Information About the VG Pocket Max System
Information about the VG Pocket Max video game system, including commentary and details about some of the games on the system.
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About the System
The VG Pocket Max system is a handheld video gaming device that features seventy-five built-in games. No external storage media is used. The system has a built-in LCD display (which is specified as being a 2.5" (6.35 cm) full color TFT display) and includes a cable for optionally connecting the device to a TV set. For carrying the system, a lanyard is also included. In 2006, the system was available from at least one Radio Shack store and was also mentioned in a J.C. Penney catalog for that year (see this Google Books entry.) A review of the system was formerly featured at the HowStuffWorks site.
The packaging for the VG Pocket Max system mentions Performance Designed Products and an address in Vernon, California, USA. In addition, the system's packaging specifies the www.vgpockets.com URL. According to the Internet Archive, this URL redirected to the Performance Designed Products site in February 2011. On the back of the system there is a label which includes among other things the www.performancedesignedproducts.com URL, the "VG-3000" designation, and a CE mark. The system is specified on the label as being made in China. At the site for Jungletac, a video game software solution provider, there was a photo of a similar-looking device (the M-2500P1.) This photo was mentioned in a forum posting at the Cheap Ass Gamer site.
The VG Pocket Max system is powered by three AAA batteries. The manual for the device recommends the use of alkaline batteries to maximize the performance and operating time. It appears that the system can run on rechargeable 1.2 volt NiMH AAA batteries when connected to a TV set. (When the system is used with rechargeable NiMH batteries and is not connected to a TV set, it may happen where the built-in LCD display is not viewable in a lighted room and the built-in speaker is quite soft even with the volume set at maximum.)
Among the controls on the VG Pocket Max system is a directional control pad in the shape of a plus sign. This control pad does not always seem to be as precise as one might expect. For instance, pressing the "left" end of the pad sometimes seems to register as "up" or "down", depending upon exactly where one presses.
An undocumented feature of the VG Pocket Max system is a debug screen which shows a version number in hexadecimal, a "TESTRAM FAIL" message, and images of two video game controllers. This screen can be used to test the controls on the device; the VG Pocket Max buttons appear to correspond to the A and B buttons on both the depicted controllers. It is also possible from the debug screen to page through several displays where the screen shows a specific color.
As variations of the VG Pocket Max system go, the device was produced in different colors including white, blue, pink, and silver. An eBay auction in January 2014 featured a dark blue VG Pocket Max system which appears to be different from the white one described on this page. The title screen on the dark blue VG Pocket Max system referred to "M3 POCKET ENTERTAINMENT" and "JUNGLETAC©2005" and the system included a "Road Star" game among its collection.
The games on the VG Pocket Max system are grouped into five categories (Action, Racing, Shooting, Sports, and Wits.) The system features graphical selection menus for choosing a game category and for choosing a specific game within the chosen category. The selection menu for choosing a game category has some noticeable graphical touches, including a background pattern and a "paw-print" category marker. The system also features several background music tracks that are used in various games. Some of the games have their own splash screens and a few of the games, including Starcraft Attack, Fun Moves, and Pool Pro, have title screens that include a selection menu with multiple choices. Though a user can abort a game and return to the system's game selection submenu for the current game category by pressing the reset button on the device, it appears that some of the games have no function to pause the gameplay.
The Quick Match game. This game has gameplay that is
somewhat similar to that of the Concentration card game.
The packaging for the VG Pocket Max system shows screenshots and names for a number of games. Among these, there are screenshots for the game of Doggy (which appears to involve an overhead view of a busy road with traffic) and the game of Elfland (which appears to involve platforms and doors), even though these two games are not mentioned in the manual and do not appear to be present on the system. At Blog Squirrel, there is a description of a platform-based "Elfland" game that appears to be the same game as the one depicted on the packaging. Another difference is that the screenshot of the Fun Moves game on the VG Pocket Max packaging is captioned as "Move Fun," and the title "Move Fun" appears at the top of the game playfield in the screenshot.
Some of the games on the VG Pocket Max system may have appeared elsewhere. For example, the online manual for the dreamGEAR Plug 'N Play Controller with 50 Games system (model DGUN-853) mentions a number of games that are similar to certain VG Pocket Max games.
