Welcome to what will undoubtedly be the most popular part of The Odyssey² Homepage!! This is the biggest, greatest, most fantastically wonderful incredible unbelievable awesome tremendous colossal stupendous and just all-around satisfactory Web page you'll ever see!
Look, I love the Odyssey² but I recognize its limitations. But from reading its marketing materials, you'd never realize it had any shortcomings. You might even come to believe it was designed by God Himself. Anyone who has read the text on an Odyssey² box, instruction manual, or catalog knows that the products were hyped beyond belief. Of course, all manufacturers promote their products by exaggerating their greatness a little bit, but absolutely nothing compares Odyssey² hype (I guarantee it!). Let's take a look:
I'll start at the source: the box Odyssey² consoles originally came in. Proclaimed in big bold letters is, "The Ultimate Video Game System." That claim is debatable, but hey, I like this system, so I'll let it slide. But on the sides of the box we encounter some funnier claims.
"Odyssey²... telecasts in rich, vivid color on color TV!" This appears right next to a screenshot of Speedway!, with its glorious purple-and-white color scheme. Sure, the game has only four colors, but they're RICH and VIVID colors!
Then we're treated to a claim that appears in several catalogs, "Infinitely more sophisticated than ordinary home TV games – even surpasses most arcade games!" Arcade games were simpler back then, but I find it hard to believe that people would have plunked down 25 cents a pop to play a game of Crypto-Logic!.
"TRUE REALITY SYNTHETIZATION! The electronic tank simulations not only look like tanks—they sound like tanks—and you even control them like tanks!" This is true; I can't even play Armored Encounter! anymore because I'm afraid I'll blow up my living room.
"Realistic athletes take the field in FOOTBALL, BASEBALL and BASKETBALL." True enough – all athletes are two-dimensional guys with square heads, one stubby arm, and feet but no legs. And basketball players always just slide back and forth across the court, never moving their arms or feet.
Speedway! and Spin-Out! are "Action-packed arcade games," and Crypto-Logic! is a "Mental blockbuster." I know I've never been able to figure out why it's supposed to be so fun. And I never realized the depth of Speedway! either – "You're racing a really mean machine against the clock and a high speed maze of racing cars driven by the coolest hotfoots in the world!" NASCAR has nothing on this game!
And just look at all the features it offers! "ON-SCREEN DIGITAL READOUTS! Scoring! Real time! Elapsed time! Lap counters! Even photo-finish freeze action at the end of racing events!" Wow, the race takes place IN REAL TIME! And when it's over, the game stops dead... oh pardon me, it displays a photo-finish freeze frame! Couched in the right terms, anything can be a feature.
"ON-SCREEN ELECTRONIC SENSORS AUTOMATE PLAY ACTION! Example! Electronic football teams automatically follow the ball! In other games, you try to outwit the computer!" Notice how even the word "Example" has an exclamation mark after it. Think they were just a little carried away?
Then the ever-present catch-phrase of Odyssey²: "SYNC-SOUND ACTION!" I've thought long and hard about this, and I've decided that "Sync-Sound Action" means that when something happens on the screen, a sound is played. Further evidence that Odyssey² is infinitely more sophisticated than other home game systems. The sounds are used to "enhance the illusion of reality," and include "Everything from the roar of the tanks to the roar of the crowds!" The roars of the ball in Volleyball! and the pinball in Thunderball! are the most impressive.
The bottom of the box repeats many of these claims, adding that the microprocessor is an "electronic genius capable of making more than one hundred thousand electronic decisions every second and is quite closely related to those used in today's aerospace and weaponry systems." I can picture the President of the United States now: "The negotiations have failed; I have no choice but to declare nuclear war. Bring me Conquest of the World!" The keyboard is the key to world destruction?
But wait! There's more! "ODYSSEY² IS A SERIOUS EDUCATIONAL TOOL!" and so forth. In truth, it may be gooder at edjukashun than other game systems – but who cares about that? Let's move on to the...
