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  1. Well, I wasn't able to bring any chronogaming equipment with me for the summer, but I was able to bring some screenshots that I've finally "processed" and moved to the computer in this place that's hooked up to the net. (Neither of my PCs seem to work with the network here. They've become paperweights.) So . . . Boxing (APF MP1000, 1978) Oh, so, here's the obligatory menu screen. Ya gotta love the alliterative appellations. Slugger Sam, Horrible Harry, Jabbing Joe. This game is from a simpler time when such names could cause amusement for us. Heh. Boxing for the MP1000 kinda reminds me of playing something on the TRS-80. Remember how some, if not most, (hell, if not, all) of the games with graphics on the TRS-80 didn't really have "graphics" per se? The were just ASCII characters or rectangles arranged in such a way that looked like graphics? The Tandy CoCo was probably the same way. Anyway, these graphics look like they're made of not-so-little rectangles, just like Tandy's stuff. Two boxers, differentiated by a slight tan on the left one, start the game out in their corners (er, line segment terminals?) and . . . come out fighting! The stick on the APF controller is squeaky, so since this is actually more action oriented than most of the other games there's a lot more squeaking going on. The stick moves them from side to side, the side buttons launch a punch and pushing the stick forward blocks an incoming punch. Hey, we're looking at the first 2d fighter!!!! See Mr. Paler stick his arm up like that? I call that the "Mr. Fantastic Punch" for some reason. The way it's animated, it looks more like squares are being added as extensions to his arm than it looks like he's moving it. I should still mention that the animation is pretty detailed, stretchy arms not withstanding. The boxers "dance" from one leg to the other as they "float like a butterfly, sting like ..." um, Mr. Fantastic. I call this the octopus shot. Overexposing the picture lead to the combining of the two organisms into one eight-legged beast with two heads. Horrible to behold yet impossible not to stare at. This game supports two players and, impressively, supports ONE player. Yes, they've provided the three nemesi mentioned (Harry, Joe, Sam) to pose as punching bags. I'd love to describe them as three delightfully distinct opponents, each with exciting nuances that differentiate them from one another, but it seems I lack a "sense" for such subtlety. Either that or they are all exactly the same. (EDIT from corrective post I made later: Boxing: I mentioned before that there are three AI driven boxing opponents with different alliterative names yet indistinguishable fighting habits. THAT was an incorrect statement. I played it again yesterday and say that each computer opponent has a boxing style primarily concerned with their offense. Horrible Harry punches every 3rd beat. (one, two, PUNCH, one, two, PUNCH). Slugging Sam swings every other beat (one, punch, one, punch) and Jabbing Joe stabs at the air every beat (jab, jab, jab, jab). Just thought I'd mention it as I wasn't kind when I spoke of the variation in opponents before. (Hey, it'd been a month or so since I'd played it. Gimme a break.) END EDIT) Here's the blocking feature in action. Blocking is when one boxer holds up their hand and the other boxer's stretchy arm extension thing can't penetrate. Oh and here's what everybody is waiting for. The shot that shows one brute hitting the other so hard it DEFORMS HIS HEAD! Reporter: "Rocky, do you think you've suffered any brain damage?" Rocky: "I don't see any." This came out in 1978, just two years after Rocky. (Best Picture, 1976) but since my chronomachine couldn't handle going back to 1978 (after having already moved on to 1979) I can quote things from Rocky II even though it didn't come out until 1979. Makes me want to yell "YO, ADRIAN, I DID IT!!!" Or if Creed had won . . . From what I understand, when someone is unconscious from being hit in the head many times, they're not really "asleep" so those "ZZZs" are really misinformative. Can anyone give us the details on being unconscious? I try to put a little science into each and every post. We had fun with this, squeaky controllers and all. I can't remember anything about the actual sound effects for the game; it's the squeaky controllers that stand out in my mind. I don't know what I'll look at next. This entry was supposed to be the casino cart (slots!), but I didn't take any screenshots sooo, we'll see what we got.
  2. Technically, the APF doesn't "end" until 1979. Space Destroyers, a Space Invaders clone for the APF MP1000, comes out in 1979. While I've seen Space Destroyers on eBay a few times in the past, it's been over a year. Even on collecting forums it seems to turn up rarely in "wanted" and even less rarely in "for sale." I'm going to count this title in with Bingo for the RCA Studio II, I'd play it if I could find it. According to the rarity guides it's as scarce as APF Blackjack (R7) but I've got two Blackjacks and I've seen others on ePay. I just can't get a handle on this one. So, anyway, if anyone who reads this happens to have this cart, please let me buy, borrow or rent it from you. I'll take good care of it and send it back asap, though if you don't act soon, I may have to buy another console to replace the one I'm trying to sell. Here we have the accumulated APF collection: No boxes for anything ... ... but I do have six or seven genuine instruction booklets and the docs for the console ... (Dungeon Hunt instructions are missing from the shot, but I have those, too.) and the packing foam. I paid $84, shipped, for the console. and $50, $21 and $55.87 for three separate lots of carts, shipped. Total cost basis through eBay: $210.87 I'll sell it all, shipping included, for $200 even (that's $10 off for the broken Brickdown in the lot.) if anyone is interested. If you want a more detailed breakdown of what's included and higher resolution photos I can send them, too. Serious inquiries only, please. Next entry we'll continue where we left off in 1979 with cart #23 Galactic Space Wars for the Channel F.
  3. The slogan may be "Every game. Chronologically" but the philosophy is really "Every game I can find and afford, or, if not, emulate. Chronologically." There have been a few games that I to plan to get even if they didn't make it into my first six years of chronogaming. Atari PONG - The first killer ap for home videogames. Odyssey 300 - Because it was my first. Coleco Telstar Arcade - I'm honestly not dying to play it, but I can't forget about it, either. Coleco Combat - Ditto for this. Atari Stunt Cycle - Ditto. Atari Video Pinball - See above. APF MP1000 carts with the following on them (some are on same cart) UFO - Ooo! Another attempt at sci-fi! Possible imaginative game on MP1000 or not? Sea Monster - It might not suck. Dungeon Hunt - Earliest Fantasy based home game? Backgammon - I'm wondering if they had opponent AI. Boxing - Curious about this, too. Would've been first Boxing title. Roulette - Haven't seen a Roulette game since the 1972 Odyssey. Keno - what the hell is Keno anyway? Slots - First example of Slots on a home system. If there's anything that I haven't listed, I must've forgotten it already! I'll simply live without the experience and move on with my life, namely, 1979. Of course, there's a danger here in not being completely obsessive compulsive about it. By nature, I'm pretty lax, so it's easy to say, "well, I won't worry about playing such and such" every now and then. I mean, I HAVE a life, surely I can forgive myself for not playing EVERYthing! However, I must be careful about saying it too often, because I'm certain I'll end up missing something that I would have thought was worth playing. Either that or I'll wake up in the middle of the night 20 years from now and say "Slots!!! I never played APF Slots!!!" So, I'll try to be lax, but um, vigilant at the same time, if that's even possible. I'll list the games for 1979 next entry.
  4. UFO/Sea Monster/Break It Down/Rebuild/Shoot (APF MP1000, 1978) I'll say one thing about this cartridge: it has motion. Getting decent screenshots of any of the games on this cart was impossible for me, due to the constant motion of one or more of the elements on any given screen. Well, except the menu . . . UFO and Sea Monster are reverse variations of Sea Wolf style gameplay, almost. UFO-1 just has you blasting alien drones that move across the screen. The UFO that scores the most hits, wins. Yee-haw! UFO-2 is the exact same thing, except you're blasting alien passenger saucers (or what I imagine to be saucers containing sentient beings.) hit the most saucers and you win. Yee-awn! Sea Monster has you in ships a little more domestic and floaty. This time you're shooting at Sea Monsters that traverse the bottom of the Sea Screen. There's a catch to this one. Hit the Sea Monster, gain 5 points. Hit one of the cute friendly fish and you lose all your points. One strategy is to hit the Sea Monster once or twice and then don't fire at all, thus keeping you from inadvertently destroying friendly sea life. This was a little fun. I'll mention that the sounds for these games are all quite adequate. No complaints there. Below are three links to .mov files that try to capture the essence of these games in about a megabyte, each. (DEAD LINKS WERE HERE AND ARE NOW GONE) Break it Down and Rebuild are interesting. In the former, there are rotating square perimeters at the bottom of the screen. Player to clear theirs with the least amount of shots wins. Rebuild is the exact opposite of Break it Down. You have to shoot "invisible" places at which a part of the rotating square perimeter appears when hit. Hopefully, the attached .mov's display the essence of the gameplay. (dead links were also here but this time I'm proclaiming it without using all-caps) The last game is called Shoot with three variations. Shoot a Little, Shoot and Shoot a Lot. (one more removed dead link) The variations are only in the amount of ammunition with which one starts the game. You and your competitor each control a laser-cannon-like device which fires a solid beam up the screen. You're trying to hit either of the square blocks that are going back and forth across the top. When you strike them, you gain points and they change color, speed, or both. When you run out of ammo, your game is over and the person who does the most with their starting ammo wins. I'm astonished by my lack of anything even moderately amusing to say about these games. These games are neither bad enough to activate my sense of humor nor good enough to activate my sense of fun. Maybe I'm just tired from OVGE, which was awesome by the way. We've got One. More. 1978. APF. Game! I was lucky to "win" (purchase) a working copy of Brickdown/Shooting Gallery and we'll look at that one next.