Descriptions and commentary about some of the games are given below.
- Balloon Catcher
In this game, the player floats a frog around the screen with the goal of catching a specified quantity of floating balloons while avoiding hazards that drift around. If the player loses a life, the "number of balloons needed to be caught" counter is reset to its original value (that is, the value that it had at the start of the level.) At the same time, there is no time limit for completing a level, which probably makes the gameplay somewhat easier than it would be otherwise. This game features gameplay that continues through multiple levels with more than one backdrop image.
Gameplay Note: Though it is not documented in the manual, it appears that the player can prevent the frog from drifting vertically by holding down the lower turbo button on the VG Pocket Max system. Doing this will still allow the frog to drift horizontally.
- Bird Droppings
To get the attention of others, the name of this game may be enough. In this game, the player must catch the eggs that a bird lays while avoiding the other natural matter that falls down. Succeeding at this means moving the pole on which the somewhat strange-looking bird is balanced, while being careful to not allow the pole to fall all the way over. The gameplay in this game is more original than that in some other games, and the storyline, though simple, has an aspect of being slightly unusual. At the same time, the game ends after one level and the difficulty does not appear to be adjustable.
In this game, there is a rectangular playfield with a paddle on each of the four walls. The left and right paddles move simultaneously, as do the top and bottom paddles. The object of the game involves keeping a ball within the playfield by bouncing it off of the paddles as necessary. Though the background of the playfield has a maze-like appearance, this seems to be mostly decorative if anything. The gameplay is not always easy, and the need at times to consider the positions of multiple paddles (as opposed to the gameplay of the Breakout video game where there is only one paddle) is probably one of the reasons. If the ball bounces off of one paddle that is near a corner of the playfield, there may be an issue if there is another edge of the playfield but no other paddle close by. At times, various items appear in the playfield. Among these items, there appears to be a powerup that slows the speed of the ball, and this change can make the gameplay much easier. There also appears to be at least one item that changes the size of the paddles, and at least one item that increases the speed of the ball. One feature that is not present in this game but which would be potentially useful would be the tracking of the player's highest score, so that the player could get a sense of how much they accomplished even if they had to repeatedly start over.
- Cats and Dogs
In this game, a cat must repeatedly throw a ball over a fence in order to eventually claim victory over Fido the dog, who in this case is the target for the cat's throws. Unlike some of the other games, this game has a useful aspect in that it can be left idle at times without having anything happen until the player proceeds with the gameplay. For some players, the daytime garden-like setting of the game may make an appealing change from games that take place in abstract environments or in such settings as outer space. This game has some decorative graphical touches, including what appears to be holes in a fence. At the top of the game screen, there is the text "1P" on the left and the text "COM" on the right. This brings up the question: Among other possibilities, was the game originally meant to have a two-player mode as well...?
Gameplay Notes: To cover the correct distance, the cat's power meter (which appears over the cat before it throws the ball) should balance out the green meter which is shown at the top of the screen under the "vs" text. For instance, if the green meter reading is at the leftmost end of the bar, then the cat's meter should be at its maximum value when the cat throws the ball. This might not be obvious to all players, especially at first. (Though the function of the green meter is not totally clear, one possibility is that it relates to wind speed and/or direction. There is a Flash game, "Fleabag vs. Mutt," which was released by Gametuner.com and which has a similar storyline and basically the same gameplay. In that game, there is a "wind meter" that is of importance when the player determines how much power to throw with.) In the Cats and Dogs game, both the cat and the dog each have a set of three powerup items. The "2" powerup causes the ball to automatically be thrown twice instead of once, the "%" powerup heals a certain amount of damage, and the lighting bolt powerup increases the amount of damage that is inflicted if the ball hits the target.