The earliest catalog I have, number EL-3313-1, repeats a lot of the claims from the console box. "You'll find Odyssey² games are fully computerized and designed to simulate reality to a truly remarkable degree. Play... and let your imagination run wild!" If they simulate reality so well, why do I need to use my imagination?
Catalog EL3358-1 goes on to extol the virtues of Odyssey² hardware. "Universal, 8-position hand controls that play all Odyssey² games. No extra controls to buy... ever!" Right, and if they break, you won't be able to replace them... ever!
"An AC adapter. Odyssey² doesn't need batteries." Now, this is an innovation. No one ever did this before.
"A sturdy, reusable box for storing Odyssey² when not in use." Hey, if this machine is so great, it will always be in use, won't it? Yet, I have to give them credit for the sturdy box – this thing could survive a hurricane.
"And, of course, Odyssey² won't harm your TV under normal use." That would be kind of a drawback, wouldn't it?
My other catalogs are pretty much the same until I get to EL 3380-2, which may be the last Philips catalog made. About The Voice, it says, "You'll hear lasers whizzing, asteroids crashing, tires screeching, voices talking... and much, much more!" For the record, The Voice was never used for any of these sounds except voices talking. But since when does marketing copy have to be true?
That does it for my catalogs. Let's go on to the...
Speedway! et al. was covered during the console box section above and I can't bear to talk about it anymore. On to Football! where "You captain a team of realistic electronic superstars!" So institute mandatory drug testing and put a stable of defense attorneys on the payroll, quick! This game has "unique on-screen electronic sensors" and features some of that great sound to enhance the illusion of reality. "An electronic crowd cheers! (static noise) The whistle blows after each play! (high-pitched beep) A triumphant bugle sounds 'charge' after every touchdown!" (series of tones) – I feel like I'm actually at the Superdome!
Bowling!/Basketball! - "A true electronic simulation!"/"So realistic, the court has a built-in gravity field!" Bowling! is incredibly realistic – you get to control the direction of the ball after you've thrown it, just like in real life. And there truly is gravity in Basketball!. The ball bounces, and bounces, and bounces... apparently the game is taking place on the moon. The players look alien enough – freakishly tall guys with outstretched arms who slide across the court. They don't move at all, just eerily slide back and forth. This game could give a young child nightmares.
Baseball! - "It's all here—even an electronic umpire!" If only umpires in real life had an OFF switch. Later, it's claimed that, "It's all here. (Except the hotdogs and peanuts!)" But there's still beer, right? This game features "Full live-action sound" rather than sync-sound. Does this mean the sound does not coincide with on-screen events?
Computer Golf! - "An extremely realistic nine hole electronic golf course!" Look close – your golfer is actually one of the players from Football!. Early O.J. Simpsons, perhaps? They are prone to fits of rage...
Alpine Skiing! - "An authentic computerized simulation of three different world class championship events." They were more subdued this time; they left the exclamation point out of the game's slogan. That didn't stop them from claiming, "The computer generates over 195,000 runs!" Look! The tree is off by a pixel! I'm on run #157,250!
Hockey!/Soccer! - "Realistic speed skating and fast off-the-wall action on electronic ice!"/"A computerized version of the fastest growing college sport in the U.S." Ever wanted to "captain a team of ice men?" Here's your chance! Hockey! features the return of the "unique on-screen sensors" from Football! (so, how unique are they really?). Soccer! is "Based on official soccer rules." Makes sense; it wouldn't be as good if they'd based it on the official rules for lacrosse.
Volleyball! - "An electronic simulation so real you can even spike a shot!" Hmm, since the players are stick figures, the ball is square, and the net is a vertical line, I assumed this was not a realistic simulation. But I can spike a shot; I guess I was wrong!
Electronic Table Soccer! - "A computerized tournament soccer table—complete with invisible electronic lightning rods for super fast play action!" Wow! Invisible rods! I bet that was pushing the graphics-producing capabilities of the Odyssey² to the limit.
