Impossible Mission / Programmed Trip

The Game: On an enclosed grid, you control a robotic drone whose job is to collect certain items on the grid and deflect enemies away from those items. If you can plant obstacles – which deflect your enemies with 90-degree left or right turns – that lock your pursuers into an inescapable infinite loop, all the better…but more will come. (Ectron, 1983 [unreleased prototype] / custom copies released in 2006)

The Game: An interesting unreleased game which was apparently developed for the South American market (where the Odyssey2, known simply as the Odyssey, was quite the success story) by an outfit called Ectron, Mission Impossible / Programmed Trip is a little like playing a video game by programming in a visual variant of the LOGO programming language. Continue reading

Attack Of The Timelord! (Terrahawks+)

Attack Of The Timelord!The Game: The game begins as the skull-like face of Spyruss the Deathless (the Timelord of Chaos, no less!) taunts you (well, only if you had the Voice), and then a bunch of pesky spaceships pops out of a vortex to shoot at See the videoyou. They shoot at you rather a lot. Fortunately, you can shoot back with reckless abandon, but their ammunition – as you ascend into the higher levels of the game – can track you and even, if you don’t destroy their shots in mid-air, crawl along the ground briefly while you head for the opposite side of the screen, neatly trapped for their next volley. (Philips, 1983)

Memories: Known as Attack Of The Timelord outside of Europe and the U.K., this game was released abroard as Terrahawks+ for the Philips G7400+ console. It’s essentially the same game, except with a relatively elaborate background graphic of the Earth and moon (complete with the man in the moon, no less). Continue reading

Flash Point

Flash PointThe Game: A zombie infestation has overrun the city. The player, in a mobile unit bristling with weapons, must venture into the infested areas and eliminate the zombies – or die. The center of the infestation See the videoscreens features a green area surrounding the player’s vehicle; this must be preserved as much as possible while fighting off the zombies, as bonus points are awarded for guarding that space. If the player survives, it’s time to move on to the scene of the next zombie attack. (North American Philips, 1983 – unreleased prototype)

Memories: The only game custom-made specifically for the upgraded hardware of N.A.P.‘s never-released Odyssey3 console, Flash Point is a kind of action game that simply couldn’t have been executed with the same finesse on 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 See the videobee 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)

Memories: Another example of how Philips might have revised existing Odyssey2 games for their new platform, Killer Bees winds up being another example of how ungraceful the transition could’ve been. Continue reading

Robot City

Robot CityThe Game: Four robotic tanks search methodically through a maze, trying to hunt you down. If you wind up in a straight line across or above/below the robot tanks, they will fire, even if a maze wall is in the way. Your job is to See the videoevade their fire, use the robots’ logic against them (i.e. try to get one tank to shoot another just because you’re in a straight line with them), or sneak up from behind and destroy them. Destroyed tanks leave a radioactive crater that you must avoid for the rest of that round; you advance to the next round by eliminating all of the tanks without being shot yourself. (Philips, 1983 – unreleased prototype)

Memories: This is one of those Odyssey2 games that was prepared for release only in the foreign market, but could’ve been one of the machine’s signature games in North America. It may be as simple as a game can get, but Robot City is a load of fun. (Come to think of it, I can’t imagine why it was left at the prototype altar elsewhere, either.) Continue reading

Spider-Man

Spider-ManThe Game: The Green Goblin and his henchmen are terrorizing the city once more, and it’s up to Spider-Man to restore order. But the odds are against him: he can only attach his web to the surface of the building, naturally, but the See the videoBuy this gameGoblin’s underlings are ready and eager to cut Spidey’s web should it be planted near them. Worse yet, the difficult-to-navigate high voltage tower at the top of the building is riddled with the Goblin’s bombs, and even if Spidey can defuse them, there’s a Super Bomb waiting for him at the top of the building – and he can only put it out of commission after dealing with the Green Goblin personally. (Parker Bros., 1983 / released by Bas Kornalijnslijper in 2006)

Memories: A chance discovery made by collector Bas Kornalijnslijper among a handful of ROM chips given to him by a former Phillips Electronics employee, Spider-Man was long known to have at least been in the works. Various advertising material touting the other four games created by Parker Bros. for the Videopac (the Odyssey2’s European near-twin) had mentioned that Spider-Man was “coming soon!” But of course, support for the Odyssey2 had largely disappeared by that time in North America (none of the Parker Bros. games were released there), and while it didn’t happen as quickly, the Videopac’s support also faded away in Europe; Spider-Man simply didn’t make it to market within that window. Now, along with another advertised-but-never-sold Parker Bros. title, Tutankham, Spider-Man has been unearthed. Continue reading

