SID The Spellbinder!

SID The Spellbinder!The Game: What happens when the Dreaded Dratapillar Of Venus makes a guest appearance? It means that a spelling bee is imminent! A friendly voice warns you to look out for a “monster attack,” and after dispatching all of the segments of the worm-like invader, you’re asked to correctly spell three words using the Odyssey2 keyboard. Once you’ve correctly spelled those three words, another monster attack occurs, with the Dratapillar moving faster in each successive level; the game continues until it descends far enough down the screen to reach your cannon. (North American Philips, 1982)

See the videoMemories: Programmed by Sam Overton, SID The Spellbinder! was one of the first two – and, as it so happened, only two – educational launch titles made available specifically for the then-new Voice Of Odyssey speech synthesizer. Continue reading

Smithereens!

Smithereens!The Game: Armed with a catapult and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of projectiles (sorry, Python fans, no cows!), your task is to repeatedly and continuously smash your opponent’s castle, his catapult (rendering him harmless for a few See the videoseconds), or your opponent himself (much the same effect; a new enemy soldier enters the fray after a few seconds). (North American Philips, 1982)

Memories: Possibly the best two-player Odyssey2 game there ever was, Smithereens! was exceedingly simple, and simply some of the best fun to be had on this game system. Continue reading

Type & Tell

Type & TellThe Game: You type! It talks! And occasionally you have to throw the damnedest misspellings at it to get it to say the simplest words. And despite the back of the box claiming that it “plays fun games,” it’s much more likely that it’ll just make some fun (and weird) sounds. (Magnavox, 1982)

Memories: A pack-in cartridge included with the Voice of Odyssey 2, Type & Tell is actually a barely-glorified Odyssey version of Speak ‘n’ Spell, except everything it says is in a monotone robotic voice which one of the video game magazines of the time once described as “Darth Vader on quaaludes.” (One of these days, remind me to tell you about my mother’s reaction when I asked her, after reading that review, what quaaludes were.) Continue reading

4 In 1 Row

4 In 1 RowThe Game: The constant struggle between cat and dog requires a great deal of concentration. Two players can play, or one player can control the dog while the CPU makes moves as the “Microcat.” Each animal drops a piece into the playing field, trying to line up four pieces horizontally, vertically or diagonally, or trying to keep the other animal from lining up his four pieces. Whoever lines up four pieces first wins the game. (Phillips, 1982)

Memories: Another Videopac title that never quite made it to the North American market, it’s entirely possible that Odyssey2 owners never got to play 4 In 1 Row because such a release would’ve attracted the unwelcome attention of the makers of the board game Concentration – or the attention of Atari, who released a licensed Concentration cartridge. Continue reading

Atlantis

AtlantisThe Game: Hostile spacecraft are bombing the underwater paradise of Atlantis from above. Manning two cannons, you can knock the attacking ships out of the sky – or try to hit them at close range if they dive to bombing See the videoaltitutde. When all of Atlantis’ landmarks have been wiped out, the game is over. (Imagic, 1983)

Memories: Once again, Imagic turned out a superb port of their already well-known Atari 2600 and Intellivision chestnut for the underserved Odyssey 2. Of Imagic’s two games for the Odyssey, Atlantis is the better title, though both were excellent games. Continue reading

Balao Travesso! (“Looney Balloon!”)

Balao Travesso!The Game: You’re piloting a balloon-toting brat around an amusement park. Ride the rides! Slide down the slide! Crawl under the trees and play! But watch out for that balloon – the thing is vital to your survival! Don’t let it get popped See the videoagainst the trees, or the rides, or the walls of the amusement park. Worse yet, a cloud may appear at the side of the screen and blow your balloon away, forcing you to run after it and catch it before it collides with something and pops. Birds will also fly over the park, and they can pop your balloon too. Even if you’re not holding onto it at the time, the balloon popping ends your game. (Frankly, this reliance on the balloon seems to be a bit unhealthy, and will probably lead the game’s kid to be a shut-in with another inflatable friend by the time he’s 40.) (Phillips, 1983)

Memories: Released in Europe as Loony Balloon, Balao Travesso! is essentially a near-beer version of the late 70s Taito arcade game Crazy Balloon – only, quite frankly, Balao Travesso! has more elaborate graphics than the arcade game (who here thought they’d ever be reading that about an Odyssey2 game?). Continue reading

