Game & Watch Donkey Kong refurbish

Donkey Kong

In this post I aim to refurbish a poor Game & Watch Donkey Kong that has been severly mistreated by a former owner.  The classic handheld game from Nintendo was bought on Swedish Ebay together with two broken Gameboys, of which one is repaired (we will cover this in a later post). Anyway, the below pictures show the state of Donkey Kong when we recieved it:

Misshandlat Game & Watch 1Misshandlat Game & Watch 2

The game had the following flaws:

  • Dirty
  • Wrong battery cover (poor fit + wrong color)
  • The plastic tag that keeps the game “shut” is broken
  • Scratches
  • Worst of all: Someone has ripped away the back sticker and painted with black paint all over the game!

Initially, I did not want to paint the game, so I tried to dip it in alcohol to remove the pain. Ethanol does not dissolve plastic, but might remove ink. We won’t go into detail of how to open the game in this post, but it involves removing 9 + 9 screws plus de-solder two speaker cables. Remember: Long screws = external, short screws = internal. A more detailed guide to dissasemble the Game & Watch can be found on this site.

Sadly, the ink was heavily merged into the plastic, especially in the parts with rough surfaces. The result from the cleaning was not great, although the difference from the prior state was notable.

Game & Watch rengjort med t-röd

Insida Game & Watch

The inside of the game looked good though. All buttons and rubber pads were in good condition, they just needed some cleaning. Water and soap did wonders for the mechanical parts and screens (just don’t use too hot water on the screen parts since the thin plastic might bend). The order of the layers of the screen to remember for assembly is (from top to bottom):

Upper polarizer
Upper graphic
Glass-screen
Lower graphic
Lower polarizer

If you assemble them in the wrong order, the screen will become dark. Below are the drying parts after cleaning. It felt extra good cleaning the small metal selection buttons for alarm, since they are so tiny so people usually use a ballot pen or similar to press them, which leads to ink on them.

Flatkabel Game & Watch

The flat cable between the screens was undamaged. It is tricky to switch, but it can be repaired with copper tape, as showed in this Youtube video.

So, time for painting. First, I covered the parts which should not be painted orange. Then I primed with “Uniform Grey” from Army Painter, which I use for priming Games Workshop Blood Bowl minatures. The closest orange color I found was car paint in Swedish “Biltema”. It has a slightly lighter tint than the original Donkey Kong color and the spray is not optimal for smaller surfaces since it is a little uneven and has a tendendy to drip. It worked ok when spraying in several thin layers though. I tried to use some filler on one of the scratched surfaces. It was slightly improved, but a finer filler would probably been giving a better result.

Täckta ytor

Grundade ytor

Målade ytor

After painting, it was time to reassembly the game. Don’t forget to solder the speaker wires if you do this! Then, two LR44-batteries were inserted to make sure everything looked ok on the screens. Perfect!

Game & Watch Display

Finally, I needed a way to recreate the label at the back of the game. I found a scanned Donkey Kong game online (thank you Retro Video Gaming!). It was a bit tricky to find a business who could print tailor-made vinyl stickers (I don’t own a photo-printer), but I found a solution at stickerapp.se. Good think I ordered four stickers next to each other since the first one was accidentally placed upside down and the other failed as well. The third sticker turned out very well!

Etikett Donkey Kong

The final result below is not perfect, but far much of an improvement than the state the game was in when I received it. A few things remain before I would call it a complete success though:

  • 3D-print a new battery cover.
  • Some small color improvements.
  • Remove color more precise from the metal surfaces.
  • Find a solution for the broken plastic piece that keeps the game together when closed.

Game & Watch Donkey Kong restored

Game & Watch Donkey Kong restored 2

To summarize, this was a fun little project where anything basically would be an improvement from the initial state of the game when I recieved it. Sure, there is a point in keeping old games in their original state, but in this case, I believe it was the right choice to refurbish the Game & Watch Donkey Kong to a more suiting cosmetic state.

16 Comments

  1. Mattias Merking

    Nice work and good disassembly guide!
    I am also about to restore a Donkey Kong with a missing label.
    Do you still have a sticker to offer or could you please help me order the same?

    BR
    Matt

    Reply
    1. Dreamcast (Post author)

      Hi Matt,
      Thank you! 🙂 For the sticker I used https://www.dreamcast.nu/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Donkey-Kong-large-sticker.jpg. I placed four copies of the image on an A4, and placed the order at http://stickerapp.se/. I have one spare from last summer which I can send you, although it is a bit risky just to have one sticker, since it is a little tricky to cut and align it.
      //Leif

      Reply
      1. Mattias Merking

        Hi Leif,

        I would love to buy the last sticker from you:D
        If I mess it up I will go ahead and order 4 new ones like you recommend!
        If I’m successful, though, I will play the lotto at the same time;)

        BR
        Matt

        Reply
        1. Dreamcast (Post author)

          Mail me your address and I’ll just send it to you 🙂

          Reply
  2. Clarence

    wow, pretty cool. I have the donkey konk 2, but the ink may have dried up , since I cant see the characters but can hear sound. Any suggestions on refurbishing this classic.

    Reply
    1. Dreamcast (Post author)

      The problem might be caused due to faulty polarize filters, which have to be replaced. If there is no picture at all I would suggest opening the game and carefully inspect the electronics for any damage, including the white ribbon cable. I saw a video of a guy repairing this cable with a piece of flexible flat copper wire on Youtube.

      Reply
  3. Mikhail

    Which material did you use on stickerapp? Brushed aluminum?

    Reply
    1. Dreamcast (Post author)

      Vinyl.

      Reply
  4. ponies77@yahoo.com

    Hi thank you for posting your project!! It was really fascinating!!
    Question how did you go about having a new battery cover 3D printed. I have an Altic La Grande Route LCD game with no battery cover.
    Thank you for your help!
    Best, Will

    Reply
    1. Dreamcast (Post author)

      Hi, thanks! I downloaded a model from Thingiverse: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2149015, then I went to the local library and printed it. The tiny tab that holds the battery cover in place is a bit tricky to print, so it might require a few adjustments in printer settings. Plenty of covers on eBay though, for those who don’t want to 3D print.

      Reply
  5. Peter

    Great refurb. Did you manage to find a way to repair the latch, as I have the exact issue with mine?

    Reply
    1. Dreamcast (Post author)

      Thanks! Regarding the latch: I could 3d-print a piece of plastic to replace it, but I do not think glue would be strong enough to hold it in place when opening and closing the case sadly. I’ll let you know if I come up with a sustainable solution.

      Reply
  6. SampullMC

    For the little tab that keeps it shut, I would recommend 3D printing a complete tab, cutting it down to the size needed, and then JB-Weld to stick it on. It is a far stronger solution to most superglues. JB-Weld is fairly cheap, has enough flex in it to allow it to snap shut, but is FAR stronger than superglue. It has steel dust in it, hence the name.

    Reply
    1. Dreamcast (Post author)

      I think this solution could work. I usually use a product similar to JB-Weld (“Chemical Metal”) for the kind of jobs where the parts are put under a high degree of stress (see, e.g. https://www.dreamcast.nu/en/compaq-contura-420c-laptop-hinge-repair/).

      Reply
      1. SampullMC

        Ah yes, I have used that stuff, it works well for filling cracks in Aluminium car bodywork (rebuilding one). I wouldn’t *really* recommend it for plastic parts, but if that’s what you have on hand, go for it mate. Glad to see another one in good nick.

        Reply
        1. SampullMC

          i’ve actually used a similar way to repair my own DK-52. I made an aluminium tab to match the top panel and filed a notch in it. It works fine.

          Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar