The Game: As Pete, you start out in the center of a multi-tiered mine – not at the bottom – and your boulder-smashing pick axe begins to deteriorate after about one minute. Then you either have to jump over or duck under the onslaught of falling rocks, or you’re toast. Falling to the lower levels won’t kill you, if you time it just right so as not to land right in the middle of an avalanche. When two boulders collide, they can uncover treasures such as a fresh pick axe or, more importantly, a key to the next level. (N.A.P., 1983)
Memories: Released in Europe only for the Videopac G7400 – the European hardware equivalent of the Odyssey3 – Pick Axe Pete is a good barometer of how the classic Odyssey2 games would’ve been “enhanced” for the ultimately unreleased Odyssey3. And when I say “enhanced”, I mean that very loosely. On the plus side: the game is untouched in and of itself, which is a good starting point. (I think I’ve made clear that I consider Pete the pinnacle of gaming on the O2.)
The big minus: As neat as the enhanced background graphics are, they add nothing to the game, and actually make things a bit difficult to see. And in a contest where fast response is the game, this is precisely the wrong way to add “difficulty”. Programmers who worked with the new hardware, as well as inside observers, seemed to understand that, too. The backward compatibility of the O3 (and the G7400) was a nifty idea, in principle; but going back and adding graphics-obscuring backgrounds to the existing library was, perhaps, not the brightest idea anyone ever had. Games such as Flash Point and the European release Trans-American Rally were the way forward, and spending time on these revamps of the back catalogue may have ultimately been a fatal mistake for Philips.
Like the skeleton of Pete’s unlucky predecessor in the background graphics, this version of Pete was similarly consigned to the bone pile outside of Europe. It takes serious effort to mess up a game as perfectly-balanced as Pick Axe Pete, and Philips proved that it had what it takes. Gee, thanks, guys.