The Game: Interconnecting puzzle pieces are spewed out of the sky by the Tetrad Ejection Device (T.E.D.) and drift down the screen in a pre-defined area. You can rotate them for better placement (or at least rotate them to achieve the least worst effect); filling an entire horizontal line clears that line and lowers the amount of clutter left on the screen. As more lines are cleared, the pieces fall faster – and it doesn’t get any easier for you to catch up. (Ted Szczypiorski / PackratVG.com, 2007)
Memories: It doesn’t take a master’s degree to see that this game is clearly a version of Tetris for the almost 30-year-old Odyssey2 console, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. Puzzle Piece Panic is a combination of a great game with a fond tribute to the finest Magnavox/Philips tradition of changing the name and some minor details to create a “near-beer” version of a popular title. (In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit to having had a hand in some of these homages to the hyperbolic Magnavox marketing style, including the game’s name.)
This latest creation from the programmer behind such top-notch O2 homebrews as Planet Lander and Mr. Roboto! is as simple as its inspiration, which leaves room for some other innovations. For one thing, the game contains special enhancements for owners of the Philips Videopac G7400 console, or the dozen or so lucky owners of prototypes of its unreleased North American sibling, the Odyssey3; since not much of the screen is required for the narrow playfield of your average game of Tetris, an elaborate display showing which the current player’s skill level fills the other 2/3 of the screen. The dispay is different for the 7400/O3 owners out there, but the O2 display is neat in and of itself.
The real jaw-dropper is the game over music, which manages to coax polyphony out of the Odyssey2 without any extra hardware. Simple music has been accomplished with the Voice module before, but nothing like this. Granted, it won’t blow away anyone who doesn’t remember the sound of video games before, say, the Super NES, but it’s neat to hear harmony on “In The Hall Of The Mountain King” coming out of a machine that, according to the hardware specs, simply can’t do that sort of thing.
Overall, it’s a great addition to the Odyssey2 library, and certainly well worth seeking out – both for the incredibly addictive game play and for the opportunity to see the Odyssey2, now in the hands of its end users, exceed its capabilities.