Did I Really Want One of Those? 17. The Barcode Battler

Beanz Meanz Gamez

09 January 2014: I blame Lana Del Ray! Today’s earworm was Video Games. I was talking to my children about games like Pac Man, Space Invaders and Jet Set Willy. They didn’t believe how it took 14 minutes to load a simple platform game. Then I told them about this gaming system which didn’t use cartridges, cassettes or floppy discs. They were in stitches.

It’s 1991. You are enthralled by Sonic The Hedgehog on the Sega Master System II, The Last Ninja trilogy on your Commodore 64, and your mate’s Amiga 500, because he had Anco’s Kick Off 2. One Saturday, in an ad-break sandwiched between Ghost Train, you hear the dulcet tones of Patrick Allen advertising a weird handhold. You were in stitches when you saw it in the big Boots store on Merseyway Shopping Precinct. ‘Why would anyone like to play with superstore barcodes instead of Mario or Sonic?’ you thought.

You read your copy of The Games Machine (well, actually you flicked through the one in WHSmith, you tight wad) and find several Japanese gamers did.

The Barcode Battler

The Barcode Battler was a handheld device. Top Trumps style, it would judge how much energy, attack and defence points you had. Each player had a barcode which would be swiped at the bottom from left to right. Whereas some barcodes were available as proprietary games, it was possible to have a barcode battle with barcodes from standard household goods. Therefore, players would try different barcodes from everyday items to see how they measure up.

In Japan, there was support for Barcode Battler from software houses like Nintendo and Konami. There was interfaces for the Super Famicom and Famicom console (SNES and NES to us Europeans) and a second version of the Barcode Battler. Imaginatively known as Barcode Battler II, of course.

Outside of Japan, the Barcode Battler was a resounding flop. Tomy imported the UK’s version with a degree of apathy often reserved for the arrival of UKIP’s noblesse in the middle of Scotland. Unsurprisingly, they were drastically reduced in price shortly after its UK launch. Even so, I still wanted to find out how many points for energy a barcode for own-brand baked beans got compared with Heinz’s.

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2013 price: £19.99 – £50.00 (eBay.com, checked on the 04 December 2013).

S.V., 17 December 2013.

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