Thursday, March 28, 2013

Velleman MK121NTSC TV Tennis Game Kit [Review]


Video games enjoy a unique status. Few things are so beloved at one point in time and so ridiculously out of date within a few short years. Atari’s home version of Pong came out in 1975. Just 10 years later the Nintendo Entertainment System made it look like a joke. Comparing Pong to today’s video games like Call of Duty, Madden, or Skyrim would be a waste of time, but there is hope. Today you can build your own table tennis game in less than an hour with the Velleman TV Tennis Game Kit. Good luck trying to build your own Xbox.

Trying to relive fond memories of hours spent playing old video games often ends in disappointment. If you have almost any expectations at all, the Velleman TV Tennis game is probably going to let you down. The game itself is exactly as advertised and looks as good as it can. It has a single player mode with four difficulty levels and a two player mode for head to head action. Honestly, I did have fun playing TV Tennis when I hooked it up to see if it worked, but the fun was extremely fleeting. At this point, the trouble of hooking it up greatly outweighs the desire to play TV Tennis.

Assembling the kit is arguably the best part. It goes together easily and requires only basic soldering skills. The kit itself is well designed and includes decent assembly instructions. It took me about 45 minutes to put the game together. Add an additional half hour or so to find a TV with composite inputs, and I had arcade magic in my home.

As it stands, this kit is really nothing more than soldering practice. The TV Tennis game didn’t age well and adds very little to the kit. Sure it’s cool to be able to build a video game and I’m aware that this kit has been around for some time, but I think Velleman missed an opportunity with this kit. This kit would be considerably more valuable if Velleman provided access to the source code and added circuitry to program the microcontroller on the board. Seeing how the game is programmed and being able to easily modify the program, or develop new programs for the platform, would make this kit way more exciting and engaging. How cool would it have been and what would have happened to the sales of this kit if someone came up with something a little more compelling to run on this thing? On the surface the build your own video game concept sounds great, but the closed nature of the Velleman TV Tennis kit severely limits its usefulness.





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