  5. Okay, we've been here before. Last time we were in 1978 was back in October of 2005 or so and I'd finished doing all the APF carts I had. I ended with Brickdown/Shooting Gallery. At the time my copy didn't work. Now it does. Brickdown/Shooting Gallery (APF M1000, 1978) Brickdown is a sideways version of Breakout. If I recall correctly, it's similar to the version The Woz did for the Apple II in terms of sideways. The game play is fine, except for some anomalies. I don't know if they were intentional or not. First anomaly: When the ball is returning from the bricks it will sometimes take out multiple bricks, wiping them out as if they weren't there. (dead link of gameplay movie removed) Second anomaly: Sometimes your paddle hits the ball, even if it doesn't touch it. Third anomaly: Sometimes your paddle misses the ball, even if it has touched it. Fourth anomaly: There's no field refresh after clearing the field. You could have 6 balls left and have downed all the bricks and the only thing left to do is use up your remaining balls and end the game. No more points to score, nothing to do really. It's creepy. You can choose a field 8 bricks deep or 12 bricks deep and play either on fast or slow. That's it. Not a bad game but I'm not crazy about using a squeaky joystick to play it. I'm a firm believer in paddling. (Especially if my partner is willing, but let's leave my personal life out of this.) Atari's version of Breakout is pretty superior to all the versions we've seen, including the Bally's though that also has a nice paddle control scheme. Shooting Gallery is similar to the Shoot games from the UFO cart. Except that there is a section for each shooter. The target changes color, size and speed, like the previous Shoot game, after a successful hit. It doesn't suck in that the targets move smoothly and the graphics are clear, there just isn't a lot here to enjoy. You try to hit the target as many times with the amount of ammo you're given (three levels) and that's that. (another dead link to a movie) I'll get the pictures posted and write a summing up entry for the APF.
  6. Pinball, Dungeon Hunt, Blockout (APF MP1000, 1978) Oh, how sad. I'll start with my disappointment rather than with my surprise fun. Dungeon Hunt is essentially Battleship! except without the stimulating use of a coordinate system. The playfield is 70 tiles representing 70 places one can look in the "dungeon." Up to four players may each take a turn typing in the number under which they'd like to search. This action eliminates the number and either reveals an empty space on the board or reveals part of one of 8 exciting objects, er, treasures, consisting of 1 to 4 parts. Given that there can be four players, there can be "fun" in the competition to uncover the rest of the object. Since one doesn't know how large the object is, and one doesn't know what shape it will take (it isn't a uniform line like a ship in Battleship would be) it can be interesting as the other players descend upon the area where the treasure is uncovered to try to uncover the rest of it if the first to find it fails to uncover the whole thing. Damn, that's a long sentence. I blame Red Bull. The colorful things are the treasure. Feel the tingle. Overall, however, I was disappointed by the lack of "flavor" in the game. There wasn't any risk of being eaten or enscorcererolled or anything like that. It was very hard to get into the spirit of being in a dungeon. Lacking a basement in my home, we couldn't even provide our own dank and damp. When I first saw the title I honestly thought it was going to be some initial attempt at an RPG. I was wrong, though not for the last time. *sniff* No, I'll be alright, really. The TREASURES exposed in all their sparkling sarcasm. Oh, wait, that's my sarcasm. Sorry, I got confused. Moving on to Pinball. DEAD LINK was here. <-- Click here to activate your presumptuous Quicktime plug-in! ACHTUNG! 656K! The above is my first attempt to embed some kind of movie link. The movie isn't a great representation of the playfield but it should give you some Idea of the blinkin' and movin' going on. My camera is old, so there's no sound. I will correct this failing someday and have spiffy sound-filled feeds that go right into my camera. Pinball is . . . different. You remember Video Pinball on the Channel F? How it was just Breakout, 'cept they called it Pinball? Remember? Well, it's not important if you don't. (*sigh*) Well, this isn't just Breakout, so that's plus one over Channel F's. The screen is fairly blinky, which a screenshot can't convey so try to download the small MOV file I made (warning 656K). The ball bounces around the screen and you have a paddle at the bottom which you move back and forth to keep the ball from leaving. In its travels the ball may hit bumpers, some of which generate points, others may merely reflect its trajectory. The two sides of the play field consist of openness through which your ball may plunge, unless you press the fire button to generate sudden walls. Failed Ergonomic Design This is where we discover the failed attempt at primitive ergonomics: the fire button. Not content to make the button merely "button-like" they made the edge of it slightly concave, providing a little valley for one's finger to rest. Unfortunately, with a valley one also produces sharp little peaks. In the heat of the pinball game I stabbed my finger on it more than once. Ouch. Beware the jagged, pointy edges! Despite the pain, Pinball is some fun. There are three levels, one which includes two paddles, and they can be challenging but, alas, not interesting enough to drive me to attempt to generate any type of high score. Last but not least: Blockout This one my four-year old called "Two Rooms Mixed in With Each Other." I think she has a future as an artist who names other people's paintings. Equivalent to Checkmate on the Bally Professional Arcade or Surround/Chase on the Atari VCS, Blockout falls short of both versions in that it only allows two players (Bally's allows four) and only has four variations (Atari's has a bunch). Still, my four year old and I had fun playing "what does that look like?" after each round. (we made the word "go", the word "to," scary eyes, a duck and a bathroom, among other Rorschach-ian results). The color of the trails change each round, which is a nice switch up from always being pink, green or blue. The sound is actually a low key, almost mechanical-sounding click that doesn't come close to prompting me to turn the sound down, unlike Atari's. (yeah, if it's too loud, I'm too old.) A new twist to the genre was the addition of a barrier variant. However, the barriers are unvarying from one round to the next, which would, um, make it a barrier invariant, I guess. The color of the barriers change, but their aggregate invader-reminiscent shape remains. Conclusure Dungeon Hunt was disappointing, Pinball was better than I thought and we managed to have fun with Blockout. I think next time we'll do the cart that has UFO on it.
  7. Backgammon (APF M1000, 1978) Backgammon is an ancient and respectable game. My experience with it, prior to chronogaming, is limited to wondering what the design on the back of my checkerboard was when I was in grade school. Remember those? You'd have a checker board (or chess board) and on the other side there'd be these two dozen triangles and we'd be like "what the heck is this design?" and some other kid would always say it was backgammon but nobody knew how to play it. At least, no one around me did. This is close to the opening. I'm playing the blue pieces. So far, there's only two Backgammon games out in our universe of videogames. Backgammon for the Fairchild Channel F and Backgammon for the APF M1000. In a duel to the death, APF's Backgammon wins because it has something not often found in the videogame versions of boardgames during this era: a computer opponent. clearly, victory is close at hand. (EDIT 2021: The screens got kind of scrambled so I honestly do not know if this screenshot is appropriate for the caption beneath it, as I've forgotten anything I've ever known about playing Backgammon.) Of course, the Channel F's Backgammon actually had the instructions for how to play Backgammon, where as the APF's version just tells you how to implement the software. So, with Channel F instructions in hand and the APF cart in, I play my first genuine Backgammon game against a computer and I win! Or at least I think I do. There's no fanfare whatsoever at the end of the game. I've born off all of my pieces and the computer continues as if nothing is amiss, even expects me to take my turn when I have quite clearly beaten it soundly. In fact, I don't think the computer has any AI to speak of. It's as if it's "phoning in" its Backgammon moves while playing a game of 3-D Go with someone in another timestream. Of course there's no blue piece on point, I've already won, you cybernetic simpleton!* Oh, there's no doubling cube in case you were wondering. Channel F's has a doubling cube, but of course one had to provide one's own friend to play it with, so I guess it's a trade off. It's an impossible move because I'VE BORN OFF ALL OF MY PIECES, you misguided mechanical misery!* (EDIT: Again, if you know Backgammon, it's very possible that the screenshots have no relation what-so-ever to the captions beneath them. Mea culpa.) Screenshots later (EDIT in 2021: Added them, but many years late unsure which ones went with the captions). It's a nice board, actually. Graphics, no complaints. The fact that it HAS a computer opponent: thumbs up! The fact that the computer opponent is a little "special": meh. Next entry will be the fabled Dungeon Hunt cart! Yay! Early D&D themed gaming! Yay! I want to fight a Ballhog!! ("I SHALL NOT PASS!!!") *Insults courtesy of Dr. Smith.
