Mattel’s Handheld Dungeons & Dragons LCD Game

This little pocket-sized unit was released in 1981, three years after the VCS/2600, but as the Gameboy proved years after, pocket-sized gaming can get away with less complex hardware than consoles. They called this their D&D “Computer Fantasy Game.”

Mattel made pretty good use of the D&D license. They also released the “Computer Labyrinth Game,” which was a mixture of physical and electronic components. This version is wholly electronic, and has the same kind of feel as a Game & Watch title. It has the old-style of LCD components, black shapes that are faintly visible at all times, but can be made much darker to “display” images.

This 13-minute unboxing and demonstration video is by Youtuber Nerd Mimic. If their gameplay description sounds a bit familiar, it seems that this game is mostly a handheld port of the older (yes, even from that time) computer game Hunt The Wumpus, which is played on what the math people call a graph of nodes. The idea is to use clues given by the game to deduce the location of a monster and to kill it by firing an arrow at it from an adjacent space. Stumbling into the space of the monster or a bottomless pit is lethal, and there are bats wandering around that can drop you into a random space. It’s a classic of early gaming, and a pretty good choice for a pocket-sized version.

Mattel made two console D&D games for the Intellivision, both of them interesting and thought of well today: Cloudy Mountain and Treasure of Tarmin. None of these games made use of the true AD&D ruleset, as it would have been called at the time. They’re original game designs with a vague sort of fantasy theme, but they’re still interesting to play.

News 8/4/2022: Nier Automata, Sega Channel, OH WOW

“We scour the Earth web for indie, retro, and niche gaming news so you don’t have to, drebnar!” – your faithful reporter

We’ve been busy here lately, so it’s pretty light this time, just some links left over from last time.

Ash Parrish at The Verge reports on that doorway that was found in Nier Automata: it was a hoax, a mod. The people responsible are quoted as saying, “We have been loving all the discussions and theories — it has been an amazing journey.” Ha ha yes wait you lied to us. Not forgiven. Next!

Kayla Dube at SlashGear writes that the Sega Channel was ahead of its time. Yep, it was.

At Retro Dodo, Brandon Saltalamacchia tells about the OH WOW, a Linux-based gaming handheld from the US, not China, somehow. Power: probably enough to emulate Dreamcast games. Price: Under $200. Date: November 2022.