Kickin’ It Old School – Tiger Electronics

There was nothing cooler back in the day than Tiger Electronics. Well, unless you don’t count Nintendo and Sega. Tiger released a nice array of LCD games in the 90’s, which weren’t exactly flashy but could be fun depending on the game. They did make a few cartridge based systems though, which were pretty innovative in their own ways. Considering that the Game Boy and Game Gear had the handheld market pretty much locked up, Tiger had little hope of gaining a foothold in the industry, but I bought into them, so let’s see what they were like.

Tiger R-Zone

Imagine you’re 8 years old. You see a commercial with a guy wearing this:

How are you NOT supposed to want one? Say what you want about the quality of these things, but at least they were cool looking. That’s the R-Zone, the first attempt by Tiger to make a cartridge based handheld system. It also came in a more traditional set, that looked much like the Game Gear, but I had to have the head gear one. That thing is just all kinds of awesome. I mean, look at it. It’s straight out of the future. I felt like I shouldn’t bring it on car trips, only because the car wasn’t flying.

Anyway, the system was like a far less technically sophisticated Virtual Boy. And since the Virtual Boy wasn’t very technically sophisticated to begin with, this isn’t a good sign. The cartridges were like little LCD screens, in that they were transparent, and light shined on specific parts of it, projecting it into a mirror, which is what you saw. In the head gear’s case, you wrap the main unit around your head, and the game was projected on a piece of plastic that hung over your eye. The controller was connected to the top of the head gear. The game was packaged with Batman Forever, a beat “Ëœem up based on the movie. The game would’ve been good, if not for the fact that I couldn’t really see what was going on.

Which brings me to the problem with the head gear. The plastic screen was clear, so it was difficult to make out what was being shined on it. The instructions that came with the system said to remedy this by playing the game against a wall. Yea. A wall. Believe me, it’s hard to look cool while staring at a wall while you’re playing a game. I wouldn’t say you looked like more of an idiot than the Virtual Boy made you look, but damn. Bad call by Tiger on that one. There were other games on the R-Zone; I also had a Men In Black game, but it was pretty much the same thing, just with aliens. All things considered, R-Zone was kind of stupid, but at least I looked cool when I wasn’t staring at the wall.

game.com

game.com was Tiger’s second handheld system, and it was also pretty innovative for the time. It had a touch screen, which I didn’t hate back then as much as I hate the DS’ touch screen, and also allowed internet access. It came packaged with the puzzle game Lights Out, which was much more addicting and fun than it probably should have been, being a game about turning lights off.

Another game I had for it was Batman and Robin, again about the movie of the same name. Why all the Batman games? Because Batman fucking rules. It was just like the R-Zone game, except the sprites looked better and you got to beat up different characters. I also had Duke Nukem 3-D, but it was about as “3-D” as Friday the 13th on the NES. You just move one frame at a time and can’t move the gun around. Why bother?

The game.com had a bunch of other features too, like a calendar and notepad, and also the ability to go online. Well, sort of. It’s not like the DS, with which you can connect to any network wirelessly. You had to buy this whole kit, with a modem cartridge that goes in the system and a phone jack to connect to a phone line to get online, to Tiger’s subscription based ISP. You could surf the internet, but text-only, and in black and white. Also, you could only post high scores for your games, so no online teabagging or whatever you kids do with your fancy online systems these days.

Now, I ask you…what in the holy smoke is the point of that? Not the teabagging (although I don’t really get that either), but the internet for the game.com. AOL 3.0 was still around then, and that was just fine for our internet needs (until I got us banned from AOL for going into a chat room and writing “ECW sux dick”, but that’s another story). Why go online with that tiny little black and white screen? I want to play games on my game.com. And by the way, needing a connection to a phone line to go online kind of rendered the whole “portability” thing worthless.

So all in all, Tiger had some good ideas for these systems, but they were terrible in execution. The game.com, with its online capabilities and PDA-ish programs, seemed like a great idea, but never really got off the ground. Only about 20 games were released for it, which means it lasted just that much longer than the Virtual Boy on the market. Which I guess is an accomplishment, though an accomplishment akin to beating up that kid in 1st grade that still wears a diaper. What a loser that kid was.

So what have we learned? We’ve learned that kids can easily be convinced to buy anything as long as it looks like it came out of Star Trek and that you can try, but you will never, ever be able to compete with the Game Boy.

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