  8. Okay, I'm back with all my chronogaming equipment and ready to do this whole chronogaming thing again. Yes, time in general has moved forward in my absence, but I'm still stuck in good 'ol 1979, looking at the APF games from 1978 that I missed the first time through. (Or was it my second time, since technically I lived through 1978 before) Today, we're looking at the one I thought I might never see and regret for the rest of my life. I'm fairly prone to "stress" and "regret" dreams. Though definitely more the former than the latter. Lately, I've been doing a lot of studying for a class I'm taking (Federal Tax Accounting, whee.) and last night I had those horrific school related-acheivment dreams where you find out about a class you've never attended or you're naked in a class you've never attended or you're naked taking the final exam in a class you've never attended, etc. So, my worry was that after doing this chronogaming for 30 years or so I'd be waking up screaming: "Slots!! I never played Slots on the APF M1000!!" Not that I'm a big slots fan, but the slogan is "every game. chronologically" and, well, you know, if I didn't do slots, then I wouldn't have done every game. (Yeah, I know, I'll probably never do Bingo for the RCA Studio II. Boo-fucking-hoo. I'm over it.) Casino I: Roulette / Keno / Slots (APF M1000, 1978) EDIT: I came up with a pithy way to sum up this cart. These games all rely on luck, however if you happen to be playing them, you don't have any. /EDIT Roulette was attempted for the Magnavox Odyssey waaaay back in 1972, six years ago on the chronology. I hated it. Really. On the APF, I also hate it, but it is a kinder, gentler, less italicized hate. First let's look at presentation, which you will be able to do when I post a screenshot. I'll just talk about it, for now. The presentation is good. You've got your little bank at the bottom from which you place bets, you've got the mainboard on which you may place bets from 1 to 9 and the side boards which take bets up to 99. Placing bets is strange. You move your marker around, left to right only, until you're at your bet and you input your amount. The amount doesn't show up on screen while you input, nor are there any audio cues to indicate you're inputting anything. You just hit "5", hit "enter" (or "fire") and a "5" will show up under the position you're betting on. There may be a limit to how many bets you may place, but I didn't find it. I placed 12 before I felt I was just pissing my life away and had to stop. Payouts are simple, 2 to 1, 3 to 1 or 36 to 1. This is a two player game, by the way, and both players may place their bets simultaneously! That's a nice feature, as proceedings would seem to stretch interminably if it weren't there. When you "spin" the wheel the number indicator goes through a bunch of numbers randomly for about 12 seconds and when the number comes up, all the winning points on the main board are marked. It's actually pretty spiffy. The problem is: it's still Roulette! I just can't get excited gambling in such an abstract manner for merely a score! I can't see that there is any skill involved; I can't see any "clever" bets that will improve one's odds! It's neither a puzzle, nor a game and it is as fun as flipping a coin except there's even less money involved. Keno is a new game (EDIT: by new, I mean, new to videogame-land), in fact, I'm tempted to say that it's an APF exclusive! You've got a Keno board with 80 numbers. You pick 2 to 15 numbers (out of 80), (your co-player may also choose numbers). When ready, you pull down your stick, the computer clears the Keno board and picks 20 numbers of its own (out of 80). If your numbers come up ... you win! You start with $100.00. Each time you play a group of numbers it costs $.70. The amount you win varies depending on how many numbers you've chosen vs. how many numbers you've chosen that the computer pulls up. With one number chosen and chosen correctly the payout was $2.10. (though I thought you had to pick between 2 and 15, mistake in the manual?) When I picked 5 out of 8 correctly I won $1.40. Kids, you can do the math for this at home, if you want, I'm mathematically paralyzed by not caring. The presentation is good enough, as you see in the screen shot; the Keno "board" is shaped like one. There's an area for your picks below it. Everything moves quickly enough, for Keno, I just see no draw for this game. I just can't imagine people designing this game, based on a real Vegas game, I'm told, and thinking there would be people who would enjoy it. Buy it? Maybe. Enjoy it? No way. Slots. Slots is awful. You can't choose the amount of your bet. You just pull back on your stick and the machine goes. The noise produced by the slots, um, slotting, is unpleasant. The graphics are fairly colorful, but as representations of icons found in a slot machine, they're a little hard to identify, though not impossible. The horror is that you just pull back on your stick, you lose a coin from your bank, the slots "whir" and you either get a payout, or you don't. I just don't get it. Two players get separate banks but have to take turns pulling their respective stick. What the heck is up with that? You can only win 2 coins (one cherry) or 5 coins (two cherries). If you're very lucky, you can get three gold rings (or lemons, not certain) and win 10 coins. If you're even luckier, you'll lose power before you lose 40 minutes of your life trying to find out if there's a "jackpot" or something. If there is, 40 minutes is too long to wait to find out, but I'm certain that, eventually, you can win more "money" for other sets of three; I just never saw them. Now I can lay this little obsession to rest and I am happy about it, despite how unenjoyable Casino I is. See, "enjoyable" isn't really the point of this whole exercise, is it? No, it's merely indulging an obsessive compulsion. Of course, 20 years from now, I'll wake up screaming: "Slots!! Oh, god, I played APF SLOTS!!! *sob*" (EDIT 2021: Well, it's been almost 15 years and no nightmares. Just thought I'd let y'all know.) Next entry we'll do another APF gem, I think we'll try Backgammon. I have the instruction booklet for this one, too, so I'm a little excited.
  9. Lots of pictures, thought I'd make it its own entry. Here are the participants that took, what, 6 months to play through? They seem like such tiny piles . . . Here we have the 1978 Atari VCS family with their enlightened 7800-only cousin from the future and the underused but kinda cool keyboard controllers. The Cuttle Cart 2, for those who don't know, is used to play games on Atari hardware for which I no longer have the original carts. Here's my little APF collection. I included the manual, Cartridge Club card and catalog sheet just to make the picture more interesting. If it ain't here, I couldn't play it. Except for Brickdown / Shooting Gallery, which was here, it just didn't work. There are emulators out there for this, but I've found no ROMS. This is the Bally Professional Arcade console with its 1978 progeny. I used MESS to get to the ones not present in physical form. BTW, that Red Baron cart is dead, but its appearance would lead someone to think otherwise. Oh, also notice my butt-ugly homebrew Bally controller frankensteined from Atari controllers. It's not only ugly, it's a pain in the ass to use, too. Here's the Bally Box. Notice the arcade cabs on the front. There's Sea Wolf. See it on the left? Ya can't take that home on a cart! From Sea Wolf we see Tornado Baseball, 280Zzzap, Checkmate, and Gun Fight. I thought this picture was interesting because you can see they were selling two levels of experience here. First, they were trying to get across that playing the home system was like playing the games in the arcade. Second, by putting costumed persons next to the games (at least the Sailor and the Umpire) they were trying to sell the idea that playing these games was like doing whatever it was those games were having you pretend to do. Something else to notice is the age range of the players at the cabinets. Kids at the Baseball cab, granny at the Checkmate cab. Back in 1978, the "powers that was" were trying to get everybody to play videogames. Young and old, regardless of gender, were part of the target demographic. Of course, all types play games now, too, they're just divided up onto different platforms: console gamers, pc gamers, MMORPG gamers and casual gamers. Not meant to be a comprehensive list. Hey! I do have the instructions for Video Whizball, after all! I'll have to type them in some day. If I had remembered I had them when I wrote Whizball's entry I wouldn't have gone all apeshit in making up a backstory for it. I think the Odyssey^2 boxes are purty. Odyssey and Odyssey^2 did a really nice job staying consistent with their box designs. Notice on the bottom right, the glorious Odyssey^2 Multi-cart. Here's the first "Ultimate" System! Can YOU name every "Ultimate" system there's been? Next entry, I'll try to show the "Unplayed, but not forgotten" for 1978.
  10. Mezrabad

