Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Game & Watch: Mario's Cement Factory!

My first Game & Watch back when I was like 5 or 6 was Mario's Cement Factory, and ever since I can remember I've had an interest in LCD games. I don't know what it was, I just found them to be very neat, the form factor & designs were always such a draw for me. Moreso than the gameplay, anyway. For whatever reason, despite owning a Game & Watch back in the day, (showing that I had some interest in them back then) I never really got that into them, at least not like I am now. I think that might've had something to do with the fact that I was a fickle kid, like most kids, & my interests changed weekly. But more than that, I didn't have quite the spending power I do now, at the ripe old age of 6, lol. Plus, I got an NES Control Deck when I was 7, so, having "real" games kinda made my head turn - because, let's face it - in 1987, something like The Legend of Zelda was effing mind-blowing!

Apparently Nintendo caught on early as to the "traditional" occupations of Italians, because this time around, Mario owns a front for the mob that buries bodies in bridges cement company. It was a simple little game, and along with titles like Rain Shower and Tropical Fish, one of the stranger G&W titles to come down the pike.

You, as Mario (maybe still Jumpman at this point in Nintendo's history), apparently spent all of your money on a cement factory, and that's why you don't have any money to hire anyone to help you run it. Gameplay consists of running back and forth to hoppers full of cement, which are inexplicably 2 tiers, with 2 perpetual lifts running in opposite directions, trying to empty them into waiting bottomless cement trucks below with seemingly angry drivers that never drive anywhere. It's basically an OSHA nightmare, but makes for a cute - if not insipidly monotonous - game. But I buy these games for their aesthetic appeal & design, not for the games themselves, for the most part.

The Tabletop version of Mario's Cement Factory is exactly the same as the New Wide Screen version that I still have nearly 25 years later. The only difference is that the game is in color & is housed in a mini-arcade cabinet-like shell with a mirror/light catcher. These are also the two reasons why I wanted the Tabletop version. The mini-arcade cabinet form factor, to me, is really awesome, and it's a total conversation piece. (All G&Ws are conversation pieces, but these particular versions are instantly recognizable to most, looking like a tiny arcade machine)

The color part is also really neat. Typically, LCD games are black figures on a printed, almost reflective background (like a calculator or watch). The color versions of these games are exactly the opposite. They're static white figures carved in a black background, and then the colors are overlaid so that when the image is reflected in the mirror, through the translucent part in the top of the unit that lets light shine through, the images appear colored. If you look at the top of the shell where the image is generated from, you can see the colors over the images. That's also why you can see little bits of white and overlap on the screen when you're playing. ^^; I think it adds a certain charm to the color versions of the games.

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