Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Omni Entertainment System

The Omni Entertainment System is a bit of a wonder to me.  It is a multi player quiz game that is run off an 8 track tape.  This confounds me as I can't really think of a way an 8 track could work as a tape drive. 

The basic game is pretty similar to the multi player version of the Quiz Wiz.  It allows four players at answer various questions, you are presented with a series of buttons to answer the questions.  The difference here is you were not reading from a book but rather the tape provided pre-recorded questions from a host.  Some of the hosts were the quiz show masters of the day and even Vincent Price shows up on one.  There were only a few different tapes available for the Omni, and it appears that the original launch series is it, no second series.

The odd thing about the game is those 8 tracks.  If you know how an 8 track works, its a single spool that uptakes while it unwinds.  This is opposed by a cassette tape which had two reels or even a 9 track tape drive.  The difference functionally is that the 8 tracks don't allow rewind but rather just play forward. Basically this made them an infinite forward loop.  I am not sure this could work in a tape drive.  There is the other option that the tapes were just to play the questions and that the device was pre-programmed for each quiz.  This would have made the device not compatible with expansions.  I am not sure if this or the dependence on the 8 track was the cause of the product not launching subsequent releases.

Really as a game it's sort of ahead of its time.  This would probably make a fantastic iPhone application.  Allowing people to answer each from their own device.  As I have mentioned in my Quiz Wiz review, I could even allow players to each have their own questions.  Sorry that is sort of my dream quiz game where everyone has their own area of expertize.

The 8 tracks as I know them are the original launch titles

Words Words Words
Music Music Music
Password +Plus
For the Fun of It
Sesame Street
TV Trivia
Movie Trivia
Baseball Quiz
Football Quiz
Sports Quiz
ReAction Quiz
And  a Variety 8 Track that came bundled with the toy itesel

Pressman Toys Headshrinkers Kit and Dick Smith Monster Make-up Kit

Pressman toys saddens the fuck out of me.  I am looking at their web side and all i see are goofy games that seem to be targeted at the drug store family game section. This is not the company that released the Witch Doctor Headshrinkers Kit or the Dick Smith Monster Make-up Kit.  How can a company go from the coolest crap around to the lames game in town.

The headshrinkers kit is something I would be thrilled to use every halloween and am a little sad I missed out on as a kit.  It was before my time, you ever say you wished this toy was out during your childhood for an older toy?  New awesome toys sure, yes; but an old toy that doesn't happen.

The Witch doctors headshrinkers kit was some thing that allowed you to make and paint up heads that would really shrink.  WTF that is so cool, I want it now.  I could paint up my own shrunken head custom?  Of Myself?  Take my money!

The Dick Smith stuff of the 70's was a holy grail level toy for my friends.  In my mind this stuff was like seventy bucks or so for the set.  Having seen the prices it clearly wasn't this bad but for kids living in the crappier area of San Jose it was pretty much the same. So out of the question our parents would have kicked our ass for asking.

But where are you going to get your own monster make up kit.  We thought this was the stuff from spy movies or the John Waite's video that you peel off your face after completely impersonating someone else as kids.  It was the stuff of legend.  But made real like the banned hoover board, but this shit somehow remained on the shelves. 

Special thanks to and for providing the images that make this rant possible.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Quiz Wiz

Quiz Wiz was a "toy" that your grand parents would have bought for you.  Sort of cool for the time considering it was a semi hand held that basically had cartridges but also lame in that it was a learning toy.  Also the no screen made it sort of a problematic toy to use.  The idea behind it was get the computer and purchase extra quiz books.  The computer would plug into the books sort of reversing the standard console set up.  Each book had a topic which it would quiz you on.    The original version of the toy was produced by Coleco, though the rework that came out in the late nineties was by Tiger.

I was not aware of variations of the product at the time but apparently there was a four play game version of the Coleco Quiz Wiz and a Star Wars version of the Tiger updated computer.

I am not really sure of the game play of the four player version.  I don't know if it allows you to play from a single or multiple quiz books.  From the picture that I snagged off eBay it looks like it used a single book for the questions.  That is sort of lame I have long thought a trivia game where players each brought topics to the table would make for fun.  It would make it so everyone had some topic they knew well.  I guess I will have to work on that idea for another post.  I have used the basic idea for a music party game I created.
As you can see the updated tiger version is a little different I am not sure how it work with the books from the original.  It almost looks like it would not accept the old books but perhaps the old computer would accept the new.

