Words and Thoughts — June 1, 2023

Hello again, alleged readers. For those of you that have been longtime readers of this manual, it is no secret that I have a whimsical fascination with 1970s game technology. Some have attempted to label my fascination as “unhealthy”, “intrusive”, or “indicative of severe neurosis”. Yet it is with the utmost fervor that I slap a hypothetical label maker from the hypothetical hand of those who carelessly sling such labels about with the hypothetical adhesive backing already removed. I’ve always asked, “If you’re not spending upwards of 17 hours every third day investing time into some aspect of 1970s gaming technology, then what the hell are you doing?”

People know I always ask that.

Last week, I was able to get my hands, of which I have two (which is above average for a human), on a real piece of history: A fully functioning Yugoslav approximation of Whac-A-Mole called Udarajte Malim Čekićem, or Hit with a Small Hammer.  Owing to the immense initial success of the original Japanese versions Mogura Taiji (Mole Buster) and the subsequent Mogura Tataki (Mole Smash), the Yugoslavians saw potential in the untapped Balkan market.

Unwilling to pay for translation services between Serbo-Croat and Japanese in order to negotiate the import of the Japanese originals, management at Jugoslavenska Tvrtka za Turbine i Zagonetke (Yugoslavian Turbine and Puzzle Company) set about creating a home-grown version of the game on their own. Thus, Hit with a Small Hammer was born a short six years later.

I am unable to furnish a picture of the game in my possession at this time because I’m between disposable cameras right now. But allow me to describe it for you:  

The shell of the game is a laminate veneer made to look like solid concrete, typical of the Brutalist architectural cues of the era. Much more subdued than its Japanese counterpart, or even the eventual American version of “Whac-a-Mole” that many will be familiar with, there are only two lights present on the entire game: one is a yellow bulb 2/3 of the way up the left side of the shell, which indicates if the machine is plugged in; the other light is red and does not appear to have a function pertaining to the game, as it flashes intermittently at all times.  

Hit with a Small Hammer features one speaker bolted to the top of the game itself. The sonic accompaniment to the game appears to be a recording, of a recording, of the black box from Aeroflot Flight 6502.

Most striking, no pun intended, are the targets the player is meant to hit. Instead of moles, it appears that the fine folks over at Yugoslavian Turbine and Puzzle Company opted for heads taken from various dolls available to them at the time. Most of the heads themselves do not move at all, save for the one in the top left corner that slowly rotates counterclockwise. Also, the “whacking” is device just a ball peen hammer.

Finally, for ease of transport of the game between both arcades in Belgrade, the game is mounted on 4 extremely well-built wheels on rotational bearings. The wheels however do not lock, or otherwise disengage, therefore the game presents the added challenge of ensuring that it does not roll away when in use, or at any other time. 

In the time that it’s taken me to write this, the game should now be adequately cooled down for another round of play. I have not figured out how to disable the unvented heating element housed below the game surface that engages right around the completion of the 3rd loop of the Aeroflot crash recording. If any alleged reader has any experience with this issue, and any possible remedy, please do write to me.