The Toys You Loved Are Back
Take a trip back in time with retro and classic versions of games we played as kids
When I saw a retro version of the board game Clue at Target, I had to buy it. While I had been able to hang on to a number of my board games from childhood, Clue didn't survive. It seems my friends and I had lost so many pieces that my mom retired it to the trash. But when I opened the retro box, I found something close to, but not exactly like, the game of my childhood.
That's because games issued as "retro" or "classic" are remakes of certain editions. This 1986 Clue — folded in fours instead of in half — was the game of someone else's childhood. But the retro PayDay I also found at Target is the 1975 version of the game I grew up playing.
The Battleship (also issued as part of Hasbro's Target Retro Series) is from 1967. So is Candy Land. But Sorry! is from 1958; Scrabble, 1948; Chutes and Ladders, 1978; Monopoly, 1935; PayDay, 1975; Trouble, 1986; Guess Who?, 1988 and Aggravation, 1989.
I decided to see how other games stacked up.
When I opened the Game of Life I ordered from Winning Moves Games, I was thrilled. It was an exact replica of the 1960 version I grew up playing in the 1970s, nothing like the 1981 version my husband grew up with — with its garish '80s color palette, higher salaries and wording that didn't ring a bell. I'd rather wind up in the Poor Farm than play that version.
I still have the original 1972 Mystery Date I loved to play with my friends. We thought Picnic Date guy was a dream, but my aunts probably would have thought he was a dud. The 1965 version they played had Bowling Date guy instead. That's the nostalgia version on shelves now.
"The main reason we decided to issue retro versions of these games is heritage," says Mike Doyle of Winning Solutions Gaming Company, which packages retro games including Mystery Date, Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders in tins. "There is a lot here that resonates with baby boomers who played these versions when they were young."
Not all nostalgia versions of the same game are alike either. PayDay has been released not only by Hasbro for Target but also as a Classic Edition from Winning Moves USA. The rules of play are the same, but the illustrations, board size and die are quite different.
"We do take some creative liberties," says Joe Sequino of Winning Moves. "For example, the game of PayDay first came out in 1975. We produced a classic edition that draws on elements from that 1975 edition and from other editions that followed. It is retro with the graphics and components, but it's not a specific reproduction to one year in which it was produced. The same can be said for many of our other classic games."
One Word: Plastics
Some games are perhaps best left in our memories.
Did the Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots of 1964 require assembly? And were the block-headed boxers really this small? My husband and I were mystified by this retro reissue. It was like returning to your old elementary school — where all the desks and chairs look tiny.
Remember Super Elastic Bubble Plastic, sold in a tube? You would squeeze out the colorful goo, put it on the end of a little straw and then blow it up into a balloon. My friends and I would bat our swirly-colored creations around the living room until someone hit one too hard, and it would deflate.
Oh the rush! And, oy, the head rush. Super Elastic Bubble Plastic was taken off the market when it was discovered that it wasn't safe to inhale two of the ingredients: ethyl acetate (used in nail polish remover) and polyvinyl acetate.
The Plasti-goop used to make Creepy Crawlers was probably also toxic, but that's not why Mattel discontinued the toy — in which you used hot molds to create scary bugs — in 1978. It turns out that giving kids something that heats up to nearly 400 degrees isn't smart. Who would have thought?
Since 1988, Jarts lawn darts — with their pointed metal tips — have been banned for sale in the United States, but not until they sent thousands to the ER.
You won't see a retro reissue of Slip 'N Slide. That's because the main change is that warnings were added in the 1990s. Would that have stopped the city kids in my neighborhood from rolling out these slippery paper-thin water slides on concrete? Doubtful.
Back to the Future
AtGames has issued a retro version of the Atari console that's been a hard-to-get hot-seller this holiday season. That's probably in part because, unlike the Atari 2600 that's in my basement, this one actually works.
The main differences between the new Atari and the one I grew up playing is that the retro one has more than 100 games all inside the console, as opposed to the different cartridges I had to use. It's light, plugs into the TV and has wireless controllers so you can relive your glory days playing Space Invaders, Dodge 'Em, Combat and more.
"A classic game is classic for a reason. There's a timeless quality to it," says Ray Attiyat of AtGames. "In this age of massive multimedia video game productions that require a significant time investment just to learn the controls, it's refreshing to play a classic game that's almost instantly intuitive."
That's right. Just good, old-fashioned fun.