Gaming

The Rare Yet Worthless Canadian Game Console

This is the box for the Game Wave Family Entertainment System and, really, there’s only one way to describe it: massive! This box is an absolute behemoth which is odd, seeing how light it is.

Of note on the box itself are 3 things. First off, this is the original Game Wave package, as it comes with the game 4 Degree: The Arc of Trivia: Volume 1 as the pack-in title. The only other Game Wave that was ever made came from shortly before it was discontinued and that contained the Veggie Tales game.

Second off, the box proudly advertises that 6 can play this console at once even though it only comes with 4 controllers. Though, new controllers can be bought now still from some online stores such as the official Veggie Tales store for $25 CAD per-two pack. This is refreshing compared to the $100 CAD for a pair of Nintendo Switch Joy Cons! The third thing of note is the advertising here of this system coming with AV composite cables and S-Video cables. Now, composite and S-Video are not stunning video output methods nowadays. In fact, they seem quite antiquated.

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The Game Wave did not do component video or HDMI but to be fair, though, it does have a very sharp looking S-Video, as you can see in this footage here, captured through my Blackmagic Intensity Extreme Shuttle (via an upscaler). Keep in mind, even in 2005, component video was already fairly standard on consoles. It was most likely just omitted here as some sort of cost-cutting measure. The Game Wave had originally retailed new for only $100 CAD, but ZAPiT Games during development had targeted a price point of only $50, though that was just not possible.

In many ways, though, as we’ll see, this system was built to a cost. Anyways, back to the box, as huge as it is, it’s actually very easy to open. Game Wave boxes typically weren’t sealed and were held shut only by 4 easy to open tabs. Once in, the console, controller case, and 4 controllers are enclosed in some high-quality feeling plastic that’s all surrounded by some hefty pieces of styrofoam. In here we can also find a warranty card, a black and white manual, and some AA batteries that I think are well past their expiration date.

Those can all just go in the trash. The controllers are located inside the controller case and honestly the feel more like TV remotes than actual video game controllers. The case itself, though, is pretty nice! The plastic here does feel fairly cheap though it doesn’t feel unsteadily built and the clear cover on top here is a sure-fire way to prevent these controllers from collecting dust. Honestly, I do like this idea of a console coming with a controller case especially as this one slots in right next to the console itself, giving it its signature “wave” look! Going on to the controllers, they’re really nothing special.

The buttons here feel like something from my high school calculator and the button setup here feels like something straight out of the 1980s. There’s 4 buttons on the top of the controller – A, B, C, and D – and below that is a squishy array of arrow buttons with a number array right below that, which itself seems like something better fit for the Intellivision or Colecovision, not something that came out roughly a month before the Xbox 360. The best thing that I can say about these controllers is that, on 2 AA batteries, they last quite awhile and, yes, they do feel fairly well built, at least well enough to be handled by kids. Now we get to the system itself.

This is the Game Wave console itself, also wrapped in plastic, with its built-in, non-removable power cable also encased in its own bundle of plastic. This built-in power cable is another design choice that reminds me of consoles from the ’80s, not something from around a decade ago. But anyways, as for the actual build quality and whatnot, I actually really love the metallic plastic’s look and feel on ir. It kind of reminds me of the Motorola Razr flip phones from back in the day. As for the look of it, I think that the chrome wave it forms with the controller case is kind of cool. But, on its own, it looks just like a fairly standard DVD player (with an ugly bump on it), which I guess makes sense as the Game Wave can function as one of those and, indeed, was sometimes advertised as a DVD player.

[GIRL] Hey Mike, is that your DVD player? [MIKE] No no, that’s the Game Wave, but it also plays movies! You know, it was really easy to set up. Now, it plays all sorts of games but what we’re going to do is we’re going to play a trivia game with multiple choices. [JAMES] Turning the console around to the back, we can see where the power cable comes out, the AV and S-Video ports, and an expansion port of which nothing was ever done with. So before we open this thing up, I decided that I was going to power it on and test it out.

