Pro Tech Pro 200
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5  |  A Handheld That Your Gaming Collection Could Probably Do Without
Darryl B. , 3/18/2005 5:02:25 PM
This is an interesting little device; to me, it seems to be a second generation of the Microvision handheld game system that came out in the late 70s, due to them both having blocky "graphics" (or not), not much in the range of sound effects, no way to expand the units (like anything else nowadays that has add-ons and can connect to the internet and all), and no way to connect a power outlet so you can play it that way, rather than using batteries only for it.

In case the box and/or unit looks familiar, you've probably seen this before in mail order catalogs or the ads that come with your Sunday paper, or better yet, maybe even billed "as seen on tv!". Golly gosh! You can see that, along with great "reality shows", with people doing "real" things that most of us with half a brain wouldn't do in real life! How about REAL "reality shows", where people cheat, get laid off from their jobs, and have their 20 to 30 year old adult children still living with the folks?

Ok, sorry, got a bit off track there, but you have to admit that the deceptive advertising on the unit's box kind of has a bit in common with the above, as it proclaims to having "over 50,000 ways to play!" and "256 games in one!".

In reality, though, the "over 50,000 ways" is just achieved by multiplying the games with all the possible combinations of starting levels and in other words, just sped up and/or harder versions of each and every game. So that's bunk right there. (Who's going to try out each and every single combination? Not me!) And as far as the "256 games" goes, that's pretty much the same thing, as the base number of games is multiplied by the skill levels, which is 16 x 16...yeah, I know, it says there's only 15 games and 15 skill levels, but each game begins with a skill level of zero, so that counts as an extra level per game (plus there's 16 games listed on the rear box cover; whatever).

Simply put, though, with the list of games on the back of the box being divided into two columns, the left one listing eight games, and then the right column listing eight "brick" games...well, in reality, you've only got nine basic games, nearly half of which are just a version of Tetris (which are the "brick" ones).

So, to move along to the review part of this writing, as far as the unit goes, it's very compact, fitting into a pocket or purse pretty decently, as it folds up nicely. I think it's sturdy enough to survive a few drops of a few feet each, but let's not jump to conclusions here. Once you flip the screen up, on the bottom part of the unit is a directional pad on the left side (for moving whatever it is you're controlling during a game, and also used for selecting levels and the speed of games during the main menu) and an action button (usually acting as a fire button and also used for selecting games on the main menu) on the right. There's also little buttons in the center in between the gaming buttons to adjust the sound (no headphone port, though), an on/off button, a reset and a pause key. So far, so good, especially for $19.95 (not including shipping, though).

Unfortunately, the screen in itself is a disappointment, as, upon first checking this unit out, I thought "the screen's fairly big". Wrong! Once the lid's lifted, you'll see that out of a lid that's about two inches across by about another two and a half inches in height with a nearly three inch diagonal area, the actual screen itself is actually only about an inch and a half wide and an inch and a half tall, and the rest of that area is just it's plastic casing.

And THEN there's a boxed-in area inside the screen that's even smaller than that, which makes up the actual playing field (see photo to see what I mean, which the photo makes it appear to be much larger than it really is). Game stats appear outside the field (like what level you're currently on), making up the rest of the screen; whup-de-do!

So, disappointments aside, there's nothing much else to do now than get to the games, right? Maybe they'll help lift my spirits, especially with the happy tune that plays when you turn the unit on and start a game -- any game, it's always the same tune -- and the name of the system appears onscreen. (What's the name of that tune anyway? Now it's bugging me as it goes through my head...)

FIRE TANK ATTACK--hmmm, why is this called "Fire Tank Attack"? Are the tanks on fire? They don't seem to be. This game probably suffers the most from the small screen, since the tanks are so large it's hard to dodge their fire (not that you even have much of a chance of even SEEING their shots coming anyway, as they flicker). Kind of interesting, though.

RACE CAR--not exactly a game title to really grab your attention with, although this is somewhat like Grand Prix for the Atari 2600 (the shapes of the cars reminds me of this especially), but this game runs vertically instead of horizontally. It's also kind of like Digital Derby, another handheld game from the 70s, as cars zoom by and you have to dodge them, but, unfortunately, there's no oil slicks or anything to keep this interesting, all it does is get faster and faster until the cars are such a blur there's no way to find out if this game has an ending, like a checkered flag or anything, as you're car's going to get nailed three times before then, ending the game. Oh well, at least the scrolling's smooth though.

SHOOTING ATTACK--well, this one sounds disturbing and violent, something for soccer moms the world over to worry and whine about...actually, this one is one of the better games here, as you shoot blocks as they move down the screen (kind of like a Tetris nightmare); if they touch the bottom three times, the game is over. I like this one a bit, but not enough to play it for more than half an hour at a time.

FROG-A-LONG--now THIS is intriguing! Why? Because I never would have guessed that anyone would ever attempt to get a Frogger game onto a screen so small!! But yeah, and it works, for the most part, although, since everything is a bunch of blocks, the only reason you know the first section is composed of cars and the second has logs is because you've played this game before; other than that, you'd have no idea. Another drawback is that if you've successfully gotten your frog home a couple of times, but screw up before filling up all the frog bays, it starts all over if you've got any lives left; now that's a croc (heh, geddit?). You're better off with a version where you can see what things are...ANY version, even the Game Boy one, it's got a bigger screen AND it's in color! (The only question that remains is: is the game Frog-A-Long, or Frog-a-LOG? It's spelled differently on the box and in the instructions; heh. Don't you love [and whaddya expect?] these cheap-assed toys with typos in the instructions?)

