By Robert D. Kaiser, (c) 1999, 2019
Our story begins back in 1966 with Ralph Baer, a manager in Sanders Associates, a military electronics company which had a home consumer division. Baer came up with the idea of using electronics to create a video game that could be played on home television sets. The management at Sanders approved of this project, and so with two other engineers he began work on his dream.
By late 1967 a prototype home video game had been created. With the prototype completed, he set about marketing his game to companies like Zenith, RCA and General Electric, with the hopes of having it mass produced.
A few years later he finally managed to market the game to Magnavox electronics, which began production of the Odyssey (aka the Odyssey 1) in January 1972. Once released, it sold over 100,000 units that year, at about $100 per system. Compared to later 8-bit video games, the Odyssey 1 was quite primitive. The system could only display black and white blocks, moving dots and plain straight lines. It was unable to keep score or have any background graphics, nor did it have sound effects.
Still, engineers at other companies – especially Atari – were impressed with the commercial possibilities of the Odyssey. Others began work at adapting the primitive arcade video games of the day, such as “Pong,” into something that could also be sold as a home video game. By 1974, Atari released a home version of Pong.
In 1974, Magnavox merged with Philips Electronics, the high tech company responsible for such innovations as the compact disc. Together, these two companies became Philips Consumer Electronics. Headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, their homepage can be accessed here.
Not to be outdone by Atari, in 1975 Magnavox/Philips then released an improved version of their video game, the Odyssey 100. This was soon followed by a few later models, each with a few small improvements and game variations. Those interested in the original Odyssey units can learn more about it in Shaun “Loomis” Gegan’s Odyssey 1 FAQ.
In 1976, Fairchild Electronics came up with the idea of using ROM (read-only memory) cartridges for their own “Channel-F” video game system. With this innovation, each video game could be completely unique; however their game system was too primitive and never caught on.
The big news, however was just ahead: By December 1977 Atari released the programmable Video Computer System, the Atari VCS (which was later renamed the Atari 2600). Readers of this essay are undoubtedly familiar with this system; more description would be superfluous.
RCA also released their own home video game system this same year, the “Studio II.” For some reason they decided to release a machine that was only capable of producing black and white images, which did not go over well with the consumers in home electronics marketplace.
Near the same time, in early 1977, Magnavox had developed a non-programmable game console that they called the Odyssey 2. It would not have the ability to add new games through cartridges, but instead would have 24 built-in games, and allow up to four people to play simultaneously.
Soon afterward, however, the video game market became crowded with a number of other entries, all of which had to compete not only with each other, but also with the large number of inexpensive handheld electronic games. The resulting market difficulties convinced Magnavox not to market this incarnation of the 24-game Odyssey 2. To date, I am not aware of any classic video game collectors who own a prototype of this unit.
In 1978 Magnavox released a new video game system for the home market: The Odyssey². This new unit bore no relation to the scrapped 24-game system. Instead, it was a fully programmable home video game system that was designed to use 2K ROM game cartridges.
Like the Atari VCS, the CPU of the O^2 was powerful enough such that each game could be a completely unique experience, with its own background graphics, foreground graphics, gameplay, scoring and music. The potential was enormous, as an unlimited number of games could be individually purchased. Like the Atari 2600, the Odyssey² allowed any game player to purchase a library of video games tailored to his or her own interest.
Unlike any other system at that time, the Odyssey² also included a full alpha-numeric touchpad keyboard, which was to be used for educational games, selecting game options or programming. This was a major selling point of the system.
For handheld controllers, the Odyssey² utilized the classic joystick design of the 1970s and ’80s: A moderately sized, self-centering eight-way joystick. It was held in the left hand, and manipulated with the right hand. In the upper corner of the joystick was a single “Action” button. A credit to the designers at Magnavox, three or four years later, with Atari, Intellivision, and a number of third-party companies producing hardware, many people still felt that the Odyssey² joystick was one of the best designed.
By 1981, Atari and Intellivison sales had grown in leaps and bounds beyond the O^2.
