Thursday, August 23, 2018

#0092: XS.02 B.I.O-Stomper

Sometimes, the ambition of toys can be so great, there is no way for them to ever live up to such lofty expectations. Often, this comes down to technological shortcomings or poor execution. On other occasions, however, it is as simple as a really cool idea that just doesn't receive the adulation and widespread fascination required for it to reach its potential.

Enter the B.I.O-Bugs, or more specifically, the XS.02 B.I.O-Stomper, who for ease of use I will henceforth refer to as either Stomper, Stompo, or DJ Thrillin' Villain.

The B.I.O-Bugs first emerged in the early 2000s, in a time where smart electronics were all the rage, and we were convinced that our toys were becoming more intelligent than we were. The Bugs came in four different varieties; the Stomper with its long limbs to help it traverse uneven terrain, the stocky Destroyer capable of tanking damage, the Acceleraider and its quick movement speed, and the Predator, clearly favoured by its marketing team, and the resident asshole of the group.

Using a transmitter control, you would be able to give the Bug commands, or leave it to its own devices as it autonomously explored its new surroundings. The more it meandered about the place like an obtuse Roomba, the more it would learn. Though I doubt this went as far as knowing when to stop before careening off the edge of a table, it was still a pretty nifty concept, especially if you could use it as a means of terrifying your technology-adverse grandmother.

As you can see, the transmitter looks more fun than a lot of actual toys currently on the market.

The real treat of the B.I.O-Bugs, however, is in their interactivity. Should they encounter another bug of the same species, they'll exchange information, sometimes travelling together for a short while or engaging in playful combat. But as soon as they come across an enemy bug, shit gets real.

They'll size each other up, working out the threat level of the assailant. If they're outmatched, they'll flee to live another buggy day. But if they think they have a chance, they'll duke it out. A winner is determined either when one bug is able to clamber atop of their competitor, when one of them retreats in disgrace, or when your little kid sister picks one up and runs away with it.

When a Bug is bested, it'll send out a distress signal. If a friendly species is in the area, it may jump into the fray, eager to shiv any rival in this ongoing turf war.

Honestly, just explaining it gets me hyped, let alone actually seeing it in action. Fortunately, a brave Bug rancher named Cheats32123 has uploaded rare footage of B.I.O. Combat and lived to tell the tale.

Well... There you go. It's a little more awkward than I had envisaged. It vaguely resembles when you and your friends get drunk and start taking swings at one another. Inevitably, one of you ends up wedged under the cupboard, and an enormous hand scoops you up to reposition you for the next round. All it needs is the part afterwards where you laugh it off and buy another jug.

According to a 2001 press release, B.I.O-Bugs were set to launch at a RRP of $39.99. Through use of an arbitrary inflation calculator, I've determined that that would be roughly $55 in today's market, and frankly, I think that's an absolute bargain. I would be happy to fork over $70+ for such an elaborate toy, especially since back then I wasn't even spending my own money.

Those savings!!

Seriously, it can't be understated just how much potential the B.I.O-Bugs had. The transmitter was capable of a multitude of commands including training and feeding modes, or even sending out a signal for the Bug to follow. That feeding mode, incidentally, was to make sure that your B.I.O-Bug didn't starve, because dammit, kids need to learn about responsibility.

Amusingly, the Bugs would 'feed' off any infrared source, so in theory, changing the channel with the TV remote may attract the interest of the Bugs, causing an infestation of hungry insects. Again, your poor grandmother's day would be ruined. I can just visualise the image of her frantically kicking the toys aside in what could be her last stand.

The major issue, of course, is that I was the only fucker who had a B.I.O-Bug. This meant that Stomper had nobody to communicate with, nobody to engage in fisticuffs with, nobody to love, dammit. Had he been involved in a robust Bug community, who knows what kind of possibilities we would have experienced. In my mind, he would have participated in an underground Bugfighting ring; a hardened warrior with a thirst only for blood and infrared technology.

Instead, I think I used him for all of thirty minutes before I turned him off and put him in the closet for twenty years, much like I did with my Tamagotchi, my Furby, and my bastard son Charles.

But now, he has a final shot at redemption. I've loaded him up with four AA batteries, set up a target for him to murder, and given him a pep talk that would inspire armies.

Go forth, DJ Thrillin' Villain. For the kingdom of TONY!!

