Issue 34: Game On!

ISSUE 34: GAME ON!

Life gets messy. Sometimes you need an escape - a place to divert your attention. Books, movies, and even exercise allow us to leave reality for a moment. Distractions keep us sane, but also entertained. On those ultra-busy days, there's nothing better than unwinding with a game. Whether you're alone or part of a team, TMNT has released plenty of games over the years to keep you distracted. 

The Sewer Den has a slew of 'em. Although they were released by the boatload, the games presented in this issue are just a handful from my collection. I know there are plenty of others, so don't get your bandannas in a bunch if your favorite title is missing from this list.

Game on!
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MAZE PUZZLE PARTY FAVOR


Alright, I realize kicking off with this one might be a little weak. But, these things were the pinnacle of any childhood party. Goodie bags were always stuffed with these tiny games. Unfortunately, they didn't offer too much in terms of a challenge, but a least they managed to eek out a few moments of entertainment.


Back in the day, my birthday parties were riddled with these toys. No kid went home empty-handed. Their TMNT-themed goodie bag always held a game - even if it was something so mini. The two toys I clung onto all these years are still in working order (which is shocking considering they are made with the world's cheapest plastic). Even so, Donatello and Raphael live on.

Just out of curiosity, I played each maze puzzle and timed myself. How'd I do?

Donatello: 01:13.1 (around a minute and thirteen seconds)

Raphael: 01:11.7 (around a minute and eleven seconds)

Both times clocked in with eerily similar results. Just over a minute. Is that good? Bad? If you ever find yourself in The Sewer Den, feel free to challenge those times. As of now, I hold the record!


But, the games proved successful. They entertained me for about 2.5 minutes.
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PADDLE BALL


A classic. This game has been around for ages and it never grows old. It's simple, yes, but still keeps you pretty captivated. It's perfect for eating up small amounts of time. Placed on hold while you're on the phone? Paddle ball. Waiting in line for the bathroom? Paddle ball. Sick of reading this issue of The Sewer Den? Paddle ball!


There's usually a paddle ball lying around my apartment. It's irresistible. Simple too, just pickup and play. Visitors can't resist the urge. Within minutes, they always give it a go. Whatever conversation that was currently in progress slowly seizes and the paddle ball takes over.


Now, I've lucked out. My newest paddle ball is also one of my favorites. Featuring the Nickelodeon Turtles, the standard paddle is given a dash of green machine attitude.


Your hand might hide it during play, so here's a peek at Nickelodeon's fresh TMNT logo. Get rocked with the shell-shocked pizza kings


The kid on the packaging is having a jolly good time with his paddle ball. Being a true Turtle fan, he even suits up with a green shirt. But, notice that other green thing in the photo? Look at the ball. This kid is promoting a lie.


As an adult, the TMNT paddle ball is noticeably smaller than the standard size. Sometimes I forget these toys are aimed at kids, not the dude who is almost 30 years old. But, all the essentials are here - paddle, rubber ball, and elastic string.


Who knows, maybe there's some sort of Ninja-like lesson to playing paddle ball.
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TOWER OF DOOM


Both pieces of this game and my memories playing it have gone missing over the years. Luckily, the fragments left behind have triggered a few flashbacks. At its core, the game was a TMNT version of Kerplunk. But instead of marbles and fiddle sticks, players were treated to Ninja'd marbles and swords.


Unlike most board games, this one shoots up vertically rather than lying flat. The giant cardboard skyscraper reaches about 15 inches high. Visually, it's pretty impressive. But, Tower of Doom was a beast to assemble. With so many interconnecting cardboard pieces and a plastic base, it was easier to just keep it built. Since the day I first played the game, it has never been dismantled.


The exact rules and objective escape me, but I remember the fundamentals. The building has slits on each side where you slide in the plastic swords, creating a crisscrossed base. The army of swords poking out of the building look pretty silly.


Once that's setup, it's time to dump in your Ninja'd marbles. Slipping them through a slot in the back of the building, these dudes rest on the crisscrossed swords...awaiting their fate.


Through the course of the game, players remove the swords from the building. Eventually, this causes a Ninja'd marble to drop down and fall to the bottom - and exit through one of five sewer tunnels. I'm sure which piece fell and through which tunnel held some importance, but alas, I haven't played the game since the early 90's. So unfortunately, those vital game details will remain a mystery.


There is one glaring memory from my Tower of Doom experience...the game sucked. I don't need to recite the rules or have all the game pieces to remember that one. Was it the long setup? Maybe the simple lack of fun? I also remember feeling no reward upon a victory. Unfortunately, I can't put my finger on one precise reason. But, the dull familiarity stirred once again just looking at Tower of Doom. Maybe it's good I am missing most of the pieces.


