The Game: As an intrepid, pith-helmeted explorer, you’re exploring King Tut’s catacombs, which are populated by a variety of killer bugs, birds, and other nasties. You’re capable of firing left and right, but not vertically – so any oncoming threats from above or below must be outrun or avoided. Warp portals will instantly whisk you away to other parts of the maze (though this doesn’t necessarily mean safer). Gathering all of the treasures and keys will allow you to open the vault at the end of each level…which leads to the next, and even more difficult level. It’s like The Mummy, only much more entertaining. (Parker Brothers, 1983 – unreleased prototype)
Memories: As far back as 1983, the year that it released four other titles for the Videopac (Europe’s equivalent to the Odyssey2), Parker Brothers had been mentioning other games in development for the system. The Videopac had a wider user base in Europe than the Odyssey2 had in North America, so the support was there. Spider-Man and Tutankham were announced as upcoming titles, and never surfaced as commercial releases. As it turns out, programming was relatively complete on both games, and the EPROM chips holding the work-in-progress versions of each game eventually fell in to the hands of collectors. Appropriately enough, Tutankham was an unearthed treasure.
Based on the elaborate arcade adventure of the same name, Tutankham is certainly one of the most advanced games ever to have been put together on the Odyssey2. Just like the arcade game, Tutankham has literally dozens of rooms to explore, a huge interlocking series of puzzles and prizes that, according to conventional wisdom, simply shouldn’t have been possible with the Odyssey2’s meager memory resources.
This game bucks that thinking by presenting a complete game with a vast maze and an elaborate animated intro screen, with the player approaching a pyramid with a camel close behind him. The graphics in the game itself aren’t terribly elaborate, but they’re effective. The maze is comprised of filled-in versions of the standard maze grid elements, the player is represented by a more-colorful-than-usual version of the standard Odyssey2 “humanoid”, but there are custom graphics aplenty, from snakes and rats and keys to the various treasures.
Game play itself is a bit quirky in places. You can’t fire unless you’re in motion, and if you’re too close to a “spawn point” where new enemies and creatures appear, they can literally materialize right on top of you, catch you unawares. Fortunately, Tutankham, as with the rest of Parker’s arcade adaptations, is a rare example of an Odyssey2 game in which you have more than one “life” to use up in the course of your quest. (You’ll need every last one of them.) Still, the “spawn point” problem sticks in my craw whenever I play Tutankham – I’m convinced that this game probably would’ve seen a handful of game-balancing tweaks done to it before an actual commercial release.
Released to Videopac and Odyssey2 collectors by Dieter Koenig at Classic Console Center in 2007, Tutankham is a very late entry in the Odyssey2 library, but it’s also a surprisingly good one. With the discovery of both Tutankham and Spider-Man for the Odyssey2 and Videopac, and hints that the Master Strategy Series game The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, Private Consulting Detective may finally see release in the next few years, the quest for this system’s holy grails is winding down. Unless, of course, you’re holding out hope that another announced-but-not-released Parker Brothers title, Star Wars: The Arcade Game, is actually out there somewhere.
The mere fact that Odyssey2 fans can now play Tutankham, on a cartridge, in the comfort of their own homes and not at a retrogaming convention, is heartening proof that stranger things have, in fact, happened.