By Andrew Liszewski
What a difference a year can make. Last week I wrote about Tiger’s Electronic Baseball which was one of the company’s first handheld LCD games. It featured simple graphics, basic controls and lame sound effects, and like any kid, I eventually got bored of the game. So when the time came to find a replacement, Electronic Hang-On seemed to offer so much more. The game is dated 1988 on the back, and it’s interesting to see how Tiger advanced the ‘platform’ in just a year’s time. The obvious improvement is the use of a licensed and already popular video game property. While Baseball was rather generic, Hang-On was a well-known SEGA title, and Tiger realized that players already familiar with the console version of the game would no doubt embrace a portable version as well. Clearly, the strategy worked on me.
The Tiger handheld games themselves also saw some much needed improvement. The lame two button controls of Baseball were replaced with a 4-way directional pad on one side (admittedly ‘down’ doesn’t actually do anything) and a set of accelerate and brake buttons on the other. While Hang-On’s gameplay featured the popular and somewhat overused ‘dodge the oncoming traffic’ approach, thanks to twisty roads and a turbo mode it could be quite challenging, and helped to pass many hours in the back of our minivan. I’d have to say the game’s sound effects saw the most improvement, and come pretty close to recreating the actual whine you’d get from a racing bike tearing down the highway. Even playing it now I’m somewhat impressed by how it sounds.
Unfortunately even with these improvements and a few other clever gimmicks the company created for later titles, the Tiger handhelds didn’t stand a chance against Nintendo’s Game Boy which was released in North America in August of 1989. And even though I was quick to embrace the Game Boy when it was released, I still had a soft spot for Hang-On and Baseball which is probably why they’re still in my collection so many years later.