Despite the gameplay being underwhelming, the Ninja'd marbles were pretty cool. Their funky design intrigued me as a kid. Why were steel balls inside the bellies of my favorite characters? I enjoyed sitting on our kitchen floor, sliding the pieces back and forth. That was more entertaining than the game itself.


The items lost from The Sewer Den are luckily still in my memory. There was the obvious box and directions, but pizza-shaped game pieces were originally here too. A few little shovels were also included to scoop up your Ninja'd marbles (I'm not sure why your hands were off limits). Although all that stuff is missing, I somehow have TWO Shredder game pieces.


Raphael is also MIA. Man, this is one incomplete set. I doubt anyone will be playing Tower of Doom in The Sewer Den anytime soon. Stick to the paddle ball.
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PINBALL

The Turtles conquered the world of pinball.


They went big.


They went small.


And then they went with what I have.



Like the paddle ball, this game is iconic. Whether I was burning quarters at the arcade or playing with the plastic one at home, pinball capture my childhood imagination. I'd mash the buttons and hit those bumpers until my little hands hurt. That silver ball just moved around with such spontaneous spirit. I couldn't stop. Where would this thing land? Could I beat my last score? I needed to know.


It's because of this passion that my TMNT pinballs were beat into the ground. Big or small, each game saw the plastic pieces break apart and many functions seize to operate. By racking up the countless hours of play, I unfortunately sent the pinballs into early retirement (my parents threw them out).


Luckily, Nickelodeon has placed a golden opportunity before me. TMNT pinball is possible once again! The mysterious silver ball can continue its course through a land of twists and turns. But this time around, everything is a little smaller. This pinball game is baby.


But hey, you've gotta start somewhere. The Turtles vanished for a few years - and now they've returned to our TVs. Nickelodeon is bringing strength back to the green machines. The TMNT phenomenon is plowing ahead and building momentum. Now, hopefully they can build bigger pinball games too. 
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VIDEO GAMES


At this point in my life, I still don't wear glasses. My vision is A-OK.

This is baffling considering the amount of hours I logged in playing TMNT video games as a kid. My eyes were glued to the television screen. I often forgot how the basics - blinking, hearing, and even responding to anyone attempting to chat. I'm definitely not proud of those moments. But, I am thankful my eyes are still tip top.


When the TMNT games became available on home video game consoles, fans found themselves in a whole new world. Many of the old traditions came crumbling down. Suddenly, you weren't searching beneath the couch cushions for quarters. Your parents were spared from the constant begging for a trip to the arcade. Your living room was the arcade. 

Like everything else, the Turtles took over. Every system had a video game featuring the heroes in a halfshell. Each rendition had something special. Naturally, I had a lof of them. But, each they all held a special place in my video game heart. There were the classics, the favorites, and the fun ones in between. Here are a few titles I played as a kid played until my thumbs went numb.


Original game (Nintendo):
Wow, this one was weird. No multi-player and the game played like a trippy nightmare.



The Arcade Game (Nintendo):
Classic. Reliving the days of plowing through quarters, but from the comforts of your own home. The experience also lasted a little longer than the arcade version. Added levels kept us Turtle fans busy - plopped in front of the TV mashing buttons, being kids.



Fall of the Foot Clan (Game Boy):
Everything you'd expect from a Game Boy title. Simplified graphics with limited colors. It wasn't much, and your friends couldn't join in, but for a road trip it was perfect. Just don't forget 4 AA batteries!



Turtles In Time (Super Nintendo):
This was my absolute favorite. Everything was an improvement over the previous version. The graphics, the levels, the enemies, the fighting moves, the boss battles - holy cow, I could go on forever. Oh yeah, and there was TIME TRAVEL. Kids ate it up. Fighting a mutant aligator back in the wild west? Heck yeah, dude.



Hyperstone Heist (Sega Genesis):
Sega's TMNT title was similar to Turtles In Time. The game was heaps of fun, but just shy of being my favorite. The special thing about Hyperstone Heist? It was the only game I owned that featured Tatsu, the quiet, but enraged villain from the movies. It was awesome to see that guy get some 16-bit love.



Tournament Fighters (Super Nintendo):
Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter were ruling the genre of fighting games. TMNT entered the arena and served up this entry. There were plenty of playable characters - a few really wacky mutants. A lot of potential, but the game never really caught on with my gang of friends. Mortal Kombat had the "blood code" - and you couldn't compete with that.