The Blobbers

The BlobbersThe Game: Amoeba-like monsters spawn and grow in an enclosed space with moving platforms. Players control a very mobile cannon, tasked with the mission of destroying these creatures, or at least trying to keep their population under control. The newly-spawned creatures pose no threat to the cannon – they’ll simply attach themselves to it, slowing it down unless it can shake them off. But the creatures rapidly grow in size and change colors; when a creature turns red, it is capable of destroying the cannon on contact. The cannon’s shots regress the creatures into earlier evolutionary stages; firing on a creature that has been regressed to its newly-spawned stage will destroy it. Both the cannon and the creatures can hitch a ride across the screen – either to safety or into the jaws of the enemy – aboard the platforms. (GST Video, 1983)

Memories: Even if this wasn’t a European-only release for the Videopac – the version of the Odyssey2 that did better in Europe than the Odyssey2 did in the Americas – The Blobbers would be hard to find. Hitting the stores at the end of the Videopac’s life span, this nifty little enclosed-space shoot-’em-up got very little attention and sold very few copies, and as such few copies made their way into the hands of game collectors and traders. Continue reading

Demon Attack

Demon AttackThe Game: Demons coalesce into existence in mid-air above your cannon. Send them back where they came from by force – but watch out, as demons in later levels split into two parts upon being hit, which must then be destroyed See the videoindividually… (Imagic, 1983)

Memories: Imagic scored major points with its only two releases for the Odyssey 2. Demon Attack was already a ubiquitous title in many Atari 2600 and Intellivision owners’ collections, but third-party games for the Odyssey 2 were almost unheard of. Continue reading

Frogger

FroggerThe Game: You are a frog. Your task is simple: hop across a busy highway, dodging cars and trucks, until you get the to the top of the screen. On the second screen, you stand at the edge of a river, where you must keep yourself from See the videodrowning by crossing safely to your grotto at the top of the screen by leaping across the backs of turtles and logs. But watch out for hungry alligators! (Phillips / Parker Brothers, 1983)

Memories: One of the most exasperating things about Frogger for the Odyssey2? Finding a copy that plays well enough for me to review. Many a copy of Parker Brothers’ Frogger has made its way from Europe to cartridge slots in America, only to disappoint whoever hunted it down: unlike many other Videopac titles released in Europe, Frogger won’t play on a North American console. Continue reading

The Great Wall Street Fortune Hunt

The Great Wall Street Fortune HuntThe Game: Feel like literally “playing” the stock market? This game allows you to do so with varying degrees of accuracy, ranging from level one – simple trading – to level four, which allows buying on margins, prime rate interest calculations, and numerous other complications. A ticker across the top of the screen gives the current values of several stocks and commodities, while a ticker running across the center of the screen gives the latest news updates. The nature of that news can have drastic effects on the stocks available for trade, ranging from the sometimes silly (“electronic foot massager increases worker productivity”) to the frighteningly prophetic (“war threat in the Middle East”). (North American Phillips, 1983)

Memories: An interesting idea for a console game (whereas this sort of thing would usually be found only on computers, especially back then), The Great Wall Street Fortune Hunt was the third and final Master Strategy Series game released for the Odyssey2. Continue reading

Killer Bees!

Killer Bees!The Game: You control a solitary swarm of “good” bees, trailed by a couple of handy ray guns on the same vertical axis. The game starts out with a bunch of dim-witted Beebots bumbling around the screen, which you can sting with your bee swarm until the ‘bots slow down and finally expire, marked by a rather grim little tombstone! This probably sounds easy enough, but there are killer bees from outer space emerging from hives around the edge of the play area, and when their swarms collide with your swarm, you lose bees. The only defense against the killer bees is a pair of ray guns, which have to recharge after every use. (North American Philips, 1983)

See the videoMemories: This is one of the strangest and most unique games that was ever made for the Odyssey2. As the Odyssey programmers realized very quickly, the Voice was very limited, and Killer Bees! saw some interesting innovations in that area, namely the “bee buzz” generated by the speech module. Programmer Bob Harris has said that Killer Bees! was his attempt to bring the relentless momentum of Centipede to the Odyssey2, though players might never have made that connection apart from the insectoid theme. It’s a damned aggravating and addictive little game! Continue reading

Pick Axe Pete

Pick Axe Pete - Odyssey3 versionThe 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 See the videounder 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.) Continue reading

Popeye

PopeyeThe Game: Well, blow me down! Popeye the sailor man gets his own video game. As Popeye, you’re trying to catch Olive Oyl’s falling hearts before they descend to sea level and are lost, while ducking Bluto’s punches at the same time. See the videoA can of spinach appears every so often, giving you the opportunity to read the big bully the riot act (comic strip-style, of course). (Parker Brothers, 1983)

Memories: Well, shiver me timbers! It took me just shy of twenty years to get it, mateys, but this old landlubber has finally gotten his mitts on Popeye for the Odyssey2 – and blow me down, it’s seaworthy! Continue reading

