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Illogical

Posted by , 21 June 2005 · 1,016 views

1972
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Analogic.

This is the first entry in the genre of "early math games that videogame makers thought had to be included to give their system an educational appeal." All of the early systems had at least one of these types of games. It impressed me that the Odyssey, an analog system that doesn't do math, would introduce this form of edutainment. Their flavoring of it is also ambitious. Analogic could also be considered the first Science Fiction themed home video game.

The Überlay consists of a grid of numbers with some solid circles forming an asteroid-field-like barrier diagonally across the screen from lower left to upper right. (see pic above) The players start with their "light beam transceivers" (i.e., little white squares aka the Player Spots) on opposite corners of the field (odd player, upper left, even player lower right). They activate their light beam transceivers by pressing the reset button which, by adjusting their ENGLISH control, allows the Ball Spot to go back and forth between them. This is to represent the transmission beam between the two transceivers. It's actually a cool idea, to me.

After a coin toss, a player goes first by moving to an appropriately numbered square. Here's where it starts getting, er, interesting, with the usage of the word "interesting", in this context, meaning "hardly interesting at all."The object is for the player from the planet ODD (in the upper left) to reach planet EVEN before the player from planet EVEN reaches planet ODD. If the player from planet ODD goes first he may move only to an odd numbered square. If the player from planet EVEN goes first he may move only to an EVEN numbered square. Usually a player may only move in the horizontal or vertical direction, but there's a special sitch for a diagonal move. We'll talk about that later, look forward to it!

Succeeding moves go as follows, and I'm quoting from the manual, caps and italics are THEIRS: "The EVEN player may move only to a square whose number combines with ODD'S last move to total to an even number. ODD may move to a square whose number totals to an ODD figure when combined with EVEN'S last move." The player has to do these sums aloud before they move.

During this movement each player uses his ENGLISH control to maintain interstellar contact. This isn't too hard to do and it is a nice touch, but at a certain point it becomes irrelevant. Once the transceivers get close enough, the manual says don't worry about maintaining contact. If it's lost by a player during their turn, when it does "matter", the other player gets a Diagonal Chip good for a diagonal move. A chip may also be acquired by touching one of the planets towards the middle of the Überlay. Presumably that is why contact between transceivers when in close proximity is unimportant, one should be able to pick up enough Diagonal Chips in the cluster of planetoids making the maintenance of the beam unnecessary, at least for purposes of Diagonal Chip acquisition.

This game would not suck so much if it wasn't for the fact that it is possible to stalemate. When we played, at least, we got to a point where it was no longer possible for the player from EVEN to move in any direction. He'd summed himself into a corner, as it were. Maybe they didn't do any playtesting on this one, maybe playtesting hasn't been invented yet in 1972. Maybe he could've avoided the problem by picking up more Diagonal Chips. Dunno. Don't care.

Lack of a stalemate would not have made this game much more fun or interesting, though it may have allowed for a feeling of closure and possibly a partial point for originality of design. I can't give it any points, though, because it made me cranky.

I did like the theme and the idea. The gameplay, though original, in the way it introduced math on a system that can't do math, just wasn't fun enough. For the record: my son, 7 years old and pretty good at math, hates Analogic like the Grinch hated the Whos. We wouldn't miss Ultraman for this. Hell, we wouldn't miss The Partridge Family for this! If we ever recommend Analogic to you, it means we don't like you.

The Score: Ultraman: 5, Odyssey: 3.0

Another edutainment title tomorrow: States. EDIT: NOT States, Roulette.

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Simplified rules (equivalent to the ones supplied):
Whichever player goes first goes to his type of square (odd or even). The second player always goes to an odd square. After that, players go to whichever type of square they're not on (alternating odd and even).
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Simplified rules (equivalent to the ones supplied):
Whichever player goes first goes to his type of square (odd or even).  The second player always goes to an odd square.  After that, players go to whichever type of square they're not on (alternating odd and even).


