After stumbling into my super old Super Mario toy, I found this vintage Radio Shack LCD game – Plane & Tank Battle. After reading the still intact instruction manual, it says that it requires a 1.5v tiny watch battery. As luck would have it, I actually had one on hand so I decided to pop it in to see if this thing still works.
The only problem was the tiny plastic battery cover would not come loose. Instead of brute forcing my way in and cracking it, I got a tiny screwdriver and removed the four screws on the back. Once the faceplate was removed, I was able to push loose the battery compartment from the underside. Luckily, all those years ago, the original battery was removed so I didn’t have to worry about leaky, nasty battery crust built inside the game. In fact, the board looks surprisingly clean.
Once I popped the battery in, low and behold, it worked! The bleeps and bloops starting sounding off right away. But for a simple LCD game, activating the game is actually super complicated. Instead of just hitting a start button, the user needs to input the time, date, and can select other settings, like enabling an alarm, by using weird button combinations. Perhaps the biggest mind boggler of this classic Radio Shack title is the complete absence of an OFF button. That’s right, you cannot turn this off. But that is why so much emphasis was placed on the time/calendar/alarm function. Did Radio Shack think people would place this in their pocket and use as a watch? I guess the 80s were a much different time.
After fumbling with the weird button combinations, I actually got the game to start. Playing as the tiny tank on the bottom, the player’s goal is to reach the right side of the screen without getting bombed by the planes at the top. In order to reach the final step, however, the little bridge icon needs to be down in order to cross. Plane & Tank Battle actually reminds me a lot of Nintendo’s Game & Watch title Octopus where the player needs to tap left and right to control a sea diver to a treasure chest guarded by a giant octopus, timing movement carefully to avoid getting killed. There are two modes of play: Type A and Type B with the second option being the more difficult and faster paced game.
One thing I want to point out is actually the name of the game. The box says “Plane & Tank Battle” but the text on the game itself just says “Plane & Tank” without the “Battle.” Truth be told, this isn’t much of a battle to begin with since the player is actually just dodging falling bombs. The tank does not fight back, perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this game. Maybe the game should have been called “watch the f*** out so you don’t get your ass bombed to hell” but that probably would have been too long.
Scanning through the instruction manual and box does not reveal any copyright or made date, unfortunately. If I had to guess, this thing had to have been made in the mid-to-late 80s. I am guessing this little game was probably sitting at the checkout counter for impulse purchases, like how grocery stores have candy bars and gum at checkout. As for price, I have no clue. How much did games like this cost way back when? Like $10? Not sure but perhaps Radio Shack had this on clearance. The sales sticker residue is still on the box but has been torn off. I remember playing this game when I was a little kid and I want to say my Grandpa bought it for me or my brother. Not sure.
Although not exactly fun by today’s standards, I remember liking this game back when I was like 6 years old or whatever. Even more shockingly, this 30-ish year old game still works which I think is pretty cool.
What do you think of Plane & Tank Battle? Did you have LCD games like this back in the day? Any specifically from Radio Shack? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter.