Выпуск 33  История игрушек  100 лучших игрушек 20 века. Места с 80 по 71

80
Rainbow Brite
Lurid squidgy rag-doll and all her friends
Like the Care Bears, My Little Pony (q.v.), and many many more, this overpriced doll and her garish companions were more like a worrying cult-in-the-making than a toy, born of an obsession with pretty colours and rainbows and cutesy names and everyone being bloody happy all the bloody time. According to the mimsy flimsy back-story, Rainbow Brite lived in Rainbowland in a rainbow-shaped house (available separately) and had seven individually coloured friends, including Redd Butler (can you see what they did there?) and Patty O'Green (we can hear the cod Oirish accent still, begorrah). Each doll also came with a "Sprite", which was sadly not a free can of fizzy pop but in fact a sort of over-engineered pet gonk (Ms Brite's was called Twink). In the obligatory cheapo cartoon tie-in, she would fight the dismal forces of Murky and Lurky and bring happy colours to the world. In the real world, however, her nasty squishy consistency and scratchy glittery texture made her a doll that even the soppiest of softies would find it hard to love. She lacked the homespun patchwork cosiness of Holly Hobbie, the novelty air-freshener stinkiness of Strawberry Shortcake, and even the leftfield Angela Rippon involvement of Victoria Plum. She was, basically, just too darn dull. And it didn't take the most imaginative of brothers to start dreaming up alternative variations on her surname, either.
79
Viewmaster
Low-tech red plastic 3D-photo story binoculars
Possibly the earliest foray into virtual reality, albeit on a budget and with little chance of any horrific, Lawnmower Man-esque, side effects. Pretty much any story that could be told in no more than twelve scenes was depicted on a series of rotating cards, blister-packed in Toy & Hobby (featuring such genre classics as Disney cartoons, Doctor Who: Castrovalva, the Seven Wonders Of The World and so on). These could be slotted into the viewer and, using back-projection to illuminate the slides thereon, held up to the face for scrutiny. Differing right and left eye depth perception resulted in a stereoscopic 3D effect in much the same way as those red and blue cardboard glasses that they used to paste on the front of the TV Times. Pleasingly, the unreliable trigger mechanism that advanced the discs around the viewer could often result in slight misalignments of the two cells used to create the illusion for each scene. Therefore it was a piece of piss to simulate the kind of imperfect vision normally associated with migraine or astigmatism. The Viewmaster is still going today, with web-based shops selling viewers and discs or customised versions for your business clients to read annual market reports through.
78
Girl's World
Disembodied head in a box
Another one of those somewhat macabre girl's toys destined to lie around the house and strike fear into the hearts of visiting relatives who hadn't got their glasses on. Basically the severed head of an unattractive shop dummy, it served two potential purposes. Number one, you could do its hair, and number two, you could do its make-up. But oh, the grown-up glamour that it encapsulated! Needless to say, the blonde bonce (we know, according to the picture on the box brunette heads were also available but we won't believe it till you show us one) was rather disappointing in action. Putting rollers in plastic hair produces a curl with a half-life of approximately 0.36 seconds, and while some of the hair could magically "grow" by means of a Frankensteinesque bolt in the side of the neck, the rest of the hair didn't grow, so either she had a huge ponytail on top of her head or she didn't; your choice. Meanwhile, the eyeshadow (green and blue crayons) and lipsticks (reddy pink and pinky red) were actually thick smears of oily grease that were nigh on impossible to remove from your mum's best cushions, and had the ominous words "Warning: contains lanolin" printed on every pot. More intriguing altogether was the spin-off Girl's World Fashion Designer. Bizarrely carrying on with the "dismembered women" theme, it was a box full of plastic squares that featured the outlines of various ladies' heads, bodies and legs. These could be matched together and fitted into a frame; then you put a bit of paper on top and rubbed it with a flat crayon to create what was basically a haute-couture brass-rubbing. Look, she's got long hair, she's got short hair, she's playing tennis, she's a gal about town! That girl in the Tramp advert was probably wetting herself with envy.