Nevertheless, unlike some unnamed video game companies (hint: their name rhymes with “Vega”), Philips kept on supporting the O^2. Their programmers’ slow but steady improvements in gameplay and graphics made sure that O^2 owners could always count on more and better games being made available. Even without massive third party support, by 1983 over a million O^2 units were sold in North America alone.
It is less well known that the Odyssey² was even more popular in Europe, where it was marketed by Magnavox’s parent company, Philips Electronics. In Europe (and in other parts of the world as well) the O^2 was sold as the Philips G7000 Videopac console.
In France, it was known as the Philips C52. In Brazil it was known as the Odyssey, as the original Odyssey was never released in Brazil.
The American Odyssey² video game programmers
(i) Steve Lehner
(ii) Sam Overton, who also was an engineer on the O^2 hardware. He wrote Sid the Spellbinder and many of the early O^2 games.
(iii) Ed Averett. He left Intel to program Odyssey² games under contract. Magnavox didn’t have the big bucks to hire him, so they gave him royalties instead. He made 24 games, and retired very rich.
The Winter 1982 issue of the Odyssey² Adventure Club magazine stated that Philips/Magnavox had four in-house video game programmers, and in addition to listing the above three, also listed Linda Averett, wife of Ed Averett. Matthew Pritchard notes: “She didn’t actually program anything for the O^2, but is a heck of a computer scientist in her own right. Ed included her in the credits so she wouldn’t feel left out. Mistake on his part as he quickly found out and she was quite irked at being credited for something she didn’t do.”
That issue of the Odyssey² magazine did not mention the later video game programmers:
The Odyssey² games
At the time of their release, the original games available for the Odyssey² were nothing short of remarkable. Its hard to estimate how many gamers with a love for racing spent their weekend with Speedway!/Spin-Out!/Crypto-Logic!. The roar of the motors, and high speed chases and tight turns! The explosive crashes! Yes sir, those were hours well spent. Beyond racing, friends could spend all night working against world peace by destroying each other’s tanks, planes and subs with Sub Chase!/Armored Encounter!.
And with Bowling/Basketball! all the O^2 owners could… well, get bored. That one sucked.
An innovation that wasn’t matched for years on any other system was the special cartridge Computer Intro. Not a game at all, this was actually a system that allowed you to learn assembly language. Using the huge instruction book provided, you could actually program the Odyssey². While few people had the inclination or patience to work with this, for those who did it was a learning experience that they treasure forever.
Hockey!/Soccer! was especially fun, as when a puck was just in between two opposing players, they would turn and bang their sticks at each other in a raucous fight. It does seem likely that this was more of a programming flaw than an intended feature, but it sure added charm to the game.
One of the low points for the system was one of their early sci-fi shooters, Alien Invaders—Plus!. The “Plus” was probably supposed to signify a few advances in gameplay over earlier games in the Space Invaders genre, but frankly, this game should have been titled Alien Invaders—Minus!. First, the two really good points. During the entire battle, one of the alien mother ships was always flitting back and forth at the top of the screen.
I have to admit, for the Odyssey² (or even the Atari), the animation for it was really cool. Sort of like a space-octopus with a giant eye in the center that could launch laser blasts at you. Second, it was kind of cool that when your spaceship was destroyed, it wouldn’t totally be gone. Instead you would then be left with your unprotected character, depicted as a little man, that would have to run to some nearby blast shelter where he could obtain a new ship (if he wasn’t fried by incoming laser blasts). So what were the problems? Aside from the alien mother ship, the graphics were terrible, and so was the sound. Further, the gameplay simply wasn’t much fun. It was a poor clone of Space Invaders, and Magnavox frankly should not have released it without an overhaul on its gameplay.
In later years, Mattel released some really outstanding sports games for the Atari 2600 under the “M-Network” label, which surpassed anything previously seen on the Atari 2600, the Odyssey² or Bally Astrovision. These games redefined the state of the art for 8-bit sports gaming.
