Forgotten console: Giochi Prewiosi My Life

Posted by pulkomandy on Sun Mar 20 11:10:36 2022  •  Comments (0)  • 

A few months ago, while visiting a surplus store in my area, I noticed this thing that looked like a game cartridge caled "Disney My Life Hannah Montana". Looking on the back I saw it was for the "My Life" console (sold separately). I had never heard of that console. So I left the thing there, went back home and did some research.

I did not find a lot. The console was released in 2007 and there was a later version called My Real Life. It was sold at least in Italy, France, and the US. It is strongly marketed "for girls", with pink cases, heart-shaped buttons, etc. It's fine (no, really, it's not, why would anyone do that?). I'm not a girl, but I love pink.

There are several cartridges and expansions for it. But no one has written an emulator or even published a teardown. And despite initially selling relatively well, it was not that easy to find a console for an acceptable price.

Yesterday I visited that store again. The poor cartridges were still there gathering dust. So I decided to buy one this time.

The packaging is surprisingly nice. The thing is sealed in (relatively thick) plastic wrap, with extrusions for two cardboard pieces that stand out, a bubble for the cartridge (both the cartridge and cardboard are held with extra pieces of plastic), and an extrusion on the back so that the whole thing can be put vertical on a shelve. There is also a full color, 35 page manual (all in French, while the outside packaging is bilingual French and Italian).

The cartridge contains an exention to the "My Life" game built into the console. I could not try it yet, but from the screenshots in the manual and on the packaging this appears to be isometric pixel art (somehwat similar to Habbo hotel), you play a character and have to buy clothese, meet boys, go to toilets regularly to keep your hygiene bar up, go to school, take care of your pet, etc. With the Hannah Montana cartridge, you can go to the airport and visit Malibu to attend to Hannah's show. So your goal there is to find tickets for the show, and maybe manage to meet the star backstage. How exciting!

The cartridge itself has a connector for another extension with extra items to collect in-game. Clearly they were trying to get parents to buy more and more things... The extension is shaped like a small guitar, because why not?

I opened the cartridge to see what's inside. There is a serial EEPROM and a blob, which is probably some kind of parralel ROM or nor-flash. I have not tried to match the pinout with existing flash/ROM chips yet. I don't even know if it is 8 or 16 or 32bits and what size it is. I figured out I would know more about it if I had the console. And also I'd like to try the game before I do anything destructive to it (hopefully I don't need to).

So I went hunting on the internet. The usual websites were offering it for higher-than-new prices, which I didn't really want to pay for this thing. So I did the most crazy thing and went to page 2 of Google search results. In fact I went down to page 4, and there found a link to someone selling it for a very acceptable 5€ on I had never heard about that website, and indeed it seems not very popular. The website lists less than 160 items for sale, from about 6 different sellers. Anyway, I placed an order, hoping it was not a scam website (who would attempt to scam people looking for that console, anway?). A few minutes later I got an email from the seller. She said that I should have contacted her because she could have sold me the items through Kiabi Seconde Main, another website I had never heard of that initially specializes on second-hand clothes, but expanded to children toys as well (not the first time such a thing happens, in fact I managed to buy some VTech gear for low prices from Vinted, where collectors don't really look for it (who am I kidding, no one but me is collecting VTech gear arouns here!).

Anyway, the console is ordered and will be shipped on monday. I'll post a follow-up when I receive it. I hope it will help figure out the pinout, and I'm not sure how useful the data in the cartridge will be in figuring out how things work, if it's only an expansion to the built-in game it may or may not have a lot of code. I hope I can manage to dump some ROMs, and then maybe attempt to write an emulator?

I have some scans of the manual and packaging, as well as pictures of the cartridge. Let me know if you need them, I'm too lazy to upload them all right now.

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