Presenting the Game.com from Tiger - The World's Best Thing!

Let's talk about Tiger's Game.com today, alright? We'll get into the raw meatiness of the thing after the break, but we can have a little summary in this nice bit here. Touch-screen technology, Internet, amazing graphics and sound with the gameplay to match, PDA functions, this thing has it all.

Sort of.

More Games Than You've Got Brain Cells

That's how the thing was introduced to our American friends. Nice, eh? The UK's initial exposure to the game.com was more polite - well, as polite as wrecking ball can be. The adverts on the telly-box, that's what I'm on about. Here's a game.com smashing through some bricks, and a voice both booming and meek at the same time informs us of the game.com's many features. It talks! It can go on the Internet! It has touch-screen technology! It plays AMAZING games! Black and white images flash across the screen. Black and white images of Sonic, and Duke Nukem, and some Formula One cars. From this, we can deduce that it's some sort of miracle box that play Mega Drive and PC games, only in black and white. Must get one!

Obviously, that's not what it does. It has its own dinky little cartridges. And I mean dinky. If you had such a thing in your house, you'd want to keep your game.com cartridges away from your stacked piles of Playmobil briefcases/doctor bags. Small plasticky things, as always, right? So, there you are, in 1997, on the most festive morning of the year, with a brand-spanking new game.com. Let's do a time warp sort of thing, and go back for a hands-on review of that lush new bit of hardware.

Marvellous Delorian

Your new game.com (pronounced game.com) is, from new, wonderfully presented. A nice sturdy cardboard box that doubles as a carrying case. It even has a little rubber handle on the top! Look at all those pictures on the back... All those beautiful static images - in a matter of moments, YOU will be EXPERIENCING those images, only in MOTION! You lucky, lucky, lucky dog! Open the box... There's your game.com. It's as wide as a Game Gear, but not as deep. Light enough without the four AAs in there. Hey! You get some games with it as well! Awesome.

Every game.com ever sold includes two games - Batman & Robin (based on that amazing film that everyone in the world loves), and Lights Out (puzzley thing). No need to panic about which one to play first, no, none whatsoever! One of the "main features" of the game.com which wasn't elaborated on by Tiger was the twin cartridge slot - yes, TWO cartridge ports on a single unit! Wonderfully convenient for a portable device, no? So, put both of your cute little cartridges into the game.com, and press the big blue power button.

There's that bouncing ball thing from the adverts! And it's exploded! A bit! "GAME.COM - ACTIVE" announces the game.com. That's the amazing speech that we've been told about. Truly a thing of tinny beauty. Now, it's finished declaring its existence, so you're on the Menu screen now. DON'T choose the cartridge bit yet, there's lots more fun things to do before then!

Menu Bits

Using your ultra-funky game.com stylus (which has its own little slot underneath the screen), "touch" the picture of a phone on the screen. Some sort-of snazzy animations happen, and there's your phone book. It's empty, because owning a game.com isn't an instant guarentee of popularity, as much as you'd like to think it is. Go on, feel free to put some details in there. Just your own if you're desperate. Name, address, phone number, email... Just not the whole thing, the game.com's phone book doesn't allow for that many characters. So that's sort of redundant then. Okay, moving along.

Press the MENU key on the game.com (it's a nice rectangle shape). Now you're back at the menu screen! The next thingy to look at is the calendar, possibly the most redundant part of the entire machine. No clock chip y'see, so it's... manual. Really, a manual calendar in this day and age! Not even some nice pictures to look at. Rubbish. It's useful for sending you on microscopic guilt trips though, as you'll always be aware of the last time you used your game.com (my calendar's on August 2003 at the moment, and for the sake of laziness, that's where it's going to stay). Next!

Calculator. Useful for simple maths (ask it what 7 x 38 is, and it knows the answer straight away!). However, go any further than addition, division, subtraction or multiplication and you're buggered, so it's no good for exams. The big loud "KU-CHUK" noise whenever your stylus touches an on-screen key will probably be a distraction anyway.

The penultimate thingy, before the games are looked at, is the High Score Save feature. A nice idea this one - it keeps a record of your high scores (obviously), but it has a strange habit of wiping itself every so often, so maybe you should write them down. Fun fact! My current high score for Mortal Kombat Trilogy is 4.

Last little menu item now, and it's the built-in game. It's Solitaire! A special touch-screen version, and my first ever encounter with Solitaire. It does a good job of it, but... Well, without a "true" touch-screen interface, it's not that good. You know how with a DS or an iPhone or something, and you can drag stuff all over the place? There's only something like sixty-four independent pressure points on the game.com's screen, meaning things can't be dragged. Or something. I don't know, it just makes Solitaire harder to play.

