The quest for garbage gaming continues, but it’s mostly just more of the same in an even funkier package.
From the seedier depths of eBay and AliExpress comes the K5 “Protable” Game Console, or the squattest, flounciest Game Boy you’ll ever hope to never encounter. Even though it has a lot of personality, there’s not a whole lot below the surface. They’re available in multiple colors, but in the spirit of embracing the dumbest things possible, let’s just go with bright pink.
If you’ve seen one junk min-console, you’ve seen them all. They claim to have 500 games, but most of them are terrible shovelware, and there’s only about 200 games on repeat – many of them lazy re-skins of other terrible games. There are mini systems that accept external data and allow you to play just about anything you’d like, but this isn’t one of them. For those, you’d have to reach above the $25 barrier; the goal here is to discover junk; those consoles that appear online for a few months and then just disappear, never to be seen again. The bootleg factory moves on to something new, or is banned from eBay, or is otherwise shut down for violating any number of copyright laws, and nothing of any real value is lost. But the ephemeral nature of these shady mini-consoles is pretty attractive; here’s a weirdo thing you may never see again. But is it worth seeing in the first place?
The K5, for lack of a better name, also comes with a small manual that calls it the Retro FC, but none of that matters. It’s a nameless, meaningless void that has only taken a corporeal form temporarily, and it’s unlikely you’ll ever be able to really search out this exact model using either of these names anyhow. A single A/V port feeds out to the RCA-capable screen of your choice, and a micro USB port on top serves as both a charging port for a rechargeable battery, and a place to plug in the Player 2 controller. It’s worth noting that 2 player, simultaneous action is a feature not generally provided by a single console, so that’s a real bonus here if you have friends, or even people who tolerate you. Of course, since Player 1’s controller is also the screen, it’s generally very impractical anyhow, unless you’re feeding the whole thing out to a larger screen, in an explosion of weird, all-too-short wires. But props for trying, K5. And no, you can’t use the external controller to control the system, unfortunately.
As far as crap consoles go, it’s surprisingly physically solid, and it looks exactly like what was promised. Instead of the usual burnt-plastic-smelling thin shell most of these have, everything fits together nicely and feels pretty sturdy, and the screen size is respectable. But is there anything fun to play? For the K5, it’s a weird swing and a miss, as usual.
It’s always interesting to see what games these systems lead with, aside from a screen that makes you Press 2 for English every time. This time, the first game listed is ‘Chitei Tanken’, or more properly, Hottaman no Chitei Tanken, also known as the Famicom-exclusive Hottaman’s Underground Exploration, a game much like Dig Dug. There’s no great reason for this fairly average game to appear first, but it’s and interesting choice. It’s quickly followed up with a terrible Angry Birds clone that appears on so many of these systems, where actual physics don’t play a role in gameplay.
As always, there’s whole mess of Contra variations, all of which start you with different weapons and on different levels. But another uncommon addition here is Mitsume Ga Tooru, or ‘The Three-Eyed One’, another Famicom-exclusive based on an obscure 1970s anime, which is actually pretty neat, as it provides another rabbit hole to fall into – and what are these but gateways into the bizarre and unknown? It’s the best gift something can give, so if nothing else comes from this pile of pink trash, its value has been extracted.
Things get weird when you start to enter Super Mario territory and you start seeing titles like Super Mario 16, which, you know, isn’t a real thing. They’re all just versions of known games with Mario thrown on top, with no reason for him to actually be there. But if you’re a plumber from Brooklyn who gets flushed down a toilet and finds himself in a mushroom-centric world of fungus people and violent turtles, do you really belong anywhere? Super Bros 6 is Tiny Toon Adventures. Super Mario World 9 is Adventure Island. Mario Bros 10 Kung Fu Mari is Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu. The list goes on.
These should give you a pretty good idea of the type of junk on here, but it gets worse. Chip ‘n Dale : Rescue Rangers 2 is a rare video game worth about $200, and it’s included on this system. But what’s also included is the semi-legendary game Chip ‘n Dale 3, where you’re instantly greeted with a top-down view of a lanky Chip firing a machine gun at tanks. It’s really Heavy Barrel, and even more strangely, this was actually once released on a ‘Famiclone’ cartridge by Realtec, a company in Vietnam. You also dip into games with dumb names, like ‘Crypt Car‘, ‘Glommy Chess’, and ‘Roge Brer’. Some of these trash games actually have some pretty interesting running characters; both ‘Rescue Kuck’ and ‘Conte Enegy’ feature the same character, presumably named Conte based on game files, which is some creepy, flesh-colored Ninja Turtle. Even within this small universe of uselessness, there are characters and running themes. These are the mascots for the cheap and unloved.
After a couple of hours of poking around in the system, the down directional on the controller basically stopped working, so it’s become unplayable without some repairs. Short of that, the K5 is a slightly-above-average junk system. It’s a Game Boy from an alternate universe where everything is worse and dumb, which is saying something given the state of this reality. But best of all, it looks really stupid in a collection, and that’s great. It may be a little overpriced at $14, but it’s worth the laugh.
C. David is a writer and artist living in the Hudson Valley, NY. He loves pinball, Wazmo Nariz, Rem Lezar, MODOK, pogs, Ultra Monsters, 80s horror, and is secretly very enthusiastic about everything else not listed here.