Oh for fuck's sake. All we need now is for Neil Patrick Harris to declare that 'it's afraid'.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

#0091: Lunchboxes

There's a lot of pressure as an adult to fit in. Wear the latest fashion. Frequent the hottest clubs. Pay for only the finest of prostitutes. It can be stressful just to walk out your front door; who knows what looks of judgement you might garner if your ensemble isn't 'on point', 'on fleek', or at least even 'on properly'?

What few realise, however, is that we've been training for this all of our lives. From your very first day of school, your reputation is staked on what you're repping. Transformers sweater? Cool. DuckTales backpack? Nice. Milli Vanilli pencil case? Nope, you done fucked up. Now you're the smelly kid, and to even acknowledge your presence is social suicide. Girl, you know it's true.

Lunches also played a significant role in your standing in the classroom community. Your parents diligently assembled what they believed to be a balanced, nutritious meal (or they gave you a couple of bucks for the canteen because they didn't love you). But it wasn't just food. It was currency. You may have had to swap items around like cigarettes at a prison. If you weren't packing some serious swag, you would probably starve. So many tiny bodies strewn about the playground. At least, that's how it was in the 90s.

But before you even unveiled that bounty, you were making a statement.

If you had an awesome lunchbox, it put you in a good position for success. If not, then fuck you, kid - you would never achieve greatness.

So just from seeing this, you know that I was lit af.

When the Ninja Turtles began losing steam in the mid-90s, Sonic the Hedgehog picked up the ball and ran with it in a manner that was decidedly expedient. There was an unfortunate lack of gamers at my school, so he didn't universally blow minds (nor did my Bubsy Halloween costume in 1993, with the green player two exclamation mark because I was avant garde). But people knew of him, and knew that he was cool. So this lunchbox served me well as a starter piece.

It features Sonic running as usual, with the typical smug grin on his face. Robotnik hovers behind, looking rather displeased. It could be because he appears to have misplaced his glasses, and cannot see where he is going at the moment. He shakes his fist in a furious rage, though something about the angle of it makes me think that it's all a misunderstanding, as he might just be using an invisible bath brush.

The trademark aesthetic has been captured well, with the familiar checkerboard design and even a loop-de-loop in the background for good measure. I can't help but wonder where it is that Sonic is actually running from, because there's nothing but a lone column and an endless ocean behind him. We all know that Sonic really fucking hates water, so it's unlikely he emerged from there. Plus, he doesn't look wet at all. Is this the start of the zone, perhaps? Maybe the precursor to a boss fight? Is the Chao Garden coming back??

We may never know the answer to any of these. Except for the last one, where the answer is no, because Sega hates us all. I asked them myself. They told me to 'please leave, sir, you're upsetting the receptionist'.

It used to have a thermos in it that, near as I recall, sported the Sonic logo. That thermos has since gone missing, proving that I was absolutely fucking hopeless with accessories. Misplaced weapons are one thing, but the fact that I have lost something that was literally stored inside something else is a huge indictment. In my defence, it may have been cursed.

Once I debuted this bad boy here, I was the king. The Flintstones had long since run out of steam in the '90s, with each attempted film reboot simply dragging it deeper into the tar pits. I loves me some Rick Moranis, but fuck me, casting him as Barney Rubble is whack.

However, this lunchbox transcends the appeal of its franchise. This is not just a Flintstones lunchbox. This is a lunchbox from the Flintstones. By using it, you were a fucking Flintstone, officially. Every time I pulled it out, I would declare, "Wilma, I'm home", to rousing laughter from my classmates.

At least, I remember them laughing. It could be revisionist history.

In actuality, I don't know if we ever saw Fred sporting anything that remotely resembled this stone and bone motif. From what I've garnered, his lunchbox was actually made of wood or ambiguous blue shit because surely nobody will be paying attention to his fucking lunchbox.

But my reign on top was not just based on pure aesthetics, oh no. Though the delightful lunchbox drew in the crowd, my true popularity would come from what secrets it held within. This was around the time that my parents had happened upon Squeezits. Twist off the lid, clutch that sumbitch with all your might, and suck the very essence from its noggin.

Everyone knew they were incredible, that much was plain to see. But I discovered a bizarre feature that made me everyone's best friend during lunchtime: after you'd pop the lid off, a small amount of juice was still in there. I don't know the science behind it, I dare not question it. I instead embraced this curiosity, gifting the lid to whomever I chose on that particular day.

That's right. I was the fucking Squeezit lord, and everyone around me became my loyal subjects, desperate for just a taste of my royal nectar. I was smooth, too. I would drag the whole thing out, and I wouldn't just dish it out to my friends. I had the hots for Kathleen, and damn man, she wanted the D.

