So I've covered the Game King previously as an example of a Chinese handheld with its own proprietary cartridge format - a bona fide almost-Gameboy in the tradition of the mighty Gamate and various others littering the pages of gaming history - but much (much) more common these days are the all-in-one type affairs, those which usually take the sort of hardware previously found in plug and play TV systems and forgo any kind of cartridge slot in favour of bundling a selection of pre-loaded games. One of the more successful in this field has been Jungletac, the company behind:
the 12 in 1 Colour Games Console! Yep, a games console in colour. Exciting. If it was 1997. Or if you've just been playing on a Game King, I suppose. This particular version was distributed by Premier Portfolio International, a UK based company seemingly engaged in the supply of overpriced crap for in-flight shopping catalogues and the like (although I got this one on eBay). The side of the box describes it as "fun for all ages" and claims "twelve arcade games in one", by the way, although that's the usage of the word "arcade" meaning "games that have never been anywhere near an arcade but they look like they sort of could have in a weird alternate version of the 90s".
Out of the box, the console now refers to itself as a "Classic Max Pocket", which is Jungletac's usual name for this line. As for the hardware, it's quite an unremarkable little design, sadly lacking in frills like a headphone port or TV out (other Jungletac handhelds do have them but it seems to be the distributor's choice whether to include them or not) but the d-pad is fine (if shiny; apologies for the fingerprints), the buttons are fine, and the screen is nice, as I will attempt to illustrate by taking a picture without the flash:
That's Jungle Soft's logo, by the way, Jungletac's name for their internal game development division; all the games here have a 2007 Jungle Soft copyright, although they have been known to outsource (particularly to Nice Code) so the games here may or may not be 100% their work - but I think they probably are. And those games are:
- Bubble Blaster - Just a Puzzloop clone. Or possibly a Zuma clone, which would make it a clone of a clone. Maybe you could even call it a Luxor clone if you like - there are just infinite onion layers of unoriginality where this game is concerned. Either way it's a fairly well-done implementation of the concept - the controls work nicely and it never feels like your balls are sticking in the wrong place like some of the lowlier clones, so no complaints here.
- Jewel Master - Columns clone! Actually judging from a few telltale elements (like the use of the word "Jewelry") it's probably a clone of Hwang Shinwei's unlicensed NES Columns clone Magic Jewelry (a common multicart staple back in the day). what is it with this thing and clones of clones? if it was still 2010 I might be inclined to use the word "cloneception" (but it isn't, so I won't (except just then))
- Night Wings - a horizontally scrolling shooter, pretty much like Scramble. Or exactly like Scramble, with better graphics and some irritating farty music.
- Space Castle - A Space Invaders clone. except there are some powerups and for some reason it's set in front of a rollercoaster.
- Move Fun - A Bejeweled-type game with a mouse, and some fruit, and the most generic name ever given to anything ever.
- Push the Box - Oh go on, guess. (it's a Sokoban clone)
- Hero Legend - Clone of Don Doko Don featuring someone who looks vaguely like Link. in red. This one suffers from some severe slowdown though, which is a shame.
- Win or Lose - Some kind of mad bastard Breakout where infinite balls just rain down at you from the top of the screen and you have to bat them away for points. Possibly an odd choice of name in that this is the only game in the system in which you can't win or lose, you always play for a fixed amount of time and just attempt to beat your high score.
- North Salvation - A Mr. Driller clone! Mr. Driller doesn't get cloned enough, honestly. This version is reframed as, I guess, someone digging in the Arctic for some reason, and instead of air capsules you have to collect heat capsules. Also all their efforts at disguising the game are kinda thwarted by the fact that they just went and put "Driller" at the top of the screen. Unfortunately it's waaayy too slow which kinda kills the fun of the original :(
- Mini Golf - pretty self-explanatory I think. mini golf game. it works.
- Hard Win - Another one of those names that tells you absolutely nothing about the game. Basically a stream of coloured balls come from a thing at the top, flow down a series of pipes and you have to move some pipes or flippers so they're sorted into the correct coloured jars. It's not as boring as I just made it sound.
- Gear Race - An overhead-view vertical racing game, sort of like Road Fighter except you can (and indeed should) just ram all the other drivers into the side of the road.
As per usual this also comes with a manual in a few different languages; the English version seems like it was written by at least two different people with wildly different levels of English proficiency, so Bubble Blaster has a nice coherent description in reasonable English and then Night Wings comes along with something like "This is continue to use the core game rule of the plane fire"
Anyway, I said I'd come back to the box, and here's why:
The back of the box has a selection of screenshots of the games' title screens, but some of the screenshots here actually contain considerably more detail than the versions displayed by the console. An easy one to compare is Space Castle since it's right there on the front; here's the box screenshot vs what it actually looks like:
This, coupled with the slowdown in a couple of the games, would seem to suggest they originally ran on more powerful hardware and have been ported down to whatever this thing runs; there are maybe five or more different variations of 16(ish) bit hardware used in Jungletac consoles, so presumably these screenshots show the original versions.
Also, like pretty much every Jungletac console, this thing holds a secret - hold down A and B when you turn the power on and you get this little self-test screen:
... So that's it! Not a bad little console really, although its selection of 12 games seems positively minimalist in comparison to later Chinese handhelds that come in closer to (and sometimes even above) the 100 mark. Which I'll have to cover at some point. And it'll take me ages. ;_;