Unfortunately, Philips evidently didn’t think that the O^2 could handle games of this complexity, or at least didn’t think that such games would be profitable; thus O^2 owners never got to see improved versions of any sports games. That’s too bad, because a large number of video game buyers are also sports fans. When they saw that the Mattel’s games for the Atari or Intellivision far surpassed those available on the O^2, it gave the O^2 a black eye. This probably was one of the main factors that caused the O^2 to lose its market share.
Sure, at the time that these games were released, they probably were pretty good, and I’m sure that many people enjoyed them for many hours. But their problem is that these games didn’t stand up to the test of time. No, I don’t mean by that to imply that they aren’t good compared to today’s games. A real classic game player would never make such a comparison! What I mean is that even two years later, still in the middle of the O^2’s life cycle, these games already were outdated and dull, so anyone who wanted good sport games had to go to another system.
In contrast, the other O^2 games that I will below mention more favorably below did pass the short-scale test of time. Even by 1983 and 1984 the following games were all still as fun as the later games on competing systems.
The Challenger Series and Master Strategy Games
What really brought people to love the system were the expanded memory “Challenger series” games, which were now doubled to 4k ROM. UFO! was more or less the Odyssey² version of Asteroids, and it rocked. Unlike the Atari 2600, the O^2 could have up to 16 objects moving around the screen at once, so there was never any of that terribly annoying Atari-flicker which made so many of their on-screen characters look like see-through ghosts.
Nowhere was the O^2 advantage in this respect more obvious than UFO!. Another strong entry in this series was Freedom Fighters!, modeled after the arcade hit Defender. The home version of Defender for the Atari 2600 had great playability, but terrible on-screen flicker.
The O^2 clone had bigger characters, no flicker, and smoother gameplay, and in these respects was superior. On the other hand, the Atari version had the landscape and viewer, and this gave the feeling of flying over a vast terrain, a feeling that was lacking in the O^2 version.
When it came to making original games, few could forget the adorable animation of the monkeys climbing around the monkey-bars in Monkeyshines!.
And when it came to making clones, no one came closer to the arcade’s Pac-Man than the Odyssey² classic K.C. Munchkin!. Unlike the – let’s face it – incredibly ugly version of Pac-Man that Atari foisted upon its gamers, K.C. Munchkin had huge, brightly colored monsters, with fine animation, and not a trace of that “Atari-flicker” that plagued Pac-Man.
Unfortunately, Magnavox came a bit too close, and their game was ruled to be a patent infringement on Atari’s rights; Magnavox was forced to withdraw K.C. from the shelves. Of course, soon after Magnavox released its first-ever sequel game K.C.’s Krazy Chase!, which had the original K.C. tumbling around in a similar maze, but with all new gameplay, as K.C. had to face off against the dreaded “Dratapillar.” It’s hard to explain the game if you have never seen it, but if you let Pac-Man lose in Centipede you’d come close to imagining it. Trivia: It was named after K.C. Mencken, president of N.A.P. at that time.
One of the most engaging Challenger series games for the O^2 was an action packed platformer called Pick Axe Pete!. Bob Harris writes:
“This was originally supposed to be Hammerin’ Hank. But after losing the copyright case over K.C. Munchkin being, er, inspired by Pac-Man, the powers that be decided that a hammer would make this game too similar to Donkey Kong.”
In the final version of Pick Axe Pete!, you controlled an animated miner, using a pick-axe to dig out gold from a multitude of dangerous spinning, bouncing boulders. While the 8-bit home versions Donkey Kong had the advantage of being based on the incredibly popular arcade game, Pick Axe Pete!, at least on the early 8-bit systems, was the superior game. Sure, one problem was that there were no background graphics; all objects were purely foreground. Still, the gameplay was fantastic.
You could use your controller to make Pete walk, climb, jump, and duck. Pete could grab pick-axes and keys, and even leap across chasms. And unlike earlier O^2 games, the boulders weren’t inanimate, smoothly moving objects. These boulders, monochrome as they were, were alive. They spun and twisted, rolled and bounced. As you moved from level to level the action of the boulders increased to a frantic pace, and you could hardly smash them fast enough to clear a space for you to move safely.