But then, for a second, I thought it was broken, despite being new in box! I could just not get the disc tray to open, no matter what I did! And that’s when I learnd about one of the Game Wave’s weirdest quirks: to get it to open the disc tray, you have to plug it into a TV, turn it on, let it boot up, and then you can insert a disc. Even weirder, unlike most disc-based consoles, where they encourage you to turn off the system completely before changing games, you are somewhat encouraged here to pop out discs and change games at any time.

Perhaps this is helped by none of the games here having to save any real data, but we’ll get to those. So now, let’s finally actually open this thing up! To get inside, we have to unscrew some screws on the back and on the bottom of the console, and there’s a ton of them! Like, there have to be at least 20 screws in total.

And that’s just on the outer case! But also, most of these screws, except for these 2 little black screws here, are all the same size, so that’s nice. What we’ll also notice here is that though most of the outer shell of the console is made of plastic, the bottom of the system is actually made of metal. This, I guess, makes sense as that’s where all of the major components lay. So as we strip away the layers of the shell and unscrew parts such as the power button, now would be a good time to mention that ZAPiT Games themselves did not design this console themselves.

The actual design was farmed out to and then design by Ontario firm Nytric LTD., who were merely given a set of specifications to meet and then were allowed to go to town on the design, as long as ZAPiT Games had the final say, of course. The idea was for the Game Wave to be a cheap, easy to use family entertainment centre, one that would not just function as a game console but also as a cheap, DVD-based media machine. So anyways, despite how many screws there are it’s really easy to open up. The main thing to note when opening this thing up is that the internal components use a smaller screw size than on the outside case. So finally, we’re in! The only thing attached to the top part of the case is the power button, and we can make quick work of that.

Now, the first things we’ll see is the DVD drive and power supply. These were developed by Fuss and the Jong Deh Electronic Factory in Shenzhen, China, and excuse me if I butchered any of those names. This was actually the design team’s second choice for a disc drive. It ended up that the Sanyo drive that the console was originally designed with got discontinued partway through development. The sticker on top of the drive here kindly warns us that there is “Invisible laser radiation when open and interlocks defeated” and that tells us to “do not stare into beam”! Well that sounds inviting!

And by inviting, I mean it’s inviting us to unscrew the drive and see what is underneath! Unfortunately, my disc drive only went so far before getting caught on something, and as a result, one of our major chips seems to be obscured. I know I could’ve pried a little more and whatnot, but, honestly, as worthless as Game Wave systems are, they are hard to find and I didn’t want to risk having to replace this one.

So, this is as far as this drive is going for now. Apparently over 70,000 Game Wave systems were sold, but there’s telling how many of that number include systems like mine that ultimately ended up sitting, collecting dust for years in warehouses around North America. Besides, seeing as ZAPiT Games already had some shady things surrounding them, that number could be inflated.

Anyways, this large chip here is the heart of the machine. That there is a Mediamatics 8611 processor, a very uncommon chip for game machines since it was aimed more at high quality video playback than for anything resembling actual gameplay. This can be seen by the Game Wave’s games having some truly beautiful animations in them but not a lot of gameplay intensive, well, game sections. Covered here but seeable in this picture I found while researching ZAPiT Games is the Altera Max II CPLD, which is the chip responsible for allowing the DVD drive and processor to work together. There were apparently some issues during development in trying to get the disc drive and Mediamatics processor to work together due to the disc drive here functioning a little differently than the originally intended Sanyo drive.

I don’t know the exact details of the problem itself but apparently said problem was so perplexing that a new loader had to be designed for the console, jointly developed by Altera, National Semiconductor, and Nytric LTD. Finally here we have 2 memory chips, provided by company ISSI. The Game Wave contains 2 megabytes of flash memory along with 16 megabytes of SRAM. Also powering this system is something that, I guess to some extent, can be called an operating system, and that’s National Semiconductor’s “Navigator”.

This is software that allows for games and DVDs to be booted, the console launch sequence itself to be performed, and for drive open/close messages to be displayed. And really, that’s it! This is everything powering this system and especially by 2005 standards, it is not impressive. There is only one known variant of the Game Wave hardware that is known to have made it out into the wild and those were development kits sold by Nytric LTD. and ZAPiT Games, and those kits clearly didn’t sell very well seeing as the Game Wave had only 1 licensed title and 0 3rd party games. But, that’s enough of that.