Tutankham

Tutankham for Odyssey2The 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)

See the videoMemories: 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. Continue reading

UFO

UFO!The Game: As the pilot of a lone space cruiser, you must try to clear the spaceways of a swarm of pesky and relatively harmless drone UFOs, but the job isn’t easy. You can ram the alien ships with your ship’s shields, destroying them (but See the videoforcing your shields offline for a few precious seconds during which anything could collide with your unprotected ship and destroy you), or shoot them (which also forces your shields down for a recharge). To that screenful of bite-sized chunks o’ death, add an unpredictable Killer UFO that likes to pop in and shoot at you, and suddenly being an interstellar traffic cop ain’t so easy. (Philips, 1983)

Memories: I’ve been complaining about the small library of Odyssey2-games-in-new-clothes developed as Odyssey3 launch titles quite a bit, but here’s a game I can actually get behind. UFO is the combination of a strong game in and of itself, with a background graphic that doesn’t completely obscure the in-game action. Continue reading

Buraco Negro! (“Black Hole!”)

Buraco Negro!The Game: This is a tale of a futuristic society advanced almost beyond belief. A black hole has been trapped behind a force field, where its gravity won’t snag the chains of space outposts lining the top and bottom of the screen. That gravity will, however, attract stray asteroids, which naturally can do a number on the space stations. This is where you come in: as the captain of an interplanetary street-sweeper, it’s your job to grab the asteroids and deposit them in the maw of the black hole. It’s tricky, business: letting go of an asteroid too far away from the black hole will allow it to drift toward the space stations, but putting your own ship too close to the black hole will put you in harm’s way (and may still let the asteroid escape). The more asteroids you put in the black hole, the bigger and more powerful it becomes (did anyone really think through this method of disposing of the trash?), which will attract more asteroids and cause them to move faster. You can also shoot asteroids, but this will add no points to your score, and stray missiles could destroy space stations. If your ship plummets into the event horizon, or too many space stations are destroyed, there’s suddenly a vacancy for the most dangerous garbage disposal job in the universe. (GST Video, 1984)

Memories: As a rule, I try not to be too critical of a game’s programmer, but this rare title – initially released only in South America, and then later dressed up with a spacey background and released in Europe for the Videopac G7400+ under the incorrectly-translated name Neutron Star – offers so little reward for so much effort that one can only assume its designer was a masochist. Continue reading

Moto-Crash+

Moto-Crash+The Game: It’s a cross-country motorcycle race, and you’re at the handlebars. Avoid other bikes, stay within the traffic markers, and be alert to constantly changing lighting conditions and weather (this race is 24 hours a day, and the days seem awfully short). (Philips, 1984)

Memories: Released only in Europe (and, for the most part, confined to France, where it was sold for the Jopac+ console, the Gallic equivalent to the Videopac G7400 or the Odyssey3), Moto-Crash+ is a fairly bold attempt to do something that was unheard of on the original Odyssey2/Jopac hardware: a first-person racing game along the lines of Enduro. Continue reading

Shark Hunter

Shark HunterBuy this gameThe Game: In the Arctic Circle, there are two certainties: not eating will kill you, and being in the water too long will kill you. You have to brave both possibilities in this game, trying to keep the fishing nets intact, and trying to fend off the roaming sharks intent on biting through the nets. There are both stationary and moving ice floes, and you can jump from one to the other (or to the shore), with your spear at the ready to impale a shark – but sooner or later you also have to jump into the freezing water to repair the nets, leaving you at the sharks’ mercy. (GST Video, 1984 / released by Classic Console Center in 2006)

See the videoMemories: This unreleased gem from the Odyssey2/Videopac library is a fine specimen of the best Odyssey2 games – offbeat, original (or at least adding original twists to popular themes) and unique. Shark Hunter was designed for the European market, but was never released in this form when the crash of the video game industry caught up with overseas game makers. (A version of it later appeared for MSX computers overseas.) It’s fun and frustrating, and would’ve been a more than welcome addition to the Odyssey2 or Videopac libraries. Continue reading

Amok!