Unlike most O^2 games, there was even a second screen in which you saw Pete falling from one section of the mine to the next. Sure, it was all low-res, but the point is that it was low-res well-done. One of the nice touches was that the programmers didn’t use the standard low resolution, O^2 characters to depict Pete. Instead they used a number of higher-resolution sprites to animate Pete in a more realistic fashion.
One of the strongest points of the system was its excellent speech synthesis unit, The Voice of Odyssey², which was released as a hardware add-on for speech synthesis, music, and sound-effects enhancement. Compared to the similar voice synthesis systems of that time period, The Voice of Odyssey² was one of the better products.
Pick Axe Pete! and K.C. Munchkin! were just two of a number of Odyssey² games inspired by or based on arcade hits. Another high-point for the O^2 system was Attack of the Timelord!, an old school space shooter loosely based on Galaxian. As usual, the game had no background graphics, and the alien spaceships were all one piece, with no details or animation.
But the way in which these alien spacecraft moved was truly an artistic triumph for the system. A series of eight flying saucers would fly down from the top of the screen, and dart across the playing field in a twisting, frantic and serpentine path.
When one of the was destroyed by one of your missiles, in exploded in a beautiful geometric array or light and sound. In between levels, there was an intermission screen where you would be taunted by the on-screen face of Spyrus the Deathless. Best yet, this game was enhanced for use with the Voice of Odyssey². While voice in a video game may not seem like a big deal today, back in 1982 this thing rocked! Finally, with the relase of Attack of the Timelord!, the Odyssey² had a space-shooter that rivaled that of any other 8-bit game out there.
One game that I absolutely have to mention in conjunction with “The Voice” is Smithereens!. Set in medieval times, there are two of the standard O^2 men, on opposing sides of the screen. Each has a Castle to defend, and a catapult to defend it with. Between the castles lies an open field, interrupted by a body of water. Your objective? Hurl stones at the opponent’s castle until it crumbles to dust. His objective? The same!
The gameplay itself should not have been all that engaging, yet with the fantastic sound effects provided by the “The Voice,” it was all that and more. You’d hear the whooshing of the rock as it catapulted through the sky, and an extremely realistic crash as the boulder smashed into the castle. If you really messed up, you could even hear realistic sounds of your boulder plopping into the lake. It’s hard to describe in print, but playing it with all the sound effects was just outstanding.
Years ago, I pulled the game out of storage, and played it with a few of my housemates. Now when they saw the graphics, they laughed out loud. They were used to the PC, PSX and N64 games of the day. But then they tried it. An hour later we were all still hurling boulders at each other, laughing and joking, and enjoying the low-res virtual carnage. Gaming doesn’t get much better than that!
The area that the Odyssey² may well be best remembered for was its pioneering fusion of board- and video-games: The Master Strategy Series. The first game released was the instant classic The Quest for the Rings, with gameplay somewhat similar to Dungeons and Dragons, and a storyline reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. In the eyes of many gamers, there was nothing that could hold a candle to this game.
Another title in this series was Conquest of the World. The gameplay and graphics were an improvement over the previous O^2 war game, Sub Chase!/Armored Encounter!. However where the game really shined was that it allowed the players to interject a certain amount of political and strategic realism into the battles.
Finally, the last Master Strategy game released was The Great Wall Street Fortune Hunt, which allowed people to realistically learn about and simulate stock-trading.
The best O2 games of the classic era.
Near the end of its commercial lifespan, the O^2 programmers learned how to wring more power out of the machine, and they released great games such as Attack of the Timelord!, Turtles, Killer Bees! and Power Lords. All of these games exhibited more detailed graphics, fast and exciting gameplay, and good design.
Concerning Killer Bees!, Bob Harris writes:
“I was experimenting with a lot of different techniques with KB, most of which stayed in the released version. The death concept was a little unusual. It may not be obvious, but you actually lose bees (in your swarm) gradually. The longer you are in contact with the bad swarm, the more bees you lose.
I don’t know if anyone ever figured this out – the reviewer at Games Magazine (Burt Hochberg) asked why I didn’t allow multiple lives like every other game did. Similarly, your opponents (which I called BeeBots, I don’t recall what the rule book actually calls them) die slowly as they are stung.
