12bit Blog

Finger Stinger

Posted by taizou at 2019-01-22 20:49:53 Misc handhelds

If you've heard of Gamze, it may be through Ashens' video on one of their consoles, featuring three of the common Pop Station-type LCD games in an inventive rotating design. But a whole host more consoles were released under the Gamze brand, including multi- and single- game handhelds and virtual pets, sold chiefly in the UK but also in other parts of Europe and occasionally worldwide. Some Gamze products were essentially re-shelled generic LCD consoles like the one Ashens reviewed, but others offered more original concepts like "Digit Dancerz", "Fitboyz" and "Manga All Stars" - a football-training game offering the opportunity to star in your own manga soccer comic live on the internet(!!??!) (its website is sadly long-gone and doesn't seem to be archived). And there are also some with the Annoying Thing (aka Crazy Frog) license, because it was the mid-2000s and of COURSE there are.

Gamze products were distributed by Nikko UK at some point, seen here listed on Nikko's website in 2006 - but far from being a sub-brand of Nikko as I'd initially assumed, Gamze was actually an independent company with both UK and Hong Kong branches. The UK side was "Gamze International" run by Les Forgham (interviewed here about Manga All Stars), with the Hong Kong company "Gamze Ltd" presumably handling manufacturing and games development with the help of various Chinese subcontractors. Sadly Gamze's former website at "gamzes.com" isn't archived. Les Forgham himself was once a managing director at Tiger Electronics UK, so you can probably see where his taste for LCD games came from; at one point Gamze even put out their own version of Tiger's classic Lights Out game.

And so, finally, this brings us to Gamze's Finger Stinger, the stinger of fingers. With 50 great finger stinging gamze! This seems to be an exceedingly rare product compared to others in Gamze's lineup, with searches for "gamze" and "finger stinger" together turning up only a handful of trademark registrations, a single Amazon listing (with none available for sale) and Gamze International's own YouTube channel - more on that later. I'm not sure why the Finger Stinger is such an obscure product - Gamze (or distributor Infoport) may have struggled to find retailers willing to carry it, or it may have been a victim of Gamze's own downfall in the late 00s, apparently due to the European financial crisis (according to this Hong Kong court case). It may be that the only units ever sold were shifted through that one Amazon listing, or in a few obscure discount stores.

So, just what is it? The name makes it sound almost like those joke fake game consoles that deliver a small electric shock when you press the buttons, but, well, it's not that. The box here advertises it as "the ultimate test of skill, endurance and concentration for any gamer", with "50 in-built randomly generated games" - so it's a reaction tester of sorts? But what are these 50 games? Randomly generated, as in procedurally-generated? Or what?

Here's the console out of its packaging - it's quite a nice compact little unit, with the front part of the main body seeming to be actual brushed aluminium. Premium!

The back is just metallic painted plastic, and it takes 3 AAA batteries but the back cover doesn't seem to fit properly with them installed. Less premium!

Anyway, let's turn it on:


Well that's a surprise - a fully one-minute long animated fantasy intro sequence, rendered in single-colour low-res LCD glory, coupled with bleepy single-channel music plus the occasional sampled sound effect. This is really sub-Game King hardware, something along the lines of what you'd find in a Tamagotchi (I suspect it might be derived from what Gamze's own virtual pets used), but I mean ... it's something! It's not a Pop Station! It has graphics, and music, and programming, and they even gave it a story! So it goes, apparently a witch with the ability to transform into a hawk has stolen some kind of precious artifact from a town of blob-people, and when a couple of blobs set forth to recover it, she proceeds to kidnap one of them too. Nightmare! Fortunately, the remaining blob-person is filled with DETERMINATION and sets off on a journey to the witch's castle. And honestly, given the extreme hardware restrictions, this is all really cute and well-animated? The Finger Stinger is looking pretty good so far!

