A Kingdom for a few Euros

Some time ago, I won an auction for a handheld LCD game: Q&Q “Time Warp” from the early 80’s, in original packaging – even the original battery remained in the packaging. Read on, to learn what it is like!

This was one of several competitors to Nintendo’s Game & Watch line, and as usual they were not very well polished compared to Nintendo’s games, but to compensate, the game ideas were often a bit more far out. For example, here is a quote from the game description, as Japanese as it can get. When reading it, keep in mind that all this is supposed to take place on the very small non-pixel display you see in the picture above of the actual game itself.

You have to remember, that prior to the Game Boy, these games did not have a pixelated display, but it consisted of fixed preset elements that were lit up by the gameplay mechanics to convey a crude form of animation that still seemed to do the trick at the time. (So, for instance, in this game, all instances of the boy running are etched into the LCD with only the one representing the current position of the player made visible at any time)

“With the start of the game, boy scientist appears on the left hand side. Evading the enemy attacks from above and below, take crown and penetrate into future city.”

Hmmm, okay. “Take crown”? “Penetrate into future (?) city!?”

Perhaps you are supposedly the real king of the city (and not just a simple “research boy”) on a mission to reign your rightful future city once again! (Wouldn’t that mean you’re just a mayor then? So many unanswered questions)

But it’s getting better. If you manage to do this often enough and achieve 300 (or possibly 500, the instructions were a bit unclear) points, you get the chance to play “Casino Game”!

“Casino Game” is about trying to stop rapidly shifting numbers at the right time in order to get three matching numbers, thus earning extra points. (Ah, the luxury of being a king with your own casino). When this has been accomplished, your task is now to go back, from right to left, away from your claimed Future City, but now instead of the coveted Crown holding a “time controller” in your hand?

I never got that far.

At best, I got 100 points before I gave up. The whole thing is very puzzling indeed.

Cover art, potentially drawn before the game was even designed. I have yet to see the dinosaur, tree or even a volcano in the game itself. Perhaps they are there to allude to the contrast between a distant past and glimmering future?

When the game starts, you are positioned in a small cage or similar at the bottom left. Strange objects fly past on the playing field. (None of which, by the way, look anything like the dragon or tree (?), as depicted on the cover art – but I’m digressing). After a while, I realized that one of the objects flying past you is actually a crown. As one of the combined positions of Research Boy and Crown on the small screen makes it look like the crown actually is on his head, I spent far too much time trying to line them up in this way, before realizing that’s not what you’re supposed to do – instead you have to move so that the crown ends up on the boy’s hand – if you do it just right, it will magically stick to your hand when you move. I guess the crown wouldn’t fit his head so it was safer to hold on to it while running.

While trying to do all this, a malicious version of Disney’s Bambi and at least two different kinds of birds pass by. The slightest contact with these will trigger a very angry sound, somewhat reminiscent of my egg boiler. Three boiled eggs later, and the game is over.

The most insidious thing is that there is a door to the future city, which sometimes suddenly appears and blocks your rightful entry! A kingdom for a ladder! When the game is over (and the boiled egg has been, uh, fried) you get to enjoy the angry egg-boiler / wakeup-call-from-hell alarm for an extended period of time as an unfortunate kind of reward. Then you’re free to try it all over again.

I ended up not trying too many times before the whole experience became a bit too much for me. But someday I’ll go all the way to the casino, and maybe then I’ll get to see the secret “time controller”. “Joyful Two Games” and “It Was Better Before”?

Imagine getting one of these for Christmas as a child? I’m happy to have missed out.

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