D obviously standing for drink. Come on, guys. Keep up.

I can't remember how long this went on for, but to this day, it remains the coolest I have ever been. I'm scarcely a fraction of the man I was back then, but at least for that brief, fleeting time, I was immortal.

Despite this, my sister won the lunchbox wars handily. Not even the combined forces of Sonic the Hedgehog and Fred Flintstone could come near the kind of legendary branding she had at her disposal. Hers still lurks in a cupboard, dormant and untouched. Its only purpose in this existence is to mock my inferiority, and to gaze upon it brings me such incredible envy.

I am so fucking jealous.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

#0090: Slice 'N Dice Shredder

Oh come on, you didn't really think I would just limit this little beauty to a throwaway post, did you? There's no way I would simply jettison a proper Ninja Turtles toy without dedicating a complete post to its glory, and though this isn't exactly the cream of the crop, it is a) potentially the only Shredder action figure I ever owned and b) better than the fucking Turtlecycle, which inexplicably remains the most popular post I've ever made on this godforsaken blog by a sizeable margin.

People must just really enjoy fictional modes of transport. After all, second place goes to the Lowly Worm car. I guess I missed my true calling, as a preeminent blogger in the shitty car toy scene. Maybe I'll rebrand someday, we'll just have to wait and see.

But for now, we'll focus our attention on Slice 'N Dice Shredder, one of the 'wacky action' line of Turtles figures. Each came with a wind-up motorised function, and some were decidedly more wacky than others. Donatello was arguably the best of the bunch, capable of actually swimming in water aided by a torpedo accessory. Raphael could theoretically breakdance on his shell, but he always seemed to opt more for the breaking than the dancing. Leonardo and Michaelangelo got the short end of the bo staff, with only a spinning arm and wrist to their name, respectively, and probably a whole lot of dislocated joints.

As for the Shred Head? His idea of wackiness is to have metallic blades surgically implanted into his fucking arms like a maniac. It's the kind of wackiness that makes small children cry, and he is obviously not a good choice for birthday parties.

So let's get a good look at this bad dude. He's actually one of the better Shredder figures from the original '80s line, appropriately buff and foreboding. This is especially important when you consider how obtuse the original Shredder offering turned out, looking less like the ultimate villain and more like a kind of homeless wizard.

One of the first things you'll notice is the wind-up key sticking out of his torso in an area that proves inconvenient for both kids and Shredders alike. It would have made much more sense if it had been placed somewhere on his back or perhaps even the front of his pants, because it prevents his arm from moving in a full 360 degree motion.

How will he get shit out of his pockets now? What a disaster.

In almost a token manner of combatting this cumbersome apparatus, his left arm is slightly raised. It does make him look a little bit less awkward, but I can't help but shake the feeling like he's just walked ten paces and is about to draw his pistol. Plus, it gives me false hope that I can manage to sneak the arm past it if I just wish hard enough.

Alas, it only threatens to snap the key off entirely, rendering him incapable of slicing 'n/or dicing.

To be fair, the key seems to actually be busted anyhow, because no matter how much I wind it up, it's not building any momentum whatsoever. Pushing it in the other direction does make the gears in his shoulders move just a little bit, suggesting that perhaps there is still hope yet in those old bones of his, but without the capacity to tinker with it, nor the blades that are the whole modus operandi behind this stupid toy, it renders the point moot. Mega moot, in fact.

The key does kind of look like a letter that Shredder has just received in the mail, though, so that's nice. Potentially a Valentine's Day card from some secret admirer? Ooh, my loins quiver in anticipation...

Slice 'N Dice Shredder also came equipped with a jagged sword and sickle that look freakin' awesome, and are actually cooler than the dopey blade gimmick, quite frankly. I'm fairly sure I could find the weapons if you gave me a few hours and four stout men to work the bellows. Last I recall, the sword was floating around somewhere in one of the toy chests scattered about the laundry room, and as near as I can tell, the sickle was with Mitsuko Souma.

In any event, there you have it. That's my Shredder. And as I mentioned in the opener, it may be my only Shredder, aside from a few miniature ones. I guess I really needed to broaden my horizons when I was a wee sprat, as I interpreted 'collect them all' to mean 'collect them Raphaels'. This was especially daft since I only ever used one Raph per play session, making each adventure into more of a monologue.

Had I only had the foresight to surround myself with a myriad of James Avery Japanese angry men (in the old country, we call him Jajam), I'd be much better off for it nowadays. Not that I would necessarily be playing with Shredder toys in 2018... I mean, sure, I might... but the major benefit would have been a much more interesting collection of knick knacks for this blog.