The folks over at hand held museum have a listing with the original books or carts whatever you like to call them

Cartridge list:
1. 1001 Questions
2. The World of Sports
3. Movies and TV
4. People & Places
5. Trivia
6. Music & Books
7. Math Mania
8. The Book of Lists
9. Greatest Sports Legends
10. Super Heroes
11. Disaster! When Nature Strikes Back
12. The Ocean- Mankind's Last Frontier
13. Energy- The Fuel of Life
14. How Things Work- Aerosols to Zippers
15. NBA Teams
17. MLB
18. Guiness Book of World Records
19. The People's Almanac #1 & #2
20. Sherlock Holmes & Other Famous Mysteries
21. Greatest Sports Legends- Volume II
22. Monsters, Vampires, Witches and Ghosts
23. Words- Used, Misused and Confused
24. Super Trivia- Movies and TV
25. Rock 'N Roll- Doo Wop to Disco
26. The Bible- The Old and New Testaments
27. Soap Opera Digest
28. Ripley's Believe it or Not
29. Celebrity Trivia
30. Fascinating Facts about Animals

Per eBay i have seen that the newer line some different 

1.   General Knowledge
4.   Greatest Sports legends
5.   Ripley's Believe it or Not
6.   Famous People
8.   All About Science
10. Rock and Roll
11. MLB players
12. Amazing Video Games
14. Computers and games
15. Travel and Language
18. TV Trivia
16. World Records
22. Dinosaurs
24. Where in the World
25. Music
30. Monster Mania
33. Movie Trivia II
36. Great Americans
37. The World Championship Games
40. Box Office
41. Heroes and Villains
43. Automobiles
44. Soap Operas
45. Music Video
46. Congo The Movie
47. World book encyclopedia Animals
49. Teams of the NFL
50. Quotes and Quotable
51. World Book encyclopedia People
54. Computers and Video Games
55. Facts about the Earth
56. American History
57. Mythology
58. Sports Stars of the 90's
59. Pro Sports
60. Fats, Events and People of the '90s

There are some more like the magic school bus - flying things but i have no idea on the number from that.  I am finishing out with the Star Wars version.  Thanks to Sci Fi Blog for the pic

Friday, June 8, 2012

Simon, Einstein, Merlin and other electronic memory toys

The folks over at plastic fetish give us the inspiration for today's toy posting.  Einstein was Simon for the pic n' save set by way of castle electronics.  It was pretty fun and was a solid enough alternative to Simon that no one would make fun of it.  Simon seemed a little more portable but this wasn't a piece of crap that you felt a waste of money.

This toy, just like Simon is an electronic memory game.  The object is to push button in the same pattern that Simon spits out.  It comes faster and faster and continues to create increasingly longer patterns for you to match.  The Simon toy is still available today in a backpack clip form.

At the time there were a variety of Simon Clones like the Einstein.   Atari had the touch me, Parker brothers had the cooler looking Merlin and there was something called Milton from another toy company.

The Simon line continued to spawn no versions as well.  We had the Super Simon with eight buttons, A Star Wars Simon with an xwing, Simon2 (read that as squared).  There was something called Simon Sticks that I have no idea what they are and the Simon trickster and flash.

The original Simon was invented by Ralph Baer, who you will know as one of the fathers of video gaming.  He was the inventor of the Odyssey one.

As you can see the Merlin looked like some sort of cool submarine control, like you were going to dial in a torpedo attack on a German U-boat.  They changed the buttons to have numbers later on in the toys lifeline.  I think its cooler without them though.  Thanks to tawnya marie at blogspot for the picture.

The Star wars version looks like another abomination from the phantom menace era of marketation.  Exploitation and Marketing all rolled into a fan boy cash grab of epic levels.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Star Wars Jawa's Droid Factory

Being a boy growing up in the early eighties its pretty safe to assume star wars was a big part of my youth.  I had loads of figures along with the x wing and other stuff.  I enjoyed it but got out of star wars around the time the smaller line of GI Joe came out.  While I enjoyed star wars still, GI Joe was something I really ran with.  Perhaps it was the increase in figure articulation or ninjas; both were are really cool.  One of the Star Wars toys I continued to play with was the Droid Factory.  That was something that really captured my imagination.

There Star Wars droid factory was basically a play set for the jawas at least in theory.  It was actually a fun robot construction toy.  You could build several robot or droids including R2 D2, though I never really did.  I liked making my own weird droid creations and seeing how strange I could get.    It was really a really a well put together toy for the time.  Everything had a spot and most things plugged right in.  There was very little mess which my mom liked and I could take it anywhere in the house which I liked.

You can see just how nice and neat everything packed away with this photo.  Yes the orange tubing was the first thing I lost.  I decided I wanted to cut it to make my own custom lengths that would fit my droids.  That was a mistake.  The picture is lifted from this IGN article that list several other Star Wars playsets.  I actually had the Death Star Space Station set as well.  It was pretty fun after you got it out of the box and built.  The trash compactor was fun but you quickly lost foam blocks.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Magic Shot by Marx

As a Kid I had plenty of toys, but one of the toys I liked that I never got was the Marx Magic Shot.  This was one of those toys that I never really asked for but just admired from afar.  One of those things you somehow know will get boring but still enjoy when playing at a friends house.

