Wednesday, December 10, 2014

That Handheld Game in Friday the 13th Part 2

A rather weird connection between gaming and movies, in this particular case is because it is the only instance I am familiar with of this particular game being featured in a movie, and if you're going to have your game featured in a movie, why not make it a Friday the 13th movie?

Anybody who has seen Friday the 13th Part 2 will know what I'm talking about. The counselors, between sex and chasing each other around, have a Milton Bradley Microvision handheld gaming system, actually they have two of the handhelds.

What was the Microvision system?

Well, I found one at a flea market many years ago, not long after I got my first VCR and was able to watch older movies like Friday the 13th Part 2. The Microvision system, from what I have read on various sites, was the first handheld gaming system with interchangeable cartridges; yes, well before Gameboy.

Now don't get too excited and try to go out and find one. If you can still find one, because of the older electronics it likely will be damaged in some way, such as screen darkening. Another problem with it is that it used a membrane touchpad over which the game cartridge would fit, which means not only would the touchpad lose sensitivity and require some hard pressing with your fingers, but the flexible plastic they used for the buttons on the cartridges was easily damaged.

This is not a criticism of the game system as, keep in mind, not only was it the first of its kind, when it was the first of its kind was in 1979! Most handheld games before it used little LED lights like in the football and baseball games they came out with in the 70s, but the Microvision used an LCD display with black squares on a silver, or light gray, screen; and the resolution was a very limited 16x16 square matrix.

What kind of games could you play on only a 16x16 square grid?

Well, quite a few apparently. The standard game that came with the console unit itself was a Block Buster game with a paddle that you move left to right and a bouncing ball that knocks bricks out of a wall at the top of the screen. That one was actually pretty good.

Another game was a Star Trek Phaser Strike game which only bore any resemblance to Star Trek by using the name. This was an early version of what would become a submarine shooter game. You had ships, basically bars of different sizes but they were called ships in the game, that would move across the screen at various speeds. Your task with your makeshift phaser turret was to fire and hit these ships. You could move the turret left to right just like the paddle in Block Buster, and fire, but that was about it.

Those were the only two games I had as they came together in the box, not originally, that I bought at the flea market. Other games in the system included Bowling, Connect 4, Pinball, Mindbuster, Vegas Slots, Baseball, Sea Duel, Alien Raiders and Cosmic Hunter; that I know of and can find information about.

The system itself consisted of the base console which included the screen, the touchpad and a paddle controller. The cartridges would snap onto the front of the base and add screen decorations if necessary, and specific buttons for the game. The cartridges were sold separately except for the Block Buster one which came with the base console.

Unlike in the Friday the 13th Part 2 movie, the system did not include either a Football or Hockey game. Not only did the system not include those games, but the game cartridges they have onscreen are actually Connect 4 and Block Buster; football and hockey are only in the dialogue. I can guess, though just a guess, the reason for the discrepancy in the movie is probably because the script was written to include the more common handheld football and hockey games of the time, but they ended up putting the Microvision in the movie and didn't change the lines.

Interestingly enough, the game system was pretty much dead by the end of 1981, and no, Jason didn't do it. Another interesting thing is that the second movie, although released in 1981 when the Microvision system was current, took place 5 years after the first movie meaning that the handheld game system represented in the movie would have been out of production for 3 to 4 years by the time the movie is taking place.

Just thought it might be interesting to look back on the movie and the game system prominently on display in it, especially for those who have no idea what it was.

Get Friday the 13th Part 2 on DVD, Blu-ray or Instant Video

Toxic Fletch

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