-By Frank Donovan
Somebody once posited that the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. By that definition, just about all ’90s kids are insane for buying (or rather, forcing their parents to buy) games and toys that we NEEDED after being seduced by the most impossibly enticing commercials that basically promised a lifetime of joy and fulfillment. We usually tried the products once before we became bored, disappointed, and somehow, wanting more.
We’ve assembled some of the worst offenders, toys in the ’90s that promised the world and gave us only a weird feeling in the pit of our stomachs—that is, the crushing disappointment of reality. Enjoy!
Easy Bake Oven
You thought you were getting on your Barefoot Contessa steez, but turned out your amazing new appliance was actually a lightbulb (not included) in a box. Bring on the lukewarm brownie batter goo! Want to share some with friends? Too bad, it’s only big enough to make a single serving.
Here’s how this probably went down: some genius factory manager realized he had barrels of industrial waste on his hands and saw a brilliant marketing opportunity. You can never underestimate how much kids love to get dirty, but this stuff immediately got filled with dirt and hair and started to look like something out of Ahh! Real Monsters. Useless. See also: Floam.
Huffy Street Rocker
We know exactly where you’ll go on this delicate flower of a vehicle—the smoothest, flattest surface imaginable. At any hint of potholes, inclines, or any topography whatsoever, these bikes stopped dead in their tracks and pretty soon you were the dork who carried his bike everywhere. Trust us: We. Were. There. So best to rule out any trips to the edge of the solar system until you get a Big Wheel or something. But at least the built-in radio provides nice static while you’re doing doughnuts in your driveway.
Cool Tools!!!1! If we made them a little bit better, they could have been Real Tools! You know, that actually work! But these are Cool Tools! Almost like the real thing! Cool Tools! Go bang on shit for a while until it breaks and then someobe has to fix it with Real Tools! False sense of accomplishment not included.
Nintendo Virtual Boy
Back when Nintendo execs were drunk on N64 profits and vacationing on Koopatroopa Beach with Princess Peach, they came up with the concept of virtual reality video gaming. And by “virtual reality,” we mean “red lines you have to peer into a pair of binoculars to see.” The commercial shows the thing walking around, but you’re actually stuck using it on the breakfast bar, or whatever flat surface your parents allow. Oh, and fun fact: the commercials neglected to mention the headaches and occasional seizures that caused Virtual Boy to be yanked from the shelves after a short time.
Sock ‘Em Boppers
Time of our lives? No. Dumbass kids over-inflated these mitts until they were the density of a two-by-four, and then proceeded to pummel you with them until they ultimately popped. Game over.
Slip & Slide
Let’s take it step by step. First you have to take a running start only to throw yourself on the ground. Then the soft flesh of your underbelly gets ripped away by plastic seams, or any rocks that happen to be underneath the thin sheet. After sliding a grand total of three inches, you’re bleeding in a puddle.
Even though we’re lumping Power Wheels in with all these childhood disappointments, they were actually the holy grail of ’90s kids toys. While they did deliver on the promise of transporting you and your best bud from point A to point B, the commercials failed to mention that you had to charge these vehicles for what felt like weeks before they had enough power to move. Not to mention, they didn’t go nearly as fast as they did in the commercial. Major points to the advertisers for cutting to actual adult-size vehicles in this commercial. You’re not fooling us…anymore.
We’re pretty sure you can get more air by jumping with your own feet than in these clunky ass plastic boxes with rubber bands. Just putting the damn things together was a hazardous undertaking. Does your insurance cover moon shoe-related injuries? If so, try at your own risk of severe ankle injury and a jaunt to the ER.
Strike 1: Even though they warned us at the last second that the cards don’t talk, they spent the whole commercial putting the idea in our heads that they did. Not cool. Strike 2: After a couple rounds, you could play this game from start to finish in all of 2 minutes. Not a ton of replay value, Milton Bradley.
When you look at the discrepancy between the commercial and the actual game, it’s like the ad agency was being sarcastic when it pitched this commercial to its client. Flames, thunder and lightning, and hoverboards were used to sell the activity of launching a marble at a plastic disc to get it into the goal. They promised the fight of the century, but the real game had us wanting our money back.
Street Fighter II handheld TIGER game
We’re picking on Street Fighter II, but this applies to basically all TIGER games. They set the stakes real high and hooked us with the implication that this might be anything like playing the original Street Fighter II. But the blinking line drawings that are TIGER games simply did not generate any modicum of excitement.
Rappin’ Rockin’ Barbie
This is oversold by virtue of the fact that there is literally nothing you can do to make Barbie have flow. And the beats blow.