When you play games on the RCA Studio II, you have to change your whole perspective on life.
You have to remember that you're lucky to even live in a world where such a thing as videogames exist. Then, you must remember that you are one of the few citizens of this planet who can spend money on videogames without having to worry about eating. Being so fortunate, how can you not greet each day, at the very least, with a faint smile?
You know that if you choose to do so today, and if you manage your time well, you may play a videogame. Surely, even if it is a mediocre videogame, you should remember how lucky you are to have the opportunity play it. Count yourself twice lucky if you get to play even a mediocre videogame with a loved one.
If you have a good attitude and an overwhelming awareness of just how sweet your life is you may be prepared to experience the RCA Studio II System.
However, even with a "count your blessings" perspective, it is exceedingly difficult to enjoy games on this system without starting to damn the misuse of planetary resources.
You will find yourself mourning the trees used to make the RCA Studio II game boxes.
You will shake your fist at the squandering of petroleum and silicates used to create the plastic casings and the electronic circuitry.
You will curse the fact that there are actually chemicals being used in your brain to store the memory of playing these "entertainment products"... in fact, these brain chemicals could have been better spent reminding you to move your bowels.
And with that happy thought... on to the games:
All of these games rate Ungood. If I describe one as "Fun", I mean it is "more fun" than getting hit in the face with an entire train.
There are five built in "games" on the RCA Studio II. You get to them by pressing a combination of keys on one of the keypads rather than putting in a cartridge.
The first one we tried was Doodle. Doodle was slightly interesting, but not a game. You can create very simple blocky drawings with Doodle. After you've finished your artwork, press a button and then watch in fascination as the RCA Studio II manipulates your art into an color inverted form. RCA Studio II creates a negative of your "art" by scanning row by row and turning "on" any pixels that are "off", and vice versa. It's slightly hypnotic, but given the low resolution, less fun than an Etch-a-sketch and a good deal more expensive.
The next is called Patterns. Patterns is slighty more interesting than Doodle. It uses the same control method as Doodle except now you just draw a tiny visual "motif" and let the mighty COSMAC chip elaborate upon it, over and over again. If you've ever found fractal patterns interesting you might find these patterns interesting in a "complexity from simplicity" kind of way. However, before "playing" you should bear in mind that they are nothing like fractal patterns and a lot less interesting.
Bowling was "fun enough" (remember the train?) for one game. The ball oscillates vertically on the left side of the screen. At any point in time that you choose, you send the ball down the alley with a command to "go straight", "hook up" or "hook down". Wherever the ball collides with the "pins" determines how many pins fall down. The math in this machine can't handle sending back bowling scores one frame into the past. So if you get a strike, instead of adding your next two balls to that frame, it simply gives you a 20. A spare is 15. A perfect game is 200. I rolled a 154 and feel no compulsion to push myself beyond that feat.
Initially, Freeway was "fun" according to my son. How could any game with cars in it not be "fun"? He soon changed his mind when he realized how simple it was. You control a car on a narrow road. You approach a computer controlled car from behind and try to avoid it as you pass. Again and again. The gameplay is neither fast nor furious. The computer car is so easy to predict that it that you could tell someone else when to hit certain keys while you went into the next room to get a snack. What is interesting, from an interface design perspective at least, are the controls. It is a single player game but the player uses both keypads: keypad B (#4 and #6) controls steering and keypad A controls the speed (#2 for increase, #8 for normal and #0 for decrease). Someone make it stop.
EDIT: That paragraph really didn't end right. I had some kind of a brain-fart while editing and never cleaned it up. There was really no transition from describing the interface to describing the pain. That's because the pain is overwhelming, I guess.
Addition was a nice little math drill for my 7 year old. The game puts up three digits, you have to add them and press the number on the keyboard before your opponent does, or before time runs out in the case of playing solo. You score points, up to 11 for each problem, based on how long it took you to add the three numbers. Since there are only ten keys on each players keypad, the numbers will always sum to less than ten.
I'm completely exhausted by this, you have no idea how draining these games are. Next entry, we'll go over Space War.