Start! Of course, this has all given no clue as to what the actual game will be like. There are two modes, so let's just dive into the first, "Story Mode", as the manual has it:

whoa wait what just happened

OH

IT'S WARIO WARE

yes! What the Finger Stinger ACTUALLY is is a standalone-handheld take on the Wario Ware concept, with minigames of a few seconds each, where a big part of the challenge is often figuring out what you're supposed to do before it's too late. This is rendered harder than in Wario due to the lack of any on-screen instructions, coupled with the low-res visuals sometimes making things less than clear (although, again, the artists have done a pretty damn good job with the limitations they were working within) but by the time the games have repeated a few times you'll probably be on top of most of them

BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP

Hey here's an interesting quirk not found in Wario Ware! Gotta ROTATE THE CONSOLE

Yes, some of the games are played in portrait mode, and require you to rotate the console 90 degrees, Wonderswan-style, using the rotated D-pad in conjunction with the button next to it. And when I say require, I mean REQUIRE - the console actually has a sensor inside serving the sole purpose of making sure you rotate it in the correct orientation for the next minigame, and it will beep at you until you do it. Unfortunately, the cheap LCD was not particularly designed for multi-angle viewing, so the screen is usually rendered harder to see when you do this.

In total, there are indeed 50 of these minigames/minigamze, offering various timing-based challenges - some of them seem to be directly inspired by those in Wario Ware, while others are original. Every 10 points you get a bonus stage allowing you to earn back one of your 3 lives, and after 3 bonus stages you apparently get the chance to challenge the Ultimate Final Bonus Game (this is what the manual actually calls it). I say "apparently", because the "up" direction on my unit's D-pad is barely functional and requires a huge amount of force to register - literally finger-stinging! - which renders any game requiring that direction almost impossible to beat. Therefore, sadly, I've been thus far unable to reach the Ultimate Final Bonus Game and clear the Finger Stinger's challenge.

Now, there is one more mode here, and its menu looks like this:

The manual calls this "collection" mode, similar again to Wario Ware in that you unlock games here after playing them in Story mode. But with the slightly strange limitation that this mode actually just contains demos of each game being played, and doesn't allow you to actually play them? Seems like a missed opportunity, given that playable versions would have allowed you to both practice the games for the main mode and try for a high score on each. But that's the Wario way, not the Finger Stinger way, I suppose. wah

The Stinger does save your high scores in Story mode and games unlocked in Collection mode, but unfortunately it only does this using the AAA batteries inserted in the unit; it doesn't have a separate internal battery to keep the SRAM powered up. So whenever you need to replace the batteries, all your hard-earned(?) achievements(?) will be lost.

I have recorded a video of the Finger Stinger's intro and gameplay, which you can view here:

But wait! Didn't I also say I'd come back to Gamze International's YouTube channel? That's because they posted their OWN video of the Finger Stinger's gameplay, not filmed from a real unit but obviously using footage from whatever emulator was used to develop the system, superimposed over a mockup render of the hardware. Here's their video:

As you can see, there are differences! While all the graphics appear to be completely identical to the released version, the music is COMPLETELY different, using some kind of MIDI or FM audio miles ahead of the single-channel beeper found in the actual unit. Now this may have just been a mockup - perhaps the original recording was silent for whatever reason (emulator limitations or the sound just not being finished yet) and they just played some music from another source over the Finger Stinger gameplay footage. But it's also possible the Stinger was intended to have much more sophisticated sound hardware at some point, and it was cut down later to something cheaper and more in-keeping with its visuals. How mysterious!

Anyway, that's my overview of the Finger Stinger; I'm not going to catalogue all 50 minigames just yet (maybe later, if someone REALLY wants to see that) but it's a pretty neat little console! Definitely a cut above what I expected from a cheapo dedicated handheld from a company previously responsible for redesigned Pop Stations. Consider my fingers STUNG

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Welcome to 12bit Blog!

Posted by taizou at 2019-01-21 23:09:22 Site news

It is done - supermulti.org is now blog.12bit.club, everything is set up to redirect from there to here, I'll probably have to hold onto that domain until I die because I hate creating link rot, and I've absolutely kept the Super Multi design because I always liked it a lot. Let me know if you notice anything broken from the change, but it should all be pretty seamless.

Coming soon: an actual post! Really!

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The state of Super Multi

Posted by taizou at 2019-01-21 01:22:37 Site news

Hey! I haven't posted here in a while, but I've been changing up a bunch of stuff around my web presence recently: I've established 12bit club as kind of a hub site for all my game-related stuff, plus 12bit repository as a place of documentation of many of my various items (sort of like what I was doing with Super Multi Notes before maintaining a whole ass mediawiki became a bit much)

So where does that leave this very site, supermulti dot org? The plan is that everything here will eventually get folded into 12bit club at some point or another, this blog will become a subdomain of that site, the Super Multi Notes content will be brought over to 12bit repository, and everything will... eventually become a bit more consolidated ... maybe.

