The Game: You’re alone in a maze filled with armed, hostile robots who only have one mission – to kill you. If you even so much as touch the walls, you’ll wind up dead. You’re a little bit faster than the robots, and you have human instinct on your side…but even that won’t help you when SmileyBot, a deceptively friendly and completely indestructible smiley face, appears to destroy you if you linger too long in any one part of the maze. The object of the game? Try to stay alive however long you can. (John Dondzila Classic Gaming Creations, 1998)
Memories: One day, an avid programmer named John Dondzila decided to program a new game for the Odyssey – or, more precisely, for the Odyssey2 Emulator created by Dan Boris. The game turned out well, and Dondzila offered the game for sale in cartridge form through his web site. The result was the first new game cartridge for the Odyssey 2 since the mid 1980s.
Amok! is, essentially, a near-perfect Odyssey 2 version of Stern’s arcade classic Berzerk, right down to that dreaded bouncing smiley face, “SmileyBot.” There is little animation in the game – your humanoid alter-ego doesn’t move except across the screen – but this gives the game a speed that makes it quite challenging. Had Amok! been introduced in the 80s, it surely would’ve had the blue banner of the “Challenger Series” on its packaging.
The packaging for Amok!, by the way, is extraordinarily professional considering its origin as a home programming project. It comes in a plastic case with full-color artwork which, while it doesn’t precisely duplicate earlier Odyssey games’ packaging, is in very much the same style. And for its unusual origins, Amok! deserves to stand out on my game shelf.