Pocket Billiards! - "Hustle Eight Ball and Rotation on the computerized replica of a full size slate top pool table!" Take my advice: avoid the temptation to play this game and "Hustle your friends at Eight Ball or Rotation." I think it was terrible that Magnavox was encouraging our youth to become pool hustlers. For shame!
Las Vegas Blackjack! - "Double Down! Take insurance! It's you against the computer!" Here's another one of those immoral gambling games that corrupted our youth. And people think violent games like Mortal Kombat instill negative values in children!
Armored Encounter!/Subchase! - "A realistic simulation of armored warfare!"/"Low flying jets hunt for enemy submarines!" The tanks "look" and "sound like tanks—you even control them like tanks!" Yes, tanks are controlled with a universal 8-directional joystick with a big red button that has "ACTION" printed on it. "This careful attention to real life detail even extends to the ammunition supply carried by each tank." Both games feature full sync-sounds of "missiles, bombs, and explosions!" Sure, there are no bombs in Armored Encounter!, but the sync-sound is there anyway!
Cosmic Conflict! - "Stunning special effects are featured in this game of intergalactic warfare!" Never mind that it looks like watching fish swim horizontally through an aquarium, the special effects are STUNNING! However, the coolest thing about this game is that aliens you fight are from the planet "Badnewsia!" That's sure good news!
Take the Money and Run! - "You're trapped in an electronic labyrinth of more than one trillion electronic mazes! It's the rat race to end all rat races!" I love this – one wall changes position, and you're on another one of the trillion mazes?! They really stretched the truth to the breaking point, didn't they? The robots "represent different factors in the economy." I think it would be great if I could legally avoid paying taxes merely by running away from the tax collector. The best part is that the robots are named "Keynesian" robots after the famous economist, George Maynard Keynes. Somehow, I doubt if his economic theories mentioned anything about robots and people bouncing off of walls.
Invaders from Hyperspace! - "Science fiction becomes science fact in this realistic war of the worlds!" They sure had an odd view of what "realism" was, don't you think?
Thunderball! - "Explosive pinball action! Complete with thumper bumpers—digital scoring—and something new—shifting flippers that cover more playfield area!" I tell you, those shifting flippers do cover more playfield area – about three pixels' worth. This "wildly realistic" game is also wildly unsatisfying.
Showdown in 2100 A.D.! - "Shoot it out with other players—or computer controlled androids!" Let me get this straight... it's 100 years in the future, technology has continued its incredible march forward, and we've returned to the shootouts of the Old West of the nineteenth century? Apparently, our trees have horribly mutated in that time, because bullets now bounce off of them like they were made of rubber. This game features "an endless variety of obstacle patterns" (even more than Take the Money and Run!'s one trillion mazes?), "ricocheting bullets and even a dramatic death scene!" It's dramatic all right – I can't help but shed a tear when I see that android crumble to the ground. Oh, the simulated humanity!
War of Nerves! - "A fast-moving electronic strategy game! You command an army of robots armed with stun guns!" People playing this "fast-moving" game have been known to get up, get a snack, watch a movie, and read War and Peace before coming back to find that the robots still haven't reached the enemy general.
Out of this World!/Helicopter Rescue! - "A graviteasing space race!"/"A daring lifesaving mission!" The first time I played Out of this World!, I said to myself, "That there is one graviteasing adventure!" What in the world were they thinking when they made Out of this World!? And Helicopter Rescue! features "impending disaster at the Doomsday Hotel." What's the disaster? The guests were forced to play Helicopter Rescue!?
Pachinko! - "So much larger than life—You're right in the middle of the action!" Larger than life? I suppose this game does offer more action than traditional Pachinko machines, but since those machines feature no actual player interaction, it's not really much to brag about.
Casino Slot Machine! - "An authentic electronic replica of the latest nine window one armed bandits!" As if Las Vegas Blackjack! wasn't bad enough, this game will have you gambling your life savings away. Beware!