77
Uncle Remus kits
Bargain bin puzzles bestowed by aged benefactor
Concealed inside a thin card wallet bearing the illustrative image of the professorial titular "uncle", the budget-priced kits generally strove to adhere to the notorious adage about "making learning fun", more often than not involving something akin to pushing pieces of plasticene into numbered trays to make a scene from Aesop's Fables, or something to do with fact sheets about dinosaurs. However, there were some stray examples that leaned decidedly more in the direction of "fun", including adaptations of such tried and tested favourites as the iron filings/pen combination for drawing ridiculous combinations of facial hair and hats on the visage of a cheery gentleman (and indeed what Danny Baker was given to describing as the cunning variant on the above, featuring the same man in profile but with his features missing from nose to chin, replaced with a chain that could be shaken into comical shapes), and the flimsy primitive precursor to Etch-A-Sketch in which indentations were made on silvered plastic with a very hard drawing tool, and then "wiped" by running a badly-aligned plastic bar across it. For some reason, Uncle Remus kits only ever seemed to be on sale at motorway service stations and chemists, meaning that requests for one to be bought could only ever made at times when parents were in no mood to buy toys or games.
76
Tomytronic 3D
Solar-dependent handheld arcade game
The coin-op arcade explosion of '79/'80 (which you knew was mainstream when Arthur Daley played Space Invaders on Minder) led to a boom in the tabletop electronic game, as we've noted elsewhere in this list. The Tomytronic 3D range warrants an entry of its own, however, due to the unique binocular portability and playability of the games (for the record, they were Sky Attack, Shark Attack, Racers and the Tron-indebted Planet Zeon). No more shielding the screen from the sun - you needed the sun (or some strong, steady light source shining through the top at least) to play them. Also, there was something about the essentially private, immersive nature of these games that precluded them from end-of-term games days. They were more likely to be seen accompanying their owners on holidays, daytrips out in the car, or when the tent was set up in the back garden. The strain on the pocket soon told however with the cost of all those 4 x C batteries (Ј5.99, Argos cat. no 347/2249) mounting up. It wasn't long before investment was made in an AC/DC adaptor (Ј9.99, Argos cat no. 211/3486) - meaning the fluorescent fun could carry on indefinitely, albeit now only within range of a socket. The misleading television adverts implied smooth-scrolling vector graphics and spectacular explosions (arcade Battlezone stylee), although the games themselves followed the image-appears-in-one-of-three-places-only drill (see also Game And Watch) that we believe warrants a name all its own.
75
Strawberry Shortcake
Creepy aromatic fruit-inspired dolls
Sling 'em in with your Cabbage Patch Dolls, Rainbow Brite playthings and those two rather disturbing naked "Love Is..." kids as another example of an apparently Acromegaly-afflicted "cutey" that made little girls go mad in the 1980s. Yet another craze that doubtlessly inspired a weary and bitter "and finally" on the teatime news around Christmas – cue pictures of mental parents battering each other in toyshops up and down the land – everything about the Strawberry Shortcake empire smelled of big bucks. And we make that point deliberately because the high concept behind 'Shortcake and pals (that line-up including Blueberry Muffin, Plush Custard the cat and Raspberry Tart – bet she goes!) was that they whiffed of fruit, which was quite clever we have to admit. But the Strawberry Shortcake franchise was mega, spanning your expected crap Saturday morning cartoon, through to lunchboxes, porcelain trinket-sets, books and – well – bins. And it still goes on. TV Cream's team of researchers were predictably despondent to discover that this pre-pube girly favourite is still cutting a huge marketing swathe across the globe, with hundreds of websites flinging new 'Shortcake merchandise at you. Worse than that, the range seems to be somehow linked to other insidiously marketed toys of the '80s, joining hands across the World Wide Web with your Carebears, My Little Ponies and any other ugly little goblins that provoked "I-want-one-of-those" temper tantrums of Violet Beauregard proportions back in their heyday.
74
Stay Alive!
Chinese checkers with trapdoors
A possibly too-panicky title for a pretty good strategy game, although we're pleased to see the return of the exclamation-mark-in-name ploy not demonstrated since Buckaroo! Essentially what we have here is a variation of Chinese Checkers with bloody great holes in the board to make things a bit trickier. Up to four players take it in turns to move plastic tabs under coloured marbles and attempt to line up openings that will cause their rivals' balls to drop (fnarr!) out of the game. Whoever ends up with the least dropped balls (fnarr!) is the winner. It didn't take long for the serious Stay Alive! player to work out that, if the tabs were whipped about with great speed, inertia would prevent one's own balls from dropping (fnarr!) whilst still securing a gap into which an opponent's balls might drop (fnarr!). A good game for the last day of term (as it was one of those games that was not only useless to play alone but also improved with extra players), the marbles could also be adapted (i.e. stolen) to replenish those that'd gone missing from Ker-Plunk and Screwball Scramble (qv.). It clearly inspired elements of TV Cream favourite Rob Curling's daytime quiz show, Turnabout (as did, we suspect, both Connect Four and Othello). However, rumours that a version endorsed by The Bee Gees, called Stayin' Alive, to be used as a really awful pun to finish this entry on are, we understand, much exaggerated.