    1978 Retroview

    There's already a list of all the games that came out in 1978 in this entry here. Rather than rehash that list with the only change in it being the addition of smilies or frownies, I think the electrons would be better spent on picking out a few of the standout titles from 1978, by system, while giving each system a general rating. APF MP1000 -- Not Nearly As Fun-Free as I Thought It Would Be This system really seemed to have some potential, but it was wasted on unimaginative games. Still it should be said for the record that it boasts the best looking Blackjack and Hangman to date, and the second best looking Baseball game (Bally beat it, graphics-wise). EDIT: I almost forgot, APF MP1000 beat all the others to the punch on one thing: AI opponent in a videogame version of a boardgame. Catena, the first videogame version of Othello, had an AI opponent. I imagine the APF Backgammon had an AI opponent too, but I'm just speculating. The APF doesn't come close to threatening the RCA Studio II's title of Worst Game Library Ever and it was a unique and pleasant experience (despite my whining) to get a look at the games I was able to find. However, I'm really disappointed that not a single person has volunteered even a description of any of the games for this system that I wasn't able to find. Either it's a lot less collected than I think it is, or people are just really unwilling to share their experiences, as rare as those experiences may be. Specifically, I'm really, really curious about Dungeon Hunt so if anyone can tell me anything about it, with screenshots, I'd still be much obliged. BTW, if anyone can lend me the games that I still need to play for the APF MP100, I'll purchase an additional $50 worth of stuff for Child's Play during this year's drive. Odyssey^2 by Magnavox -- Much, Much More Fun Than I Thought It Would Be Let's just say I had really low expectations for this system, my experience with it having been limited to emulation. That's no insult to the emulator, it's more of a comment on how much better a game library can be when you use the actual console and controllers for which it was designed. I'm not saying I had a spectacular time, it just was much better than I imagined it would be. While not spectacular, I should admit that I spent a whole lot more time playing Baseball, Cosmic Conflict, Computer Golf and for some reason, even Las Vegas Blackjack than playing games for any other system to date. For example, I probably spent two hours playing Computer Golf. That's got to be a record. I don't even like playing golf. Atari Video Computer System -- Almost, But Not Quite As Much Fun As I Remember It Being Okay, my expectations for this were a little higher than what was met, but not by much. I was expecting to be "Very Happy" and was only "Happy", which is acceptable. This system has the longest list of games we enjoyed: Basketball, Braingames, Breakout, Codebreaker, Outlaw, Slot Racers and Space War. It also has the longest list of games released for it in 1978. Bally Professional Arcade -- Less Fun Than I Expected My experience with this system was darkened because my controllers weren't and aren't working up to spec. In a poetic, forgiving mood, I can say the difficulties with the broken controllers probably serves as a temporal echo of the technical problems that hassled this system during its first year of release, most notably the faulty systems shipped during its launch and the overheating problems that plague most of these consoles to this very day (I'm referring to 2006). In a less poetic and less forgiving mood, I just curse, though I try to make it rhyme. I think I'll start hunting for a broken system to salvage its controllers, otherwise, future games, no matter how good, just won't be enjoyable. 1978 games that I did like for this system, despite my wonky controllers, were Gunfight, Football, Tornado Baseball, 280Zzzap and Clowns. I would consider this system's launch year library and its initial purchase price as the least bang for the many bucks needed to get this console. Fairchild Channel F -- More Fun Than It Should Have Been This system just doesn't get the love I think it deserves, but I can understand that, as I can be exceptionally forgiving of underdogs. Dodge-it and Video Whizball were neat concepts and we had more than a little fun playing them. Still, the number of titles released for it in 1978 was small and it doesn't come as a huge shock that this was the last year that Fairchild released new games for this system in the U.S. As per usual, I'll have pictures up of all of the "new" stuff used for this year's crop of games, but probably not until tomorrow. Next entry will be looking forward to 1979.
  11. Y'know, I'm certain there's a way that I'm supposed to be listing the title of the game. I'm sure that, for my humble intentions at least, the way I'm doing it now is just fine and dandy for all those involved. I'm taking a technical writing course this session and I'm beginning to think that for everything that I've already written, there's a "better" more "appropriate" way of stating it. Of course, if I wrote these entries as "technical writings" then this would be less of a blog and more of a "technical journal". Still, it'd be nice to be able to describe things a bit more succinctly. I'm hoping that my course will help me with that without ruining my unrefined charm. Heh. Sea Wolf, Bally Pro Arcade, 1978 Previously, I've been playing and talking about these home videogames as if I were a shut-in, or very young child (Which I would've been circa 1972-75). The idea of doing that was to limit discussion to the arena of the home, somewhat, and to keep things from getting too complicated. Yes, I've already written about a few arcade-to-Home conversions without comparing them too much to their progenitors, but overall I've been acting like the arcades don't exist. I guess, one could say, it keeps the lab cleaner. We're going to take off the clean room suits now and officially acknowledge that home videogames, in many cases, existed in the arcades prior to their debut on home videogame consoles. Yes, I might have mentioned them before, in passing, or in an out-of-character/chronology moment, but here and now, let me just express that I will refer to a home videogame's arcade precursor more often and with the expected forms of due reverence. The Bally Pro Arcade does a lot of home ports. Their first year of existence had a few arcade titles, of which, 280Zzzap immediatly springs to mind. Sea Wolf and its cart partner, Missile, both share the characteristic of having been brought home from the arcades. Why do I mention it now? Well, because playing Sea Wolf in the arcades was a unique experience at the time and this home conversion just doesn't cut it. The arcade version of Sea Wolf had a special controller. It was made to resemble a periscope. You look through the viewfinder to see your playfield, which was the ocean, and you rotated the periscope to aim your torpedoes. There was a pinging sound; there was a fire button on the periscope; the whole setup gave me a wonderful feeling of immersion. Yes, that turned out to be a pun, and you should be laughing out loud at this very moment, but I tell you -- "immersion" is the best word to describe the Sea Wolf arcade experience. "Immersion" is also the exact word that could describe what the home version lacked. Instead of a periscope, you move a pink submarine across the bottom of the screen and launch torpedoes at the various ships that cruise overhead. Without the periscope from the arcade, this game becomes nothing special. Instead of feeling like you are in a submarine, you're merely controlling a toy submarine (pink!) that is now in your living room. So, what's my point? Sea Wolf is notable as being the first arcade to home conversion that was severely diminished by its voyage home. The simple fact a periscope couldn't be attached to my TV is what killed this game for me. Some of you will disagree with this and may point to home games like Indy 500 or 280 Zzzap as neutered driving games, when bereft of their driving controller. You're not wrong, but neither fell as far as Sea Wolf did from its below-sea-level arcade origins. Missile is from the arcade game Guided Missile and doesn't lose much in its translation. It's like Sea Wolf exept you control the missile during its flight to destroy trucks and other moving land based targets. It is also not a lot of fun. In fact, were I not determined to at least mention it briefly I would have ignored it altogether. All it's doing now is detracting from the poignancy of what I was trying to express concerning Sea Wolf. Cripes. Stupid flipside game. That's all for 1978. I may do a run down of 1978. I've been stuck in 1978 since September of 2005. I'm really looking forward to moving on to 1979.
  12. Guest

    Math-a-Magic! Echo!

    Math-a-Magic! / Echo! Odyssey^2, 1978 Okay, this should be short and sweet. Because of the Odyssey^2 keyboard, Math-a-Magic is fairly usable as far as Math edutainment goes, however, it really doesn't count as a game. Yes, there's a timer, so you can see how many problems you can do in a certain amount of time, and yes, a "music noise" is played every time you've answered 10 more problems correctly, but it's just not a game. You can pick from four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) and three different skill levels for your math-a-magical fun. No, there isn't actually any magic in this game, other than the title. There's an algebraic version of the game. As you may guess, instead of asking 3 x 4 = ? they ask 3 x ? = 12. I was impressed by the big numbers they were willing to use for the third skill level. (numbers in to the thousands) There's a pretty cool drill program for Multiplication and Addition tables, so I'm actually going to make my kids use it for real. I don't care if they like it or not. Heh. I guess if you have basic math issues, or are learning, Math-a-Magic! will help you and it will actually take you up to three and four digit numbers. Echo! This is like Simon or Touch-me. A sequence plays and gets added to, you play it back to the console using the keyboard, repeat until you get it wrong. This echoing game gives you three chances to make a mistake and then it's game over. I was only able to get to a 33 note sequence. The keyboard wasn't as helpful to me here, as my number "four" key didn't consistently input. That could've been my fault for not looking at what I was doing all the time. I guess it's hard to touch type when you can't feel the keys.There's no variations for Echo! You can't make it more than four different numbers for the sequences. You either do it or you're out. I wonder how far the sequence can go? I might cheat just to find out. Bottom line for this cart: I personally could live without Math-a-Magic!, but I might force my kids to learn on it. Echo! isn't bad and the buttons respond better than my old Simon does. More often than not on my Simon when I make a mistake it's because a lens didn't make the proper connection. Next entry is the last game from 1978. I missed it for the Bally Professional Arcade when I was going through its 1978 library. I give you Sea Wolf! Hey, there's no actual exclamation point as part of its title. That suddenly seems weird.
  13. Guest

