What you're seeing is not a hallucination. It is neither the result of partial head trauma, nor an accidental intrusion from an alternate dimension.
It's a plug-and-play video game system marketed by Polaroid.
Walking through an absurdly enormous Target Supercenter last year, I spotted this strange beast hanging on an isle in the electronics section. I knew Polaroid was in bad shape (having declared bankruptcy years ago), but this? It's so bizarre that I had to pick it up.
What I got was a battery powered NES clone with 15 mostly terrible games. No big surprise there. After some searching on the web, I found pictures of this same unit colored translucent blue instead of Polaroid grey — clearly Polaroid licensed this from another manufacturer. But why?
Word on the street (aka "the Internet") says that Polaroid had originally built these games into their Portable DVD players. With that move, Polaroid quietly tiptoed into video game business. Still not satisfied, Polaroid soon launched this re-branded Chinese bargain-bin controller…almost directly into the clearance isles of retail electronics stores across the nation. Little did they know that it would some day make its most famous press appearance ever on Vintage Computing and Gaming.
Seeking Mr. Potato
Exactly 93.333% of the games on the Polaroid system are simple, repetitive distractions that won't hold anyone's attention for more than a minute. They're mostly racing and shooting titles with mediocre graphics: there's a clone of Bump 'n' Jump called Fast Race, a vertical shooter named Last Cabra, and even a game where you catch pelican stool (Birdie Nest). One game stands out from the rest, however. It's called One Day of Mr. Potato, and it's actually pretty fun.
The titular character in One Day of Mr. Potato bears a striking resemblance to Nintendo's globular Kirby, but that's where the similarity ends. Potato's gameplay echoes puzzle-platformers like Donkey Kong (1994) on the Game Boy. The player takes control of Mr. Potato, who must climb ladders and traverse platforms while avoiding or shooting the evil Jack O'Lanterns on richly-illustrated stages. His goal is to retrieve the sole key on each level and release his love (Mrs. Potato?) from a birdcage-like prison. During his quest, Mr. Potato cannot jump, which makes avoiding the perturbed pumpkin people a little more difficult.
I'm hoping that someone out there might have more information on this title. Even better, I'd love to have a dump of the game to play in an emulator. I read somewhere that these games were coded especially for these plug-and-play systems, and they run on a Famicom clone chip, although I have confirmed neither rumor myself. Any information anyone can contribute on Mr. Potato or the Polaroid system itself will be highly welcome. Just leave a comment below.
And now, I'll leave you with several screenshots from the plug-and-play masterpiece, One Day of Mr. Potato. And I apologize in advance: these shots are as high quality as I can get with my crappy old video capture card. Enjoy.