Guess I just couldn't resist the allure of those goddamn Turtles.


Because clearly I don't already have enough side projects.

I was going through my dad's cupboards recently, and I discovered a mass quantity of very old Kool-Aid packets. Some of them date back to the early 90s and perhaps even further and all are of very dubious quality, so I thought it would be a neat way of combining my struggling YouTube channel with my dormant blog by creating a series of videos wherein I tried all of the flavours out.

The results are mixed. Occasionally, with water.

Hohoho... punz.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Welcome to the garage, we've got fun and games

Occasionally (and by occasionally, I mean once every six years), I venture into the garage to do a ruthless clean out. It chiefly consists of old clothing items and schoolbooks from the early 90s, so there's not really much worth crying over, unless you're into tiny little onesies and poorly written acrostics.

However, there are a few knick knacks that surface for one last gasp that might catch your collective fancy, albeit not so much that they warrant their own individual posts. As such, their final sendoff comes in the form of a content dump loaded with (blurry) photos and (shitty) witticisms.

And what do you know; here they come now!

We open with a modern tragedy. This Etch A Sketch proclaims itself to be magic, but in actuality its only trick is that it is completely fucking broken. I struggled to even manage the tiny squiggly line on the left of the screen, which when combined with the dust and grime, resembles a face locked in a scream of agony.

I also found this shitty Ninja Turtles backpack. Not shitty in the sense of its quality, because it packs backs with the best of them, but because I think there is literal shit encrusted on Michaelangelo's nose. It has made him so mad, he's taking his fury out on a trapped and rather defenceless Rocksteady.

Do you really care that I have found the box for a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers crayon by numbers kit? If not, you may be more excited to know that...

I at least made the effort to colour in Rita Repulsa's collar. She looks drunk as fuck. I think the Power Rangers are dancing. I like all of these things.

Here is a dinosaur Halloween costume I wore one year. Unfortunately, it is now extinct, and I will resist the urge to force myself into it like I did with the Sonic the Hedgehog outfit. My nads still haven't forgiven me for that debacle, which is a shame since they so rarely talk to me in the first place.

A handsome collectors case for all of my Ninja Turtles toys, it would later become a collectors case for little more than filth and misery. I can't help but question the art on this one. This doesn't seem stealthy at all, the Turtles look more like they've been caught with their dicks out. Leonardo has recovered well, but Donny and Mikey are obviously struggling. Raphael, meanwhile, is simply fucked. Why would you have him at the front of your formation? He is probably going to die.

With Raphael most likely dead, we may have to make use of My Turtle Maker. The poses here are much more laid-back, I think they're throwing a surprise party and you just arrived. Leo got hammered too early and snapped his katana blade in half. Who will you choose as your fifth Turtle? Slash? Venus de Milo? Motherfucking Kirby?

So you've finished assembling your five Turtles. In the end, you decided to make the final one a sexy OC who wields a san-jie-gun because it's the most obscure ninja weapon you could think of. I was going to link a creepy piece of artwork here here, but Google Image search was too grim even for my standards.

Now, it's time to bring the action of the Batman®* movie to life! Or if you'd prefer, pour ranimer les aventures du film de Batman®* with no exclamation mark because apparently French people don't find the concept that exciting. My favourite scene was definitely the one where Batman lassoed the Joker out in the middle of the street, while Commissioner Gordon watched on eagerly.

The reverse of the box is also excellent. One child opines that the Joker®* is such a trouble-maker! That loveable scamp. The other observes how the Batmobile®* canopy lifts up so Batman®* can jump inside. I like to think that they are actually saying registered trademark apostrophe every time.

Most of the parts to my Batman playset are missing aside from some ancient dried up tubs of Play-Doh, and inexplicably, the Joker's avant garde vehicle. Shredder hitches a ride with intentions of causing mischief about Gotham, but soon discovers that it doesn't have a steering wheel.

"This is getting very monotonous!" he snarls, before sheepishly continuing on foot.

Why, it's none other than our old pal, Thomas the Tank Engine! He gives us a warm smile and offers a red string for us to enjoy at our leisure. We gamely tug at the string, keen to explore all of its wonders.

Oh no! We fucking killed Thomas!!

A strange liquid oozes from his carriage, and in his dying breaths, he begs for us to 'blow him'. That's just rude, pal.

This Ninja Turtles-related katana has clearly been very broken for a very long time. The handle is snapped right through, and at some point we just said fuck it and decided to patch it up with packaging tape.