    Computer Golf! Odyssey^2, 1978

    Computer Golf! Odyssey^2, 1978 Computer Golf! is the first golf game for a home videogame console. There are nine different holes and the game supports up to four players.I tried to hype this game up for my family over the weekend, but we didn't get to play. Today, however, both kids were home from school sick. I yelled "Who wants to play Computer Golf!?" and they both dutifully yelled "I do!"(I could've yelled "Who wants to step on puppies!" and I would've gotten the same response.) Players 1, 2, 3 and 4. If you can't tell, they are Mr. Blue, Ms. Pink, Yellow Dude and Purple Babe. My kids just weren't up for this one. My son was grouchy and my daughter just wasn't able to make the fine adjustments to set up the golfer for each shot. My son got even more grouchy while waiting for his turn. I learned that this is not a game to play with more than two people if everyone is playing it for the first time. The waiting can be painful. I can see this as a fun, four person, beer and pretzels game for ONE EVENING ONLY, provided proper training is provided for each player before an "official" game starts. If you're looking at Computer Golf! as a possible recurring event with tournaments and week-to-week record keeping, you might find that your friends' schedules are suddenly full on nights when they used to be dateless and playing videogames. Mr. Blue gazes at the final challenge. For the record: I liked this game best as a single player event. I enjoyed trying to figure the best path around the trees to the cup and trying to find the best angle and power setting to take with my club. I still think I could beat my low score and will probably play again, but only with me. There are a few interesting technical aspects, I think. Each playfield starts as an overhead view of the entire course, through which you must walk your golfer (alas, no golf carts) to the ball after each shot. When your ball does make it to the green, the playfield "zooms" in for a close up of the area immediately surrounding the green. That's pretty cool, to me, and I can't think of another game prior to Computer Golf! in the chronology that does anything remotely similar. Purple on the Green I also think that having the nine different holes represents another "first" in home videogaming. I can't think of another game with nine different pre-designed playfields prior to this point in the chronology. We noticed that you can get the ball into the hole even if you're not on the green yet. We learned this by accident, but were pretty impressed when it happened. This would seem to allow for getting a hole-in-one. Unfortunately, that feat looks only vaguely possible on one or two of the holes, and we couldn't do it. There are trees that serve as obstacles, which can provoke the golfer to have a tantrum if the ball hits them. It is very nice to see a humorous touch. I can't say that I've seen that very often yet in other games. Bottom line: Not bad as a single player game. Not great as a four player game, but not awful, either. If it is winter and your friends like to play golf, then this might make a fun evening, once. One more game for the Odyssey^2 in 1978 and that's Math-a-magic! / Echo!
  14. Guest

    Baseball! Odyssey^2, 1978

    For the record, I'm out of actual 1978 Odyssey^2 carts. The remaining carts for the year 1978 will be played using the wonderful Odyssey^2 Multicart. Baseball! Odyssey^2, 1978 I'm almost certain that if I took a look at every (programmable) home videogame system ever made and eventually intended for a TV in a living room in the USA I'm pretty certain I'd find a Baseball game for it. For some reason, as a youth, I never took to enjoying the real-life game of Baseball. Neither have I ever developed any interest in Football, Hockey, Basketball, Soccer, Rugby, Men's Volleyball, Curling . . . well, the list is a little long but I think you get the idea. Subsequently, I really have very little interest in sports titles on any system for any era. It's not that I think they necessarily suck or something. I just couldn't care less about them. So, when I tell you I enjoyed a videogame of Baseball you have to understand that it doesn't mean I think it's a great game or that I think everyone should play and enjoy it. It merely means that I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, which is to say, I enjoyed it "some" compared to expecting to enjoy it "not at all". Despite the fact that we've enjoyed, to some extent, nearly all of videogame Baseballs in the past (all of them with the notable exception of Atari's Homerun), for some reason, I continue to not expect to. The pleasant side effect of low expectations is constantly being surprised, though it can be draining. EDIT: (The following lines accidentally got cut from the original version of this entry. Sorry!)Not only was I surprised that we enjoyed this Baseball "some", I was surprised that we enjoyed it "quite a bit". As far as gameplay goes, this was the best Baseball we've played so far, and it's the first Baseball that my son has asked to play again!(Now I know why people who write about games all the time stick to a set format. It's too easy to leave something out! )END EDIT For Odyssey^2 Baseball!, I think the main feature that wasn't available previously on the other systems (Bally, Atari, Fairchild, RCA and Magnavox) is the ability to throw the runner out as they run around the bases. If the ball is hit to the outfield, the fielding player moves the outfielders to retrieve the ball and a single press of the action button sends the ball right to second and generally will keep a runner on first. If the runner has already made it to second (because you were exceptionally slow in getting the ball) you can use the joystick to direct the ball to third base, home or first base instead. This adds a lot to the playing of the game and can allow a smart runner (or a poor fielder) turn a base-hit into a homerun. Really, the best thing to remember to do is throw it to second and then not do anything because after two seconds of no player input, the ball automatically goes back to the pitcher and it's the next batter up. Graphics-wise, this game is functional, but it neither has the smoothness of animation as found on the Bally, nor the level of detail as found on the APF (recall the APF had bleachers with a few fans in them, as well as having each team run out to its field positions.). However, it is far above the blink-fest which is Atari's Homerun. Oh, and I forgot to mention: It's Red vs. Blue, again. Here are shots of just the infield players waving at the photographer.Sound-wise, this game opens playing something close to being music, but sounds more like an atonal sound effect. The sequence of, um, notes? is supposed to be the opening line of "Take me out to the Ball game". You'll think you must've lost your sense of pitch if you hear it. The rhythm is close to being right, but the notes are not. In fact, they are so explicitly not, that one wonders why the programmers even bothered to leave this exceptionally bad example of videogame music in the game. I will be shocked if the Odyssey^2 ever has anything which passes for a musical game on it. It's a shame, really, because that built-in keyboard would make playing some simulated musical instrument possible. I'm certain I had fun playing notes in Atari's Brain Games. Maybe the Odyssey^2 has untapped musical potential at this point. One nice design touch: if the pitcher throws the ball and the batter misses it and the catcher catches it, the ball is thrown back to the pitcher from the catcher. If the pitcher throws a wild pitch that soars past the catcher and past the bottom of the screen, the ball is thrown back to the pitcher from the bottom of the screen and not the catcher. I like the illusion that it adds to the persistence of the ball's existence, you know? Wherever you see it leave the screen, that's from where it should return, as if the umpire had been inspecting it before tossing it back into play. It's not consistent throughout the game, but I laughed when I saw it happen the first time. (May have been a tech reason for it, but I prefer to think not.) Well, what next? Computer Golf and I'm going to try to get my whole family to play it with me, as I think it's for one to four players.
  15. Guest

    Match Maker! Buzzword! Logix!

    Three games, one cart! This is getting out of hand . . .Before I talk about the individual games on this cart, I should point out that this entire cartridge uses the keyboard and nothing but the keyboard. I don't know why, but I find that admirable. This console actually uses its keyboards while other consoles only have half-hearted attempts at keyboards (Atari, Bally). Match Maker! Odyssey^2, 1978 This is one of those "deja vu" games, we've seen it on other systems before. I think I enjoy this version of "memory match for TV" a tiny bit more than the others. This is directly attributable to how painless it is to use the Odyssey^2 keyboard for typing in single letters (or short phrases). The graphics that you must match are very, very simple but are distinct from one another and are a veritable "who's who" of icons from other Odyssey^2 games. I'm not crazy about videogame versions of the matching game. I'd much rather crawl around on my floor with my children while playing Memory Match, but that may just be me. However, as these games go, I think the Odyssey^2's interface solution (with a full keyboard) is the most comfortable out of the video Memory Match offerings of the late 1970s. Buzzword! Odyssey^2, 1978 Buzzword is just Hangman without any hangin'. You get eight chances to guess a word wrong and when you run out, game's over. Why would kids want to learn to spell if there isn't the threat of someone's virtual death looming over them? If they get the word right, there's no reward either, it's just "hit reset" and try to guess another word. This game is easier to play than the other versions I've managed to actually enjoy writing about, mostly because of the Odyssey^2 keyboard, but without a lynchin', there's just no spark to it.One more thing I must note about Buzzword: The directions claim that the Odyssey^2 picks each word from its "demonic dictionary". There's no other attempt at alliteration, nor any other references to nefarious elements of our demon haunted world throughout the rest of the pamphlet. Why, then, should they choose to do so for a dictionary? What the hell is up with that? Weird. Witness a single example of its demonic vocabulary. Logix! Odyssey^2, 1978 Logix! is a Mastermind variant with nothing to especially distinguish it from the others except that no number occurs more than once in the five digit number sequence to be deduced. This simplification does make the game more accessible for beginners, but there's no harder variation to make it more challenging after they get the hang of it. Maybe they couldn't afford the memory needs of a more challenging variant because the "demonic dictionary" of Buzzword was hogging all the space. (I know, I shouldn't blame what are probably design decisions on perceived console limitations, but I had to take another poke at the "demonic" thing.) Yet again, what Logix! does have going for, it is the Odyssey^2 keyboard. It's just nicer to type in the guess than to do the joystick manipulations needed on the other systems. I don't remember how the Atari handled it (was it on Brain Games and used the keypad?) but I remember playing it on the Fairchild. I liked it fine on there, but I like it better with the full keyboard. If only there were tougher variations included. Odyssey^2's Baseball is next. (and then Computer Golf, Math-a-Magic/Echo, and Sea Wolf/Missile on the Bally, which I missed during my 1978 Bally run through and then we're done 1978!)
  16. Guest

