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:
The game had the following flaws:
- Wrong battery cover (poor fit + wrong color)
- The plastic tag that keeps the game “shut” is broken
- 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.
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):
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.