LJN Video Art
The LJN Video Art was an "educational" console manufactured by LJN. It wasn't actually meant to compete against the NES or Master System: rather, it was supposed to be an alternative to television. It even had a jingle:
"If you're like me, you spend all day watching TV.
But then my mama, she got smart!
She got me Video Art!"
It was available sometime in the period between 1985 to 1987 and discontinued very shortly after it first became available. Very little information about it survives, not even the retail price.
Why It Flopped
- It uses a twin-lead TV connector consisting of two U-shaped prongs that were supposed to screw onto two terminals on the TV. Why this was used when it had not been common on televisions since the adoption of the RF connector in the 1970s is unclear: it is rather like shipping a modern PC that only has a floppy disk drive.
- False advertising: On the box are 3 screenshots of artwork that could not possibly have been drawn using the console unless you have professional skills. Below this is a box claiming that it offers “Hours of creative fun for the entire family!”, which is only true if the drive to the store to get a refund is very long.
- The system lacks sound, but still makes horrible static noises (also known as white noise) come from the television while it is running.
- The joystick does not self-center, moves stiffly, has far too much travel to be able to draw with any reasonable precision, and makes a grating squeaking sound whenever it moves. It also has a limited number of directions it actually recognizes as opposed to being analog and requires pressing down on a very large button atop the long, thin joystick to draw, which makes it even harder to control.
- The two erase buttons, image change button, and background color change buttons are placed on the console itself, not on the controller. The two buttons for erasing appears to be because pressing both at once clears the canvas.
- It is only a video game console at the most technical level, as the only thing it can run is a piece of drawing software.
- The system can only run a single program, which is preloaded onto it. The "cartridge" holds nothing but a set of pre-drawn wireframe images to color.
- It's basically a paint program similar to period drawing programs such as MacPaint, Paintbrush (now known as Microsoft Paint or MS Paint for short), and Deluxe Paint, but vastly more primitive.
- Very little content: there are only the simplest tools imaginable, no brush options, and a limited color palette (16 colors, selected using a slider at the top of the controller).
- The console will either load from a ROM cartridge with a set of wireframe images that can be cycled through and colored in or, if no cartridge is inserted, it will load up with a blank canvas.
- The program itself offers about as many activities as a children's coloring book or an Etch A Sketch toy, both of which are cheaper, easier to use, and portable.
- There are only four drawing tools: the two buttons on the controller which lock it to draw vertical or horizontal lines, the eraser (which can only erase either one pixel at a time or the entire canvas), and the background color change tool.
- The program doesn't have a fill tool. The AVGN compared it negatively to Color a Dinosaur, infamous in its own right, but at least has a paint bucket.
- Just to round things off, there is no ability to save drawings!
- You can't even draw a perfect circle. No matter how much you will try, the circle won't be perfectly drawed.
- The console likely has MOS 6502 as its microprocessor.
- It is known that LJN released at least eight additional cartridges with different pre-drawn image sets on them, but they are incredibly rare.
As noted above, there is very little information about the Video Art from the period when it was actually on sale aside from a few commercials, but from its utter obscurity, it can be surmised that it did not do well, and it is known to have been discontinued soon after launch. The extreme scarcity of the additional ROM cartridges for the system suggests that people who did buy it were not particularly enthralled by it.
It became more widely known when it dethroned the R-Zone as the worst console the Angry Video Game Nerd ever played, when he reviewed it during his 12 Days of Shitsmas series on December 22nd, 2014. Many collectors consider it to be the worst console of all time.