- Fun Moves
In this game, the player has a square area with a number of items. (As specific items go, the player can choose from the three categories of shapes, fruits, and flowers. Each category also features a different character that appears in the upper-left region of the playfield. Though the reason is not clear, the letters "DJ" are displayed above the character.) The player must switch the positions of items to form vertical and/or horizontal combinations where at least three instances of the same item are next to each other, with the effect that the items in the combination will be removed from the playfield. In some cases, after one combination is removed from the playfield, the rearrangement of the other items will lead to another combination of items which meets the criteria for being automatically removed. This can happen more than once in a sort of cascade effect, and may provide satisfaction for players. Though there appears to be a time limit, the formation of matching combinations of items seems to increase the amount of time that is available to the player. With this game, a session can last for a certain amount of time, although it seems that the specific layout of the items is not all that different from one session to the next. From its description, the Bejeweled game from PopCap Games has basically the same gameplay.
In this game, the player has a disc than can be rotated, though the speed and rate at which the disc can be rotated may be somewhat limited. On a repeated basis, a glob will travel towards the disc (there are several directions from which a glob can come) and will be able to stick to the outside of the disc and/or other globs that have previously become fixed in position on or around the outside of the disc. When the disc is rotated, the globs that are touching the disc and/or fixed in position around the disc will also move. In addition, when two globs of the same color are touching each other (or are extremely close to touching), those two globs will vanish. As such, the player must prevent too many globs from accumulating between the disc and the edges of the area where the disc is located. With this game, it appears that it is possible to pause the gameplay; this feature could be useful under certain circumstances. When the gameplay reaches a later level, it should be noted that there are light-orange and darker-orange globs among the different colors and that these two colors are not considered to be the same although they might look somewhat more similar than the other colors. The gameplay in this game progresses through multiple levels.
- Grow and Mow
In this game, the player pushes a lawnmower around a yard to cut all of the grass before the time limit runs out. At intervals, though, a raincloud passes over the yard and can cause a mown patch of the grass to regrow. The yard also has ponds and other obstacles which are not hazards but which the player must mow around. At times, the player may have to head for a regrown patch of grass before the stormcloud causes yet another patch of grass to regrow. In particular, on later levels, the gameplay can be more hurried because the time limit for completing the level is shorter, among other things. (Without the time limit, the game would probably not provide the same element of challenge and might be too easy.) The gameplay continues through nine levels. For that matter, it is not every video game that features a main character who pushes a lawnmower (perhaps the character is a gardener or a groundskeeper...)
- Knockem Down
In this game, the player repeatedly hits balls towards a set of targets, using what appears to be an invisible racquet. The game can be played by pressing a single button on the VG Pocket Max device; the skill aspect is determining when to press the button. The background in the game automatically scrolls horizontally but basically remains static, with the exception of the targets and the robot that serves the balls. Though there does not seem to be any clear method to pause the game, this game actually works quite well when it comes to value. The background image in the game has a reference to "JUMPING BALL."
- Marble Max
In this game, the player adds marbles to a chain of marbles in order to keep the chain from getting to long. (When the player's addition of a marble to the chain forms a group of at least three like-colored marbles, the group will vanish from the chain.) With this game, there seems to be some value and a session can continue for quite some time. One slight issue is that a dark green marble may actually appear as light green in color when held by the player character but will become dark green when added to the chain of marbles. A review at GenIV.Com mentioned the Zuma game from PopCap Games which appears to have similar gameplay. The Puzz Loop and Ballistic games from Mitchell Corp. are also similar.
- Night Monster
In this game, the player controls a small devil-like monster. The monster can shoot at spheres that are being dropped from above by angels, but at the same time the monster must avoid being hit by the falling spheres. By shooting spheres, the monster can reveal items; some of these items are helpful if acquired (such as an "extra life" powerup) and some are harmful (such as what appears to be a lightning bolt and a missile that may hurt the monster.) There are also some items (such as a cleaver and what appears to be a shoe or a boot) for which the function is not totally clear. In addition, there is a display with the word "XMAS", and an item that can light up a letter of the display, but it not clear as to whether this is a requirement for passing the level or whether it has a different purpose. (It is possible to light up at least the first three letters of the display.) The background image in the game, which shows a scene outside of a home at night, is quite detailed in comparison to some other graphics.