Blockout!/Breakdown! - "Two demonically challenging games filled with diabolical wall-to-wall action!" So, I'm supposed to break down a "fourth dimensional barricade?" Sorry, but Odyssey² was only capable of displaying graphics in two dimensions, even if they were rich and vivid. And what's the deal with all the diabolical "demons" in these games?
Math-A-Magic!/Echo! - "An electronic arithmetic teacher!"/"A brain draining, mind bending, mental dynamic challenge!" Math becomes really fun in Math-A-Magic!. Who could resist doing the problems when you get to hear it "sing out with a musical cheer for every ten correct solutions?" And Echo!? If you've ever wanted to bend your mind, drain your brain, or "feel your mind turn inside out," then this is for you! I personally have doubts about how healthy this is, though.
Computer Intro! - "An electronic exploration of computer technology!" All right! With this cartridge and the awesome computing power of Odyssey²'s electronic brain, I'll be hacking government aerospace and weapons systems in no time! It puts UNIVAC to shame! They should have used it to program a spellchecker for catalog EL-3313-1. Under the Compuer Intro! entry, they actually spelled it "Oddysey²!" Nevertheless, the catalog still features the greatest example of Magnavox's hype: "Shut off the power and it erases everything automatically so you can start a new program any time you want." This is a nice way of saying, "This cartridge can't save your work!" But doesn't it sound great?
Matchmaker!/Buzzword!/Logix! - "An exciting game of memory and concentration!"/"A challenging game of deductive reasoning!"/"A fun-packed electronic guessing game!" Be honest, when was the last time you felt excited playing Concentration or challenged playing Hangman? And do you really consider Mastermind to be fun-packed? That's all these games are.
I've Got Your Number! - "A fast-moving 'finder's keepers' racing game for the whole family. It teaches pre-schoolers basic math, reinforces perceptual skills and sharpens hand/eye coordination!" OK, it's a children's game, so don't expect too much. How fun is it to reinforce your perceptual skills anyway?
Dynasty! - "The computerized descendant of the ancient Chinese strategy game of GO!" They go on and on about how Dynasty! is based on GO, a thousand-year old game played by Chinese nobility that was "actually a required course in the Japanese military academy..." yadda, yadda, yadda. It's that flip-the-other-guy's-pieces-over game.
UFO! - "Protect earth from a sinister invasion of mysterious unidentified flying objects!" I can't really disagree with any of their claims for this game – it's a good one! Look out for those hunter-killers!
Alien Invaders—Plus! - "A fiendish new dimension comes to one of the most popular arcade games of all time!" Would this "fiendish new dimension" be the fourth dimension from Blockout!/Breakdown!? Could be – that game had diabolical demons; this has the Merciless Monstroth. Play... and know what it means to experience true horror!
K.C. Munchkin! - "How many Munchies can your Munchkin munch before your Munchkin's all munched out????? Myriads of different mazes!" I got a different one: "How many carts can Odyssey sell before a lawsuit shuts them down?????" But that's a cheap shot. Here's one game that deserved the hype.
Quest for the Rings - [No slogan] Another hype-earning classic! It may not actually be "startingly realistic," (can a fantasy quest even be realistic?) but it's good.
Conquest of the World - [No slogan] "You're in the midst of a world wide power struggle indicative of current economical and geographical conditions that exist throughout the world." I'll say – those giant brown squares really do look like actual terrain!
The Great Wall Street Fortune Hunt - [No slogan] What can I say? You can't find too much fault with these Master Strategy Series games. They called this one "unpredictable." It is, but only to a point.
Keyboard Creations! - "Type messages on screen. Play word & number games." This must be a boring one. Just look at that slogan – not a single exclamation point! Actually, this cartridge is primarily a device for displaying simple messages on screen. However, Philips came up with a bunch of ideas for word games you could play, none of which are too fun. Nevertheless, who can resist a rousing game of "Nincompoop?" Most people, you say?