Games Now

Yes! Okay, now for some game.com gaming! Just the two games for now though, as hopefully I'll be able to keep writing game.com stuff in the future without people getting bored of it. Maybe.

First thing you do then... "Press" the menu icon that says Cartridge on it. Hey! There's two pictures! One for each of the cartridges that are in the machine, isn't that nice? We'll go with Lights Out first. If you're playing along at home, and you're doing it right, you're about to hear the funkiest bit of music in the whole of game.com-ness. Good eh? For the less fortunate amongst you, it's a bit like the opposite of the Blockbusters theme, only not as upsetting as you'd imagine that to sound.

Basic, easy game idea with increasing difficulty. Standard fare for a puzzle game this. There's your board of squares, with a few lights on it. The aim of the game is to make sure that the lights are off, or "out". This is done by... Pressing the squares next to them? I don't know, you keep pressing them and it makes the squares around them go the opposite of what they currently are/were. Hard to explain, but it works, and is a fair amount of fun until Level 13 when it gets stupidly difficult, and you have to quit out of the sheer unhappiness of it all. So that makes it a solid six out of ten.

Next game! Batman & Robin, with yet more impressive opening music. Possibly the best thing that you'll hear from the game.com's speakers, at least for now - a spiffingly accurate rendition of the film's theme tune! Once that music's finished, there's this strangle blippy-bloppy spy music which won't stop for the rest of the game, so it's best to get used to it, or press the SOUND key (another nice rectangle button). Choose whether you want to "be" Batman or Robin (clue: go as Batman, Robin's stupid), and then you're on another screen where you get to choose two special weapons to take with you on your adventure. There's eight available, and they all match different scenarios throughout the game, so with repeated plays you'll... You get the idea.

Right! That's done. Five menu screens later, and it's time to start playing Batman & Robin. So, there's your (bat)man, standing in some filthy street. Walk forward... STOP! There's a bad man! Punch him, and he'll fall over, presumably getting a haemorrhage once he hits the ground, because he doesn't get up again. Poor thing. Walk forward a bit more, and do that several more times. Maybe jump up or use your Bat-Rope thing to get to higher points in the level. Same stuff all over, and there's some little diamonds that you can pick up. Thirteen years later and I'm still none the wiser what these are for. Anyway, carry on, get yourself to the end of the depressing first level. And the one after that, which is the same.

Next bit! Choose some ice-skates from the menu bit before starting this level, because the museum's been frozen by Mr. Freeze. What a sod. Same stuff over and over, but once you get to the end of that level, there's a fun Virtua Cop-syle bit, in which you use your stylus to throw Batarangs at people. Fun stuff! The rest of the game's boring after that, and Poison Ivy's frustratingly difficult to murder. The motion blur doesn't help either. Still, you've waited a long time to play this game, and after spending £59.99 on it, you're willing to force yourself into enjoying it, and give it a 3.5 out of 5.

And So

Expect more round-ups of game.com games in the near/distant/immediate future/never. For now, let's think of Tiger's wonderful brick as an example of... Over-ambition? Premature technological dreaming? Portable Internet was a great idea, but it needs a special Internet cartridge, an external modem, a subscription to a text-based ISP... And then all it does is let you compare high scores with the two other people in the world who've succeeded in setting it up. Touch-screen, that's a nice idea as well, but it was around seven years too early. Not accurate enough, nor implemented in enough games besides Lights Out. And yeah, it's a really bad screen.

Tiger tried to improve on the design a few years after the launch, with the beautifully-designed game.com Pocket Pro - smaller, rubberier (is that a word?), with a backlit screen (but only one cartridge port). Thing is, the backlight is possibly the worst-realised piece of technology since the water-resistant sponge. For some reason, they saw fit to link the backlight to the speaker, so for every beat or sound effect the game.com makes, the back light flashes, which is really helpful when you're trying to play a game (or do ANYTHING besides look at your empty phone book).

And on that bombshell... A lot of people seemingly still have a lot of love for the game.com, myself included. The bad outweighs the good by around 98%, but it's just fun to play around with something that had so much potential, right? The future, in your hands, but in the past. Trying to sound profound here, but it's not working. Sorry.

Estimated Rarity: 6, boxed ones are on eBay regularly enough, but it's VERY RARE to see a Pocket Pro.

Estimated Value: £10 for the game.com, maybe £50 for the Pocket Pro (depends how many people notice the auctions usually).


Last Updated ( 02 December 2010 )  

Comments 

+1 (Link to this comment) Cauterize 2010-02-19 20:34
Awesome article! :)
+2 (Link to this comment) MegaDrive20XX 2010-02-22 16:20
Nicely done :)
(Link to this comment) oldgamerz 2016-08-03 18:12
At least Tiger was trying to make something revolutionary but failed miserably :D
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