Friday, February 3, 2023

Labyrinth Repair Shop

Long ago – more than a decade now, if you can believe it – I wrote a Retrospective post in which I talked about the Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game released by Mattel Electronics in 1980. Though I never owned the game myself, a close friend of mine did and I took advantage of this fact to play it as often as I could. Though I'm not certain that I could unambiguously call it a "good" game, I nevertheless retain a weird affection for it, as I do for many other examples of transitional technology from my long-ago youth.

Rob Conley alerted me to the existence of a blog post over at Old Vintage Computer Research, in which the author pulls out his copy of the game (which he barely played at the time he first received it), examines it in detail, and then sets about repairing it so that he can finally get around to playing it after all these years. It's a terrific post, filled with lots of information on the inner working of the game. I suspect it'll be of great interest to anyone who, like myself, has a fondness for the electronic "boardgames" of the late '70s and early '80s.

(As an aside, it's worth noting that this game, as well as the slightly later Dungeons & Dragons Computer Fantasy Game, are D&D-branded rather than AD&D-branded, like the Intellivision game cartridges that appeared in 1982. I assume this is the result of various legal and financial wranglings at TSR vis à vis Dave Arneson, but have no proof of this one way or the other. Regardless, it's yet another fascinating wrinkle in the long history of attempts to turn Dungeons & Dragons into a mass market consumer brand.)


  1. The good thing about most of the 70's/80's electronics is that they can usually be fixed with cheap off-the-shelf components, some DIY knowledge gleaned from the Internet, and a little soldering. I've been steeped in the Commodore 64 scene for several years now, and there are enthusiasts there who meticulously maintain their 40-year-old beige boxes -- 'recapping' leaky capacitors, scrubbing the circuit boards, replacing or upgrading certain chips, etc. -- in much the same manner you'd see in a car enthusiast. Some of them even build their own 'hot rod' versions of the computer, with flashy custom cases and 21st Century additions like HDMI or USB ports!

    Anyway, in most cases the problem is usually just one faulty component, but sadly that's enough for an owner to declare the toy/game/computer irrevocably 'broken' and consign it to the garbage. Kinda sad...

  2. I remember seeing this game in a Sears Christmas Catalog (the Wish Book) as a 13 year old, around the same time I first heard of D&D. It looked exciting, cool, and it being electronic was icing on the cake, all the things 13 year old boys found fresh and fascinating at the time. But, alas, I wasn't to get it then or ever.

    Fast forward several decades and I'm watching a playthrough of the game on YouTube. Hmm ... yeah, well, maybe I would have liked it as a 13 year old. Maybe.

  3. I had this game. It was no Dark Tower, but it was interesting. I was probably too young when I got it at Christmas (11-ish) to fully understand how to play it. And I didn't have many folks to play it with. ... The pieces are what have stood the test of time. I still have a few of them tucked into a drawer somewhere. They're really nice.

  4. I got this quite a few years before knowing what D&D was. You moved around the board trying to find the treasure chest and avoiding the dragon, clunky computer sounds told you if you walked into walls and when the dragon flew around.

    I remember having fun with it but only played it a handful of the times.