Here’s a fad I bet nobody saw coming, although as far as I recall only Tiger Electronics made them so maybe it really wasn’t a fad. The “electronic index” or “E-Dex” (I’m not sure if either is an official term or spelling, but it’s what I call them) was an interesting way to patch in to Hasbro-licensed series. (Hasbro being the owner of Tiger.) The E-Dex’s birth began with the item on the left, the Pokédex, and would continue on to other licenses. Continuing left to right is the “Shepard’s Journal” (Atlantis: The Lost Empire), the Dino-Dex (Jurassic Park 3) and the Jedi Dex (Star Wars). Each contains information about the series or movie it was based on, and all but the Pokédex contains bonus features like a PDA-type method of storing phone numbers, websites, and whatever. These really don’t work very well, because the programmers didn’t bother to allow the date to be updated past 2009, thus making scheduling and alarm functions almost useless. That tells me they didn’t have high hopes for long-term use of their products.
The later three, as well as other E-Dexes, also include a game unique to the property and Dex. I’m not able to get a decent pic of the LCD screens but I can promise you it’s better than the old LCD games they produced all those years ago. The sounds are painful to listen to and these toys didn’t really age well. But let’s open them up and take a look at them in greater detail.
This is where it started, the Pokédex from Pokémon. In the game and expanded media, the Pokédex contains information on Pokémon that you unlock as you find new ones. This helps you keep track of all the little creatures you find and is one of the ways you can play. (Scan them all instead of catching them all.)
This Pokédex came out during the “Yellow” edition of the Game Boy game, and so it only contains the original 150 Pokemon. That’s one of the other problems with these E-Dexes; there is no way to update them with new information, and all but the “Shepard’s Journal” suffered for it. As you can see from the advertisement, you could easily look up information on all 150 Pokemon and it had little animations showing the Pokemon in action or one of their attacks. All the information came from the game’s Pokédex as I recall. You could also keep track of Pokemon you captured in the game, but only 20 of them, which was a bit of a letdown. (Not that I ever played enough to fill the list, mind you.)
Unlike the cartoon, the Pokédex didn’t actually talk and the sound effects were minimal compared to its decedents, only one when it first turns on or scrolling. (You could turn off the scrolling, but not the start-up sound.) The screen is small but the text was huge, making you scroll just to read a full word at times. The others had smaller writing and could fit more information on the screen at a time. I guess it depends on how good your eyes are. Still, this was the first electronic index so it’s to be forgiven. Besides, as I said some of the sounds on the other E-Dexes are kind of ear-breaking.
The “Shepard’s Journal” (the reason the Cartoon Hero is jealous of me) was created to coincide with Disney’s under-appreciated Atlantis: The Lost Empire movie. In the film, a book filled with information about the culture and possible location of Atlantis leads explorers on a big adventure, and this book was the basis for the design of this E-Dex. (A similar one for the Harry Potter movies was released, modified to resemble a spell book. Not being a fan, I didn’t get it.) This was the second E-Dex I picked up, and there were some big differences. For one, some of the sounds were upgraded, with more “audio texture” to it. (Not that the speakers or sound chips were ever that good, although for the times and price it could have been worse.) Scrolling through would give a sound effect emulating a page turn. It got on your nerves after a while.
This was the first E-Dex I came across to feature the PDA functions (the Pokedex contained a calculator, which I assume you could use when visiting a store in the Game Boy game), but like I said, the calendar stops at 2009. It also featured a game where you pilot the submarine trying to reach Atlantis. It’s tough to learn the controls at first but fun once you get the hang of it until the repetitiveness of it sets in. You also couldn’t save your progress. Get hit enough times and lose a life, lose three lives and the game was over. You had to dodge stalactites but some you had to blow up with a torpedo to move forward. This would lead to a first-person mini-game where you had to destroy the debris before it hit your sub. It was an add-on feature and it wasn’t too bad.
The main draw was of course the profiles of characters and vehicles/weapons from the movie. The people behind the film put a lot of effort designing the world of the movie and it shows. This included developing an alphabet and that was also included in the E-Dex. You can barely make it out in the pic, but on the “inside cover” is a decoder list of all the letters used for the Atlantean alphabet created for the film, and there was also a digital version in the E-Dex that you used to write messages to your friends (which you would do on paper, there is no transmission function to these things) or just play around.
