TV Games Video Game Systems Review Updated

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Product Requirements:
Television with RCA inputs

03/18/04 Update: Pac-Man TV Game review added below

The other day, a package arrived from
Jakks Pacific
. There in the bottom of the box was a Spongebob Squarepants TV
game system and an Activision TV game system. I guessed that the folks at Jakks
Pacific must have noticed the posting that I had made of one of their products
in the Latest Gadgets section of our front page, and had decided to send some of
their offerings for review. I began wondering who would be ‘stuck’ doing this
review, since Judie’s daughter is past the age for interest in TV cartoon
characters, and I’d never even seen the show before. But then my eye caught the
words Pitfall Harry and Grand Prix on the packaging of the Activision game
system. All of a sudden I started hearing Barbara Streisand singing: 
Memories… Like the corners of my mind…. Misty water colored memories…
of the way we were….

It was the late 70’s, and I was around 13yrs old. I kept begging my Dad for
an Atari 2600, and finally ended up getting the generic version from Sears
called Telegames. I didn’t care though, since it played all the Atari
cartridges. Some of the first games we had were
Grand Prix
and Breakout.
My sister and I would sit on my bed and play those games for hours on end.
Sometimes my Dad would come in and sit in a chair beside the bed to watch. He’d
never play the games though, he always said they made him nervous ;o)  I
can remember going to bed at night, still hearing and seeing the games playing
even while my eyes were closed…

I also remember that whenever we would go into town to the Hills store (think
Target or Kmart, but only crummier), I’d race back to the electronics area to
play with the Intellivision game system that they had setup there. They always
had the

cartridge installed, which I loved! I actually never did get that
game for myself. That is until now…

The Jakks Pacific TV Game Systems look like a joystick, but are actually plug
and play video game systems that have the games built into them. The cool thing
is that they are self contained systems. You don’t need game cartridges,
complicated cables, or AC adapters. They are powered by 4 AA batteries (not
included) and have the A/V cable built into the system.

After you install the batteries, you plug the RCA style video and audio cable
into a set of free input jacks on your TV. Then you turn on the TV, switch to
the input that you just plugged into, flip the On/Off switch on the game system
to On and viola, you’ve got games! I tested both of these game systems on my 65"
widescreen TV and all I can say is WOW!

Activision TV Game System

The first system that I tried out was the Activision system. After switching
the power switch to On, the title screen appears with the games menu. This
system has 10 built-in all time original classic Activision games:

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Pitfall – You are Pitfall Harry the explorer, in search of treasures in the
jungle. Watch out for the gators!

Atlantis – Sort of like Defender but underwater. You shoot ships as they fly
back and forth above you.

River Raid – Vertical scrolling shooter. You fly a fighter jet, and your
mission is to shoot down ships, tankers, helicopters etc.

Spider Fighter – Similar to Space Invaders.

Crackpots – You are Potsy the gardener. You have to save the world from
spiders by throwing potted plants at them.

Freeway – Frogger clone, except with a chicken instead of a frog.

Tennis – Nothing to explain here…

Boxing – Overhead view boxing game.

Ice Hockey – Another obvious one…

Grand Prix – Horizontal scrolling race game.

My first impression of the games was pretty much: dang, graphics sure were
bad back then! ;o) But back in the day, this was cutting edge stuff, and we
liked it! It sure made me realize just how far gaming has come in 20yrs.

This system will probably not appeal to kids. The games are just too
simplistic. I see this as more for the nostalgic adult, wanting to recapture
days gone by. After playing all the games, I found that I enjoyed Grand Prix the
most. Pitfall was a little disappointing. I thought I remembered music, but
there were barely any sound effects at all, and I couldn’t get very far without
croaking. Let’s face it, I now suck at action games ;o) I found Freeway to be
too easy, and the rest of the games were just not appealing to me. Who ever
played Hockey anyway, (apologies to those of you that did) yuck!

The joystick itself seems pretty sturdy. It has both a fire button on the
base, and one on the top of the stick. Besides the power switch, there are also 
Select, Start and Reset buttons. There is also a power LED above the power
switch. The Reset switch allows you to get back to the main game menu.