Ah, you're right, those are much easier to understand. Thanks! :)

(I always over complicate instructions. It's why I'd make a terrible teacher!)
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Did you play the game afterwards using the right rules, as supercat explained? I simulated a game looking at the overlay and it looks like it's highly probable that both players would make the exact same moves, although symmetrically, unless they use diagonal chips. I didn't examine it deeply, but it looked like it as the overlay is symmetric in relation to the diagonal separating both players' planets. The numbers aren't the same, but their parity is. Since both players end up having to pick and odd number, then an even, and so on, and they both want to get to the other side in the shortest distance, they (probably) end up using the same path.

This seems to be true if ODD plays first. If EVEN starts, then the first move by both players can't be symmetric, and their paths MAY differ. I emphasize MAY because their 2nd move can "correct" this and put both players on the same symmetric path.

I think the "light beam" between both players was a necessity so that players eventually missed the ball and gained the diagonal chips. That's what really gives the advantage of one player over the other.
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I forgot that players could get chips when touching the middle planets. That helps things a bit, although getting to the center is tricky to start with. By the way, I think a player can go back and forth and land in the same planet to get multiple diagonal chips. The manual seems to allow it!

When a player passes through the Planetary Belt, he receives a diagonal chip for each time he touches one of the five planets.
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Hey, good point about that potential exploit. I wanted to like this one sooo much, simply because of the science fiction approach. We never did go back and play it, though I think it would be cool to map the overlay and see the possible paths. They had to have tested this I would think. It's just that at a particular point, the paddles would cross and the beam would be impossible to connect... the paddles wouldn't deflect the beam anymore because it would be coming from the other side of the paddle... the paddles were "one-way"... hmmm... well, it's been 7 years since I played, I may have to check again.
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Ah, just let it be! More games ahead of you than behind! :D

I don't think there are that many possible paths. I made some experiments when I read this entry and many paths actually lead to dead ends, forcing you to go back and pick another one. The best path was basically through the middle. This really feels that it wasn't playtested properly... (if there was such a word back then).
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Thanks to the wonders of Sly's fantastic OdySim I am now able play these old 'gems'.

Like you I roped my offspring (daughter in my case) into playing.

 

Mixed report if we stuck to the games rules we got caught in cul-de-sac's and keeping 'interstellar contact' just got annoying. However we tweaked the rule set dumping the 'interstellar contact' gimmick completely and both started with 8 diagonal chips so if we ended up in said cul-de-sac's we had a way out.

Turns out with these 'mods' my daughter had a fun time, we will probably never play this again but we enjoyed it.

 

However the Odyssey is pretty superfluous for this game, it is essentially a board game with the Odyssey merely supplying your avatar. 

  • Report

Thanks to the wonders of Sly's fantastic OdySim I am now able play these old 'gems'.

Like you I roped my offspring (daughter in my case) into playing.

 

Mixed report if we stuck to the games rules we got caught in cul-de-sac's and keeping 'interstellar contact' just got annoying. However we tweaked the rule set dumping the 'interstellar contact' gimmick completely and both started with 8 diagonal chips so if we ended up in said cul-de-sac's we had a way out.

Turns out with these 'mods' my daughter had a fun time, we will probably never play this again but we enjoyed it.

 

However the Odyssey is pretty superfluous for this game, it is essentially a board game with the Odyssey merely supplying your avatar. 

 

OdySim is an interesting effort, but the way it fails to accurately reproduce the way the controllers works makes most (all?) games not really play the way they were meant to, and some of them unfortunately end up broken to the point of being unplayable. Analogic is one of them - OdySim has the English control reset to horizontally straight forward whenever you aren't actively pushing buttons to change it, meaning there's no way to actually set the English, and you thus have to play this game by manually steering the ball between the two paddles constantly, while trying to do calculations and move the paddles and whatnot. That's not just annoying, that's unplayable, and not the way the game was intended to work at all.

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In a nutshell, here's what's happening.

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