Videocart #17, Video Pinball, FCF 1978
I wasn't able to find instructions for this one, but the label has enough guidelines for use that we were able to figure it out for the most part.
It's not really Video Pinball at all. It's Video Breakout, which is the same as saying Breakout (licensing issues aside), since the "video" part of the name is assumed.
We do enjoy some of the variations on Video Breakou-er-Pinball as presented on this cart. The game variant called "Cooperation" allows one player the ability to only move the paddle to the right and the other player can only move the paddle to the left. This is fun because it allows the players to yell at each other, while cooperating. "Move it back! Move it back! NO! Too far! Baka!" (yeah, we watch a lot of anime.)
(PSA)This can actually engender more bad feelings than a head-to-head competition, so play with others at your own risk.(/PSA)
"Crossover" is interesting in that it puts both player paddles on the screen, each at a different vertical level. Players alternate sending the ball up to the bricks and switch to the front (upper) level when it is their turn to hit the ball. If they miss when it is their turn, their paddle disappears and the survivor plays out the ball.
The "Blok" variants are pretty cool. In addition to controlling your own paddle, you're given control of a paddle further up the screen, just below the wall of bricks. You use this smaller paddle to block your opponent's ball from hitting any bricks, which stops them from scoring (which enables you to whup their sorry bottom).
All of the games allow you to adjust the size of the paddle to a pixel-fine degree, so that's nice if you really wanted to hone your Video Pinball skills to a sharp edge or just create a massively wide paddle if you prefer your skills to be honed to a soft shapeless mass.
The "mode" setting manages such things as invisibility mode, increasing angle of deflection mode, paddle shortening mode (gets shorter after every hit) and what I'm assuming is a ball speed-up mode. We haven't got the instructions so I'm speculating based on casual observation. I'm sure with some math, we could figure out all the possible mode variations and we'd come out with about 32 different ones, which is what they already came up with for us. I'm sure I didn't try all the modes. You can forgive me for that, can't you? Let's just say 6 different games times 32 variations for each game equals 192 games, which, were they Atari, they would have emblazoned on the cart and box proclaiming the cart to contain 192 games.
Oh, and I think I've realized the error of one of my (many) erroneous ways. (Please don't tell me about my other erroneous ways as I like to stumble on them and be surprised, and later depressed. Then I go into denial and I'm fine again.)
I've often said that I like the Channel F controller, lots, because it is a joystick, a paddle and a plunger all in one. Well, I think I've been wrong this whole time about the "paddle" part. I can't really call it a "paddle" in the same sense that we refer to certain Atari controllers as "paddles". The twisting action only goes about a quarter turn in either direction. It's more of a "twist right" or "twist left" functionality, meaning there's only three "twist states" for the controller (left, neutral and right). When using a genuine paddle controller, one can feel that they have precise control over the speed at which their conjoined virtual paddle traverses the screen. Let me just say, in case I've given the wrong impression: The Fairchild Channel F controller does not lend itself well to that type of control at all. I apologize if I've implied it does.
To get around this, the programmers of Video Pinball come up with a creative, but not altogether effective, solution. To move the screen paddle to the right, move the joystick to the right. (no surprises there, stay with me). To make it move faster, push slightly forward on the stick while moving it to the right. To make it move slower, pull slightly backwards on the stick while moving it to the right. The deduction of how to control the speed while moving the paddle to the left remains as an exercise for the reader.
Clever, Yes? Very manageable? Well, not completely unmanageable but not completely "bee's knees" either.
All in all, like a lot of the Fairchild Channel F games, Video Pinball gives me the impression that there were some smart people designing games for the Channel F, but that the machine itself must've been a real pain in the tush to work with. I like the fact that they did some cool Breakout variants, but the controller just doesn't serve their ideas very well.
Next entry: Channel F's Hangman, because the public demanded it.