Tooth Protectors: Atari 2600
Some people are gamers. Some are collectors. I’m more on the ‘gamer’ side of the fence, however I do constantly look out for one thing ‘in the wild’. Atari 2600 stuff. It’s where my heart lies, I suppose, there and the NES. I grew up with the Atari, and actually only stopped playing for a few years in the early to mid 90’s. Sure, a lot of the games are trash but you can overlook those, right? Hours spent playing with my dad, or watching my dad play back before the NES even existed. Whatever the reason, I collect for it.
As a result of this collecting, I find myself looking for that ‘hidden gem’ of a game whenever I’m at a yard sale or flea market. This past weekend, I was at a swap meet (a flea market for car parts), walking around with some friends and my father browsing various
junk things that people brought to sell. My father pokes me and quietly says ‘There’s an Atari over there’, as he points under a table about twenty feet away. Normally people want crazy money for a system with a broken controller and a Combat cartridge. I walk over, and peer into a box. Combat.. Combat.. Combat.. (Yes three of them). Asteroids.. Asteroids. What’s this? Tooth Protectors? I feel like this game is rare. I ask the guy how much for one game, and he gives me a price of $40 for everything. Something like 40 games, a 2600, a few joysticks and some manuals. Hmmmm.. OK.
Fast forward a few hours later, when I remembered to Google the game. Oh yeah! Tooth Protectors! I’ve heard of this before! It’s a 1983 release for the Atari 2600 by Johnson & Johnson. WTF? Before the crash, everyone was getting into video games. J&J used this as a tie in for their Reach toothbrush line, which was new at the time. It was a mail order only game, never available in stores. I came home with this in my lot of Atari goodies. Wow.
Excited, I looked up the manual for the game to see what it was all about. You are a TOOTH PROTECTOR, who must protect a row of bottom teeth from evil Snack Attackers. I guess we only care about the bottom row of teeth? What about the top? Anyway, the Snack Attackers drop ‘cubes’ of snacks onto teeth which you must deflect, similar to Breakout / Arkanoid. If a tooth is hit three times, it’s decayed! Lose three teeth and the game is over! Each level is timed, and you can earn more points for hitting a Snack Attacker with his own cube. Sometimes this Snack Attacker will drop down and take you away. Don’t forget the random cut scenes with brushing, flossing, AND mouthwash!
Yup, that’s it. If this came out in 1979 or 1980 it’d have been a state of the art 2600 game. 1983? When Activision was cranking out hits like Keystone Kapers and Private Eye? Not so much. The graphics are primitive. White blocks? Those are teeth. That smiley face holding a.. board over his head? That’s the Tooth Protector. We cannot forget how snack food comes in the form of dots, either. Doesn’t yours?
There’s a fun little song that plays during the intro for the game and occasionally when your teeth are brushed, flossed, and rinsed. Various beeps and boops are the other sounds that will greet your ears throughout game play. At least the joystick moves nicely right? Sorta. What a pain! With some skill the snack cubes can be directed back to the Snack Attacker, but it’s usually easier to just deflect it away and not worry too much where it goes. The game play gets harder as it progresses.
Atari Poop covered Plaque Attack a year and a half ago. It was claimed this game was made to promote dental hygiene. False. What a ludicrous claim put forth by Pierre. No one would do that, right? Johnson & Johnson did. Really. Is it worth playing? Meh. Sometimes the journey to get a game is more interesting than the game. That’s ok. I now have my first extremely rare Atari 2600 game. Interested in trying it? Find it online. Give it The Fair Shake.