Having worked on-off as a technician over the years, I can confirm that this is actually how 90% of repairs are done.

Oh shit Savage Garden in Paris?? Time is running out, the draw date is on August 27th, guys! If we don't win the big prize, hopefully we'll at least nab the consolation of 1 of 5 Savage Garden denim jackets. I may need a little bit of help identifying Savage Garden's first hit single, though, because everything they put out on that album was solid gold.

...Not even joking on that last bit, it was a fucking amazing album from start to finish.

Why do I still have the packaging for an off-brand Tamagotchi? Probably because its super fun, and claims to perform things I never actually saw it do. Did your Ganbare Ryuuta-kun ever spin plates, tip its hat to passersby, and complete its doctorate? Mine sure as hell didn't, but maybe I just had a dud one.

Hahaha this popup card is fun. I daresay it's even more fun than murdering Thomas. Tweet, tweet, tweet!

This Ninja Turtles placemat is actually pretty cool, and in surprisingly good condition, all things considered. I wish they used these alternate colour schemes more often, Donatello looks really cool in brown. The only thing I can't quite work out, however, is why...

The placemat cost thirty fucking dollars. What are you trying to pull with that shit, that is more than a fucking action figure, you maniacs. No wonder Toys R Us went under, we must have grown sick of them scalping us on the small stuff.

Last but not least is the coolest toy I found. I don't remember where or when I bought it, but it looks pretty scary. Unfortunately, it's a bit fragile, as I accidentally pulled one of the legs off when I tried to put it into the Joker's car. Trying to work out how to fix it as we speak, but I think a small bird flew off with the missing appendage. Real shame.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Meet the muscle

"The apocalypse is upon us!!"

"You say that every week, Squeaker. What is it this time, did you get a pessimistic fortune cookie?"

"Anthony has returned to his treacherous ways. He’s made six entries in just over a week. Six!! That’s three times as many as the last two years combined! It’s only a matter of time before we’re little more than rotting piles of fluff in a heap of garbage..."

"So that’s why I came up with a contingency plan, see? Whiskers, I’d like for you to meet my new bodyguard, Sarge!"


"What are you talking about? Sarge has been here the whole time. He’s older than either one of us!"

"You son of a bitch! You lied to me!!"

"Sorry, pal. Times are ruff."

#0089: Bubsy II

Gotta be honest, I didn't find Bubsy the Bobcat to be immediately annoying.

His first game, Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind was an enjoyable romp, with great big levels and a steep degree of difficulty. Each world felt unique and worth exploring, and the animations were bold and fluid. Sure, he had a tendency to yammer, as evidenced on the packaging and throughout the pages of the instruction manual, but this was the 90s. Everyone had to have 'tude. Bubsy wasn't much guiltier than the golden boy Sonic, Aero the Acro-Bat, or Bubble and Squeak.

The issue is that with each entry into the franchise, his personality grew bigger while the quality of the games took a tumble. It of course came crashing to a disastrous halt with Bubsy 3D on the PlayStation, one of the biggest abominations in the industry's history, and the death knell that banished Bubsy from the public eye for more than twenty years.

Frankly, I think the low point was actually the ill-fated cartoon show that never made it past its pilot episode (with apologies to my hero, Rob Paulsen), but that's neither here nor there. Actually, I'd prefer it if it was there. Far, far away over there.

A single year after the original title's release, Accolade decided to milk that sucker for all it was worth, pushing out a pair of sequels in 1994. Of the two of them, Bubsy II was superior, but that's not exactly high praise. It'd be like choosing between someone punching you in the gut, or kicking you in the nads. You won't exactly be celebrating your wise decision.

The game focuses on the eponymous feline taking his nephew and niece to a new theme park that features wondrous locales like an Egyptian tomb, a fantasy world, and a land riddled with space pirates. The kids sneak in a day early because they're little shits, and a sinister scheme is uncovered. It's up to Bubsy and his useless armadillo sidekick Arnold to rescue the twins and foil the plans of the wicked Oinker P. Hamm. It's up to you whether you care or not. I certainly don't.

Oddly enough, browsing the Interwebs reveals that critics actually rated Bubsy II fairly favourably, citing his increased arsenal and abilities as positives. Some even went as far as declaring that it was better than the original, but there was one critic who saw past all of that nonsense.