Freedom Fighters! - "Rescue prisoners of the Pulsars from deep space confinement crystals!" UFO! was the first game to feature "hunter-killer" satellites bent on your destruction. Obviously, Philips found the term so frightening they couldn't resist using it again. It now strikes terror into the hearts of Odyssey² players everywhere, including me. Why, just the thought of hunter-killers makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, as I begin to tremble in abject terror... gaah! They're HERE, aren't they? Here to hunt and kill me? You're on your own, prisoners of the Pulsars.
Monkeyshines! - "Computerized monkeys! Unlimited action!! Trillions of combinations!!! You'll go ape!!!" As if to make up for the lack of exclamation points in the Keyboard Creations! slogan, the Monkeyshines! slogan features literally trillions of exclamation points! Well... only nine actually, but that's no small amount. Here again are the trillion screens, a la Take the Money and Run!. Methinks the only ones who "went ape" here were the marketing copywriters.
Pick Axe Pete! - "Thrills, chills and spills as Pick Axe Pete strikes it rich in the Misty Mountain Mine!" Do my eyes deceive me, or is this another game that totally lives up to its hype? Incredible!
Smithereens! - "Castles crumble and trumpets blare in this medieval artillery duel!" Yes, "You'll hear the shouts of the soldiers and the terrifying thunder of gigantic boulders catapulting into fortress walls!" Let me get this straight – medieval soldiers exclaimed, "Come on, turkey! Hit it!" when enemies misfired their catapults? And this game's sync-sound is lacking; sure, The Voice is good (even if the things it says are not entirely appropriate), but the much-ballyhooed trumpet's blare is just a series of monotonal sounds from the TV.
K.C.'s Krazy Chase! - "Starring K.C. Munchkin! In this episode our hero confronts the dreaded tree-eating Dratapillars of Venus!" You've always wondered why Venus was barren of trees. Now you know: it's not because it's a molten wasteland of sulfur – it was the dreaded Dratapillar's fault! Environmentalists would love this one. It blows away Take the Money! and Monkeyshines! because it features "unlimited mazes!" (Just in case you got bored of the first two trillion, I guess.)
P.T. Barnum's Acrobats! - "The Greatest Show on Earth—Straight from Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus!" They enlisted the help of the world's most famous circus for their hype this time. This game has 18 variations, and just to make sure you don't forget it, the back of the box says, "(18)Eighteen(18) keyboard-activated game variations!" That's why it's (1)one(1) of my Number (1)One(1) games!
Type & Tell! - "It talks what you type! Plays great games!" This game simply tries to phoenetically pronounce words you type in. So, if "banselfrif" is in your vocabulary, you can hear it here, though "pterodactyl" may give you a hard time. Yet, Type & Tell! has "unlimited vocabulary!" If the ability to sound out random strings of letters qualifies as a vocabulary, I guess it does.
Sid the Spellbinder! - [No slogan] Another one of those boring educational children's games. I imagine it would have motivated kids to learn spelling more if the game part had actually been fun.
Nimble Numbers Ned! - [No slogan] Your assignment: take what I said about Sid and relate it to a math game.
Killer Bees! - "Totally different sting warfare! Bug-zapping RoSHa Rays! 26 challenge levels! Totally different!" Here's another good one that lives up to the hype, and it really is totally different – even if the game's slogan is totally repetitive.
Turtles! - "All the action and excitement of the superhit arcade game!" This may be my favorite Odyssey² game, so I can't disagree with the hype. I even like the sync-sound on this one! But was the arcade version really a "superhit?" Or any kind of hit? Sleeper hit at best, I'd say. But hey, like the O2 itself, it's fun even if the hype was a little over the top.
Well, this little essay certainly got a lot longer than I expected. I told you there was a lot of hype. Why, there are literally trillions of examples of Odyssey hype... OK, I'll shut up now.