Now there’s a name. Sovereign Supersports TV Games… What a corker…. Now there’s not much about this fine 1977 derived machine on T’internet, although in the States it was known as Decca Sports TV Games. As for my fine boxed example. Well it literally came with my house. Yup, that’s right, it was holding up a water pipe in the attic, and there it stayed for 8 years until I finally decided to dislodge it. A quick swap with a suitably sized Wii U box worked wonders… perhaps to give the next buyers of the house a similar passing gift (although the Wii U box will be decidedly empty, whereas this beauty was not only full, but it was complete and in what seemed fantastic condition!).
Aside from that I also seem to have amassed The Binatone TV Master Mark 4… So christ knows that the previous 3 incarnations were like. I also have a Binatone TV Master Mark… err. 10! My god, how many variations of this were there. And a Prinztronic Micro 5500.
Starting with the Sovereign…
I love the bright yellow and orange packaging they’ve used here, even though it’s somewhat faded now. An ad-libbed sticker on the front advises of an “Added Gun Facility” to add further excitement, if you weren’t already gobsmackingly overwhelmed with the 4 depicted sports images of a lollipop lady who has just been run over, a chap who has met a similar demise, and also who seems to have shed an excessively large bollock in the process. Yet another god damn lolly pop lady (christ, what it is with these drivers?!) and… no, surely not again, in the same street? The community will be devestated!
After you get over those apparent horrific visions, the box tells you that inside is “Super Fun for all the family. Play Football, Tennis, Squash or Solo on your own TV…. I’m not sure what Solo they’re referring to there. Possibly Han Solo. Maybe it’s an attempt to incorporate a star wars hidden game whilst avoiding costly law suits…. ahhhhhh…
The Binatone Mark 4 has similar imagery of fatal road accidents and also tells us it was licensed from Magnavox, in the U S of A… HUH! Also, to add further confusion to the branding, it apparently is “Another [Bloody] JP Product”…
The Mark 10 iteration steps up imagery with a full on 70s photo experience played out in front of a wooden clad television set. Imagery of the games is fairly similar with the addition of a drunken golfer trying to pick up his ball, a couple of guys attempting some Egyptian dancing and that golfer again after a few more pints… Again the mark 10 is licensed by Magnavox. Apparently there are later colour versions as well, but pffft. Who cares?
Prinztronic has gone all spacey on it’s packaging, with the additions of a naval vessel, basketball player and motocross bike merrily slapped on the bottom. Gameplay on this beauty is displayed as it appears on the screen, including what appears to be some fairly complex looking games although I can’t for the life of me tell which is which.
On opening the Sovereign box you’re confronted with an upside down console, although neatly packed into it’s polystyrene surroundings. You’ll notice that it takes a whopping 6 “D” cell batteries. A standard RF cable erks’ it’s way out of the back and some sort of din plug makes it’s presence known, all too well.
Flipping her over (easy). We are presented with a fine example of a machine featuring;
A large red power button
A large red reset button
A big dial allowing you to choose from Tennis, Football, Mixed race Squash, Target, Target again although named Skeet and that forever elusive Solo mode.
There are also a variety of flip switches, including “Professional” and “Amateur” settings, although if you’re profession includes excessive play on the Sovereign SupperSports TV Games… then… well, I guess I’m a professional.
There are also a couple of hand controls, including wires which once released can never be re-inserted. A twisty dial arrangement and a suspiciously squishy red serve button. Pressing this button fills me with a slight contempt, but that’s a story for another day.
Oh there’s also some sort of scale switch thing that has a scale and allows you to move it to depict the number you want on that scale.
The Binatone boxes also feature their respective consoles, with an array of similar switches, buttons and knobs (tee hee hee), although the joysticks on the Mark 10 have been “Upgraded” to what I can only describe as double lollies stuffed into a plastic box. There’s also a lovely addition of a score counter, presumably to count how many games each participant has won. It reminds me of those toy snooker score counters you used to get…. still it’s an upgrade I guess.
On opening this particular Prinztronic box I was treated to what appears to be some sort of homemade control panel with felt tip buttons, some sort of diplay and what appears to be a “speaker”??? Outstanding! Can’t beat stuff like this. The Prinz can also accept additional cartridges, although sadly, I have none.
The manuals are all much of a muchness, but looking at the Sovereign manual… The front of the wafer thin manual unfortunately greets you with the news that “The Gun” is an optional extra, presumably that’s what the Din port is for. You’re then swiftly ushered to the “Operating Highlights” where you’re pleasingly told “For those people who do not like instruction books the following brief information will get you playing quickly”, as if it’s drafted for some crack addicted game player who needs to get a quick fix.
The controls are explained to you next and indeed, it appears I was correct on the din plug front. It also transpires that the different between Pro and Amateur is the use of large or small bats or racquets if you prefer your words to be slightly more sophisticated.
Apparently they recommend that for extended operation, you should use a 9v DC adaptor. Nice of you to supply it guys, real nice.. got shares in Duracell have we?? Further installation instructions tell you to “Turn the volume down to zero”, then “Switch on the game and you should now hear a series of intermittent “bleeps” coming from the game… I presume this is some cover for a bomb device installed in each unit…. oh god….
The back of the manual seems to have been made by your average IT support staff, with frequent references to “Press the Reset Button” if you encounter any problems.
A quick flick through the Bintatone Mark 4 tells us that “The Quality is Higher than the Price”, which makes absolutely no sense as they’re 2 separate and distinctive pieces of context.
The mark 10 manual contains “Special notes”, including a warning… “It is advisable not to play the game on your television non-stop all day long”…. So I presume a 5 minute break at midday will sort that little problem out then… But seriously, who in their right mind would play these fucking games ALL DAY LONG??
Oh, also there’s an IMPORTANT warning that notifies the user that if they use the game on a colour TV, the image will still be in Black & White…. Really? Good god. Thanks for that.
So let’s play this beast!… Just bear with me whilst I find 6 “D” cell batteries. Do these things even exist anymore?!……….
Well, apparently they do, in Tesco! Thanks Tesco! Now I can go Solo…. But, wait, no, I can’t play the Sovereign at least, because apart from a pitiful screeching speaker sound which quickly died, it won’t turn on…. Disappointing to say the least, But hey! let’s open it up instead!
The case is removed fairly easily through the use of a Phillips screwdriver (thanks for that Phil). The belly of the beast is then unveiled. Inside we have limited circuitry, a speaker, lots of wires, transistors and capacitors, alongside an AY-3-8500 chip by General Instrument which is responsible for all the hard work. These chips are featured inside other machines from the era, with each machine playing exactly the same games.
That was worth it.
Back to Game Play
So, although I can’t play the Sovereign, these screen shots are from the same chip and are exactly the same as would have appeared, had it functioned.
Fortunately, some of the other machines do work. So starting with the Binatone Mark 4!…. Next up was the Binatone Mark 10!…
Sadly the Prinz failed to function as well. But then we are talking about technology that’s edging up to 40 years old! Holy Moly!
Unfortunately, against all advice and warning, I got carried away and played non-stop all day long. It’s safe to say, I won’t be recovering any time soon.