    Bowling! Basketball! Odyssey^2, 1978

    Two games, one cart! Again! Bowling! Odyssey^2, 1978 First off, in my book at least, ANY game in the 1970s that allows for four players gets my thumbs up. Not necessarily WAY up, but definitely "up". Bowling! allows for up to four players. It uses a similar bowling formula that we've seen before on both the RCA Studio II and the APF MP1000: Oscillating ball at the bottom of the alley, press the button to send it and then use the controller for a one shot chance to hook the ball at just the right moment to knock down a number of pins. I can't say whether the pins simulate any sort of physics in terms of, "if pin A falls at a certain angle then pin B falls", and I haven't been able to get a spare on a split to test if I can "slide" a pin across the alley to knock over another pin. Again, it's my attention span we're talking about here. If I had a longer attention span, I'd still be playing Morrowind. Two skill versions: League and Pro. Pro just has a faster moving ball, both while it oscillates and after you release it. For graphics, I'd say that the Odyssey^2 Bowling! has the prettiest color schemes. Each player gets their own themed screen. (See amalgamated Warhol-esque quad-shot below.) Alas, the programmers did seem to have to make a sacrifice in allowing this to be four player and that's in the scoring. A strike is worth 30 points and a spare is worth 15. If you know how scoring in bowling works, you're likely to go, "eh?". See, normally, a spare in a frame means you take the ten points from the spare along with however many pins you knock down with your next ball and it gets added to the frame in which you got the spare. A strike would normally score similarly, except you add your next two balls to the strike's frame. The Bally Professional Arcade handles its Bowling's special scoring just fine, but the RCA Studio II and Odyssey^2's version do not. I don't know if this was a design decision or a programming limitation. (Storing the "spare or strike" flag while other players took their turns might have been tough? I don't know.) It might have been a way to simplify the rules of scoring for a population that might not be at all familiar with the sport. Anyway, Bowling! gets a "not bad!" but in all likelihood, we'll never play it again. Basketball, Odyssey^2, 1978 Basketball brings together Red and Blue again! With arms and legs!As a way to kill about 15 minutes of time, this game is kinda fun, just don't call it Basketball, call it "Run with the ball and try to throw it into that box-thing on the wall." Your on-screen avatars don't even dribble, they just carry the ball from one side of the court to the other and shoot at the basket when you press your action button. The shots are random in velocity, so just because you make a shot from one place doesn't mean you can go back to the same place and make it again. That random element adds the bit of unpredictability to the game that prevents solid pwnage, and makes it possible for even the most hand-eye coordination challenged to have a shot at making a basket. I would have to say that the first Odyssey Basketball was more fun than this game, whether one calls it "Basketball" or not. (Atari's Basketball, in my opinion, beats them both.) Someday, in the future, I'm going to have to do comparisons of all the games that showed up in multiple forms on the systems of this era. I may do that before the dawn of the "third-party" era, or I may wait until the Crash. Next game cart contains the incomparable Matchmaker! Buzzword! Logic! though I feel like I've talked about these before . . .
  17. Guest

    Football, Odyssey^2, 1978

    Football, Odyssey^2, 1978 Wanna dance? Like Bally's Football, Odyssey^2 Football does a good job of offering the plays and the interaction that the real sport promises, without the bone crushing, spine shattering injuries. Major difference between this and the Bally is that the Bally shows a "slice" of the football field and scrolls the field to accommodate movement, while the Odyssey^2 Football shows the whole field all the time. The Bally animations seem to move a little more realistically, too, but that's just a general impression and I can't validate that by saying I counted the frames per character or anything. The game starts when the whistle blows (which sounds pretty good) while the players are in their huddles discussing their plays. Defense and Offense selects their plays by moving their joystick to a particular position based on plays as diagrammed in the instruction manual. It's not a bad idea to have those plays memorized before playing, because if you don't, it's harder to pass the ball to your wide receiver, who is the only one who can catch it. When he does catch it, you lose control of your quarterback and you take control of the wide receiver. The figures that you can control are distinguished by noticeably thinner necks. I think this is a useful, subtle idea and less distracting than say, making them blink, or turning them a different color or putting a cursor under their ass. That's really all I can think to note, otherwise, it's a football game and I guess it isn't a bad game at that. We had some fun with it, we're just not huge football fans. Something I should talk about is a short line found in the manual. "On-screen electronic sensors enable the defensive linesman to follow the ball automatically." Huh? on-screen electronic sensors?!? . . . I think that says a lot about the time period in which this is written and either the level of understanding the marketers had about the technology or at the very least, the level of expectations they had of their customers' understanding of that technology. I'm going to guess, that here in 1978, more people have a general understanding of electronics than have a general understanding of programming algorithms. So, terms like "enemy AI" or even "artificial intelligence" itself, aren't exactly in the public meme. However, everyone who's seen a James Bond movie knows about electronic sensors, right? Next entry, Bowling and its sister sport, Basketball.
  18. Guest

    Armored Encounter! / Sub-Chase!

    Two games. One cart. Armored Encounter! Odyssey^2, 1978 I'll include a picture of these tanks when I have one. Oh, hey, I do. Here's Mr. Blue and his eternal nemesis, Mr. Red. Okay, this is very much like Atari Combat, the Tank games, with minor changes to the gaming variants and one very notable addition. Two tanks (red vs blue, again) face off with or without guided missiles, with or without barriers (simple or complex) and with or without mines and with or without combinations of the three variations. (12 games in toto) The mines are a new but not really notable addition to the tank game. They show up as big white X's that give your opponent a point when you run over them. They disappear after they are set off if I remember correctly. (we played this last week and I just can't bring myself to check just now.) The notable addition is the limit on tank ammo. You each have 20 rounds and when you're out of ammo, you're out of luck until the game ends or when your enemy runs out (which also ends the game). There's no counter on the screen for the ammo, but your last three bullets are a different color, so you are given warning. This addition really adds something to the game. Baiting your opponent and dodging their shots is fun and so is hunting them down when they're out of ammo. We really had a good time because of that addition to the gameplay. Something else that made this game more enjoyable is the design of the Odyssey^2's joysticks. I've really gotten used to them. I'm assuming they're simple 8-way joysticks (I'll have to look that up) but their range of motion is really comfortable and I don't feel like my son or I are having any problems using them. This is in contrast to the Atari VCS joysticks, which are rarer to find in working condition in my experience. I guess if I had to compare the two Tank games from Odyssey and Atari, I'd have to say it's a dead heat. If I only had an Odyssey^2 with Armored Encounter, I wouldn't be pining away for Atari's Combat's Tank games and vice versa. I'd be happy enough to enjoy either game, in the context of the era during which it was released. If I had to point out a flaw in either of them, I'd have to say that the Odyssey^2's barrier fields were pretty lame looking. It's interesting to point out what I think is the biggest difference between Odyssey^2's Armored Encounter and Atari's Combat: the way they chose to describe these games in their catalogs. Magnavox described Armored Encounter as "an astonishingly realistic simulation of armored warfare!." Atari didn't seem to put on any airs for their title, saying simply, in one of their catalogs: "Blast your opponent as many times as you can for the highest score." With that sentiment, I think Atari captured the essence of the exercise much more clearly. Sub Chase! Odyssey^2, 1978 This is like the flip-side of a 45 rpm record. Sub Chase! is like the lesser known, usually not-as-good tune that they used to put on the flip-side of a 45 simply because there was a spot for it. See, most of you are too young to remember this, but back before there were CDs there were . . . oh, look it up yourself. This is a little, no, make that a lot, like Atari's Air-Sea Battle but with only three variations. One player is the Plane, the other is the Sub. They control their own speed, their vertical positions and, in two of the three variants, they also guide the missiles that they fire at each other. There are also non-combatant ships for which you lose a point when you hit them. Not an awful game, but not very memorable. I want to say one of the problems I had with it was that each person's vehicle simply moved too quickly. Combine that with the fact they were always moving counter to one another and I found myself only scoring because my son happened to move into the way of my missile. It seemed to me that scoring becomes more of a luck-thing than a skill-thing for the most part. Perhaps that would change with repeated playing, but we were done with it after five or so minutes. So, we'll never know. So, Armored Encounter! gets an "all right!" for the limited ammo feature and Sub Chase! gets a "meh", partly because I wasn't very good at it and partly because it wasn't very good. Will Sub and Plane always hate each other? I actually like these photos because they remind me of grainy pictures of UFOs. Sorry for the blurring, esp. on the Sub. It doesn't really have two periscope poles, just the one, but thanks to the magic of slow shutter speeds we get to see two. Next entry should be Football.
  19. Guest

