button fires missiles for targets
which are locked, whilst the front trigger fires machine guns for those directly ahead.
To the left is a thrust lever. It has three settings, which are tied to the plastic indicator
above. Now, the ability to change your speed is actually something absent from the handheld,
but it doesn't actually do much, other than make the bottom of the screen scroll faster.
*incessant beeping*
To the right is a damage indicator. When you die. This lights up. That's all it does.
Sound is now provided by a standard loudspeaker, as opposed to a piezo speaker... and we get
the power button just above it.
The artificial horizon, sadly does nothing, much like all these stickers. They look the
part. But they're just plastic tat, designed to enthrall the young mind, and once again,
they did just that. I mean look at all these bits. It looks *quite* incredible. Once again
it's a case of the whole is less than the sum of it's parts.
One thing missing, is the LCD background, found on the handheld. But instead, we do
get a flashing light, right in the middle of the screen. This activates when you destroy
a plane directly in front of you.
It's actually one of the better LCD games, mimicking Afterburner's gameplay about as
well as you could hope for. Planes swoop from all sides. When they get a box around them,
you can fire a missile and it should hit them. When one is straight ahead, you can blow it
with your machine guns, and when they go off screen, well, you can swoop left and right
a bit.
I know I said these were torture devices. But it's not all bad, and if you get into
it, you have to give Tiger a 9/10 here for once again creating something that looks great,
especially in a catalogue, but in reality, is a slab of tat.
*beeping and stuff*
[Cave music. That's what it was titled. Don't ask me why, but it seems appropriate for Batman]
And so, onto the final member of this trio. The Average. The Over Engineered and the Frankly
flipping obscene.
Now this is the most expensive, clocking in at about £45. But then, it is a tie in with
one of the biggest and best movies of 1989 and it's therefore somewhat special. Yes,
this is the BATMAN Electronic LCD Game, again with SUPERSOUND. CONTROL THE BATMOBILE IN
AN EXCITING 99 LAP RACE. What's left of the box reveals a dashboard layout pretty similar
to Outrun, but this is a very different beast, and I'll show you why.
[Dat sexy sexy music begins]
*queue bonnet pan which lasts for 5 hours*
*alright, maybe not 5 hours*
Yes, with that whopping bonnet, this thing is exactly the same length as an original
Amstrad CPC. That's 23 inches, not including the steering wheel... and I have to commend
them. The stand out feature of Michael Keaton's Batmobile, was the huge flowing length of
bonnet. Like a Jaguar E-Type on steroids... and that has truly been captured here.
Underneath, it's just the same as the Outrun, sans the plastic wheels. Instead we get the
wheels as part of the moulding. Which makes sense, you can't really build the wheels into
the frame when they need to be over here. Thinking about it now, it's actually strange
they weren't like this on the Outrun. Certainly would have been cheaper to manufacture.
The cockpit is very familiar to the Ferrari, but with a new set of stickers, relevant to
the Batmobile. This actually feels more suited for the Batmobile to be honest. The layout,
the steering wheel, it just fits.
It's also a different game to Outrun. You might think they'd just port it and tweak
the visual components. But we have a different background, a different layout and indeed
a different premise.
I mean, it's very much still a car game, unlike the handheld, which is actually a brawler,
but it's still a Batman game.
You see here, we have to actually keep away from The Joker's cars. Sit around too long
and he'll ram us from behind and, apparently take out the fully armored and equipped batmobile
in one knock.
[Same music as Outrun]
*Batmobile engine apparently sounds like a Ferrari Testarossa*
Simulating the angular streets of Gotham, we get tight bends rather than sweeping curves,
which is actually much better suited to the controls. Simply turn left or right at the
correct time and you're on a new street.
It's actually pretty decent.
[Batmobile engine apparently sounds like a Ferrari Testarossa]
[and the brakes]
Sometime's someone will attempt to fly-kick your car. I have no idea what that's about.
Other times you can just sail through, being careful not to lose points by hitting the
street sides.
If you die three times, the Joker appears at the bottom of the screen and shoots you.
So that's nice.
[Outrun music reappears]
[and the engine sound]
Now, this thing may be utterly comical, and arguably the most ridiculous of the three.
But it's probably also the most playable.
Now, we might be talking basic electronics, but it's still worth opening these up to find
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[Music appropriate for taking things apart??]
Now, Afterburner has many screws. 9 in the bottom, which reveals a simple contact based
joystick setup. You won't find microswitches here, but then it gives it a much more analog
feel, so it kinda works in its favour.
The back panel is in two seconds, each with six screws. Over here we've got the speed
control mechanism, which connects up to this little PCB. The other side is where our speaker
and damage LED are housed.
That panel in the middle is simply the back of the artificial artificial horizon.
And up top, behind four more screws, we have our LCD screen and main circuit board. There's
really not much going on here. The main processing chip is blobbed onto the underside. But down
here we've got a simple Flip Flop chip, which are used to store separate states. Likely
the input from the joystick.
That other chip, I'm not entirely sure. It's in a DIP18 package, likely some kind of controller
chip.
If we open up Outrun, which actually has far less screws, then we get a similar deal. Speaker
over on the right hand side, mechanism for the gears over on the left, and a PCB smack
bang in the middle.
Again the main processor is on the underside, and we've got a similar 18 pin chip over to
the left. Very similar to what you'd find in the handheld versions, but with a few tweaks
to allow for the sound and control changes.
I'm not going to even bother taking apart the Batmobile, as it'll be almost identical
to this.
But anyway, that's this trio of unlikely LCD games.
Loud, Large and somewhat lifeless. But they don't half pack an eyeful. A mug's eyeful
as you might say, if you were Alan Sugar, making cheap Stereos that were made to look
better with lots of fake knobs, switches and panels.
Basically Tiger did for kids, what Amstrad did for audio consumers.
I don't know whether to commend them or berate them.
But I'm sure they made a lot of money
And I'm sure if you had one of these, you loved it regardless.
You poor bast*rd
Thanks for watching and have a great evening.
[Funky jazz to end the show.... Nice]