This post is gonna talk about something that isn’t really a video game. I mean, an electronic toy could be considered a “video game” in the loosest sense, but it’s one of those things that is so cool to me that I can’t help but write about it. Plus it’s game show related, and anyone who follows the blog knows I’m a big game show nut.
While I’ve written about cool board game things I’ve gotten over the years, such as the Pocket Player Trivial Pursuit, Pac-Man side games published during Pac-Man Fever, even the first Pokemon-themed Monopoly, I think this fits.
It’s the fabulous, less-than-sixty-minute Price is Right electronic game! Released in 2008, this tries to replicate some of the iconic elements of the classic TV game show. This features Drew Carey on the cover, and was released during the “growing pains” period when Drew took over the show after Bob Barker’s retirement.
While there were some good moments during those first few years, Drew was still trying to find his footing, especially after taking over a show hosted by a television legend. Disappointingly, his voice isn’t in the game, he’s just on the box art.
This particular one is produced by Irwin Toy, a company that’s been around for a long time and seems to still be kicking around making stuff. They’re not as big as Hasbro, but they’re certainly not dead, compared to Tiger Electronics. They’re kind of one of the B-tier toy companies.
Surprisingly, this isn’t the first electronic game based on The Price is Right. The first one was made by the infamous Tiger Electronics, makers of quality LCD games. While it wasn’t inherently bad, it did try to follow the formula their previous LCD game show games did, but now with lots of unnecessary cards that made it a lot less convenient for the format. Made it a pain to play if you were traveling, that’s for sure.
Up to four players can play in this version of The Price is Right. The electronic game plays like a loose version of the TV show. You input the 3-digit code for each prize or game, and the game goes from there. Cards with a green border are used as item up for bids on Contestants Row. Cards with a blue border are for the pricing games. Finally, cards with a red border are saved for the exciting Price is Right Showcases at the end of the show.
All players play on each contestant’s row, which means a player can win multiple times and play multiple pricing games. After four games, the top three winners spin the Big Wheel, and the two highest-scoring players go on the Showcases. There, the top winner bids on a showcase while the runner-up bids on the other showcase. Whoever is closest to their own showcase wins, there’s no double showcase rule in this one. It’s not outstanding, but it works considering the limitations of the device.
Speaking of limitations, this game has sound! But I hope you love hearing that “come on down” intro tune a lot, because it plays All. The. Time. It’s not even the iconic theme music, it’s that dinky tune you hear at the start of every show! On the bright side, it does feature some (but not all) of the game’s sound effects. No losing horns here, though, which is disappointing.
So let’s talk about the games featured, and how they play on the show compared to the electronic game.
Contestants Row is identical to the show, where it shows everybody’s bid after they’re all entered, but it does this even if everyone has overbid, which wastes everybody’s time. As far as I know, the game doesn’t do the $500 bonus for a perfect bid, which is a bummer.
Hi-Lo: A pricing game where you choose three of the most expensive grocery items to win a big prize. On the show, they show the prices of the three you chose to put in the Hi row, then each one not chosen goes in the Lo row. If any of the Lo items are more expensive than the cheapest item in the Hi row, you lose. On the electronic game, it just dumps the prices of all six grocery items after you chose the three that belong on the Hi row, giving no suspense to the proceedings.
Cliff Hangers: You bid on three small items one at a time. For every dollar you’re off, the mountain climber — or “Yodely Guy” as Drew calls him these days — climbs one step. If you’re over 25 steps, the mountain climber falls off and loses. The electronic game doesn’t show the actual retail price of each item, only the number of steps you were off from your bid.
Pick-a-Pair: One of the simpler games: Choose a pair of six grocery items that have the same price. The show’s sets the prizes up so all six items match with another grocery item, so there’s always three matching pairs. The electronic game will just show the prices of the items if you’re wrong, otherwise it say you won the “big prize” if you got them right.
Clock Game: Make rapid-fire bids of two items, one at a time, within the time limit. The most accurate, showing the higher/lower as you make bids, and surprisingly inputting bids in the keypad isn’t that cumbersome.
Magic #: Choose a number between the most expensive prize and the least expensive prize. On the show, it’s a lever you push up and down, complete with cute electronic sound effects. Unfortunately they ran out of budget to emulate this in the electronic game, you just input the magic number yourself. It’s alright, but not nearly as cool.
Grocery Game: Buy an amount of grocery items that total between $20-21 to win a big prize. In the electronic game, you choose the number of the item, then the amount you want. It doesn’t show individual values, only your total up to that point, like the other games.
Plinko: The flagship game on this device. I’m going to assume you all know how this game works. Out of all the games featured which uses the LCD screen exclusively, this is on the back of the device with a removable plastic cover to avoid falling chips when dropping. The game gives you six (five for the game and a backup), but you could easily do this with only one as you need to remove the chip after you dropped it. You have to manually input where the chip landed, but otherwise this is the best game of the whole lot.
The Big Wheel is just a little wheel on the side of the unit that’s spun manually. Like Plinko, one has to input their total after the spin. The annoying thing is that it will ask you if you want to spin again, even if another player is required to because they haven’t beaten the top player’s spin. It also has the $1 bonus for $1,000, but no bonus spin. As far as I know, the game doesn’t do spinoffs, and it probably doesn’t need to as the top two players advance to the Showcase.
Finally, the Showcase. Though here it’s incorrectly called “The Showcase Showdown” here — that usually refers to the Big Wheel, but that’s a common mistake I’m willing to forgive this time. There is no option to pass a showcase to the other player, so the top winner always bids on Showcase #1 and the runner-up bids on Showcase #2. Like in Contestants Row, there is no double showcase bonus for hitting $250 or less, which would’ve been a cool feature.
After completing a whole show, the game will ask if you want to play again. It will shut off after that, or after pressing the power button for a few seconds.
Honestly, for an electronic game based on an iconic TV show, this works fine. Not 100% perfect, but it’s always difficult to adapt The Price is Right into anything, because those little nuances that define part of the show are missing here. I’ll at least give them credit for making a fun little enjoyable game in a pre-smartphone world. It’s not something I’d actively look out for, but it’s a nice little find. It’s certainly better than the other Price is Right games I’ve played, surely.
If anything, I’d say this is worth it just for the mini recreation of Plinko. Shoutout to the designers at Irwin Toys for putting that in, it’s a nice treat.