That critic was a smarmy six-year-old who thought to himself, 'shit son, this game sucks balls'. Probably not in those exact words (I don't recall ever saying 'son'), but I definitely realised that the levels were repetitive and mundane, the additional cast members were irritating at best, and the lauded Nerf® Ballzooka™ proved entirely superfluous. Thing is, it was a weird feeling at the time, because I loved the first game as a kid, and I wasn't used to being disappointed by something I trusted. It was this odd sensation of thinking that I should like this; it's Bubsy, and he's cool, but this really bites.

At least it was good training for what Sonic the Hedgehog would pull about a decade later - wakka wakka!

Man, even the cartridge is obnoxious.

To help break up the monotony, Bubsy II also includes mini-games that ironically end up being the most monotonous part of the game. Everything just feels hollow and lazy, and by the time you defeat the final boss, you're left wondering 'is that it?' while at the same time hoping 'please let that be it'. Text flashes up onscreen declaring that OINKER HAS BEEN DEFEATED, as Bubsy laughs at the hapless swine, who appears to actually have no use of his legs and is potentially handicapped. Next, we have a shot of Bubsy's posse celebrating the successful imprisonment of the bad guys. I don't think it's particularly necessary, considering we already got our shitty ending just beforehand, but if you have a kink for pigs behind bars, then you're well catered to.

For fun and research (plus potential fap material), I Googled 'imprisonment fetish' only to find that there were not as many results as I was expecting. I did come away with this nugget from the BDSM subreddit, however:

I spent two days in our basement cell. Bread and water shoved into my mouth 3 times a day. I was beat and fucked whenever mistress wanted. It was some of the best days

That abrupt conclusion sure is a cliffhanger, isn't it? Is there more to this story, or was B_and_M_queen killed before she could finish her sentence? This is high drama and I am fucking addicted.

What I am not addicted to, however, is Bubsy II. In actuality, it is probably the worst game I own, and I'm a little surprised that I gave Taz in Escape From Mars the boot first. You may be interested to know that my overzealous autocorrect desperately tried to convince me that I meant to type Tax in Escape From Mars just then. I'm pretty sure that's what Wesley Snipes went to jail for.

Bubsy will probably never return to the pseudo-prominence he enjoyed upon his debut, and may forever evoke the same kind of vitriol as Justin Bieber and the Macarena. It's considered trendy to lump on the poor dude nowadays, with nobody caring to even give him props for gliding through midair before Knuckles made it cool. And though I feel a bit guilty, it's his own fault for trotting out turd after turd.

What could possibly go wrong? Everything, Bubsy. Fucking everything.

Friday, August 10, 2018

#0088: Rock & Roll Elmo

Of all the crazes that shook the 90s, Tickle Me Elmo was perhaps the most significant one to completely pass me by. Causing widespread panic and grievous bodily harm in the holiday period of 1996, it's hard to quantify exactly why it resonated so strongly with people. I mean, it was kinda creepy, wasn't it? It was certainly annoying by most accounts, but that didn't stop it from becoming a sensation.

The rise and fall of the Tickle Me Elmo was excellently covered by E.S. Huffman over on Uproxx, and that piece is well worth a read if you want a thoroughly researched, well-written sample of journalism. It's a stark contrast to what you'll get here; tired analogies and at least thirty instances of the word 'fuck'.

Regardless, my dad ended up with all kinds of bizarre knick knacks during his time as an Avon salesman, so in 1997 we became the proud(?) owners of Rock & Roll Elmo, one of many desperate attempts to recapture that giggling, wriggling gold mine. I assume dad got all of these things as free samples, and didn't steal them. But I can never be certain; he is Australian, you know.

The first thing you'll notice is that this Elmo is thicc. He's got a booty that will make the boys drool, and his apple bottom jeans are the envy of furry monsters the world over. Not exactly a faithful representation of Sesame Street's resident sweetheart, but you know what? I like my Elmos chubby. It's just the way I am.

He's got a leather jacket, garish shoes from the thrift shop, and a thousand-yard stare that indicates that he truly embraced the rock and roll culture of the 70s, for better or worse. Most importantly, however, is the hammer he wields. By my estimation, it's probably a modified Gibson SG, though the head more closely resembles a Yamaha Pacifica 012, while the body just screams Fender Stratocaster.

I'd love to hear opinions from actual musicians, because I literally just Googled 'blue guitar' and picked at random. I am rock. And occasionally Groot.

Whereas Tickle Me Elmo's gimmick was to fall about laughing every time you touched him inappropriately, Rock & Roll Elmo is much more composed. He just wants to fucking jam, and he even takes requests (as long as it is one of the three songs he knows).

