September 18, 1978 12:00 PM

The computer chip explosion has added a new frustration potential to toys. Now they can not only get lost or broken, they can also drive their juvenile owners nuts by outsmarting them. Likewise adults. There are two new reasonably priced computerized games that kids can play with friends or alone (solving what toy manufacturers call “the lonely child syndrome”). These computers can’t handle chess—like the sophisticated, several-hundred-dollar models on the market—but are designed for ages 7 on up. Milton Bradley’s Simon is basically a set of four colored lights that flash in random order; players must punch the sequence back into the contraption in correct order to be rewarded with the sound of a cheer (mistakes get a raspberry). Parker Brothers’ Merlin is more versatile; in addition to the light-sequence games, it offers variations on tic-tac-toe and blackjack and can play electronic-sounding tunes. They’re close in price—Merlin retails for $33, Simon for from $25 to $40—so Merlin is probably a better bargain, though its plastic hand-held apparatus (a little like a phone receiver) seems more fragile than Simon (which resembles a miniature flying saucer). Neither of them beeps “My programmer can lick your programmer,” but that’s probably only a matter of time.

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