States (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)
The overlay is a map of the USA. There are 50 cards, each highlighting a specific state with three questions about the state. There's an answer brochure ("Affairs of States") and what can best be described as a paper version of the overlay. They refer to it as a "study map", but it reminds me of a place mat they give my kids to color when we eat at a diner.
The questions are cute and range from little rhymes to help your memory with learning the captials to riddles about certain official state items.
For instance, on the Kansas card:
1. Arm in arm, cheek to cheeka - Kansas' capital is _______?
Or for Alaska:
2. Why is Alaska's state flower easy to remember? (heh-heh, I like this one)
(answers next entry!)
The design of the game calls for the player to randomly select a state on the screen by closing their eyes and randomly rotating the horizontal and vertical knobs on the controller. Upon reset, the Player Spot would float out on to a random position and that's how a state gets selected for the card collecting/questions asking portion of the game. 80% of the time this would result in a blank screen because the player would turn one of the knobs too far in either direction. When it did work, the gameplay was okay enough. The player would have to select the appropriate state card from a region deck and say what state it was. If they got it right then they "win" that state's card. If that state card had already been won, they could challenge for it by answering a trivia question about the state and capture it from their opponent.
Pro: Cute, simple and the questions were pretty effective as learning aids because of their clever mnemonic devices.
Con: The randomization system sucked eggs!
What we found to be more effective and entertaining was shuffling the cards, drawing a card and telling the player what state to put the Player Spot on. If they got it right, they won the card. If they answered a question on the card, they got to go again. We didn't have any "challenges" to capture already won cards. This also helped to speed up the game.
Because this game uses the Odyssey Randomization Technique, I almost X'd it out of hand. However, after I looked through the cards, revised the rules and played a few rounds of it with my son, we found that we enjoyed playing it together. I don't think that's a Bad Thing.
Now, if I were 7 years old and had to choose between this or Ultraman, I'm certain I would have chosen Ultraman. HOWEVER, I'm also pretty sure that my parents would've chosen differently and would probably have offered to play States with me. SO, I'll give this game a point for its encouragement of parents appreciating video games for their educational value and playing them with their children.
The Score: Ultraman 6, Odyssey 4.0
Now, go play an (age appropriate) video game with a child you love. (or a parent, if you're still a child yourself.)
EDIT: Something I forgot to mention, but I thought it was interesting. The deck of 50 States cards in four seperate Odysseys I've acquired have been in alphabetical order. Since the game requires you to divide the deck by regions, which takes them out of alphabetical order, one can only assume that if you get a deck and it is in alphabetical order, it was never played, or played by someone who was anal about order.
Another interesting thing about the "alphabetical" order: each of the four decks were in fine order from Alabama to Wyoming, except Hawaii was always last , as if they'd forgotten to include it until the last minute. There's probably a production deadline story behind that. We'll never hear it.
Next Entry is Simon Says.