I know you're desperate to hear him slay, and perhaps even a little bit apprehensive after the unfathomable letdown that was It From the Pit, who I am only now realising I should have called Shit From the Pit because that's excellent satire. But I implore you to be patient, for good things come to those who wait. Please, don't call my bluff and scroll to the bottom of the page. I've got to hit a sufficient word count, first.

...You totally scrolled, didn't you? You monster.

With that in mind, and as you've shown no regard for the sanctity of spoilers whatsoever (Rosebud's the sled, Bruce Willis is dead, and Brad Pitt lives inside Norton's head), let's move onto the man we all came to see...

Well, there you go.

The quality is actually pretty good, to be honest. Elmo's voice is a little tinny, but it's definitely him, and the tunes are all quite serviceable. The lights on the guitar are a nice touch, plus he even strums his instrument, though I'm fairly certain he's actually playing the same note every time.

The only thing I can't get behind is his mad vibrating. That just seems unnerving. Again, I'm not a musician, but I would think that rapid movement would prove detrimental to the quality of your performance. Is he chilly? Is he nervous? Or did the pingas just kick in right at that inconvenient moment? Hesitant as I am to pass judgement, just taking one look at his pupils makes me certain of my vote.

In any event, there he is in all his splendour. He does his thing, then he sits there idly, waiting for you to press that button to give him purpose, akin to a forgotten merry go round or Bernie Sanders. Once you've done it, you'll be subjected to that sinister show, and there's no way of stopping him. Pressing the button again doesn't turn him off, oh no. It makes him shake up his setlist and jump over to his next hit tune.

Overall, he makes me feel icky. And you know what? Give it some time, and I think you will, too...

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

#0087: It From the Pit

Several years back, I expressed with some amusement the board game renaissance of the 90s. Everything was bigger, bolder and more needlessly elaborate as companies like Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers threw as much shit at the walls as they could to see what would stick. Everyone of my generation no doubt has at least one utterly superfluous offering, and I can just imagine the bemusement of the factory workers assembling all of this bizarre crap on the production line.

"What's this one?"

"I dunno. Something about not waking daddy. I think he's a mean drunk."

And once again, we dip into that well, with potentially the largest box I ever owned, short of the one I live in. Words can hardly express the giddiness I feel as I gaze upon the absolute majesty held in the above photo. I suppose they'll have to do, though, because in the medium of blogging, I don't really have many other options beyond that. I could do an interpretive dance and hope that you somehow just pick up on my vibes, but the last time I tried solving my issues that way I ended up with a $300 fine and five months probation. I haven't been allowed near a Dairy Queen since.

But that's another story for another day trial. For today, I have only aspirations to get away from It. It From the Pit. In case you thought I meant the other It from Colorado. Haven't seen him in eons.

Fuck yes.

Look at that fucking thing, reaching out and plucking tiny little people from their hiding places. He doesn't give a single shit about your feelings, and probably whacked thousands of kids in the hands as they tried desperately to save their plastic familiars. No touching, you filthy children, they're mine now.

In addition, It was also excellent at cleaning up after you were done, helpfully collecting all of the loose pieces and storing them in the eternal hell of his swamp until you were ready to play again.

Needless to say, the ad was the driving factor behind buying It From the Pit. With its seamless blend of animation and montage of kids going 'ahh!', it was a hype machine like no other. And that theme song? It's easily in my top 10 songs I can readily remember right at this moment. Top 3 in fact, because I can only think of 3.

But are you brave enough to look at the back...?

Holy shit, It From the Pit has lore.

You're deep in the jungle, hunting for hidden gold. Step by step, you circle a giant, swirling slime pit. Beware! Danger lurks within.

Suddenly, angry eyes pop open and a giant green claw reaches out from the dark depths of the pit. Look out! It's coming towards you! It's IT FROM THE PIT!

The huge claw crashes down on the path, just missing you. Whew! You might not be so lucky next time. Will you be first to find the treasure and win? Or will you get grabbed and dragged deep into the pit?

Repetition of the adjective 'giant' notwithstanding, that's some epic shit right there. You can just feel the humidity of the tropics, your brow dripping with sweat as you amble helplessly on the precipice of doom. The fact that you don't just drop your shit and piss bolt the minute this gargantuan beast surfaces from the bog is a testament to either your courage or your greed.

I have never been as excited about anything as that kid on the right is to be playing It From the Pit. He looks like he just saw his friend get punched in the face by a stripper. You know that feeling; it's pure catharsis.

