SPACE ATTACKER Game Watch (Nelsonic, 1981)

After Pac-Man hit, and the Video Game Revolution had achieved maximum velocity, you were the coolest kid in school if you owned a Pac-Man watch that enabled you to "play the game" (well, sort of...it's a topic for another time, but there was more than one out there, and all of them were lackluster...the one I owned included tiny colored joysticks, one of which broke off right away in the little controller-nodule thingy). But, there were other options out there that enabled you to own a coveted video game watch!
Thus, Nelsonic's SPACE ATTACKER watch hit major stores' "Wish Books" that fall...I would be willing to bet that mine, which I got for Christmas that year, came from the late, great Service Merchandise.  
Not only did it have a light, calendar, and other digital watch features, but this watch had two things guaranteed to get every young boy into huge trouble at both school (where mine was taken away) and church (where mine was also taken away):  a cheesy video game, and a killer theme song.
More like "ear killer theme song," because when you held down the lower-left button, a shrill, out-of-tune, ear-splitting cacophony would ring out, and instantly let people in the next county know exactly where you were at that moment.  It was bad...in fact, worse than I remembered, even.
I remember kids in school arguing over what the song was supposed to represent, but I can now confirm for you that it was in truth a medley, and consisted of:  The "Twilight Zone" theme (in completely the wrong way), The theme from the "Star Trek" original TV series, and a little of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" from 2001....then, the whole thing started over.
But, it didn't matter, because after a few ear-stabbing staccato notes from the (sort-of) "Twilight Zone," the watch was usually jerked from your wrist by a nearby adult.
Now, understand that bumping that lower-left button was extremely easy to do, no matter how many times you were warned, no matter how you tried to concentrate and just do your math problems, it would always happen.  And, as if to really ruin childhoods everywhere, Nelsonic added another feature that meant instant punishment:  notice the lower two buttons under the screen, which are used to control the "game."  In normal "Watch" mode, if the left button (labeled DEMO I) was pushed, bumped, or breathed upon, the watch would enter--as previously stated--Demo Mode.  What the purpose exactly was for Demo Mode (besides causing spankings the world over), I have no idea, because as you can see, it showed you every position for every possible graphic in the game, which is dumb enough, but while doing so, the watch's "alarm" would ring out, as if you were being reminded to wake up.  Only, you were never asleep when this happened; you were always in church (as previously stated), school, or possibly, your great-aunt's funeral.

I planned to discuss the "game" in-depth, but it doesn't matter, because this game SUCKED.  A flying saucer would enter from one side of the screen, and pass overhead. As you can see, you are a small turret, and you have a stick representing the barrel of your gun.  You have exactly THREE positions you can be in to shoot down enemies.  Now is a good time to mention the fact that you have a PUSH-BUTTON to scroll through your cannon positions...are you in the "middle" position and you need to quickly go left?  You can't.  You die.  Are you in the "right" position, and you need to quickly go to the middle? You can't.  You die.

So, about these three positions--that means it's the same for the enemy, right?
Nope, because circled in the photo above are all the places that the flying saucers can be that you can't shoot.

True, they couldn't shoot you either, from those positions, but if you will, let me direct your attention to the RED CIRCLE OF DEATH. When the game began to speed up, the flying saucers would begin to cheat.  Their favorite move was to TURN SIDEWAYS, and then just land on you and kill you instantly.  Why is that even possible? Also, notice that "demo mode" shows FOUR DIGITS for the score...it is to laugh.  "17" was a good score for this game.

If I sound bitter, it's because I continue to be, but I had the last laugh on this thing, because I dug it out from storage, had the batteries replaced, and sold it on Ebay for $150.  Take that, Nelsonic!

Oddly enough, there are clone versions out there by other companies, and the game was even brought forward and sold as a STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN game watch...suckers.

As a public service though, I scanned the incredibly-rare instructions (admittedly, a large part of why I got so much for the watch, I'm sure), as the watch can be difficult to figure out how to set...so why not offer them here, just in case anyone needs them:


Id0 said...

I remember having this thing. Everything wrong with it is was exactly as you said. I still wore it despite those shortcomings because it had a frickin' video game on it and had a high tech (Star Wars), visual appeal to it.

Adam Black said...

I got mine for Christmas in 1981 and it still runs, despite being the cheaper plastic version.

Thanks for the instructions!

Anonymous said...

I had a version of this watch too. I really liked it so much I made a video out of it. Check it out here https://youtu.be/ipIxGnBFbKE

I didn't know why they had so much demos on it too? Just made alot of noise when you accidentally hit the buttons. Yup got alot of looks and got in trouble a few times.

Unknown said...

Got mine for Christmas that year ordered from J.C penny catalog . As you said . The music was super loud . And that year during church Christmas service . Just as the pastor said moment of silence my watch alarm went off . I still didn't know how to work all the options and couldn't shut it off . Everyone was looking at me . people laughed . And someone wrote to the local news paper that had a brighten your day colum and they put it in the paper . My first 5 minutes of local fame .

Sampoerna Quatrain said...

@Unknown, that's a great story, and thanks for sharing it! You join the small pantheon of Space Attacker survivors in this post!

olsonlow said...

I have one that re-appeared after 35 years. I replaced the batteries and the light comes on but the display is not doing anything. Can these be repaired?

Sampoerna Quatrain said...

@olsonlow - I'm not really sure. I took mine to a jeweler since I couldn't open the back, and I was under the impression they did something to the insides, but I'm not really sure how much they did, or if they really cleaned it. A jeweler would be the only place I could think to direct you, but don't go to one that's built into a Wal-mart or a grocery store; they won't have the right tools.