Released in 1978 by Coleco, Amaze-A-Tron was an electronic maze game for 1 or 2 players. It is one of the earliest computer-controlled handheld games invented by iconic game developer and engineer, Ralph Baer.
A simple electronic game like others of its time (think Simon, Merlin, and Comp IV), Amaze-A-Tron was controlled by an integrated microprocessor—the TMS-100 from Texas Instruments—and powered by a 9-volt battery or an AC adapter.
The game offered 8 different computer-generated mazes—2 for solitary play and 6 for partnered play—and boasted over a million different variations. The pre-programmed games had names such as Blind Alley Maze, Back to Start Maze, and Solitaire Maze.
The plastic game unit featured a 5 x 5 grid of squares numbered 1 to 25. The processor determined each player’s starting square and then, through a series of guesses, players raced to get through the maze.
Red and green LED lights with corresponding “songs” were used for player identification. A two-digit LED readout determined each game’s start, while audio cues provided feedback—a musical jingle sounded when a player chose the correct next square in the maze, while a “raspberry” sound indicated a wrong choice. Other sounds included a “Tick-Tock” tone for the timer and a “Winner’s Song” to celebrate success.
In a two-player game, players alternated turns. If a one made a correct guess, they continued to guess until they raspberried, at which point their opponent took a turn. The first player to reach their opponent’s starting position, thus completing the maze, was declared the winner.
The million variations made it difficult to memorize play patterns.
The game was packaged with four playing pieces—two plastic pawns to move on the board and two start-finish space markers—and a storage compartment to keep them. Printed instructions were also included.
Todd Coopee is Editor-in-Chief of Toy Tales, an online publication that covers toys and games past and present.