I’m excited to show you the OdysseyNow Game Pack, the result of a lot of research and development at the Vibrant Media Lab that I direct in Pittsburgh. We’ve developed a brand new game card for the Odyssey (the first one not designed by the Magnavox team), a brand new accessory controller (the first created besides the original light rifle), and a set of three new games. This was all produced as part of the OdysseyNow project, which you can read more about in another AtariAge thread. Here’s a glimpse of the games…
In a remote wing of a remote galaxy, on the frontiers of cosmic knowledge, lies Tannhauser's Gate, a colossal directed energy beam fed by a spacio-temporal anomaly of seemingly ceaseless energy. On the other side of the Gate is The Expanse, one of the most mysterious and deadly regions of outer space yet discovered, a zone that seems to vacillate in its allegiance to the laws of the quantum to the laws of the galactic. Spacetime here seems to have a will of its own. Charybdis, a black hole, lies not far from the Gate, and is clearly related to it in some way. Crimson Maw, a mostly uninhabitable planet, nonetheless provides researchers in the area with an ample supply of both common and rare minerals. Unfortunately, the planet and its single natural satellite, “Odysseus,” are isolated from the gate by the massive parade of interstellar stone known as the Scyllan Corridor. Closer at hand, yet surprisingly more barren, is the planet Coronation. Because few minerals or supplies of interest can be found there, it is used mostly as a garbage dump. Such is the fate of even the most regal of mineral-poor planets.
Multiple interstellar civilizations have sent researchers to the area, mainly in an attempt to understand the intergalactic wormhole that serves to connect this remote spot to the energy-rich Flywheel Galaxy via Quantum Refluctuation. While ostensibly a demilitarized zone, Tannhauser Gate is plagued by intense rivalry over the scientific knowledge that it provides to its sponsoring corporations, governments, and collectives. These researchers must uneasily share a moon base shielded by the Gate. To venture beyond its boundaries is to be bombarded with a relentless stream of dark particles. No shields can last for long. While an interstellar team of engineers has managed to harness the local energy flux to construct the Gate, its operation remains partially at the whim of the energy patterns that feed it, making the expanse beyond the Gate even more risky to explore.
For this reason, the largest scientific collective to currently study the area has created a specialized, long-range scanning platform. Located safely behind Tannhauser Gate, it launches and receives C-beams capable of probing any form of matter. Their rivals, however, use replicant-manned spacecraft to explore outside of the Gate, directly.
Take on the roles of the Scanner, Explorer, and Gate Keeper as you compete to complete your missions and disrupt your rivals. Will you be the one to discover the secret of Tannhauser Gate?
Tannhauser Gate is a 3 player game that makes use of a newly designed game card (#13). This card includes an external Aux jack and a “Switch Controller” that attaches to it. The card generates the Tannhauser Gate. The switch controller opens and closes the gate. The Gate Keeper player draws a special Gate card at the beginning of each round, which contains a special gate pattern that must be followed. The Scanner player remains stationary throughout the round, but may send C-beams (represented by the Odyssey’s ball) through the gate to scan various objects in the expanse beyond. The Scanner draws Scan cards that provide specific assignments to carry out. Meanwhile, the Explorer must charge up their ship, activate their life support system, wait for the right moment, and zip out into the expanse, attempting to complete their missions (given on special Explore cards) and return to safety inside the gate before their ship is destroyed by the energy fields of the expanse. This is extremely risky, however, as misjudging the ever-changing rhythm of the gate could cause the ship to implode before it can reach safety!
In addition to Game Card #13 and the Switch Controller, Tannhauser Gate makes use of the Damocles controller, the first Accessory controller for the Odyssey besides the light rifle. The Damocles controller plugs into the ACC port on the Odyssey. When Player 2 presses the large red button on its face, a countdown timer lights up and begins counting down. When it hits zero, it extinguishes your on-screen player spot. Its button also lights up red to remind you that you’re dead! A white “regen” button allows you to regenerate your ship when the time is right.
In Tannhauser Gate, all three players are doing completely different tasks using completely different tools, yet all three interact in unexpected ways (the gate can bounce the Scanner’s C-Beams away as well as “lock out” the Explorer at a crucial moment, Scan missions can require the Scanner to scan the Explorer, and Explore missions sometimes require the Explorer to intercept C-Beams. The results ensure that no two games of Tannhauser Gate are the same!
Fukushima is the first-ever cooperative game for the Magnavox Odyssey. Two players are placed inside the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and must work together to prevent the inevitable: a meltdown. Each player takes on a different role in the plant. Player 2 uses the Damocles controller to continually complete a Cooling Cycle, while also assisting Player 1 complete a progressively more difficult Maintenance Cycle, which involves directing the ball to specific points while also activating particular buttons at specific times. This would be enough of a challenge as it is, but a third player with a timer consults a Meltdown reference card and at the appointed times calls out various new disasters that the players must contend with. (Note: If you only have two players, you could also make a recording of the Meltdown Cycle and play that back during gameplay.) The game starts out easy, but gets progressively more difficult as you try to beat the clock to safely shut down the reactor before it fully melts down. Because the game has a delineated set of “levels,” you can easily track your progress. Your team can even compete against other teams for a high score (level achieved + time survived at the point of failure). No one here has been able to beat the game yet. Maybe you can?
Fukushima is not only the first coop Odyssey game, but is also the first to utilize the “Wall adjust” control on the console itself. In this game, the wall represents the reactor’s containment barrier, which must sometimes be moved by the players to gain access. But be very careful: when the containment barrier is open, you must prevent the ball from entering the core or it will instantly melt down!
Fukushima requires game card #13 and the Damocles controller.
Super Cat and Mouse: Cheesy Castle
At OdysseyNow, we are big fans of the underappreciated Cat and Mouse game on the Odyssey. We think that a fun concept and mechanic was undermined by substandard production design, and have decided to re-invent the game by giving it a proper setting: a medieval castle. Now, the mouse must collect cheese strewn about the castle by lazy humans, while avoiding the King’s fierce cat! As the King’s cat, of course, you must rid the castle of that peasant vermin.