Basketball, the game where gravity goes sideways.
This game is, surprisingly, very fun. First you have to turn your gravitational perceptions to the side. See the Überlay? Okay, see the left side of the Überlay? Okay, good. That's the floor. Yeah. No, really! STOP LAUGHING!
So, the two player spots, remember, we call them Player One Spot and Player Two Spot, they start the game off at center court. The reset button is pressed and the basketball comes soaring in from off-screen right. It moves past the players to the Left-positioned Wall ("floor") and rebounds back to the right ("up"). Then and only then, are the players allowed to move their respective Spots to go after the ball, "dribble" it against the "floor" and maneuver it into their respective basket.
The key to this game being fun is the CONTROLLER! Yes! The design of this game is around this little box of potential fun (or potenti-ometers). Let me illuminate those of you who've never seen an Odyssey Controller. No, I don't have a fracking picture. You'll have to do this with your imagination.
Picture a little box about three and a half inches tall, four and a half inches wide and about two inches deep. On the right hand side is a knob. That's your vertical control knob for the vertical movement of your Player Spot. On the left hand side is also a knob. That's your horizontal control knob for your Player Spot. Now, picture a knob within and extending from the center of the left knob. THAT's your English control. Your English control controls the up or down motion of the Ball Spot while it is in motion to the right or left and only after it has been deflected from your Player Spot. So, with regards to your control over what's going on on the screen, here's what can happen:
You can move your Player Spot vertically and horizontally at the same time.
You can move your Player Spot vertically and you can control the English (up or down motion) of the Ball Spot if it has just deflected from your Player Spot.
You CANNOT, control the English of the Ball Spot, the Vertical movement of your Player Spot AND the Horizontal movement of your Player Spot all at the same time. Nope. Reiterating: NOPE. You'd need fingers that bent oddly on your left hand OR you'd need extra digits to extend from your palm.
And that's the key to this game being fun and actually exciting.
To dribble the Ball Spot each player has to position their Spot towards the Left Wall (floor) and bounce the Ball off of that Wall. Using their Vertical Control AND their English control they can move the ball up and down the screen by deflecting it between the Wall and their Player Spot while controlling the English. THAT's dribbling. When they are ready to shoot the ball, they let it rebound from the Wall and use their English control to move the Ball Spot around their Player Spot, around their Opponent's Player spot and to their net, so that the Ball Spot lights the center of the net before it leaves the screen.
Are you with me? Can you visualize all that? I may have to hook up the VCR to the Odyssey someday to get it on tape. Yes, I'm serious.
Okay, Now. They have to do all of this (dribble, shoot, score) while their opponent is trying to steal the ball from them. To steal it from them, the opponent has to move their Player Spot slightly closer to the dribble Wall, using their Horizontal control. When the Ball deflects off of their Player Spot, SUDDENLY, they have control over the English (vertical trajectory) of the Ball!
See, the Player who has the Ball is worrying about the English, and can't worry about the Horizontal control of their Player Spot, at least not at the same time. The Player trying to get the ball has no control over the English but can direct their full attention to the Horizontal control. As soon as they gain posession of the ball, they then have to worry about the English of the Ball, and effectively can't worry about the Horizontal movement of their Player Spot!
As soon as they stop to adjust the Horizontal position of their Player Spot, they're no longer moving the Ball up or down and they're vulnerable to their Opponent who could steal it easily were they to relax their guard in this manner.
So, in a nutshell: By succeeding in an attempt to steal the Ball, the player immediately looses the movement advantage that allows them to steal the ball in the first place. Furthermore, in doing so, that's exactly the advantage their opponent gains.
Doesn't that sound like one-on-one basketball in the real world? The offense is slowed down because they have to dribble the ball, while the defense is free to move to try and take it. These attributes immediately transfer themselves when the ball changes hands. It's beautiful, and the Odyssey is doing it with two paddles, a ball and a line (and a big black rectangle for the background). Don Emry was/is a frackin' genius.
So, I give to Basketball the Odyssey Best Game Award. Truly a game that has no right to be as rare as it is.
Ultraman put up a great fight in the beginning but in the end has succumbed.
Ultraman 11, Odyssey 15.
Keep in mind: Ultraman was still being produced in Japan last time I checked (in 2002). So, while Odyssey won this series of battles, Ultraman really won the war.
So, next entry, a brief rehash of the Games of 1973. Then we'll move into the Vast Library of Home Video Games Available in 1974!!! Hardy-har-har.
This is a true story: while I was blogging this, a group of kids started playing Basketball in my driveway using my, uh, basketball net-thing. I never use it, so I didn't mind. Then I heard it crash against my garage door and realized the liability I might have if it did the same thing to my neighbor's car. (parked behing the net-thing) So, I decided I had to tell them "sorry but no game" (hell, I'd give them the net if it wasn't concreted into the ground, I'll probably never use it in my life). I opened the garage door but they ran like the wind.