It’s been a while since I’ve done a console review so this time I’m making it special. This review is finally about the Microvision. What is a Microvision you ask? It’s a handheld system from 1979, made by Milton Bradley. Yes, the same Milton Bradley that made those awesome board games also made the first handheld that used interchangeable cartridges.
The handheld sold fairly well in its first year making $8 mil but eventually the buzz died off and led to the handhelds demise in 1981, 2 years before the video game crash of 1983.
Its launch price was $100 US for the Microvision and the game pack in, Block Buster. The rest of the games cost around 20 - $30.
Firstly, I’ll start by reading the box for the console. I like reading all the packaging for old consoles.
“Programmable Video Game System”
I’ve always wondered about the wording for that. Programmable? I can’t program it! Basically just referring to the whole cartridge thing.
“A wide variety of game cartridges available, see back.”
I see back and guess what? 7 games! Woah! One of the major problems with the Microvision was its lack of games. During its 2 year life the Microvision had a ‘wide variety’ of 13 games, 12 of which were actually released.
When I pulled the console out of the box, I immediately noticed the major flaw that most ancient handhelds had. It was HUGE! Remember the size of the original Gameboy? Imagine two of these laid end to end. Handheld? I don’t think so. This is most definitely an armheld
Microvision without a cartridge
The system ran on one 9-volt battery unless you have an older model (I have an older model) which needs two. This can be problematic for 3 reasons:
Going back to those games, they’re definitely the strangest cartridges I’ve ever seen. They are basically huge faceplate looking things as if this was some giant cell phone. In fact, the actual unit seems to do nothing at all! The main unit is basically a battery holder which also contains the screen and the buttons which are hidden beneath some pad thing. The cartridges have the buttons needed as a sort of overlay making the buttons just an indent in the plastic. The cartridge also has the game data and the microprocessor on it. Near the top of the cartridge is a sort of sliding door to protect the connectors from you touching it. This leads on to the biggest flaw that this handheld had.
So what is the biggest flaw of the Microvision? There are so many ways to destroy your console.
How many of you dropped you Gameboy when you were younger? The Game & Watches that came out only a couple of years later were tough. So tough, in fact, that they still make excellent collectibles today! If you want to keep your Microvision running in the future it is advisable to avoid playing it and just have it stored away. But what is the point of that? Aren’t gaming systems supposed to be played? For the collector only!
Don't get those batteries round the wrong way!
The technical specs are cool to read though. It really shows how far gaming has come since 1979. These specs are copied from Wikipedia.
Unfortunately I can’t review any of the games. “Why not?” you ask. The games are just too simple to review. I can’t comment on the graphics because they were as simple as they could possibly get. The gameplay was as simple as it could get. The sound was just the same slightly different beeps over and over again etc. However I will give the general rundown on all the games I have currently.
I’m going to be that every one of you has played a version of this at some stage. It might have been called Breakout or Arkanoid but this game is just a classic. Milton Bradley did the Microvision no wrong by making this game a pack in. Unfortunately the game is a bit disappointing for two reasons. Firstly, even on the slow setting, the game is just slightly too fast. And, secondly, the ball comes from a seemingly random location when it is served to you. Combine that with the first problem and you’ll find that, when you first play, you won’t be able to hit the thing! Good game but a bit frustrating.
I should mention that the control knob thing works wonderfully which, I must admit, I was not expecting.
This is one awful idea for a game. Set the odds, pull the lever. Didn’t win? Try again until you win which gives you more points to lose. Next game.
Uhh, what can I say? It’s just ten-pin bowling. You’ve just got to time when you chuck the bowling ball and you get a strike. Reasonably fun.
As the name might suggest, it’s very much like Space Invaders except you fire a beam which you can lengthen and you're playing it sideways. Rare game though and fairly fun might I add?
It may seem like I didn’t like the Microvision very much but, seriously, what is there to say? This is the first attempt in making a handheld and it served as an inspiration to Nintendo when they made the Gameboy 10 years later. And for that it gets its place in history which I respect. Good job Milton Bradley for making gaming awesome.
And as for the games? Well, it’s like trying to review Atari 2600 games. Some of them are just too simple to be able to review! You either like it or you don’t.
The Microvision sells for about $50 US with one game on ebay. I got mine for $55 NZ and 5 games (also have Cosmic Hunter but my friend swiped it) because the console was supposedly not working when it was (perfectly I might add). While it is cheap for something so rare and hard to find, I do not recommend getting one unless you’re a collector. And if you have an interest in retro gaming then just get an Atari 2600. It’s cheaper and has a HUGE amount of games!
In conclusion, the Microvision was a failed attempt at making a proper handheld but its sheer innovation is still definitely deserving of a spot in the History of Gaming.
My next blog may take a while as it’ll be another Gems of Gaming but I’ll try to make it good. Cheers for the awesome support!!
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