Monday, January 24, 2011

Vintage Ideal Games: Mr. Mad and Ker-Plunk

Found some great vintage games at a toy show last weekend, including two classics made by Ideal in the late 1960s. Featuring fantastic design and graphics, they are also two of the noisiest games ever made, as each one ends in a cascade of clattering marbles.

Mark Rich, in his wonderful book, 101 Greatest Baby Boomer Toys, writes of these games: "The trend that started in 1961-62 reached its crest a few years later. Games once designed for family enjoyment, fairly quiet...and often dependent on mental agility and knowledge, gave way to bright, brilliantly designed, fast-paced, noisy games of impulse and chaos. Many games gained their feeling of mounting tension by creating an imminent disaster, which one player would set off. No one could tell at the beginning who that player would be..."

Mr. Mad, released by Ideal in 1970, was the epitome of such games. Players took turns dropping marbles into the mouth of a fearsome looking, 10 inch tall robot, Mr. Mad. If the marbles hit a button inside the robot, he would begin spinning and tilting, shooting marbles left and right out of holes in his arms. One unlucky player had to try and hit his "off" switch using a plastic "stopping" stick. By that time, dozens of marbles had usually scattered across the room (I've still got some stuck under my refrigerator from our test run...)

Isn't this just a fantastic looking robot?

The next game I found was Ker-Plunk, made by Ideal in 1967. This huge game box, 21 inches tall, features great graphics in day-glo '60s colors. The object of the game was to remove plastic straws one at a time from beneath a heap of marbles, held suspended in the top half of a clear plastic tube by said straws. When the wrong straw was pulled, the marbles came clattering down. This was not a good game for those susceptible to migraines.

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