I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what to do for my next box review since I’d like to get the more obscure publishers out there before I tackle any of the big names like Atari or Activision. I finally came to a decision though; I would take a look at Zellers boxes since there are few things more obscure for American collectors than something that wasn’t sold in the U.S.
These things scream “BUDGET” I’d say they’re on par with the Taiwan Cooper Boxes in their stripped back budgeted design. All of them are bright red with ‘2600 COMPATIBLE’ emblazoned across the front which has lead them to be called the ‘2600 compatible’ series by some, in fact the only thing that distinguishes the Zellers variations from the 2600 compatible series is a small square in the top right that says Zellers and the price, which was C$6.99 which would have been $4-5 American back then. There is no writing on the sides to tell you what the titles are so you’ll have to pull them out one by one to check which is a bit of a bother. The pictures are something else, on my copy of Challenge there appears to be some pirated Ghostbusters artwork, the picture on my copy of Freeway appears to have been drawn in crayon, and the art for Laser Volley, apart from being stolen from somewhere, is so zoomed in and fuzzy you’d almost be excused for missing how crappy it looks. There is nothing much on the backs of the boxes, there is just some fine print in English and French as well as the same picture as on the front, no blurb no nothin’. I also must mention one odd thing that I’ve encountered with every single Zellers Box I’ve come across, there are cardboard flaps to hold the cartridge in place with and to stabilize the box somewhat but they’ve never been folded out which has led to many boxes being crushed or otherwise damaged since the cartridge is just rattling around inside the box.
The manuals are also the definition of budgeted; they’re just small slips of somewhat glossy paper with the bare basics of gameplay in both English and French printed on them. I’ll transcribe them for you just to give you an idea of just how bare these basics are.
- Game reset – player controls aircraft to destroy enemy. Warning: Do not let the aircraft touch the rainbow.
- Scoring: Hit enemy boat – 325 points Hit enemy aircraft – 525 points
- Joystick for 4-way controls. Push fire button to shoot.
That ain’t a lot of information especially for a somewhat complicated game like Laser Volley/Laser Gates.
There isn’t very much to say about the cartridges, they’re fairly standard an end label with the game’s title and a top label that’s just the awful picture from the box. It seems that whatever they used for the top labels is fairly cheap and fragile since I’ve seen a lot of carts with torn labels. There is nothing on the cart that would identify a publisher or manufacturer. Since my copy of Circus already has the screws exposed I’ve opened it up to look at the board, there’s just a blob of solder covering the tiny chip though on the back of the board it says HT 0019 which seems to be the manufacturer of the PCB.
Let’s just say that there’s a reason these things are so rare. These boxes are cheaply made and fragile, I’m fairly convinced that by simply being in open air these things are slowly disintegrating. The cartridges are sturdy enough, but the labels stink, and the instruction slips may just be the rarest things on the planet behind healthy fast food and a good nights’ sleep. But that’s why I like ‘em so much, they’re weird and obscure, which if you know me is my MO, I would advise caution if you look to add one of these to your collection since they are usually massively overpriced, and beat to shit if they are at a fair price.