PING-PONG--another boring game title (you know five minutes total wasn't even put into naming all of these games) and another familiar game, this one being Breakout. However, I think even the Microvision version of Block Buster was better than this. If you've got Super Breakout on your Atari 2600 or 5200, or any of the millions of other Breakout-type games ever created for pretty much any other home or computer system from the 1970s on through the 1980s, you're better off with one of those instead, especially since most of them will be more pleasing to the eye, having color, being on a bigger screen and all.

SWALLOW SNAKE'S EGG--ok, now we go from boring to a disgusting game title with this one: who the hell wants to swallow snake's eggs? (Well, *except* for reality show contestants, that is.) This is one of the millions of games out there where you control something that eats dots, food, whatever, and the something that you control gets longer and longer with the more you eat before you either touch a segment of your body or you hit a wall and die. A version I have of this on my cell phone is better than this game, and my cell phone's way obsolete!

FLYING BEES--from boring to icky to a dumb title now: bees fly? Really, no kidding! Actually this is one of the better ones of the bunch, it's somewhat like Galaxian, where there's some bees onscreen (which is the explanation [/excuse] for the blocks: they're supposed to be bees here) that come flying down at you and you have to shoot them before they hit you...or sting you, maybe. Ouchie!

HAMMER ATTACK--due to having severe ups and downs with his career, being sued, and now reduced to having to make potato chip commercials, M. C. Hammer's pissed off and out for revenge...nah, just kidding: do you think a cheaply made, uninspired handheld would have the bucks to license a once-big entertainment name? No, of course not. This is actually a boxing game, but I can't really comment on it, due to the left arrow key not working very well on the unit. Yes, I can still use it for all the other games, as holding it down gets it to respond, but here, with the graphics being so large, you don't have much time to block punches with a faulty button. My guess is that this game isn't that great though, given the track record of most of the others.

BRICK--rounding out the legacy of a bunch of boring game titles, Brick is actually the best on here...I GUESS, due to a whopping EIGHT brick games being devoted to this little device! This is their version of Tetris, with variations including Left Moving, Timing, Right Moving, Upside-Down, Reduction, Right Moving and Timing, Timing and Reduction, and Combination Brick. So what's the differences in between all the games? Not many, as they all pretty much play the same, it's just that bricks will shift left or right occasionally, the playfield will reduce at times, or a combination of these things, etc. I played this the most, but there are so many Tetris games out there from anything from the homebrewed Vectrex version (on the All Good Things compilation) to free internet games that you're better, playing this for free elsewhere.

Well, that's it. This is somewhat of a nice try, but lets face it, unless you have someone really young, someone who's not very good at games, or someone who's getting older and needs to do something to keep them stimulated, this isn't that great a compilation of (mostly) rehashed themes; most of the games, like the Race one, just basically introduce you to the game, and then it just gets faster and faster, which I probably don't have to tell anyone on here that doesn't necessarily make a good game.

At other times, you have to wonder about the "skill levels" that were created, since one of the supposedly harder Brick games will include a big ol' bomb piece that will blow up a large portion of the Tetris blocks. (Shouldn't that be on the EASY versions, and no bomb to clear out large areas on the so-called harder levels? The first time I played this version, I just had to quit after half an hour of playing the same game due to boredom, or maybe I had to take a nap.) If you want something portable with a small screen but with decent games (and a huge amount of them), I'm sure you're way better off with a Game Boy (since this isn't presenting much of a market challenge to the mighty Nintendo handheld). Hell, as I mentioned the Vectrex earlier, probably most of it's homebrews are better, since I paid somewhere between $23-27 on this Pro 200 unit (which included shipping), which, at nearly the same price ($22), the John Dondzila cartridges of Vecmania and Spike Hoppin' each got MONTHS of play apiece, and this unit I didn't even play for one *week* total (or maybe that should read "weak"), and the majority of that time was because my tv went out and I didn't have much to play my games on! (I don't have many PC games, or emulators.)

Another one of these units have been produced as well with a different batch of games on it (don't ask me what the name of it is though), but I wouldn't hold my breath into thinking that it's worthy of a purchase. Hopefully it's a little better than this one, though.

In conclusion, my mom had said once that she wanted one of these, so I bought it for her for Christmas a few years was either that, or a Loreena McKennitt cd, which would've been cheaper, but being a gamer, that was a no-brainer for me to try something new, games-wise. Well, she ended up never playing it (gee, thanks!), to the best of my knowledge, so I would've been better off saving a few bucks on that cd instead. (But then, she probably isn't missing much.)

Oh yeah: plus the unit doubles as a calculator as well, which is also in the bottom part of the unit, along with the on/off and pause buttons and all; whee.

So, you get TWO separate devices in one there...or three, if you count one of it's "uses" as a paperweight.

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