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VELCRO TOSS


Ladies and gents, this piece of Turtles history is moments away from disintegration. By the time you finish this sentence, it might be gone. It has somehow survived severe weather conditions, years of a musky basement, and several well-attended birthday parties.


The poor game hung on our metal shed for ages. Why there? It was the only outdoor magnetic surface. It also helped that the sides were flat - unlike all the surrounding trees (these are the dilemmas you face when growing up in the Pine Barrens).


After it was a huge hit at my birthday party, no one ever took it down from the shed. I'm not entirely sure why everyone declared laziness against the game, but outside is where it stayed.


Over time, the spongy foam collected dirt and gathered dust. The changing seasons all brought their own blend of mayhem and tossed it right on. Cracks as big as the San Andreas Fault line appeared as the vibrant colors washed away.


The game finally left its home on the shed with little fanfare. I assumed it was thrown away. Why keep it? The thing was a mess. But recently while digging around my parents' basement, the sad-looking game appeared before me. Normally, this wouldn't be such a wild notion - just another discovered TMNT treasure from the past. But, what's weird is that my parents moved. Somewhere along the line, this grungy game was rescued off the shed, lived a decade in a basement, was eventually boxed up, and moved to an entirely new location. HOW?! And from all the toys I had, why THIS one? This dilapidated game deserves a medal.


The game was a blast at my birthday parties. All my friends loved it. The rules were simple - toss the Velcro-covered balls and try to rack up the best score. It was like a game of darts for children. The best moment came whenever the ball landed on one of the character's private parts. Every kid let an immature chuckle slip out. It was silly, but hey, we were youngins, so it was funny.

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PLAYING CARDS


The smallest and most inexpensive, but the game that packs the biggest punch. Playing cards have entertained generations of people looking for a fun distraction. Although they consist of only 52 small pieces of paper, a deck of cards opens up a world of gameplay. Countless games have been invented. Places like Atlantic City and Vegas thrive off them. People make or break their bank accounts  - all because of the small symbols and numbers printed on these cards. It's wild.


I've had a lot of TMNT playing cards over the years. Endless games of  Go Fish, Old Maid, and Memory eventually destroyed the decks. But somehow, I've held onto a few traces of my playing past. Call me lucky, but 6 cards remain in my possession.


I flipped the cards over with my fingers crossed. I was hoping to find a Royal Flush sitting in front of me. But, no such luck. Chance was not on my side. I lost at my own personal game of TMNT poker.


But, at least I got in a few chuckles. Look at this artwork! Turtles, pizza royalty, and a legless Shredder as the Joker. Deal me in, dude.


It comes as no surprise that Shredder could never defeat the Turtles. His legs have been replaced by a loose piece of rope! I'd be frustrated too.


Even with only 6 cards, Michelangelo's Ace of Hearts looks out of place. Are these playing cards or Valentine's Day cards? Definitely too mushy for a game of Texas Hold 'Em.


For how spectacular most of these cards are, look at the 6 of Clubs. No zany Turtles? No pizza? Not even a floating Shredder torso?! It seems the numbered cards kept things clean. Less distracting for sure, but what TMNT fan cares about that?


The 6 cards are the remainder of many great games played. After the Turtles fell from their height of popularity, it was tough to find another pack for purchase. Stores eventually stopped stocking TMNT merchandise. The shelves were bare - no TMNT games.


Then in the 2000's, lady luck returned to my side. The Turtles hit the tube with another cartoon series and their prominence rose once again. With a second wave of success, came a second slew of games. Most importantly, a new set of playing cards became available.


New logo - new visual style - same classic game.


The designers went wild this time around. Not a morsel of space is left empty. These cards are action-packed with visuals. Each suit is represented by one of the fearsome four.


Leonardo takes ahold of the Spades.



Donatello controls the Clubs.



Michelangelo deals out the Diamonds.



And Raphael handles the Hearts.



I love that each card's image is unique - no two look alike. The Turtles strike a pose ranging from goofy to intense.

The rest of the cards follow the same protocol. Other beloved characters join the game - heroes and villains alike.


Casey Jones lends his mug to the 10's. Glad to see this man in the mix. He often falls through the cracks despite the importance and charm his character has brought to this franchise. Cowabunga.


Realizing a female character is perfect for the Queens, April is appropriately placed. Although her exposed stomach and curvy body push a forced sex appeal, which is a bizarre choice. A lot of curious boys must've tried to get 4 Queens in their hand.


The Foot Clan seizes the Jacks and Aces. Talk about getting a bad hand...this could make things downright evil!


And of course, Splinter is King. He's the Master, he's the King. No disputes.

Comparing the decks from the original cartoon and the 2003 series is a game in itself.


