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Moppet Video was an arcade game manufacturer back in the early 1980s. Their story is a sad one indeed.

Moppet made games for young children. They made beautiful looking, fun games in little four foot tall arcade machines that were shaped just like the big ones that adults and older kids play. They made a few thousand copies of each of their games, and they were fairly popular with little kids back in the early 1980s.

But they sold all their games to Chuck E. Cheese. Now Chuck E. Cheese has a rather draconian policy for getting rid of their old games. They do not sell them, or give them away to employees, or even throw them away like so many other companies do. Instead they destroy them at the component level. That way they can write them off on their taxes, and they don't have to worry about their old machines showing up in a competitors place (this policy was apparently instituted by Nolan Bushnell, who was the founder of both Atari and Chuck E. Cheese).

Today there are only two of them left, a Pirate Treasure and a Leprechaun. Thats it, the other ones have all been destroyed or have otherwise vanished. Now there may be a few more that no one knows about, but as I write this today, those two games are the only ones known to be left.

That really pisses me off. A stupid corporate tax policy has completely destroyed the first video games ever designed for young children. You can't buy one of these to put into your basement for the little ones, nor will you ever see one at your local pizza shop. They are all gone because of Nolan Bushnell's greediness, and that coming from a man who helped to get the whole video game industry started. You think he would have cared a little bit more. I guess not.

Moppet Video Games
  • Desert Race

    A simple driving game controlled with a 2-Way joystick and a single button. You just get to steer a little cart around, and you get points for dodging obstacles (with no penalties for not dodging them). The button makes a horn sound that has no effect on the game at all.

  • Leprechaun

    You get to control a little Leprechaun in the forest using only a joystick. This is a highly modified version of Pot of Gold by Gameplan.

  • Pirate Treasure

    In this one you move a pirate ship from island to island (using only a joystick), while trying to avoid the black pirate ship, and the volcano that it makes. This one has a lot of great sound effects, and was supposed to be the best one out of them all.

  • Tugboat

    This is Desert Race with different graphics and sound effects. In this one you pilot a tugboat on the river, and get to toot your horn for no particular reason.

I have also found a few mentions of two more Moppet titles, Big Paw's Cave and Noah's Ark. Those two titles are described by Nekojin and SparroHawc below.


Update

A Desert Race (without monitor) has surfaced in Grady, Arkansas, and the same collector has managed to piece together a Noah's Ark as well . So now there are four known to be left.

Updated Update Nov 2002

Over the last six months or so the Moppet count has gone up to around 8 or 9. Almost all of them in the hands of Todd at TNT Amusements and "SweetestCOCGuy" from Arkansas.

I've seen and played some Moppet Video games back when they were actually in production, around 15 years ago (1986 or 1987). There was a Chuck E. Cheese in Redondo Beach that had several of them.

I don't recall why I had been in that area, as it wasn't anywhere near my home, but I know I was walking home for some reason. I had a few quarters in my pocket, and decided to stop into the Chuck E. Cheese to see if they had any new games, and kill some time. I saw these little waist-high games, and decided, "what the heck." I walked up to them and checked them out. I remember that they had Tugboat, Leprechaun, and Noah's Ark. They were so small that I had to kneel to play them.

I dropped a quarter into Noah's Ark, amused at the idea. I found that I was playing Noah, and my task was to collect pairs of animals, and bring them to the ark. Simple enough that even a 6-year-old could do it (Which, of course, was the whole point of this company's games). I played the game for nearly half an hour before getting bored and leaving.

The game starts off with a couple of pairs of animals and a slowly-rising flood (It's a vertically-scrolling game, with the Ark at the top, and the water slowly reducing the playfield). Each level gets progressively more difficult by adding more and more pairs of animals - if I remember correctly, the higher levels have fantastical animals like unicorns. The game's strategy was in that you had to collect BOTH of a pair of animals before you could take them to the Ark. If you collected one, and the other got swallowed up by the rising flood waters, you lose. That's the ONLY way to lose, in fact... get stuck holding one of a pair of animals after the other is lost.

I suspect that the purpose of the Moppet Video games is to keep young children who aren't old enough to understand the complexities of "normal" video games busy for extended periods of time, so that their brothers, sisters, and parents can enjoy the rest of the video games without interference. They can't have been very profitable, with how easy they were.

As TheBooBooKitty mentioned some of the 'lost' Moppet titles, I remember going to Harborview Hospital in Seattle, in the maternity area... And in the little kids' area with the thick cardboard books, the building blocks, and the various similar toys, tucked against a wall and with a small stool in front of it was Big Paw's Cave.

It was fairly simple - you controlled Brother Bear, a member of the Berenstain Bears family, who was traversing through Big Paw's cave for some reason I cannot fathom. It may have been to rescue Sister Bear or somesuch, but I can't remember. You moved Brother Bear with a joystick, along a path that ran back and forth multiple times, and got longer for each progressive level. If you accidentally stepped off of the path, you would fall to your demise. Additionally, there were bats and falling stalactites that you had to avoid. The first level was short and easy, but as far as I know, the game never ends, and the bats and stalactites really are difficult to avoid when you're on a little path and the bats zigzag and the stalactites fall quickly and oh no there isn't enough room to move but I'll try anywaAAAAAUGH I FELL OFF!

Probably one of very few Moppet Video titles that is actually difficult at some point. I know I really enjoyed it when I first saw it.

Just a comment on the original post, re: Leprechaun by Moppet Video. The player controls a little person, not a leprechaun. The goal is to steal the pot of gold from the leprechaun, who moves the pot around the screen.

You get more points by running through trees, which changes them to a different color. The leprechaun runs around changing the trees back to their original color. This makes no sense, but that's what you do in the game.

I remember playing this at the Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area (probably San Jose) in 1982.

Lastly, this comment is not quite accurate form the original post: "This is a highly modified version of Pot of Gold by Gameplan." Actually, the game is identical except for the name on the intro screen. I believe the rights to produce the game were sold by Moppet Games to another company. They just changed the name and put the same ROMs in a different cabinet.

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