This TV game system makes a great inexpensive gift for the video game nerd in
your life.

Price: $20.00

Plug and play
10 games in 1 system
Blast from the past

No real music or sound effects
Can’t save high scores


Spongebob Squarepants TV Game System

Like the Activision system, this system also has everything you need to just
plug and play. Although there are only 5 games with this one, they are more
modern in appearance and will appeal to kids. The games include:

Invasion of the Hooks – Spongebob has to save his friends from being hooked.
Fast paced, but pretty easy. At least in the first few stages. There are 20

Patrick and the Maze – Patrick has to find his friends in the maze without
getting zapped by some mean jellyfish. There’s even a built in Simon type game
where you have to repeat the tune played to you.

The Super Chum Bucket – Nifty little platform game where Bob has to rescue
Sandy. There are 40 levels.

Sandy’s Surf Adventure – Horizontal scroller. I didn’t like this one that

Bubble Pop – Similar to Breakout. My favorite game of the bunch. There are 50

This system is shaped like Spongebob himself. His nose is the actually stick
on the joystick, which is kind of cute :o) It feels pretty robust, but I’m not
sure how well it will stand up under the abuse that kids can dish out. This unit
has the power status LED, one fire button on the base, and a reset switch.

This system is quite a bit more fun than the Activision system, just because
the graphics are better, the sound effect / music are better, and the games are
just more robust.


Price: $19.99 – $24.99

Plug and play
5 games in 1 system
Good graphics and sound

Can’t save high scores


NAMCO Pac-Man TV Game System

And now, straight from the 80’s comes the Pac-Man TV Game System. Like the
other products reviewed above, this plug and play gaming system requires 4 AA
batteries (not included) and connects to a standard TV by way of RCA jacks.

Modeled after a co-op arcade system (minus the display), the unit has a
pretty hefty base with a responsive joystick and firing button on top. A small
reset button, power switch and power LED are also located on the face of the

Upon turning the unit on, you will be greeted with the game menu. There are 5
games built-in to the unit: Pac-Man, Rally-X, Galaxian, Dig Dug and Bosconian.
Here is a little info about each one.

Pac-Man – Wow, I think everyone knows who this little dot muncher is! Did you
know though that the character was originally supposed to be an animated pizza
pie with one slice missing? But due to the fact that graphics were not as
sophisticated as they are now, the pizza details could not be achieved, so we
were left with a solid yellow dot instead.

The object of the game is to run around the maze munching up all the dots
while avoiding the multi-colored ghosts. Here’s another bit of trivia… the
ghosts are named Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde.

This game is completely faithful to the original, which I lost many many
quarters to… The only thing it can’t do is save high scores.

Rally-X – I remember this game too. It remains as fun as it was back then.
You have to drive your little car willy nilly through a maze, collecting flags
as you go. Avoiding the other cars and boulders can make it a short trip. This
is one of those games that gets your adrenalin going!

Galaxian – This game is similar to Space Invaders, but more intense. Enemy
ships swoop down on you instead of just coming down in waves a line at a time.

Dig Dug – Here’s another favorite of mine. The goal is to collect the veggies
without running into the bad guys. When you do come across the meanies, you can
either drop boulders on them, or over inflate them like a balloon with your
pump. Can you say "pop"?! 

The only thing that gets monotonous about this game, is the background music.
It will definitely drive you nuts after awhile.

Bosconian – This is one game that I don’t remember ever playing or even
seeing before. Not sure which game originated first, but this one is similar to
Asteroids, where you can rotate your ship to fire on the enemies.

It’s an ok game, but not one of my favorites.

Of the three TV Systems reviewed here, I would have to say that I enjoy
playing with the NAMCO Pac-Man game most. Pac-Man is easy to play and never gets
boring for me. Rally-X comes in a close second.


