Box Review (Taiwan Cooper)
I am well and truly lacking inspiration for a game review today, nothing is jumping out at me in any meaningful way. So instead of doing a review that I don’t really want to I’ll do something else that I keep putting on the backburner, and don’t worry it’s not a new thing for Mondays, it’s just the thing I’m currently doing for Mondays. I’m just going to take a look at some more boxes, there’s always something to talk about with those, and I honestly have fun doing it, I’ve kept them relegated to Mondays but depending on how I feel about it that might change. The only thing I have to do now is choose a publisher, well actually I chose one before I even started writing this so I won’t bore you with trying to fool you into thinking this was a spur of the moment decision, I’m going to look at my small Taiwan Cooper box collection. Nobody knows who actually manufactured these things, all we do know is that they’re here, and holy cow they’re weird.
Every box follows the same formula, a color picture on the front, the title above the picture, and ‘NEW’ in an explosion graphic to the left of the title. The backs are similarly cookie cutter there is a small to mid-length blurb in poorly translated English with an artist rendition or screenshot of the game at the bottom of the box next to a small graphic of a hand improperly holding an Atari Painline joystick controller, indicating that these things were manufactured around the time of the 7800 and the 2600 jr. consoles, which would explain the variety of games concealed within these pieces of shit. The only box I have that doesn’t conform to this design is my copy of ‘Squirrel’ that has a completely blank back with the exception of the hand/controller graphic. Despite the overall design being fairly boring the boxes come in eye catching colors that vary from lime green to neon red to brown. There is no text on the sides of the boxes so you’ll have to pull them out individually, unless you have them memorized by color, but that won’t help since some of them share the same colors. The artwork on these things is absolutely notorious for being strange and usually not pertaining at all to the game it’s meant to represent. With the exception of the space games which all have a generic spaceship/space battle, most of the games have strange, probably stolen, artwork, Open Sesame and Gateway to Apsh in particular are strange enough, but you don’t have to dig deep online to find stranger ones. I would urge you to look at the box arts for the following games: Beany Bopper, Col ‘N’, Fire Burg, and Glutton just to name a few. Most of the artwork is half decent but a few stand out as being of awful quality mainly Karate which has obviously been drawn with permanent marker and colored pencils. The overall box durability is fair, which is odd since these things were likely made from the cheapest materials possible, most will have edge wear or small dings on the corners, but very few have creased sides or any major cosmetic flaws.
These things very rarely shipped with manuals letting the player figure things out on their own with only the poorly translated blurbs to guide them. I have only three games that have manuals, Squirrel, Karate, and UFO, though I would honestly classify them more as instruction slips. The Karate and Squirrel manuals are printed on thin semi glossy paper, each are about the same size as half a sheet of standard size paper, they are printed in color, and in the case of Karate simply regurgitate what was on the back of the box with added scoring info, and in the case of Squirrel it simply says what should have been on the back of the box in the first place with added scoring info. I honestly don’t know why they didn’t print the basic info on the back of the Squirrel box since they had already done it, they had a version of the box with a blurb on the back, removing it and adding an instruction slip seems to be a less efficient and more costly alternative. The UFO manual is a folded sheet of standard size paper which contains the blurb from the back, and B&W screenshot, hookup information, controller usage info, scoring info, and game types. All in all, the UFO manual is the most complete but it’s also printed on standard printer paper using what appears to be a fairly crappy printer, and of all the games to have a manual it’s the one that needs it the least, we all know how to play Condor Attack, and frankly I’m amazed that manual has survived with what little damage it has.
I don’t even need to describe the cartridges, they’re legendary, but with the ones I have I noticed a few differences among them. You have the standard S.S. carts that seem to be the most common, then you have the S.S. Shorts which are the same design but shortened by a centimeter of so and saying ‘Made in Taiwan’ on the back instead of S.S. There are the super shorts that come with a wraparound label, and the strange 1234 design that I’ve only seen with my copy of Squirrel, it is a fairly satbdard cartridge shell with some small side ridges with 1234 on the back, it seems the version with the blurb has a S.S. Short cartridge and the one without the blurb has this strange 1234 cartridge, either way it’s weird. These things are also extremely fragile; with my copy of Open Sesame the corner broke off when I tried to fit it into the console for the first time. Due to the cheapness of the plastic it would not surprise me if the cart shells have warped over time, leading them to not fit properly into the consoles.
If you were to look at them objectively these Taiwan Cooper boxes are just plain garbage, the cartridges are fragile and prone to breaking on contact with a console and the English in the blurb and manuals can be so nonsensical to the point of utter confusion, and honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way. These things are the remnant of a bygone era in gaming, when any shady company could steal a game and sell themselves, but I’m honestly thankful for that. In some cases these are the only way to get your hands on elusive or downright rare games for an affordable price, games like Spacemaster X-7, Condor Attack, Dishaster, and Jawbreaker were all stolen by these guys. In some cases Taiwan Cooper carts are the only way to play some games, mainly the Bit Corporation games which were PAL only until these guys got their mitts on them, games like Mr. Postman, Snail Vs. Squirrel, and Bobby is Going Home were all ported, actually the only two that weren’t are Cosmic Corridor and Sea Monster, which were released in NTSC by Puzzy but that’s a different, more expensive, story. If you don’t already have a copy or twelve you should pick one up, they’re cheap they’re weird, and they’re awesome. They even released a few for the Colecovision, that’s amazing!