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BLOG – Check out this Radio Shack LCD game Plane & Tank Battle

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.

There she is!

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.

Instructions are actually complicated

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.

Just look at those innards! Ewww, gross!

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.

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2 thoughts on “BLOG – Check out this Radio Shack LCD game Plane & Tank Battle

  1. Hi my name is Mark and I came across this game at a flea market actually I got it for a dollar. There is a RadioShack sticker still on my box however it was I do not have the instruction manual I would likeI do not have the instruction manual I would like to get a copy of one if I could you know where I might be able to going since it sounds like it’s rather complicated to get the game even started lol what happened to the push the game in or just hit the on switch,?? now my battery thing I opened up with a knife didn’t crack it or anything however there are three 1.5 volt batteries I need to get this game started so I have to go to a drug store or some store that sells batteries to match the ones that are in there. So if you can direct me to where am I going to get a copy of the directions thank you very much I can’t wait to get it started!

    Thank you so much,
    Mark Simpson

  2. I remember I owned exactly the same game back in the day. I think I bought it at the local Woolworth or Horten – the latter being a chain of department stores here gone for almost as long as as these LCD games haven’t been sold on regular store shelves anymore here in Germany.

    IIRC, they had an entire product display stand full of these games, and being a boy in the 80s, I was of course fascinated by war and war machines (despite living in the one place in the world where eastern and western troops were facing each other and that was basically at the brink of WWIII every single day) so going for “Plane & Tank” instead of a boring car racing game or whatever just seemed natural to me.

    I remember buying it from my pocket money – and I remember how I had saved up my pocket money for several weeks in order to buy the game. If I had to guess I’d say I paid between 15 and 20 DM for it – probably the latter – which would place it in the ten dollar price region you guessed.

    It goes without saying that, just like you, I found actual gameplay – if you can even call it that – to be quite lacking – to say the least. I wonder why I bought it though because I also remember I owned a three game Pong console in the early 80s, followed by a Mattel IntelliVision. We moved in summer ’84, and I am absolutely sure I had already played on the IntelliVision in our old flat, so looking back it really seems strange to me how this very plain LCD game would interest me even remotely as both the IntelliVision and the Pong console actually had better gameplay. But then again bringing it to school and showing it off to classmates was probably part of the experience. The only question that remains now is, did my classmates actually realize how lackluster the gameplay was and were they secretly making fun of me?

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