Homebrew video games have come a long way since they first started appearing in the 1990’s. Not only the games themselves, but the way they’re packaged and sold. Long gone are the days of inkjet printed labels and photocopied instruction sheets. Current homebrew games, with glossy die cut labels, full color instruction manuals and product catalogs all packed into professionally printed boxes are nearly indistinguishable from the commercial releases of yore.
Sijmen “Mr. Atari” Schouten does things a little differently. For 15 euros he’ll send a padded envelope containing a PCB, labels and a sheet with instructions for constructing your own Give Me My Pancake cartridge anywhere in the world.
You don’t need to build a cartridge if you don’t want to, the game will work perfectly fine as-is, but a naked PCB is easily damaged and more difficult to store than an M-Network cart, so I recommend you find an old Atari 2600 game you don’t need anymore and turn it into a brand new Give Me My Pancake. I used my copy of Swordquest Waterworld. It’s a game I’ve never really cared for and it’s on the Atari Flashback Classics collection for PS4, so if I ever feel like playing it, I can just use that.
Just kidding. I used an extra copy of Pac-Man.
So now that you’ve made your cartridge, or just pried open the dust cover on your 2600 and shoved the PCB into the cartridge slot, what do you do? Give Me My Pancake is based on a Vtech Time & Fun LCD game called Pancake. The goal is to get as many pancakes from the chef on one side of the screen to the hungry dude on the other before dropping five. This is done by “bouncing” pancakes off your waiter’s tray. Each pancake has to be bounced three times to make it to the hungry dude.
Give Me My Pancake captures the look and feel of a 1980’s LCD game, from the beeps and buzzes of the soundtrack to the over-exaggerated poses of the waiter. Just like a classic LCD game, the premise is simple but engaging. As the speed ramps up and the number of pancakes on screen multiplies, the game becomes a frantic test of your reflexes.
My one quibble with the game is with the label. Not with the quality of the label itself, which is fine, but with the artwork. I would have preferred the great box art by Robbert Jansen over the “I uploaded a screenshot to the Atari 2600 Label Maker” artwork that was used. But that’s a minor issue and one I could have solved by printing my own label using the box art if I wasn’t such a lazy jerk.
Give Me My Pancake can be ordered by visiting www.mr-atari.com. There you can also download a PDF box to print out and assemble and the game ROM to use in an emulator or, better yet, the Atari Flashback Portable to really relive those days of playing a noisy handheld game in the back seat of the car on a long family road trip.