51 Shades of Geek

Odyssey 4000

Odyssey 4000The final member of the Odyssey stand-alone console family tree, the Odyssey 4000 boasts more games than any of its predecessors since Ralph Baer’s original Odyssey, and was only the second of the dedicated Odyssey consoles to feature color (after the experimental Odyssey 500). And for those who have ever held the joystick of a Magnavox Odyssey2 in their hands, the Odyssey 4000 offers another familiar element – its joysticks are exactly the same mold as those of the Odyssey2, only rotated 90 degrees, and sporting some major differences in internal mechanisms. Though multidirectional, the joysticks are designed to favor vertical movement and offer some resistance to horizontal movement. Continue reading

Basketball

BasketballSee the videoThe Game: Two players each control one man in one-on-one, full-court action. Whoever has the highest score by a predetermined time limit wins. (Atari, 1978)

Memories: If you need a “before” and “after” picture to see how far video basketball has come, Atari’s Basketball – one of the earliest games published for the VCS – is an effective “before” snapshot. Atari had previously included a Pong-style basketball game as one of the selections on its dedicated Video Pinball console, and compared to that, Basketball is a quantum leap forward: the players are now represented by stick figures, not paddles, and there’s a very early attempt at an isometric 3-D representation of the court, possibly one of the very earliest 3-D perspectives attempted in home video games. Continue reading

Bowling! / Basketball!

Bowling! / Basketball!The Game: Hit the hardwood in one of two sports. Roll your big shiny one down the lanes and try to knock down all the pins in Bowling!, or go for a basket in Basketball! Not possible in Odyssey2 Basketball!: fouls, three-point shots, free throws, most steals… (Magnavox, 1978)

Memories: Granted, neither the bowling nor basketball games for the Atari VCS which competed for shelf space with this two-in-one Odyssey2 title were significantly better, but they would’ve been hard pressed to turn out significantly worse. Continue reading

Basketball

Atari BasketballThe Game: It’s a one-on-one hardwood hoedown as two players control tank-topped, gym-socked hoops stars in an effort to bank the most baskets. Whoever buckets the most balls by the end of the game’s preset timer wins. (Atari, 1979)

Memories: Since the previous year’s Football lost its quarter-eating steam after the end of football season, Atari decided to take a swipe at other popular American sports. Taking another cue from Football, Basketball used the trakball controller – two of them, actually, meaning the cabinets took a real beating in arcades. The result was a simple enough one-on-one game – something which had been done as early as 1974 by Midway, Atari’s chief U.S. competitor – though this was the first time basketball had gone 3-D, courtesy of four simple diagonal lines. Continue reading

RealSports Basketball

RealSports BasketballThe Game: Two players each control one man in one-on-one, full-court action. Whoever has the highest score by a predetermined time limit wins. (Atari, 1983 [unreleased])
See the video
Memories: Atari’s RealSports series was created to challenge the upper hand Intellivision’s sports games had gained over the blocky, primitive virtual versions of the same sports on the Atari 2600. The RealSports brand was extended into the 5200 line as well, and did manage to score some firsts, including the first home video game to offer speech without additional custom hardware (RealSports Baseball). But for some reason, neither the 2600 nor 5200 versions of RealSports Basketball ever saw the light of day. Continue reading

One-On-One

One On OneThe Game: Dr. J and Larry Bird take to the hardwood for one-on-one half-court basketball action. Each player has his own signature moves, from lay-ups to three-point shots to steals. One or two players can play to a predetermined score or to a time limit. See the video(Atari [under license from Electronic Arts], 1987)

Memories: Having already become a hit on such home computers as the Commodore 64 and Apple II, Electronic Arts’ One On One ushered in a wave of celebrity-driven sports games that would eventually lead the company to a far more profitable franchise in the Madden [insert year of your choice here] football games. Atari had courted (no pun intended) EA as a potential developer of games for the Atari 7800, and while that courtship was short-lived, it did result in one of the better looking iterations of One On One. Continue reading

Slam Dunk Super Pro Basketball

Slam Dunk Super Pro BasketballThe Game: One or two players can set a budget and begin recruiting a top-notch basketball team (or, alternately, recruiting from who’s left after someone else has recruited a top-notch basketball team), and then it’s time to hit the court. See the videoEach player controls a team of three with offensive and defensive moves; the player can control any member of his team. (INTV Corp., 1987)

Memories: Several of the “Super Pro” sports games released by INTV Corp. – the entity that took on the task of continuing software support for the Intellivision long after Mattel Electronics had given up on the system in the face of the then-looming video game industry crash – began life as re-coded single-player versions of existing Intellivision sports titles. Slam Dunk is an example of a game that diverged completely from the code of its two-player-only predecessor (NBA Basketball). Continue reading

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