Price: $$24.99

Plug and play
Good graphics and sound

Can’t save high scores


Product Information

Manufacturer:Jakks Pacific
  • Plug and play
  • Pac-Man!
  • Good graphics and sound
  • Can't save high scores

25 thoughts on “TV Games Video Game Systems Review Updated”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. Wow, Hills! I had forgotten all about that store. I grew up in NE Ohio and we had two of them near us. One was well, crappy and the other was scary. We used to go there all the time (at least that’s what I remember). They always had a bunch of Atari 2600 games. I still remember them selling off the remaining games at deep discounts when I was in high school.

    Thanks for bringing back some classic gaming a shopping memories!

  3. kremhof:

    I actually had a job at Hills for several months before I got on with Cummins. I worked in Boy’s Wear folding clothes. It was exciting!!!! NOT! 😉

  4. Hills….ha ha ha. The one in Boardman, OH is where I saw the Colecovision and ran home crying that my 2600 wasn’t as cool. Later that month my dad bought me Intellivision, which kind of made up for the Colecovision…..

    By the way, sells one of these games in a joystick that has all the Atari classics. You should check that thing out as well

  5. Rendition:

    I would say that any child that has the dexterity to move a joystick and press a fire button, can play these games. The hardest game to understand might be Patrick’s Maze Game. But only because there are montsters to keep away from and some puzzle solving involved.


    Yes, this same company also sells an Atari games system, and a Namco system which looks like a baby arcade box. It includes Pacman. I wish now they would have sent me this one instead of the Spongebob game 😉

  6. Man. In 10 years time, we’ll have a keyboard/mouse combo that we can plug into the TV, which contains “classic” games like Doom, Doom 2, System Shock, Deus Ex, Ultima Underworld etc etc and (hopefully) it’ll cost about $20 as well!

    I wonder if there’s a market for Activision to sell their Zork & Infocom games in the same way — standalone keyboard attached to the TV.

    And what about the Lode Runner series, pac man clones and early Ultima series eh? 🙂

  7. Wal-Mart sells these for $18.77 each. I got the SpongeBob games for my girls (2 1/2 and 4). The 4 year old is able to play the bubble (breakout) game, but not the others. The sounds emitted from the game remind me of a gameboy and the graphics are a bit chunky, but the girls are having fun, so it was worth the $20.


  8. My boyfriend has recently bought the spongebob plug and play game for my daughter and myself (I’m a huge spongebob fan too!) but it don’t seem to wanna work for me. I’ve plugged it into the T.V the correct way and I even tried using an RF modulator to hook it up to my daughter’s T.V. It has batteries and everything. It just won’t work…any suggestions?

  9. Well, I can’t get the game to show up on the TV. Its like its coming on, but it isn’t showing up. In other words, it does nothing but come on.

  10. Yeah, I tried everything to no avail. Then it hit me! Maybe just for the heck of it I should try new batteries (although I thought the boyfriend had put in brand new ones, they were expired..he’d had em for a while) and BAM!! it works. I must’ve had a blonde Ole wait, I am a blonde, I have those all of the time! :p But anyway, thanks to those of you who replied to my post and tried to help me!!

  11. Ha! Well, at least you got it to work 😀 The company that makes these sent me an email saying they are going to send the Pacman version sometime soon. Sounds like an update to the review will be in order 🙂

  12. That would be great! I miss pacman. It is one of the greatest video games ever! I could’ve sworn I seen one at the wal-mart here, although it had other games on the same thing. I might just be imagining things again…

  13. That Atari 10-in-1 is cool! Atari is before my time (I’m 16, B-Day was March 5), but many of the games were ported to NES, and I play them on my ipaq :).

  14. I don’t remember Bosconian either. I pumped in quite a few quarters into those coin-op (typo in review) machines too – mostly Galaxian and BattleZone. DigDug was fun but a bit nerve wracking.

  15. Does anyone know where to find something simliar for the classic Nintendo games? Like Major League Baseball, Mario Bros, etc? I know I’ve seen the controllers at the mall a coulple years back that stored a lot of Nintendo games within them and all you had to do was plug them into the TV but now I can’t seem to find them anywhere!

  16. “Can’t save high scores”
    That’s something that i don’t understand. For me, it is realy important to get new records and save them..

    By the way! Very good reviews!! Thx a lot..

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