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The Allure Of Solvents and Chip Shops

I was five when I saw this older kid racing stock cars. ... he was playing Stock Car Star and it was a ... ™ game. There were none of the graphics you get with PS2, granted. But that pr

I was five when I saw this older kid racing stock cars. Admittedly, he was playing Stock Car Star and it was a Pocketeer ™ game. There were none of the graphics you get with PS2, granted. But that probably has something to do with there having been none, just a magnet inside a little hand held game forcing four pieces of plastic round a course. It was revolutionary.

This goes some way to describing the collective playground orgasm that shuddered across the land by the end of the seventies when magnets were replaced by batteries and LCD displays, allowing collective prepubescence to stop an alien invasion.

It was Christmas 1981 when I got one of these games. Grandstand, a foreign company that distributed a lot of games from other companies was at the centre of this revolution. They brought out a couple of their own games. One was Invader from Space. Repeatedly firing the missile button caused the display to jam - it wasn’t meant to be salvo-operated obviously. By the end of Boxing Day, level three, the hardest, had been completed. But I loved it. Muting the sound and playing this game under the sheets was a Technicolor onslaught.

It broke a few months later from repeated usage and that would appear to have been the last of my association with these games. But when I was in a charity shop a couple of years ago and saw Astro Wars, a hobby began. Admittedly, seeing one doesn’t cause me to rub my knees like Vic Reeves, but I’ve collected a few since.

I remember a mate of mine coming round once. He took one look at my Astro Wars – and due to a shocking mixture of Stella Artois and Pink Champagne (yeah, that sort) - offered me £50 there and then. But I kept it. Yes, I’d bought it for £2.50 but I wasn’t giving in to someone’s nostalgia rush, just because his girlfriend had a Chopper in her hallway. He left a broken man.

Someone else I know was sold by my Space Blasters (Vtech) game, simply because it “talks.” So he recorded the machine announcing: “Aliens Invading!” into his mobile for his voicemail message. Whether this will cause the person on the other end to react as if Orson Welles was beginning his narration of War Of The Worlds is doubtful.

Then there was Simon. I’ve got Pocket Simon. Rubbish. Simply a jumped-up memory game. Christ, you only have to look at the picture of the kids on the box to know the type who went in for this anathema of amnesia. Just staring at the four colours was confusing enough. That was without trying to remember the order in which they flashed before depressing the buttons in the correct sequence. One kid I remember was unbeatable at this. But then he wore specs and didn’t find the smell of UHU fascinating. Unfair advantage really.

Juxtaposed with the Simon travesty was the game I always wanted. Galaxy Invader 1000. Though the shade of yellow is what I can only describe as Renault Clio yellow, don’t let that put you off. Distributed by CGL (Computer Games Limited) the shape was, in retrospect, merely a forerunner of the penis extension. The E-type Jaguar of the playground world.

These were the games I remember most fondly from school. I’ve got a couple of others. I have Safari (Bambino). This comes in a yucky™ green but I don’t remember it at all. But this might have something to do with the fact that you spend around 10 minutes boxing animals in before it dawns on you that you ought not to bother quite frankly. Obviously some kids must have owned it but never bought it in to school for fear of ritual humiliation.

And I now have Firefox F-7 (Grandstand, licensed to Tandy/Radio Shack). I don’t remember this one either but I don’t know why. Someone must have had this one and it makes Astro Wars look like Safari. Or Simon. (Now there’s a put down.) It’s kind of like Star Wars. Only you’re not at the cinema and things … Buy it, still in its box and you’re talking around £85.

And writing thisFeature Articles, it is now the 25th anniversary of Space Invaders appearing in video game format. Hand-helds were now just the new Pocketeers™. The local chippy would never be the same again.

© Copyright Holmes Charnley mmiv

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