I'm posting this little update right now because I'm intending to get back on blog posting on here (I even have one lined up, like, right now!), but I want to transfer the blog across to 12bit club before I do that. In the meantime you can follow me at @taizou_hori on Twitter if you would like sporadic updates on what I'm up to combined with a lot of posts about how I'm gay and whatever. Be back soon!

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Announcing Super Multi Notes

Posted by taizou at 2015-04-23 02:13:25 Site news

Some of you may have noticed the lack of posts here since, ooh, a year ago. A large part of the reason for that is I don’t like writing a blog post about a thing unless I can cover the thing totally comprehensively, which always feels like a huge undertaking when it’s something like a console with 200 games built in, and I’ve decided I want to take a screenshot of every single one of them, delve into the history of the company that made it, take photos of it from every angle and do a bunch of other stuff on top of that. But with that coupled to my limited free time lately, it just seems overwhelming and I end up never doing it. Which is not ideal! Because I think this stuff is interesting and I want to share my knowledge about it with the world - I don’t want to turn into some cranky old dude with an attic full of weird shit that nobody else knows or cares about. I want to turn into some cranky old dude with an attic full of weird shit that a handful of people on the internet know about!

To that end, I’m launching my new project - unimaginatively called Super Multi Notes, because I literally can’t name things for shit - which is basically a single-editor wiki for my own discoveries, notes, pictures and other stuff. The idea behind this is, when I find something interesting, I can immediately create a page for it there with some basic details - instead of putting it aside for a blog post I will never write - and flesh out the article later, as and when I have time to do so (or when I make relevant new discoveries). Like any wiki, every page will always be a work in progress, and some will no doubt reach more advanced stages of progress than others; it’s entirely possible some will consist solely of a title followed by "uuuuugh" and/or a string of random characters and/or expletives. But at least you’ll have that title!

It's running on MediaWiki software (as used by Wikipedia, Wikia and like 98% of other wikis) with the Semantic MediaWiki extension installed, which will hopefully allow me to make more interesting use of data than I could otherwise. It's also using a completely new theme; this is still very much in beta, so please let me know if you encounter any problems or have any feedback.

While (for now at least) I’ll be the only person allowed to edit the wiki pages proper, anyone is welcome to leave comments on articles or edit discussion pages. I’m also releasing the whole thing under a Creative Commons license, so you can reuse the content in other wikis or sites, provided you give credit.

Does all that mean this blog is dead? I hope not! I just have to decide what I want to do with it now. Maybe I’ll highlight interesting things from the wiki here, or use it for more in-depth articles that don’t really lend themselves to wiki format, or something else entirely. But whatever I do or don’t do with this blog, hopefully the wiki will be an experiment that pays off.

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PGP 256

Posted by taizou at 2014-05-17 01:33:57 Clones, Famicom

Hey, it's been a while! Sorry about that. But I'm back! With one of the countless weird handhelds that are cluttering up my house at the moment... the PGP 256!

With super high game! And Bowser! I do quite like this package design, though. I like purple. And I've always had a soft spot for that font they used for the "256M Handheld Game System" text. Hey and the "256" is in Georgia and it's rainbow coloured, both of which featured heavily in, like, every website I made in the late 2000s. Whoever designed this package is totally after my own heart. Or maybe it was designed by me in 2008 on some alternate timeline and it somehow crossed over into this world in some freak convergence of universes (thus explaining why I've never seen another one for sale). Whoa.

The back... is sadly more generic. Screenshots of games that mostly aren't actually on here, more stolen artwork and some text which mostly actually is true and makes sense (aside from the game counts).

So! If you haven't guessed, this is one of many (many) clone handhelds doing the rounds at present, which each claim to have hundreds of thousands of games built in (all lies, of course) and come with one to three cartridges boasting equally ridiculous game counts.

The history of these is pretty messy; my original understanding is that they were derived from and compatible with the FC-3000 from Jungletac, a handheld capable of playing Famicom games on its own proprietary cartridge format, but (for reasons I'll get into later) this obviously isn't the case, at least not anymore.