Let’s put the console back together and take all of these still-sealed out of their plastic wrap! I should mention, I don’t usually collect sealed games, but the collector in me also doesn’t like opening sealed retro games. But also, even though these games are hard to find, much like the console itself, they’re virtually worthless and there’s very little footage of them online. But then agian, maybe the comment section is right and these games will suddenly be worth a ton of money after having some Canada-based YouTuber do a weird video on them, but all snark aside, the games we’re looking at today are as follows: we have 4 Degrees: The Arc of Trivia: Volume 1, Lock 5, 4 Degrees: The Arc of Trivia: Bible Edition, Rewind, Rewind 2006, – which comes on 2 discs, by the way – and Letter Zap! All were new-old-stock. All in great condition.

And, all of these came with these really nice fold-out full-colour instruction pamphlets, though I swear some of these logos just scream “graphic design is my passion!” Not featured here today are 4 Degrees: The Arc of Trivia: Volume 2, Click!, – yes, with an exclamation mark in the name – Gemz, Rewind 2005, Sudoku, Zap 21, and, of course, Veggie Tales: Veg Out! Family Tournament. Apparently the rarest of these games is Gemz, and, as I found through a recent Twitter interaction, getting a complete set of Game Wave games can be quite difficult, even if such a feat could likely be done for under $100 USD. With that said, I have no desire to do so, though if anyone knows where I can find that Veggie Tales game, please hit me up! Now, let’s look at the games I have.

Starting off here is Lock 5. After a 45-second long loading screen, and a pretty flashy intro, we can start playing this puzzle game in which… actually, you know what? I think the included “How to Play” video can do it more justice than I can. This game, along with having a kind-of confusing premise, will allow me to show off something that I think is a pretty cool feature of all these Game Wave games: along with coming with full-colour instruction manuals, they all also come with “How to Play” videos on the disc, and that’s pretty cool! [ANNOUNCER] In Lock 5, you collect numbers in an attempt to match the combinations listed on the scoreboards and score as many points as possible. At the beginning of each round, the cylinder at the top will fill with 5 random numbers between 1 and 6, and the same numbers will be given to each player.

Players can then choose which of those numbers they want to keep by locking them in using the number buttons on the remote. Once players have locked in their numbers, the top numbers will spin again and any unlocked numbers below will be replaced with a new number. Players will then get one more chance to lock in new numbers before the third and final spin of the round. After the third spin, all of the numbers will automatically lock into place! [JAMES] Anyways, I think you get the point.

I’ve watched this video several times and I still have no idea of much of what’s going on here. With that said, the fact that this game was sold at $25 CAD for a home console is, well, kind of shocking. There’s just not a lot here at all. Not only am I not sure of what’s going on, but literally this is all this game has going for it!

And also I should mention, when they say these games are for “Up to 4 Players!” what they should really say is “For 2-4 Players”! because of all of the games we’re looking at today, none of them have a single player mode!

I guess when they say “Family Entertainment System” they mean it in the sense of “You should play these with your family… since you obviously can’t play them alone.” So, okay, Lock 5 is kind of a bust but how about the pack-in game, 4 Degrees: The Arc of Trivia? We’re actually going to lump both versions of this game that I own in together. So, we’re going to be looking at both the pack-in version, 4 Degrees: Volume 1, and the later-released 4 Degrees: Bible Edition, which was a title developed as part of a plan to hopefully reach Evangelicals in the United States. Actually, before we go on, can we talk about how many variants there are in the Game Wave library?

