Screwball Scramble – a most brilliant bit of kit

Nostalgia. It’s not what it used to be… Now, you may not be old enough to remember the first time someone made that joke – but are you old enough to remember when Screwball Scramble came out?

First appearing in 1979, Screwball Scramble boasts a simple idea… This toy-shop perennial challenges you to use buttons, dials and knobs to steer a small ball over a series of obstacles. That’s it! One might pad out a description by adding that if your ball falls at any point, you have to start the whole thing over again. And naturally, the faster you finish the course, the better. But in essence it’s a one-player game that’s always the same…


So, what’s the appeal of Screwball Scramble? What je ne sais quois does it have? What means it’s not only been on the market for over 40 years, but has also now spawned a sequel?! Yes, you read that right: this year, TOMY showed off Screwball Scramble Level 2. You can only imagine my delight at catching sight of it on the stand at London Toy Fair.

Like the original game, Level 2 is as brilliant in its design as it is simple in concept. There are ten frenzied stages. First, you climb the stairs, navigate a vertical maze, balance on a corkscrew, then hop, skip, jump and twist your way to the pinball board…


Next it’s up into the pot-luck dish, then down again onto the tipping deck. After that, press the last button to catapult yourself onto the bell that sounds the finish… Or does it?


The absolute masterstroke in this marble-rolling and controlling joy of a toy is an 8cm long bit of plastic. I call it the “Genius Piece”. What does it do? Simple… It fits and sits over the finishing bell of either edition. That means you can join together the old and new Screwball Scramble sets. It’s a terrific design.

To wrap up this piece – which is really no more that a love letter to the ingenuity of the team at TOMY – I’ll tell you this story… I recently wrote the staff profiles for a client’s website. As a bit of fun, I asked what their favourite childhood toys were. Two people – with about 30 years’ difference in their ages – both said Screwball Scramble! Now, there can’t be THAT many products able to make the same claim, surely?!

Alright, I’m nearly done. However… Do you want to know more about the design of the zigzagging, screw-turning, maze-spinning, button-pushing Screwball Scramble 2? If so, find out how the designers made this fantastic game in an exclusive Mojo Nation interview… Just click here:

About Deej

Magician. Hypnotist. LEGO fan... You're not likely to meet many people more happily geeky than writer Deej Johnson! Every now and then, though, he inflicts his interests on others, so here we let him write about LEGO... Better that than watch a card trick.

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