One of the earliest such consoles was pretty much a knockoff of Jungletac's OneStation, albeit called the "Digital Dragon system" on the packaging and "MagicStation" on the console itself (although possibly some earlier revisions still said "OneStation"), and the built-in games menu resembled one from a OneStation cart. Later came the GB Station series which resembled the GBA SP, and then the PSP-imitating PVP (Play Vision Portable) Station which set the standard for dozens of P(something)P consoles to follow. To begin with they were all Famicom clones, but later Mega Drive clones were produced in the same format, and there are even a few GBA-based ones doing the rounds now.

This one is a Famicom clone and follows resolutely in the PVP's footsteps, going for the name "PGP" and taking its inspiration more from the PS Vita (although it isn't an exact copy, I'll give them that much) but the manufacturers have also opted to add a cute sticker featuring all manner of copyrighted characters (both it and the screen are covered by a plastic protector with a bad habit of falling off). Other variants are available if this one isn't your bag; you can see a few more on this alibaba page, including a snazzy Tekken vs Fist of the North Star edition.

The screen is actually one of the better ones I've seen on anything; inevitably it doesn't run at the native NES resolution so there's a bit of stretching going on, but it's nice and bright and actually puts the LCDs of considerably more expensive and legitimate hardware to shame. But, sadly, of course, this is a clone, so it can't all be good news, and the fatal flaw here is the sound. Honestly I'm not sure if I have a faulty unit, or if they're all this bad; it's just really scratchy and distorted and unpleasant, even through headphones.

Unlike many similar consoles, this doesn't come with an AV cable and has no TV-out support whatsoever, so you're limited to playing it on the console's screen; it uses a rechargeable battery compatible with Nokia's BL-5C (which has become something of a standard among Chinese console makers lately) and there's a dubious charger included, although fortunately it has a standard Mini USB port so you can charge it from something more reputable. There was also a pouch included in the box, which is, you know, nice.

There was a manual included as well, but it's both for the wrong console (something called a "PYP 3", although the text refers to a "16 bit NBS" as well) and in Indonesian, so it's not too much use to me... except for the sticker on the front, which reveals the company behind this to be "KSD", short for 凯仕达 (Kaishida), short for 深圳市凯仕达高峰科技有限公司 (Shenzhen Kaishida Summit Technology Co., Ltd.), and also provides the URL of their (musical, be warned) website. Kaishida seems to mostly specialise in dance mats, and they don't list anything like this at all anymore, so it's probably fair to say Kaishida had nothing to do with the system aside from maybe the package design.

Who actually did make it is something of a mystery; many of these systems can be found listed on the website of Shenzhen Nanjing Technology, of Famicom RPG infamy, from the common GB Station and PVP lines to more original stuff like the Game Prince and NJ series, plus the amusingly-named "NBS" which shook things up a bit by ripping off Nintendo's DS instead of the commonly cloned PSP family. However many of those consoles also appear on the website of Jncota among other companies, so it's really hard to say where they originated from in the first place; and in any case neither company's site lists anything like the PGP. The company whose Alibaba page I linked to previously, Guangzhou Toycenter Toy Firm (which uses the brands Digiking and Zhanglong), seems to be a distributor for all kinds of handhelds including those known to be from other manufacturers, so I doubt they're behind it; but they may have had something to do with its design. who knows!

Regardless of who made it, they were generous enough to bundle the console with three tiny cartridges:

Of course, they don't have anywhere near the stated game count (and neither does the console itself) but it's nice that they were included, right? Here's a hastily shot video of one of the menus (and yes the sound really is that bad, it's not a problem with the video):

The other menus have different graphics but identical music and animation. And there's a reason for that! A reason that will become apparent if you take a look inside the cartridges:

...but there's... nothing here?

that's right! These so-called "cartridges" are nothing more than a trigger for different, already-built-in sets of games! Are you shocked? I was shocked. No wonder they're called "Exclusive Card"s - if you tried to use them with another, ostensibly pin-compatible console (of which there are many), nothing would happen! Or rather, they might trigger other sets of built-in games on those consoles, but you aren't going to be playing the PGP's games on your PXP or PZP or P☆P, because they are forever trapped within the confines of the PGP. And I always wondered why no one was selling cartridges for such a seemingly prevalent bootleg gaming format; because the cartridges are all LIES, that's why.