    Blackjack, Odyssey^2, 1978

    Las Vegas Blackjack! Odyssey^2, 1978 Another system, another inevitable release of the game the crowds must've been howling for back in the 70s. Blackjack. This time its official title is: Las Vegas Blackjack! (Hmm, what's up with the exclamation point? Seems the last cartridge had one for each title, too. Maybe part of a marketing decision? We'll see if they keep it up.) I dragged my feet to play this title. I really didn't want to. I've never been able to enjoy a videogame of Blackjack before, why should this be any different?Well, maybe my attitude had just sucked, because today I actually played the game rather than just looked at the graphics and read the instructions. Okay, as graphics/presentation go . . . An odd addition to this version is the fact that it takes place over TWO screens. A blue screen (see below), for betting, and a green screen (see above) for the dealing of cards. Numbers, letters and either red or black colors for the suits are all we get for graphics (with the exception of the white rectangles for the cards.) Firmly placing this version behind the APF deck (1st place) and behind the Fairchild's (2nd place) for its curvy presentation of the table's edge. That would make it tied for third with the Atari. The RCA Studio II's Blackjack is currently ranked 7th, out of five. Okay, I'm not saying I've been struck down by the gods of gambling and now actually look forward to the next videogame of Blackjack that I force myself to play, but I did enjoy playing it today. I think that I liked it because I found a bug! Features in this Blackjack: You can buy insurance, if the dealer has an Ace showing. You can double your bet if you have a starting hand totaling 9 or 10. (which I found odd, shouldn't it be 10 or 11?). You play with a straight 52 card deck. I didn't notice at what point in the deck did the dealer reshuffle. Oh, I also noticed that if the dealer gets 5 cards without going over 21, it wins, regardless of your hand. If I remember correctly, I had 21 and the dealer only had 20, but had 5 cards. I hope I'm remembering that right. The bug, though, is when you bet everything you have, take the opportunity to double your bet should it arise, and then lose. You're losing twice as much as you have, right? Well, here's what happened to me: Check out that score! This has something to do with allocated memory and what happens when you go below zero in a memory slot reserved for an unsigned integer. When you go below zero it wraps around to the highest possible number (or thereabouts) for that slot. But look at the size of that thing. I would never have guessed it to allow for numbers that high! I continued playing from there and, of course, warped it right back around to the other side of zero again after winning another hand. From there I managed to reach a high score of 72,000 and hit "reset" instead of "enter" on my next bet. I must admit, I actually felt regret and disappointment when I accidentally hit reset, meaning, I must've been enjoying myself while I played the game. I'm just saying, so you know that I'm not afraid to admit I had a good time, even when I didn't think I would. Okay, that's it for yet another Blackjack. Next time is Cosmic Conflict! EDIT: Wait that's not IT! I forgot to mention. This Blackjack doesn't use either of the joystick controllers! It only uses the keyboard. This is the second game (Crypto-Logic was also keyboard exclusive) to do that. In Blackjack's case, it asks for your bet, which you input using the numbers on the keyboard. During the hand, it asks if you want a hit or if you want to double down to which you respond by hitting either the Yes or No button. I would have done it a little differently. To enter the bet, you have to hit the numbers and then hit enter. Enter is too close to the reset key as my mistake clearly indicates. I would have put an enter key (which would presumably get used a lot) a little further away from a button which reboots the whole frackin' machine.Okay, now I'm done. END EDIT
  20. Guest

    Exponential Odyssey

    Okay, remember the Odyssey? The one with the Überlays? Well, it had a sequel. The Odyssey^2 as in "Odyssey to the second power" or "Odyssey Squared" or "Odyssey times Odyssey" . . . I guess they named it that because there was also the Odyssey 100, Odyssey 200, Odyssey 300, Odyssey 400, Odyssey 500 as well as an Odyssey 3000, 4000 and 5000. I'm sure I'm forgetting some but I think you see where I'm driving. Why go linear when you can go exponential? I think exponential was the smart way to go. It was an original twist and didn't involve just making a number bigger. It was saying that the very idea was bigger, more fleshed out, taken to the next dimension, as it were. Probably the most stand-out, unique and beautiful thing about the Odyssey^2 is the fact it comes with a keyboard. The keyboard is an integrated part of it and nigh-unremovable. Not the easiest of keyboards to use, given its flat keys, but a full keyboard, none-the-less. In fact, even though it is not a game, I'll do my best to learn a little bit about programming the Odyssey^2 when Computer Intro (1979) becomes available. That's probably what I would've done back in the day if I'd gotten it for Christmas instead of Basic Programming for the VCS. (Jesus Crotch! What a disappointment!) A great and powerful website about the Odyssey^2 is The Odyssey2 Homepage:The Odyssey2 Homepage (EDIT in 2021... not there anymore?) I encourage everyone to visit the site and soak in all the information they can. It will make you better citizens and help you to live fuller richer lives. Information that I can't seem to find often enough are the release dates for the games. This is either something that is "hard to know" or something "no one really cares to know". Somewhere in the past year of preparing for 1978 (I'm only "prepared" up to and including 1979, by the way.) I made a list of games playable from 1978. I usually post these sorts of lists at the beginning of the year. Since I started 1978 in October of 2005, here's a refresher of what I think I should be playing for 1978 on the Odyssey^2: Armored Encounter / Subchase BaseballBowling / Basketball Computer Golf Cosmic Conflict Football Las Vegas BlackJack Matchmaker / Buzzword / Logix Math-A-Magic / Echo Speedway / Spin-out / Crypto-Logic An earlier version of this list had included Take the Money and Run, which I've since discovered didn't come out until 1982. It has been stricken from the chronology until such time as appropriate. As of 1978, the title Take the Money and Run was only a Woody Allen movie, a Steve Miller song and probably a popular expression. I think my conclusion that those games were released in 1978 is based on the copyright year in their manuals. I dunno, I made this list a while back. I'll be rechecking that as I go, but really, copyright date is not the most reliable way of doing it. Case in point: some games on the Bally Pro Arcade have a copyright of 1977, the year before the Bally even came out! I'm trying not to be too anal about this. I know it's just a meta-game. However, under the rules of Chronogaming, playing a game too far before the year it was published in the chronology being used can disrupt the fabric of SpaceTime. I'm sure none of you would want that to happen. So, for the love of Sagan: if you see something listed on there that didn't come out until *gasp* 1979 or later, please speak up. Likewise, if there's something you know that came out in 1978 and is missing. Well, what else can I say about the Odyssey^2? I think something that is notable is that the console itself has built-in graphic sets which the programmers can use. For what it's worth, it does provide a certain consistency of "look and feel" to the software library. Another very consistent "look and feel" is the box/manual and cartridge art. When you get a lot of Odyssey titles in one place they all look like part of the same family. Yeah, Atari VCS does that for awhile, but its longevity insured it would see several design revisions, while the Odyssey^2 remained relatively unchanged throughout its career. (Yeah, I'm speaking out of the context of being trapped in 1978 for the purposes of exposition. ) As is the tradition, I'll start with the pack-in game next entry. Oh, and if anybody cares, I've started up my crappy little website: Chronogamer (EDIT in 2021: No, it doesn't exist.) which is really just these blogs being "rebroadcast" in non-blog form. Yeah, it's an ugly website, but it's not always a pretty subject, either.
  21. Guest

    Another Chronogamer Found!