Sure, there are 13 official Game Wave games, but 3 of those are variants of 4 Degrees and 3 of those are variants of Rewind, so technically speaking, there are only 9 original games for the Game Wave. 4 Degrees, though, was one that ZAPiT Games was clearly very proud of, as not only were there 3 different versions of it for the Game Wave, but it also later got a cellphone port in 2008 or so, making it ZAPiT Games’ only mobile title. 4 Degrees, in both of the versions that I own, is a simple trivia game. You and your fellow players have a wheel with various categories of questions on it and each take turns in selecting a category. You then press the corresponding button on your controller to make your answer choice, you get additional hints and have answers eliminated as the timer counts down, but for the most points, you need to answer correctly as fast as possible. It’s a simple trivia game but, like anything remotely similar to Trivial Pursuit, it’s actually really fun with friends!

By the way, all the footage you’re seeing right now was recorded solo – which, I know, boring – but, I did later go through and play some of these with Elliot, my fiancĂ©. As weird and dumb as it sounds that none of these games have a single player mode, most of them are actually quite fun with friends in kind of that board game kind of way, and that includes 4 Degrees: Volume 1 here. As for 4 Degrees: Bible Edition, it’s more of the same but Bible-themed. Now, as I spent a huge chunk of my childhood deep in the American South, you’d think I’d actually be great at this. But also, as you’d expect seeing as I’m Jewish, the only questions I could actually consistently get right here involved the Old Testament. So next up we have Rewind and Rewind 2006.

These games were apparently originally intended for trivia-centric Game Wave systems that would be used in restaurants or so I’ve heard but that never panned out. With that said, these are more modern trivia-themed, with Rewind 2006, in particular, containing trivia specific to, well, 2005 and 2006. After inputting your name – which is a staple of every Game Wave game I played, like, seriously, these all use the same name-input screen – you are then given a variety of mini-categories where you have to answer questions. It’s another simple trivia game but this one has a few game modes. Honestly, it’s not bad but, also, of the 5 games we’ve looked at so far, 4 have been trivia games, and if that’s not telling about the nature of this system, I don’t know what is! Then again, even some of those who worked on it that I interviewed admitted that the Game Wave was essentially just a DVD player capable of some basic processing.

Now before we move on, you may be wondering what’s on the second disc of Rewind 2006 and the answer is… just more questions. They didn’t even give it a different UI or anything. So, yeah. I wonder why they couldn’t fit this all on the same DVD?

The next game here is Letter Zap and honestly, this is my favourite game… well, my favourite Game Wave game, anyways. I know that doesn’t sound like much as Lock 5 is one of the worst things I’ve ever played, but, trust me. It’s fun. In this game, you’re given a board where you have to assemble as many words as you can from a randomly generated set of letters to earn as many points as possible to beat your opponents. There’s also another mode, called Letter Zap Tag!, where you actually compete with your friends to assemble as many words as possible from a massive board.

Both modes are fun. Both modes are simple. Yes, both modes have about as much gameplay as my DVD copy of the Mega Man cartoon series, but with friends this game can get fast and frantic and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a lot of fun playing this one. And now, we have the final game that we’re going to show off here so let’s take a look at Super Mario Bros… okay, it’s not a game. It’s the movie. The live action one.

On DVD. It’s horrible! It’s also not technically a Game Wave game (though it is being played by my Game Wave) but it makes me wonder if through some sort of technical wizardry if Super Mario Bros., the original game, could be ported to the Game Wave. So with that, that’s it for today’s teardown and showcase of the Game Wave!

It was something different than a buying guide or a documentary but I hope it was a great way to celebrate Canada Day and, who knows, if you enjoyed this then let me know in the comment section, and maybe I’ll do some similar vids in the future or even go so far as to restore some old consoles and show you my process! And of course, don’t forget to subscribe to Stuff We Play and maybe even join great folks such as The Golden Bolt and Justin Chipman over on Patreon if you feel so inclined, because, trust me, the support is very much so appreciated. Now, instead of doing my usual end-of-video spiel, I’m going to leave you with something pretty cool! Since I’ve mentioned it so many times, here’s the full trailer for Veggie Tales: Veg Out! Family Tournament.

There’s no speaking in it or anything, but it does at least show the game off enough so you can get an idea of what it’s like. One last fun fact, by the way: as far as I know, this is the only Game Wave game to have been given a dedicated trailer… yikes! (Trailer Plays)