I actually have seen cartridges sold separately labelled as "GB Station", so it's possible some earlier, similar systems really did have real cartridges containing honest-to-god ROM chips before they resorted to this kind of trickery; hell, maybe the newer ones still have this functionality, and real carts just use different pins to the fake ones. Probably not, though.

So, now we've established Santa isn't real... but we can at least take a look at the contents of his sack. And by that I mean the games on here. Of course. I'll list the unique games built-in and those "on" each "cartridge", but obviously I'm not listing the 100,000s of repeats each time, because that would just be silly.

  1. SUPER MARIO 3
  2. ANGRYBIRD
  3. PLANTS VS ZOMBIE
  4. CROSSFIRE
  5. SUPERMAN
  6. JACKIE CHAN
  7. WARRIOR
  8. 10 YARD FIGHT
  9. 90 TANK
  10. ANTARCTIC ADVEN
  11. ARABIAN
  12. BALLOON FIGHT
  13. BASE BALL
  14. BINARY LAND
  15. BIRD WEEK
  16. BOMBER MAN
  17. BOMB SWEEPER
  18. BRUSH ROLLER

So the "666666 in 1" games built in turns out to be a more modest 18; of interest here are Nice Code's ports of Angry Birds and Plants vs Zombies, plus one other random game of theirs, "Warrior" (which I can't find a video of but it's basically a reskinned version of this one). Super Mario Bros 3 is the hacked version which lets you give yourself any item, which makes it considerably easier; we also have CrossFire, an obscure old Famicom game by Kyugo which has gained a sudden resurgence in bootleg popularity lately thanks to the identically-named online game, and homebrew game Bomb Sweeper which seems to have made its way into multicart makers' romsets probably thanks to its close stylistic resemblance to early Nintendo titles.

  1. CONTRA 1
  2. CONTRA 2
  3. FINAL MISSION
  4. BAYOU BILLY
  5. BATMAN
  6. ISOLATED WARRIOR
  7. BURGER TIME
  8. CHACK AND POP
  9. CHESS
  10. CIRCUS CHARLIE
  11. CLU CLU LAND
  12. COMBAT
  13. DEFENDER
  14. DEVIL WORLD
  15. DIG DUG 1
  16. DONKEY KONG 1
  17. DONKEY KONG 2

The "777777 in 1" (real count: 17) is more standard, although Bayou Billy isn't often seen on multicarts. "Chess" is really Gomoku Narabe and "Donkey Kong 2" is Donkey Kong Jr, if anyone was wondering.

  1. P.O.W
  2. DARKWING DUCK
  3. SUMMER CARNIVAL
  4. POWER BLADE
  5. POWER BLADE 2
  6. TURTLES 4
  7. GALAXIAN
  8. GOLF
  9. RAID ON BUNGELIN
  10. HYPER OLYMPIC
  11. HYPER SPORTS
  12. ICE CLIMBER
  13. JOUST
  14. KARATEKA
  15. LODE RUNNER
  16. LUNAR BALL
  17. MACROSS
  18. MAGIC JEWELRY

The "888888 in 1" really has 18 games and WHOA HEY IT'S RECCA just sitting there in the list as "Summer Carnival" like it's nothing. That game alone totally makes this thing worthwhile.

  1. DOUBLE DRAGON 2
  2. CHIP & DALE 1
  3. GUERILLAWAR
  4. TINY TOON
  5. GUN DEC
  6. ROBOCOP
  7. GUIFWAR
  8. TOP GUN
  9. KILLER TOMATOES
  10. DARKMAN
  11. ADVENTURE ISLAN
  12. DONKEY KONG 3
  13. DONKEY KONG JR
  14. EXCITE BIKE
  15. EXERION
  16. F1 RACE
  17. FORMATION Z
  18. FRONT LINE
  19. GALAGA

Finally, the "999999 in 1" (real count: 19). "Guifwar" is an Iraq war-themed hack of Silk Worm I've mentioned before here; everything else is pretty standard. (Donkey Kong Jr is DK Jr. Math, by the way.)

So, that's the PGP! A slightly unusual variant in a sea of generic PSP knockoffs, and probably not something I'd recommend buying - unless you really really want to play Recca on the cheap - but it's cute and interesting (you know, just like me) it's just let down by its piss-poor sound and inherent lack of expandability (again, just like... me?). Next up: something else!

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