Power Lords

Power LordsThe Game: As superhero Adam Power, you’re the pilot of a space sled on patrol around the explosive Volcan Rock, an active volcano which frequently blows its top. And what better cover for the bad guys? Gryptogg, Raygoth and See the videoArkus are perfecting their evil plans for a “gravitational ray” which basically amounts to a portable black hole – its gravity can alter the course of your space sled if you’re on a direct horizontal line-of-sight with it. Add to that meteors pummeling the ground from space and the enormous laser-eyed space serpent, and you’ve got your hands full just staying alive, let alone battling evil. (North American Philips, 1983)

Memories: So, friends, it all comes down to this – the last Odyssey2 game ever to hit the store shelves in the United States – and to tell you the truth, it’s a doozie. Power Lords is everything I ask for in a classic video game – a real numb-thumb, sweaty-palms experience that doesn’t let up. Continue reading

Q*Bert

Q*BertThe Game: Q*Bert, a nosey little guy with a propensity for hopping, spends his time hopping around a pyramid of colorful blocks, avoiding Coily the Snake and other assorted purple and red creatures, including a few who operate on a See the videoslightly different plane (i.e., they move down the pyramid as if it were rotated one-third). Any green objects and creatures Q*Bert can catch will not hurt him – in fact, the little bouncing green balls will stop time briefly for everyone but Q*Bert. If he gets into a tight spot, Q*Bert can jump off the pyramid onto a flying disc which will deposit him back at the top of the pyramid – and lure Coily to a nasty fate by jumping into nothing. Changing the colors of the top of every block in the pyramid to the target color indicated at the top left of the screen will clear the pyramid and start the craziness all over again. (Parker Brothers, 1983)

Memories: One of the last games ever produced for the Odyssey 2, this great adaptation of Q*Bert also has the distinction of being among the hardest to find. Released primarily in Europe for the Videopac (the Dutch-produced equivalent of the Odyssey2), Q*Bert has decent graphics and damned fast gameplay for an Odyssey game. Continue reading

Super Cobra

Super CobraThe Game: You’re piloting a heavily armed helicopter straight into a heap o’ trouble. Ground and air defenses have been mounted in this enemy installation to stop you at any costs. Missiles, anti-aircraft turrets, and even other vehicles will See the videodo anything to knock you out of the sky – and given the chunky terrain, the odds are in favor of the house. Your only saving grace is that you’re armed to the teeth. But, as you may have guessed by now, even that may not be enough to save you. (Supposedly, according to Konami, Super Cobra was their sequel to the minor arcade hit Scramble.) (Parker Brothers, 1983)

Memories: Alas, Konami’s Super Cobra didn’t fare quite as well on the Odyssey2 as Q*Bert did. At times, it’s almost comical – a few seconds of fast and furious on-screen action are followed by a tedious scroll to the left as the playing field is filled with the next round of extremely inhospitable terrain! Continue reading

Trans-American Rally

Trans-American RallyThe Game: The Videopac puts you in the driver’s seat for a cross-country race. Avoid other cars and obstacles and stay on the road; hitting too many oncoming vehicles causes you to forfeit the See the videorace. (Philips, 1983)

Memories: A surprising game on the Videopac G7400+ (the European equivalent of the cancelled Odyssey3 console), Trans-American Rally is an example of a game done almost entirely in the “extended” graphics set. The only hints of the original Odyssey2/Videopac fixed graphics set is the use of the old “triangle” elements to draw the road and to draw any unchanging areas of solid colors (such as the desert on either side of the road). The rest of the graphics are done entirely in the “plus” graphics, and the game looks surprisingly good for anything running on the Videopac platform: it’s on a par with many a TI 99/4a game. Continue reading

Turtles!

Turtles!The Game: As the mama turtle, you trundle around a simple maze, pursued by nasty bugs which are lethal to the touch. You can drop bombs in their path, which will reduce their speed (and this device really does beg all sorts of biological See the videodouble-entendrès, doesn’t it?). Your mission is to visit the isolated cul-de-sacs in the maze – which in itself can lead to your turtle getting trapped – to retrieve your eggs and take them to safe houses dotted around the maze. If you visit the wrong place at the wrong time, you’ll wind up with not an egg, but a new bug hot on your heels. Getting all your turtle eggs to safety takes you to the next level, and eventually everything winds up moving so fast, you haven’t got a chance. (North American Philips [under license from Stern], 1983)

Memories: This simple rendition of an extremely obscure Stern arcade game has to rank as one of the most addictive Odyssey 2 games ever made, and it quickly puts the lie to the common misconception that the Odyssey would have been useless for home versions of arcade games anyway. Continue reading

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