Amok!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 See the videoyour 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. Continue reading

Kill The Attacking Aliens

Kill The Attacking AliensAliens are attacking several idyllic locales on Earth, and it’s your job to fend off the attack. Not only are you charged with blasting the aliens themselves out of the sky, but you must intercept as much of their incoming fire as possible before it hits targets on the See the videoground. If you save the various trees and cars and castles and trains and boats and whatnot, not only have you earned the gratitude of the human race, you get big bonus points too, and we all know which is more important. Your highly maneuverable ship is equipped with shields which allow you to absorb the impact of collisions with the alien ships, as well as protecting you from direct hits from their weapons. But each hit and collision takes a significant chunk out of your shields. You can replenish them with power-ups left behind by fallen aliens, but when your shields run out and your ship takes another hit, your alien-killing days are over. (Soren Gust [published by Packrat Video Games], 2004)

Memories: Let me go back and read that again. Shields and power-ups and scores into the thousands? Did I just write that about an Odyssey2 game? Yes. Yes, I did. Five years in the making, Kill The Attacking Aliens (a.k.a. KTAA) is one of those projects that demonstrates everything that is good about homebrew games for classic consoles. Continue reading

Planet Lander!

Planet Lander!Buy this gameThe Game: Your spaceship falls toward a forbidden, craggy landscape where there’s only one safe landing spot. Using your ship’s landing engine, you have to guide it down to the surface for a picture-perfect landing – not too fast, not at an angle, and without running out of fuel in the process. After each successful landing, you move on to another world, and another spaceship in need of your piloting skills. (Ted Sczcypiorski [published by Packrat Video Games], 2004)

See the videoMemories: So, another iteration of Lunar Lander for my amusement. You may be thinking to yourself, “I’m already trying not to crash-land my ship in Out Of This World!, so why would I want to do the same here?” The answer is simple – where the aforementioned classic Odyssey2 spaceship-landing title gives you control of nothing but thrust, Planet Lander gives you the whole crap-your-pants-and-hold-your-breath-while-you-look-for-a-place-to-set-down-in-the-Sea-of-Tranquility shebang. So to speak. It’s on a par with Lunar Lander for replay value, and boasts unusually intricate graphics for an Odyssey2 game, homebrew or otherwise. Continue reading

Pong For Odyssey2!

Pong For Odyssey2!Travel back in time to the dawn of interactive electronic games. Pong For Odyssey2 offers a standard two-player version of the classic video table tennis game, as well as electronic recreations of the analog version of the game available on the first home game See the videoBuy this gamesystem, the Magnavox Odyssey. (Renè Van Den Enden [published by Packrat Video Games], 2004)

Memories: Odyssey2 homebrews are a lovely thing to behold, and this is a game that you’d think would have been done sooner on this machine – especially with Magnavox’s claim to fame as the first company to manufacture and distribute a home video game system in the United States (or anywhere else for that matter). In the end, it took 25 years to get a Pong game on this console. Continue reading

Calculator!

Calculator!The Game: The Odyssey2’s keyboard and processing power are at your disposal for any number of mathematical tasks. If you can do it on an adding machine or a low-end handheld scientific calculator, you can do it on Calculator! See the videoBuy this gametoo. (PackratVG.com / Rene Van Den Enden, 2006)

Memories: It’s difficult to really “review” this cartridge, as it’s not a game, and unlike, say, Type & Tell, it can’t even be twisted into one. So you’ll have to forgive me for forgoing the usual “X out of 5” rating system for this homebrew release. Continue reading

Mr. Roboto!

Mr. Roboto!Buy this gameThe Game: Robots, commanded by the CPU which is in turn commanded by you, take up positions on a battlefield grid. The two opposing armies converge, and if two robots lae square, the action zooms in on that portion of the battlefield so the two can fight it out. When one robot’s energy is exhausted by the other’s attacks or by coming into contact with energy pulses bouncing around the arena, that robot is forfeited and the action returns to the grid. The CPUs can transmit viruses to any enemy robot on the grid, stealing half of that robot’s speed or hit points, or halting it altogether. Robots can attack the enemy CPU, but the CPU has a more robust defensive mechanism at its disposal than the average robot… (Ted Sczcypiorski [published by Packrat Video Games], 2006)

See the videoMemories: Yet another Odyssey2 homebrew is charting impressive new territory for a classic console that many consider to be underpowered. And yet, what we have here in Mr. Roboto! is essentially Archon – a classic computer game that didn’t appear on a console until the NES. And yet here it is running on one of the 8-bit era’s underdogs, and running quite nicely, thank you very much. Continue reading

Puzzle Piece Panic

Puzzle Piece Panic!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 See the videoBuy this gameentire 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.) Continue reading

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