The toy was a pretty neat idea, basically a plastic box with a few targets inside.  Ball bearings would rolling around trapped inside the box which you would shake to the front and trap in a series of holding grooves.  Once set up like this you would use the little magnet gun to draw the buck shot up and then press the trigger to shoot.

I only played with these a few times and never got enough time to check them out to figure out how the shooting works.  I mean it cant be magnetic or we would have rail gun tech going on right now.  I guess it has to be some sort of spring but that seems like it would fuck up the plastic face plate pretty quickly. 

There were a few other toys with similar designs at the time.  The Electro Shot Shooting gallery I think was also by Marks, or Ideal.  I was checking a sight called Sam's toy box and Saw something called Midway shooting gallery that is, well lame.  You can check out Sam's description it sounds terrible.   There is a recent attempt at this sort of thing called the Executive Shooting gallery which can be picked up here.  I think the Magic shot is probably the best of the bunch or maybe the Electro just because its design lends itself to shooting rapid fire.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Kooky Spooks and Kooky Spookys

I was trying tell someone about a series of Halloween costumes from my childhood.  They didn't remember or get what I was trying explain so I decided to track it down on the Internet.  The costume in question was something called Kooky Spooks which got a lot of people confused with a line of toys called Kooky Spookys.  One was a terrible line of inflatable head Halloween costumes and the other a series of ghost figures.  The later are almost cute and the former were for lame wads.

The Kooky Spooks were a series of costumes that included an inflatable plastic head and make up to paint your own face.  It's sort of a goofy idea you have a plastic head on top of your own head.  Its not even a mask just an extra head.  This was back in the days when most costumes were a vinyl smock and a plastic mask that came out of box.  The good ones looked basically like the character you were trying to be, the bad ones had that character printed on the front along with their name.  So Chachi or something like that.  I remember the TG&Y people getting made at me for opening up the little boxes to see if the smock was cool or not.  So the inflated head thing isn't totally out of the scope of reason for the time.

The Kooky Spooks had five or six variations.  One seemed to be a green pointy nosed woblin goblin, another a black cat and scarred cat.  There was a pumpkin, a goofy looking witch, a weird alien called spacey casey, some sort of red devil that looked to be sitting on your head.  And finally a skull with a candle on it that actually looked sort of cool.  Well cool except for the smock thing that had all their pictures on it. Lame!  I am going to put the year on these things around 1980.

The Kooky Spookys were a line of little ghost toys from Hasbro, that came out in 1968.  They were cute if a little contrived as they were presented as hippys.  The toys glowed in the dark which was fun they needed this as they were more figurines than toys.   They had names like Teena Terror, Big Brother Mortimer and Daddy Booregard.  You will see some in this little flyer, I think this is the first series there appears to have been more or there were many items for each figure to hold and be posed with.


Someone who blogs under the name have phaser will travel has actually done some of his own custom Kooky Spooks that you can see here.  I think they are pretty nice and get the feel of the original toys right though they seem to have taken a bit of a turn away from the hippy flavor of Teena Terror and Momma Kaskit.

There was apparently a mail away haunted house for the figurines as well.  It was not really anything other than a cardboard display with punch out windows for each of the six figures.  I am calling the figures but someone has mentioned they were intended as finger puppets.  Thanks go out to the enchanted world of rankin bass for this info.

In writing this post I wanted to thank Snagg's News and The Universal Monster Army Forum for pictures I have used.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Laffun head from the 70's was a weird novelty that seem to show up in all my dad's relatives house.  For a long time I thought they were some sort of German folk art like that Cuckoo clock, as if they were something my family brought back from the fatherland.  You have to understand they were usually in a long time smokers house or up on a wall with at least fifteen clocks.  They were never dusted and sort of looked crusty to begin with.  They looked more wooden than plastic in my great uncles clockwork man cave.

Funnier still was that everyone seemed to think they were the only one that had them and that they were hilarious.  I can't tell you who many of my dad's uncles and cousins insisted I shoot myself in the face with water by pulling the little tie.  I was just grateful if they forgot to fill the water bowl so I didn't get wet.

My friend picked up one recently and got it working again.  He said the first time it played the laugh it sounds like something out of hell, but after it getting the dust out it started sounding mostly normal.  These things are battery powers but mostly mechanical on the inside. They have a water bowl that you need to keep filled for the squirting to work.

Basically you pull down the tie and they open their eyes and squirt water at you then begin laffun.  This is pretty low humor I think there is a larger application of it in Austrian Hellbrunn palace.  As you can see there are a variety of figures from Santa to a Wizard.  I think the hobo was the most common.  They had a new edition by Jobar in the 80's with a bit different head design.