The Jokers. Shredder is replaced by his henchman, Hun. Both guys look angry on their respective cards. Their arms thrown up - fierce and frustrated. But, Hun has no reason to be upset. At least the designers gave him legs.


The Ace of Hearts. How did sweet Michelangelo get swapped for the evil Shredder? Love hurts.


Pick a card, any card. Whether it's from the original or 2003 cartoon, you're a winner.
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HEROES IN A HALFSHELL CARD GAME


Memories of playing this game are pretty foggy. I assumed, like most of my TMNT games, that I loved it. Heroes In A Halfshell - the name of a classic game. Or was it a dud? My eyes searched the box, like a detective snooping for a clue. I took a good hard look at the 4 Turtles on the cover hoping they would jolt a memory. Then I noticed it.


A perfect picture of Raphael sitting on the side of the box. The illustration was so clean. My eyes rushed around the packaging - locking onto the images scattered about. So many spotless, stainless pictures. Yes, my intuition was correct...


The game is in good condition. None of my others, especially from this era, have been in good condition. I pried open the box to further investigate.


Look at all that equipment! Almost a complete set.


The cards are even surrounded by a plastic bag - protected from the mid-90's until now. After doing some counting, I'm only missing a few cards.


Then I spotted the score pad and the memories flooded back.


The two names did it: Johnathon and Tracy. Who were these people on the score pad? Well, it was lil ol' me and the babysitter. This wasn't a game my friends loved. Nope, they never wanted to play Heroes In A Halfshell with me. Too slow moving for their taste. But, Tracy the babysitter, she could tolerate it. She mustered up the energy to challenge Johnathon to a few games. And by the looks of it, she played quite often with Johnathon (actually spelled Jonathan).


Heroes In A Halfshell features minimal skill and a bit of chance. The game focuses on card passing and collecting. Naturally, this appealed more to the babysitter than playing with my TMNT action figures. The score pad shows I won more than she did. I'd love to cheer about that, but sadly I bet she let me win.


The game includes five, flimsy shells constructed from the thinnest plastic imaginable. Despite the game's solid condition, only one shell remains. During play, there's a panicky moment when everyone rushes to grab a one. It was like musical chairs with green pieces of plastic - leaving one odd man out.


That moment was always thrilling. Kids love flinging themselves around for the sake of a good game. Heroes In A Halfshell was no different. I cut loose every time I had the opportunity to nab a shell. My eagerness to be the first caused the destruction of the other 4 shells. Thin plastic is no match for a child's will to win.


There are 9 cards for your peepers to gawk at during the game. The Turtles, Splinter, and April represent the heroes, while Shredder is the lone villain of the bunch. Throughout the game, there are a variety of ways to collect the needed cards. Get 4 of the same card or combination of each Turtle, and you're on your way to victory.


You don't want the Shredder card in your hand. Get rid of that. Not only will it bring you closer to losing, but then you'll be forced to look at a Shredder with no pants on. Why does this always happen to him in these games? First, the dude didn't have legs. Now, he finally gets legs, but has no pants.


Even Master Splinter is shocked.


This game was released in 1990, but the back of the box dates it even further. Why is the photo in black and white? The rest of the packaging features colorful artwork, so what gives? That ho hum image takes a game packed with vibrant colors and dulls it down to an old man's recreation.


The next time I find myself bored on a rainy day, I'm going to track down Tracy the babysitter and demand a Heroes In A Halfshell rematch. I'm confident I'll keep my winning streak alive and teach her how to spell my name correctly in the process.



Have the game but lost the instructions? I've scanned them along with the score card. Luck is on your side when The Sewer Den is the dealer.

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I love games. No playing experience is ever the same. Each one is its own little social experiment. They test group dynamics, strategy, and individual skills. Friendships are born, enemies are created. Although moments can sometimes get downright ugly, games usually bring out the best in people.

So, grab a TMNT game and you'll always be a winner.


5 comments:

  1. Thanks for another great issue. I was surprised to learn there were a few iterations of video games I somehow missed out on.
    The deck of cards from the 2003 series is awesome.
    My favorite was the Pizza Power board game. Something about the atypical artwork on the box. I also remember it being rather challenging at the time.

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  2. I just found my box for the heroes in the half shell game after almost 25 years! Loved your write-up on it, I was trying to figure out the names on my scoresheet too. I don't have the complete instructions anymore, would you be kind enough to send photos or scan of them? I can't seem to find them anywhere online. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Sure thing! I can scan them for you. I won't be near my collection for a couple weeks, but once I scan them, I'll hook you up. Can you email me? JZfilms@gmail.com

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  3. you're missing turtles 3 for the nes!

    ReplyDelete

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