Hacking The RF Protocol Of An Obscure Handheld Game

Jean J. Sanders

When you imagine aged college handheld online games, you probably visualize a thing like Nintendo’s Video game Boy line or the Sega Activity Equipment. But exterior of individuals now iconic programs, there was a broad subculture of oddball handheld games vying for a chunk of an adolescent’s weekly allowance. Lots of of these had been legitimately awful and frankly aren’t truly worth remembering, but a number of made available exceptional features that were being arguably ahead of their time.

1 this kind of game was Hasbro’s shorter-lived P-O-X. As stated by [Zachary Ennenga], the sport didn’t commit a lot time on retail outlet cabinets as its core notion of defeating undetectable alien invaders hell-bent on destroying our way of life proved to be additional than a tiny problematic when it launched in September of 2001. But that does not indicate it did not have some interesting thoughts, such as a wireless advertisement-hoc multiplayer capacity that allow your video game autonomously struggle it out with other models that received close by.

Fascinated by this element due to the fact his youth, [Zach] established out to review how this reasonably low cost kid’s toy was able to pull this off back when even the flagship handheld consoles have been even now using bodily hyperlink cables for multiplayer. He was aided in his quest by a notably handy patent, which not only gave him clues as to the frequency, info amount, modulation, and encoding of the RF signal, but even stated the game’s logic and all round framework. A large amount of what was in the doc seemed wishful thinking on the element of Hasbro, but looking through via the internet marketing speak still uncovered some salient complex aspects.

A decoded P-O-X packet.

Armed with an RTL-SDR, GNU Radio, Inspectrum, and a little bit of Python, [Zach] was equipped to establish the sign and begin the system of decoding it. This is in which factors get seriously fascinating, as the information of his reverse engineering approach are greatly relevant for all sorts of unidentified RF signals. Even if you are like most folks and have almost zero fascination in unsuccessful handheld games of the early 2000s, it is properly really worth a examine. The exact same procedures he works by using to figure out the title and physical qualities of the invisible foe his match is transmitting could a person working day help you determine out how to manipulate the information from that wi-fi weather station you’ve received in the yard.

After he figured out the main parts of the protocol, [Zach] moves on to making his individual packets and broadcasting them out in this sort of a way that the real hardware will understand it. He even arrives up with some code that will routinely struggle video games which wander inside of range of his Yardstick One particular, which might come in handy for the duration of the unavoidable P-O-X Renaissance.

When this might appear to be like a good deal of work to put into a recreation that most people today have in no way even listened to of, we’ll remind you that some of the biggest hacks to ever grace these web pages have been born of very similar pursuits. Even if you’re the only person in the world to specifically reward from your current line of research and experimentation, there is even now loads of like-minded individuals in this group that are all to happy to cheer you on from the sidelines.

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