Really, unless you were a fan of the movie (which I am) there wasn’t anything here. However, while a TV series was attempted (unsuccessfully, although you can find the few made episodes shoved into a rather poor “direct-to-video” would-be sequel movie) there was no reason to need to update this E-Dex unlike the others so you can still enjoy it. Again, if your that big a fan of the movie.
The “Dino Dex” is designed to resemble a walkie-talkie but opens up to reveal a “secret” computer. That makes this a better “role-play” toy than anything else on this list with the exception of the Pokedex. For the bio section we get a selection of dinosaurs, but not all the ones that were known of at the time. I’m pretty sure they just used the ones that were in the movie and a few of the more famous ones. I remember trying to look up certain breeds to find they weren’t in there. The instruction booklet claims 72 different dinosaurs.
The other features are the same as the Journal, except that there was obviously no translation game or sub game. Instead we have a “game simulator” (I guess the people working at the Park took a game break now and then) with two games. One has you selecting a dinosaur and having it do battle with another dinosaur. You could take control of the dinosaur or let the computer control both while you watch. It was fun, but the sounds for the dinosaurs would drive you up the wall.
The other lets you play mad scientist, selecting part of each of four dinosaurs; velociraptor, compsognathus, tyrannosaurus (naturally), and triceratops were your choices. You chose which one would supply the head, torso, legs, and tail of your dinosaur, either from the same dino or mix and match. Then you could watch it grow. This was rather well programmed, as whatever time was set on the Dino Dex would determine if the dinosaur was awake, asleep, eating, pooping, or running from other dinosaurs as your baby dino grew. You didn’t even have to have it on, so sometimes you would turn on your Dino Dex, go to check on your dinosaur only to find “Larry” had been killed by another dinosaur while you slept or went to grandma’s house. If you decided to create a new dino while your old one was still around, it would be dropped into a pit of dinos to be eaten. That’s cool, but kind of sadistic.
The Dino Dex (and I wish I could find footage of it) was also set up with the best interface of all the E-Dexes in this review. It resembled an early Windows or Mac OS interface, which added to the illusion that this was a device meant to help the “zookeepers” of Jurassic Park keep an eye on the dinosaurs. Even the “password lock” feature (common to all the E-Dexes to protect your personal lists and notes) had a little animation to indicate the password was active or approved. Some of the interface sounds were pretty good and not as ear-raping as other sounds. The dino noises are another story. The Jurassic Park 3 Dino Dex is probably the best E-Dex in this list. All it was missing was the ability to be used as an actual walkie-talkie, but they probably couldn’t have fit that in.
The biggest problem with the Star Wars Jedi Dex is that it came out too soon. Granted, the Electronic Index was running out of steam, but being released during the second prequel film, Attack of the Clones, means it missed out on the information from the third movie, which included the actual origin of Darth Vader and the Emperor making his big move for power. Designed to resemble the Jedi’s personal communicator, it included information from the original trilogy, which takes away from the role-play element.
The basics are all there, but the characters, alien species, droids, and vehicles all had separate lists to go through. Again, the usual storage stuff was there (including the schedule that only goes up to 2009). The game function was simply a trivia game, testing both internal and external Star Wars trivia. It could ask you about one of the actors and then about a character in the story. This also took away from the “role-play” element, but it actually kept track of your score. However, you couldn’t answer more than five questions per day (again, internal clock). As I said, it’s missing elements from the third movie and these things can’t be updated so while it isn’t a bad E-Dex it’s still a letdown.
Overall, I’m wondering if I’ll hold on to these or not. I’ll probably keep the Pokedex if I ever start playing my old copy of Pokémon Yellow, but I’m a bit more iffy on the others. Shepard’s Journal isn’t something I’m bound to look to for reference, the Dino Dex I’d probably be more apt to keep, and the Jedi Dex is only good for the trivia game as I can easily look up all that information on the official Star Wars website. (Perhaps if I needed an offline reference but I don’t do a lot with Star Wars.) I think when I’m further down the clutter clearing line I’ll give these another look to see how badly I really need or want them.