I can't help but wonder who it is that is about to lose their piece in this shot, however, because all three of them look pretty fucking stoked. I guess they all just really hate that one piece, and upon closer inspection, I kinda get it. It looks like an asshole.

There are far too many amazing things going on on this box to list them all, but I'll reel off a few anyway:
  • The tagline "it will really grab you" is either an excellent pun or a legitimate threat, and both of those possibilities are equally enticing.
  • The French name for It From the Pit is 'La Chose', which translates to 'the Thing'. Not nearly as catchy, but I prefer to think of it actually being a prophetic foretelling of how Los Angeles lost all of their pro football franchises in the 90s. Like, LA Chose... and it chose wrong!
  • "The creature's creepy eyes pop open! It sees you and shrieks!" is actually code for: "This thing is really fucking noisy and will annoy the whole household."

Here are your fearless explorers. The precarious purples, the ostentatious oranges, the trepidatious turquoises and those fucking asshole whites. Plus a small cat that I fashioned out of paper and cardboard for some reason. His allegiances remain unclear.

As I tended to do, I needlessly assigned importance to my pieces based on who I deemed most expendable. I tried to keep the strutting man alive because he reminded me of Dr. Alan Grant, and the chick with her hand on her boobs was cool, too. It's as if she's fending off It From the Pit by beating her chest like a gorilla in the ultimate display of intimidation. The bitch with the binoculars wasn't any good, because come on man, the monster is right fucking there. You don't need a visual aid.

Truth be told, sometimes when a piece I like was nabbed, I begged to reach in and swap it out for the binoculars woman. I was a weird kid. I am now a weird man. Hence why I'm talking about children's board games.

Anyhow, the point of the game, as we've established, is to land on the treasure at the end of the board. You take turns rolling the die and moving ahead, with the option to take a pit stop (pun?) on higher ground like a sissy coward. Meanwhile, It spins around like he was at the disco and had taken all of the drugs. Theoretically, if you were an asshole, you could move up to the safe route and really take your time before your next roll, hoping that your rivals were snagged in the meantime.

Once you've arrived at your destination, you'll loop around a circle until you land on the exact spot where the treasure is located; one of those board game rules that makes sense in the literal context, but is kind of funny when you think about it contextually. What exactly is that silly blue explorer doing? Are they just wandering past the chest and deciding that they need another lap before they've really earned it?

With all of that being said, let's turn this sucker on and watch him molest!!

...Wait, what?

It, bro, that's your cue. I put a brand new battery in your clacker and pressed the 'on' button. This isn't 'on', It. This is decidedly stationary. You won't be stopping anyone from stealing your treasure at this rate, dammit! (And no, it isn't because this is a photograph, you smartass, my fucking monster isn't moving.)

A quick scan of the instructions isn't helping, because for some reason the English version is nowhere to be found. I guess we assumed that only a French Canadian could fix any potential It-related issues (henceforth Itssues), because there is more Français here than a Montreal Alouettes documentary.

"Le premier joueur qui s'arrête sur la case du coffre au trésor par un compte exact, gagne!"

What does that fucking mean?? I'm assuming it's talking about the ultimate joy only arriving when you trespass upon the exact compartment, Verne Gagne. But that doesn't help me at all. It seems that my stupid board game is, as the French say, le fucked.

I'm trying to work out why, but I'm no mechanic. My responsibility only goes so far as pressing the button and watching as innocent people get killed by a ravenous beast. It makes the vaguest of sounds, as if it's considering perhaps doing something, before ultimately deciding that it's just not worth it.

Does it have something to do with the fact that I didn't remove its battery for many years?

A battery that was best if installed by January 1998?

What a ripoff! The commercial assured me that I couldn't get away from It (It From the Pit), but unless I accidentally trip and fall into the swamp, I'm confident that it's really, really, really easy to get away from It. You swindler! You swine! You owe me the $5 I expounded on two C batteries, because it's not possible to buy just one. You owe me the time I wasted setting you up and opining about how fantastic you would be. You owe me my dreams, It, and those are the most precious commodity of all.

I suppose I will just have to admit defeat and slink off into the shadows, unable to provide you with the ecstasy of watching a twenty-six year old toy do something. I mean, all it takes is a quick scan of YouTube to find other people with Its that work perfectly well, but it's just not the same. I wanted it to be my It. I wanted to relive the innocent bliss of my childhood, but instead got a grim reminder of my adulthood; broken and clearly not going anywhere. This game has turned fucking real, man. Too fucking real.

"What? You woke me up for this? Screw that, come back to me when Trump is out of office. There's only room for one monster around here..."
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