    I discovered another Chronogamer! A writer over at Retrogaming Times Monthly is chronogaming the NES, starting in 1983! This is the same guy that wrote the always interesting Syntax Era, so it should be good. Anyway, here's the link to the issue with the first NES chronogaming. The column is called "Nintendo Realm". (You have to scroll to it.) http://my.stratos.net/%7Ehewston95/RTM19/RTM19.html No, he doesn't call himself a "chronogamer," and as far as I know, he's never heard of me, but ain't it cool?
  22. Guest

    Blackjacque, APF, 1978

    Blackjack, APF, 1978 Blackjack. Again. I'm really sorry, all of you must be really tired of hearing me bitch about the fact that this game shows up on nearly all the systems. So, let's just get it over with, shall we? Okay, the only thing you must know is that you can choose the number of decks up to four that the dealer draws from, which is cool. The graphics are ugly. The suits are green and black. EDIT: Let this serve as an example of my intermittent green/red color blindness, though I've never noticed it before. The suits are RED and BLACK, just like normal card suits. I went back to get some screenshots and realized I must've been misremembering my colors. (Not the first time I've done so.) I don't know what the "options" are for each hand because we were only able to get it to "hit" us. Sort of a sure way to lose. APF, Atari and Fairchild Blackjacks. EDIT: A comment (below) brought up that these graphics are actually better than any other Blackjack I've shown to date. From the above shots, you can see, that Supercat is absolutely right. There's no good reason for me to have called them ugly. For the record: I was hasty in my pronouncement of calling these graphics "Ugly". These are the nicest Blackjack graphics on any system so far, and it's the only system to bother to include symbols for the suit. I obviously didn't give this particular cart the attention I should have due to not being able to figure out how to control the game. I guess this was an "off day" End EDIT Did I mention that this Blackjack also takes place on a green background, undoubtedly meant to represent the green tables on which these games take place in the casinos? Well, it does. In fact, every game on this system has a distinct "green"-ness to it. Could be my console. Could be my TV. Could be my frackin' eyes. Don't know for sure, but my memories of the MP1000 are green. (except for Bowling, but even the text background in that has green to it, doesn't it?) Probably something to do with . . . nah, I got nothin'. The only distinction to the graphics from other versions is that there is a separating line between the playing areas of the dealer and each player. The pattern is similar to the one you might see on a Blackjack table, but I haven't seen enough of them in real life to be an authority. EDIT I'm wrong again here. This version of Blackjack includes suit symbols. Nice suit symbols. This is an important distinction that I failed to make. End EDIT One plus to Blackjack was the sound effect for the shuffling of cards: it sounded like a long controlled quiet electronic fart. My kids and I chuckled heartily, as I'm sure you would've guessed. It also triggered a Pavlovian response in my children as they suddenly decided "share" their own little shuffle sounds! Um, sorry, I guess that has very little to do with this game, I'm just finding it hard to come up with a different angle on Blackjack so I've resorted to flatulence humor. I'm so ashamed. Yet another Baseball entry is next.
  23. Brickdown / Shooting Gallery, APF, 1978 - only NOT My copy of this cart wouldn't work. Grr. This is a lesson that reminds me I need to test these things as soon as I get them. The seller on ebay had said it worked. I'm thinking he made a mistake, like he did when he said that photocopies of the instructions were included. Grr. If anyone can lend/rent me theirs, I'll pay shipping both ways, take really good care of it and have it back to you within a day or two. In fact, I'm still looking for a half dozen of these carts to chronogame. Since this system is not emulated, (nor are the cart roms dumped) I'm relying on ebay or anyone who can loan/rent/sell me them. PM me please. I'll still need to play the following after I get through the ones I have: Pinball / Dungeon Hunt <-- first D&D type game on a console, I assume. Backgammon <-- Okay, not really excited about this one, but still. Boxing <-- first time for boxing on a console Brickdown <--for reasons explained above Casino I <--Again, not too excited about it, but I'm trying to play as many as possible Space Destroyers <-- I heard this one was actually pretty good so I really want to play it. More often than not, I play the good ones about 20 minutes longer than I play the bad ones. UFO <---interested in the gameplay for this one, too. I think I'd be much less interested in playing these if there were a nice description of these games and their gameplay anywhere on the internet, BUT there isn't, so my curiosity is like a ravenous beast. HEY! I just had another idea. If you have any of these and aren't willing to rent/lend/sell them to me (which is cool, I completely understand) could you just write me telling me what they're like? Maybe take some screenshots? Please! Chronogaming needs you! Next entry is Bowling / Micro Match-up which should be later today since this entry doesn't really count as an entry, you know?
  24. Guest

    Ugly Homebrew

    Guess what that is!!! It's a Bally Professional Arcade controller which I Frankenstein'd from an Atari VCS joystick and paddle. Oh, and a small white cardboard box, newspaper and scotch tape. No solder for the wiring either, just cut, strip, twist and tape. Scotch tape. Now, there's a lot of people out there who lend a bit of flare to their homebrew hardware projects. Quirky behavior like planning and design were left behind while I did this completely on the fly and without any real forethought other than . . . "hmm, I needs me a paddle controller . . . Atari gots a paddle controller . . . guess I'll cut one up and see what screams." Anyway, as of now, it's the only completely functional Bally Astrocade compatible controller in my house. It will allow me to chronogame the rest of the Bally for 1978 at least. I might have to build another one someday soon.
  25. Guest

    Spoiler! Video Whizball Easter Egg

    Videocart #20, Video Whizball, FCF 1978 WOW! I haven't got the instructions for this Videocart so I felt I should come up with a setting for this ancient gaming gem. Here's the scenario: two squares, (call them "Blue" and "Green") -- enemies from the day they were born -- spit their hatred for each other across a field of battle about which huge lumbering red squares roam (We'll call them "Reds"). To express their hatred for one another, Blue and Green may spit across the field to try to hit one another and force the other to temporarily retire from the field of battle (presumably to wash their face). Meanwhile the Reds roam freely, bouncing off the walls and each other in their mindless wandering. Up to four hulking Reds can stalk the battlefield at a time. Reds can crush our two smaller antagonists if they happen to rumble over them. Fortunately, Green and Blue have an unlimited army of clone replacements. All are ready to fight after a short mourning period. All are filled with the same hatred for the other hue. Unfortunately, while either Blue or Green is down, their respective gate stands unguarded. This gives their enemy ample opportunity to use their acid spit on the Reds, and force one or more through their enemy's gate. Direct enough Reds through that gate, and victory is acquired! The Reds have a speed, direction and an apparent momentum that our antagonists can change by spitting on them. Each spit hit slows a Red down and will begin to force it back towards the enemy. To aim, Blue and Green not only can move themselves up and down in front of their gates but they can also twist themselves diagonally to allow their Spit missiles to traject at an angle to rebound off the walls of the battlefield. If Blue is at his gate and a Red is accelerating towards him (because Green is spitting at the other side of it) Blue can spit with all his might and try to deflect that Red, or at the very least, slow it down. Blue can also maneuver so that, with a diagonal spit, that Red may deflect from its current course, bounce off a wall and propel itself, with all initial momentum plus what Blue has given it, back towards Green. Later levels allow a slight control over the trajectory of the spit missiles. Other levels put numbers on the huge Red squares. Their significance is still a mystery to me . . .We have great fun with this game. One of the nice design elements is the spit physics. Each Square may only have one spit missile in play. This missile will deflect off the playfield walls, but disappear when it hits a Red or the Enemy. The connotation being that if a Red is bearing down on your Square, your Square will develop rapid fire as its shots begin to disappear at a faster rate as the Red gets closer. This gives you defensive power when you most need it. Conversely, as you try to control Reds on the other side of the field, near your enemy's gate, your Square spits at a slower rate and each shot needs to be more carefully considered while your enemy gains the defensive advantage that you just lost by spitting the Red into your enemy's area. Really, this is game is whole bunch of good and one we'll be playing again. (EDIT in 2021: No we never did play it again together, though I did take it out to look at it again.) An interesting thing about this cart is if you start a game and not touch the controllers the computer starts playing itself. There isn't a two-player game to select, just don't touch one of the controllers and the other square will start playing the game. The enemy AI in this doesn't suck either. This game should win an award or something. I haven't played all the games from 1978 yet, but I think I'd give this the Game of the Year Award, or, at the very least, I'd give it a strong nomination. Here are some screenshots. The one with the name in the center is an actual Easter Egg and most likely the first Easter Egg in a commercially sold game. Just FYI. (EDIT in 2021: This did come out two years before Atari's Adventure)
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