Friday, March 3, 2023

Bootleg Action Sports Game/System Review: The Many, Many Soviet Clones of Nintendo's Egg Game & Watch

The Soviet Union had bootleg versions of the Nintendo Game & Watch consoles which were marketed as the Elektronika microprocessor games.

The Soviet Union copied the Mickey Mouse Game & Watch and released it under the Russian translation of Mickey Mouse, Микки Маус. This game is copied directly from Nintendo's console and had the simple goal of collecting eggs from a henhouse. It was released under the Elektronika label without authorization from Disney or Nintendo. Microprocessor games released under the Elektronika label were manufactured in factories located in the countries that are now known as Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. 

Soviet factories also manufactured other games based on Egg, Nintendo's re-skin of Mickey Mouse without the Disney license. The closest to Egg was Ну, погоди!, which is romanized as Nu, pogodi!, and is translated as Well, Just You Wait! in English. Well, Just You Wait! was a popular series of animated shorts in the Soviet Union, and later in Russia, that were produced by Soyuzmultfilm. The two characters that appeared in the shorts were the hare and the wolf. The handheld console adaptation of Well, Just You Wait! was a reproduction of Egg, complete with a direct copy of the background panel artwork. Nintendo's wolf was replaced with the wolf from the shorts and the chicken that roosted on the top of the henhouse in Egg was replaced with the hare.

The Soviet Union also produced other games based on Egg that don't have direct Nintendo parallels. An unauthorized Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles adaptation is named черепашки Нинзя, which is romanized as Cherepashki Ninzya and is translated into English as Ninja Turtle. The player character is an unnamed ninja turtle with inconsistent art when facing left compared to facing right. Weirdly, the unnamed turtle catches the sharp and deadly weapons known as shuriken or throwing stars. There is basically no background panel art, as there are just three small red lines on the left that are mirrored on the right as well as a red platform under the turtle. The character in the top left that was a chicken in Mickey Mouse and Egg is a sloppily drawn character with a helmet and a mask. I'm not sure whether this is meant to be Shredder, but if so, he doesn't resemble the greatest foe of the ninja turtles at all. 

Fowling is the English translation of охота, which is romanized as Okhota. It replaced the Egg art of the wolf with a hunter and the eggs with waterfowl. The roosting chicken is replaced with a cartoon hunting dog, and the background panel art is simplified to simply depict high grass. The gameplay remains the same, as the goal is to simply have the duck lined up with the hunter's gun as it reaches the end of its flight path.

Another Soviet Egg clone is Хоккей, which is romanized as Khokkey, and is translated into English as Ice Hockey. In this version, the wolf is replaced with a goalkeeper, the background panel artwork depicts hockey players with their hockey sticks at the ready, the eggs are replaced with hockey pucks, and the roosting chicken is replaced with a referee. The puck trajectory is flipped to the bottom upwards to depict the hockey players hitting the pucks toward the goal. The gameplay remains the same, however, as the goal is simply to have the goalkeeper lined up to stop the puck.

There is also a Soviet Egg clone that is themed after soccer and is named Monkey Goalkeeper. The gameplay is identical to Ice Hockey, albeit with a slight curve to the soccer ball's trajectory. The goalkeeper is the eponymous monkey, the hockey puck is a soccer ball, the referee is a soccer fan with a vuvuzela, and the background depicts the soccer players as simply drawn mice that highly resemble Mickey Mouse, or depending on the console, ducks. These characters are simply cloned and mirrored on the opposite side of the screen.

The Egg console was extremely popular with the Soviet Elektronika factories, as it has yet more clones. One is themed after fishing and is simply named Рыбалка, which is romanized as Rybalka and is translated into English as Fisherman. It has the orientation and a curve to the trajectory of the fish that is reminiscent of the pucks in Ice Hockey. The hockey player is now the eponymous fisherman, sitting in a boat and holding a fishing pole. The hockey puck is a fish, the referee is a cute fish that resembles Cleo from Disney's Pinocchio, and the background depicts the boat the fisherman is standing on, the water waves above the surface, as well as the dirt and water foliage at the bottom. 

Fisherman had a variation with a cat named кот рыбалка, which is romanized as Kot rybalka, and is translated into English as Cat Fisherman. It has the orientation of the Egg console, with a curve to the trajectory of the fish that is reminiscent of Fisherman. The fisherman is now the eponymous cat, the fish now jump out of the water, the cute fish in the top left is a giant prawn, and the background depicts the ground the cat is standing on, the water where the fish jump, as well as the cattails and grass you would see near a pond. 

There was yet another fishing clone of Egg known as квака-задавака, which is romanized as Kvaka-zadavaka, is roughly translated into English as Frog Strutter and is also known as Frogling. This Egg clone was themed after the 1975 animated Soviet short film of the same name as well as the accompanying song. The game is basically a rethemed Cat Fisherman. The cat is now a frog with a net, the fish are now bugs, the prawn is a bird, and the background panel art is grass surrounded by two trees.

One last fishing game is Весёлая рыбалка, which is romanized as Vesolaya rybalka, and is translated into English as Fun Fishing. The fisherman was a stereotypical Ukranian Cossack with a mustache and a traditional hairstyle known as oseledets, which is a long lock of hair on an otherwise shaven head. The fisherman is based on the painting of Sviatoslav I, the grand prince of Kyiv, by Fedor Solntsev. In the painting, he was holding two paddles, and in the game, the fisherman uses the paddles to try to catch fish. The character at the top of the screen is now a Ukranian Cossack blowing a horn. The background panel art is made up of simple grass and cattails, and the fisherman is standing in the water.

Some of the Soviet Egg clones are more varied. Explorers of Space, which is known in Russian as Исследователи космоса, and is romanized as Issledovateli kosmosa, is about protecting a space module. The base is part of the background panel art, along with rocks and either more rocks or a city silhouetted in the far back. The bits that normally represent the player are shields The character that is in the top left of all of the Egg clones is a satellite. The enemies are ships that fire a missile. The ships disappear once firing, but since it's a science fiction game, it works.

Space Flight is known in Russian as Космический полет, and is romanized as Kosmicheskiy polet. It is for all intents and purposes, a re-skinned Explorers of Space. It has the same opposition trajectory and the player character is still a shield. The background panel art consists of stars and the nose of a space shuttle instead of a space module. The satellite is now an alien, and the missiles are replaced by flying saucers that fly down toward the space shuttle.

Another variation on Egg is Biathlon, which is translated into Russian as биатлон. Skiiers travel from left to right and right to left, respectively. Once they get to the end, they ready a gun. The object of the game is to get bears with targets lined up in the correct location at the right time. The character in the top left in this game is a marmot. This is one of the more clever adaptations of Egg because even though the gameplay is the same, the ski shooters on a left-to-right trajectory make it feel different than the other clones.

These clones all have the same circuitry as Egg, but a lot of them do interesting things with the concept, such as Explorers of Space, At the end of the day though, they are all the same game. If you want to play these games, most are available in an Elektronika app on the Google App Store.

Final Verdict:
3 out of 5

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