73
Tank Command
Desert Storm in a box
The object of this strategy game eludes us even now, although the gameplay itself was strangely reminiscent of that most-scratched of TV Cream itches, The Adventure Game's vortex, with which it shared a basic set of rules. Young Rommels would face off across the board, taking it in turns to advance a battalion of tanks move by move towards the "enemy lines". Their counter-attack plans were hidden behind covers and took the form of positioned pegs intended to trigger "mines" under the opposition's contingent. After all moves were completed, a complicated series of levers and pulleys coordinated the ground strikes, requiring each player to yank a toggle on a bit of string. The force of the assault could often send rival tanks flying into the air, which always looked terribly exciting on the television adverts; but, once again, we must confess we're left scratching our heads as to the purpose of all this. It seems that much of the appeal derived from watching endless repeats of black and white WWII films on BBC2 in the summer holidays, especially the scenes of stiff-upper-lipped minions deep in darkened underground bunkers, shifting tanks and planes across huge scale models of El Alamein like so many croupiers of war. As Tank Command was a bloodthirsty game generally played only by boys, we can only assume it led to a taste in women with bright red lip gloss who wore buttoned-down collars, hairnets and gravy browning lines down their legs in lieu of stocking seams. Also, it's unlikely to make a return post-Diana and her attendant landmine campaigns, we feel.
72
Stylophone
Rolf-endorsed pocket-sized electronic organ
What to say about this iconic artefact? If you didn't own one, then you wanted to – fact. And it's proved a must-have prop for pre- and post-ironic tunesmiths like Jarvis off of Pulp or Tin Machine's David Bowie. Apparently profiting from the onset of the microelectronic revolution, the Stylophone was to all intents and purposes the Psion of the Moog world. This "electronic organ in your pocket" (ahem) was invented by Brian Jarvis around 1967. Essentially a slim board packed with transistors, resistors, diodes and the like, you'd operate the Stylophone with a small stylus pressed against its keyboard and thereby emit a rather reedy, nasal BBC Radiophonic Workshop-type sound. With Rolf Harris at that time king of light-entertainment in the UK (and let's face it, he still is), Brian Jarvis and co. approached him to promote their product. Rolf was only too keen to get involved and despite an aborted attempt to launch the Stylophone on David Frost's ITV show, he was soon noodling away with it alongside The Young Generation on his own titular BBC teatime extravaganza. With Rolf's endorsement (his face bedecked the packaging and he recorded an instructional flexidisk to go with the product), things naturally went mental. The Stylophone became the must-have accoutrement for – well – anyone really, even though it cost an absolute bomb. Over the years 4 million units were sold in the UK alone as differently clad variations were introduced - one sporting a fake wood veneer. Now there's posh. In reality, however, one Stylophone did not a Malcolm Clarke Wall of Sound make, and for most kids the lonely electronic parps quickly grew unsavoury. Nine times out of ten the "electronic organ in your pocket" became more commonly regarded as the "six months’ pocket money-sized hole in your pocket" as the instrument was consigned to bottom of toybox oblivion. Rolf, how could you lie to us? Your face was on it and everything!
71
Connect 4
Turnabout-style strategy game sans superfluous indoor lake
Traditionally the arena of combat wherein eldest son would best dad (as depicted on the front of the box) in some gaming rites of passage ("look dad, diagonally!"), Connect 4 was the insanely addictive board game destined to split families asunder across the globe. A fiendishly simple premise – it's basically noughts and crosses – you'd drop coloured counters into a vertically positioned 7x6 holed board and compete to see who would be first to get four colours in a row. Launched in the early 1970s by MB Games "the vertical strategy" game had an ace climax wherein upon winning the victor would shout "Connect 4!" and then pull a flap out from under the board causing the stacked counters to clatter out all over the kitchen table. Although there were other "vertical strategy" games available (cf. safe-cracking style stratagem with Downfall), Connect 4 had an alluring purity to it that made it seem all the more desirable. This was a thinker's game, frill-free. A family-friendly bright-blue plastic Back Gammon or Go, Connect 4 was for your chin-rubbers and that boy genius about to take dad out diagonally. Still heavily marketed by MB, we're advised that current editions are rather smaller than the mid '70s definitive set (with the exception of those annoying gigantic pub versions), taking a good few inches off all aspects of the game - and a couple of decibels off that all important victory clatter too.