Gameplay Notes: Aside from the player's normal shots, which appear to be unlimited, it is possible to equip specific weapons, particularly a crossbow or a pistol. Pressing "Up" on the VG Pocket Max directional pad allows the player to change the currently equipped weapon. It appears that a crossbow shot produces three arrows that cover more paths than a normal shot, and that a pistol shot can continue traveling after hitting a sphere. On the VG Pocket Max system, pressing the upper turbo button or the button with the circle symbol fires the specifically equipped weapon. (This is different from the monster's normal shots, which are fired by pressing the lower turbo button or the button with the square/diamond symbol.) There is also a "boot" item in the same category as the crossbow and pistol, but it is not clear as to what its function is.
- Paddle Ball
Though the name of this game might bring to mind various sporting activities, the actual gameplay involves a circumstance that seems to be quite different. In this game, the player must direct colored balls through a network of pipes so that each ball goes into a container that is of the same color as the ball. At junctions in the pipe network there are paddle valves that can be adjusted to determine the direction in which a ball goes. At the same time, there is a tricky aspect in that adjusting one valve also causes most (if not all) of the other valves to change at the same time. Furthermore, it may be necessary to consider the setting of one valve and then to consider the setting of another valve in an extremely short time. To complete a level, there is a specified quota of balls that must be directed into the correct containers. From what it appears, the game ends altogether if the player fails to reach the minimum quota of balls on a level. The quotas are not necessarily all that lenient; on the second level, for instance, the quota is 17 balls and there are 20 balls altogether. The sequence of ball colors on a given level appears to be the same from one game session to another; this may make the gameplay easier and may be particularly useful when replaying the game multiple times.
- Quick Match
In this game, the player controls a character with a slightly clown-like appearance that travels in an outdoor area. Within this area, there are a number of squares that the player can open to reveal items. If the player opens two squares that contain the same item, the game then removes both squares from the playfield. If the two items are different, the game closes the first square and leaves the second square open. (This is different from some matching games in which both squares would probably be closed afterwards if they contained different items.) On the first level, and possibly other levels, the specific arrangement of the items in the squares seems to vary from one game to another. This adds an aspect of difficulty (or perhaps challenge) to the gameplay. In addition, this aspect probably makes the Quick Match game more similar to traditional matching games. There are enemies that move around within the playfield, although their movement does not always cover a large region of the playfield. The player loses a life if they touch an enemy. As squares are removed from the playfield, it becomes easier for the player to move to different locations. (It is possible that it also becomes easier for enemies to travel around.) Failing to remove all of the squares within the time limit for a level may be more serious than colliding with an enemy, because running out of time means having to start the level over with a full allotment of squares, in addition to losing a life. Not far from each corner of the playfield is an opening that allows the player (and also enemies) to travel more quickly to the diagonally corresponding corner. For a game that is somewhat similar to the Concentration card game with an added time limit and physical obstacles, the Quick Match game likely has some value.
- Sea Destroyer
In this game, the player drops bombs from a sea destroyer to take out a number of enemy submarines. (One of the submarines seems to resemble a metal fish.) When targeting enemy submarines that are traveling at a deep depth, timing is important. In some cases, submarines can fire shots upwards towards your destroyer, which can add a tricky aspect to the game. Aside from the fact that there does not seem to be a clear method to pause the gameplay, this game works quite well.
- Wake the Baby
On each level of this game, the player must move a specific baby carriage (or possibly more than one specified baby carriage) out of a nursery before a time limit runs out. Doing this may require moving a number of other carriages (which can only be moved either vertically or horizontally) and figuring out a sequence for moving the various carriages. There are a number of toys in the game that the player can use to extend the time limit. This game features gameplay that continues through multiple levels. The gameplay of Wake the Baby appears to be similar to that of the Rush Hour board game from ThinkFun, Inc.
This web page is copyright © 2011-2022 by Richard Green. The photos of the VG Pocket Max device are copyright © 2011 by Richard Green. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. The screenshot of the Quick Match game was acquired via a DVD recorder connected to a VG Pocket Max system and is copyrighted by the developer(s) and/or publisher of the respective game software. To contact the webmaster, please use the contact form or send e-mail to richard at thedoorintomorning dot com. If you are interested in encrypted e-mail messaging (PGP/GnuPG), please inform the webmaster. This page was last updated on March 24, 2022.