Another experiment that I took out was scoring in thousandths. I had grown tired of games where every score was some multiple of a million, and the scores looked to be really high. I set out to prove a point, and made KB score in units of .001. So you’d play and play and play, and then you might say, geez, I got a 4 (4.063). It was very disappointing!”
One of my personal O^2 favorites is Turtles. It is the one [American] O^2 game that was a licensed arcade coin-op translation. In it, you played a mother turtle scurrying around a maze, trying to find her baby turtles to bring safely back home. In your path were a number of animated beetles that could harm you; you could only temporarily stun them with a bug bomb, a small number of which you could pick up at various points in the arena.
With the completion of each level, you were treated to an animated intermission showing your Turtle and her adversaries climbing up a ladder to the next level. To add to this, there was even an animated opening screen – something very rare in Odyssey² games. This game also made good use of “The Voice” to provide two different melodies to accompany the gameplay. But of course, the final test is gameplay, and here this game again succeeded brilliantly. I spent more time on this game than just about any other O^2 game there was, even Demon Attack, so that’s saying something.
For quite some time, Odyssey² fans griped that the number of new games was very limited, due to there being no third party support in the U.S.A. However, unbeknownst to American gamers, the success of the Philips G7000 Videopac overseas led to two other companies to produce games for it:
Finally, in 1983 the two Imagic games were brought to the United States; Demon Attack and Atlantis. These became strong sellers for the Odyssey². Contrary to the skeptical expectations of some, the Odyssey² versions of both Demon Attack and Atlantis managed to captured all of the gameplay and most of the graphics of the Atari 2600 version. Demon Attack‘s graphics are probably the best the system ever saw.
Around 1983, the video game market began to contract, which would end in the infamous video game crash of 1984. In this time period Philips saw the O^2 lose its remaining market share. Many home video game companies folded entirely, or went into serious debt. In order to compete, North American Philips/Magnavox developed their own next-generation 8-bit system, code named the Odyssey³. Later press releases termed it the Odyssey Command Center.
The Odyssey³ Command Center was to have 16k ROM, 16k RAM, and a capacity for detailed background and foreground graphics. The keyboard was redesigned to have more keys, and a real computer keyboard was added in place of the Odyssey²’s flat plastic membrane. There was a built-in joystick holder, so that one person could use both joysticks at once, for arcade style games.
The unit also had a number of planned accessories: Prototypes of a voice synthesizer and a 300 baud modem were created. Further, Philips planned to develop an interface to connect the O^3 to Philips laserdisc players, which would allow the machine to play extremely sophisticated games.
The Odyssey^3 Command Center was hyped to the U.S. press, and previewed at the 1983 Consumer Electronics show.
It never was released. Leonard Herman’s Phoenix: The Fall and Rise of Home Video Games states:
Things looked hopeful for Odyssey when the year  began, although it abandoned its plans to market the Odyssey³. This had been done because executives at the company felt that the O^3 didn’t advance enough technologically to compete against the inexpensive computers that were on the market.
Instead… Odyssey turned to a new direction. [They soon announced the creation of] Probe 2000, a new line of software for competing video game and computer systems. The first title that Odyssey announced was Pursuit of the Pink Panther. By October Odyssey released one ColecoVision-compatible game called War Room. Unfortunately, it was to be the only game that would be released under the Probe 2000 banner. A severe chip shortage caused the company to scrap all of its other titles since it couldn’t hope to get them out in time for the critical Christmas season. Following this disaster, [the American branch of] Odyssey decided to abandon the industry that it created altogether.
For years, American classic video game collectors searched for prototypes of the Odyssey³ Command Center. In time, it became a holy grail of classic video game collecting among those collectors who knew that a few prototypes existed.
The Holy Grail Discovered!
In 1995 I became one of the very few American game collectors to discover that Philips had indeed released the Odyssey³, and was the first to publicize this information on the Internet. As I found out, the Odyssey³ was indeed sold in 1983 and 1984. It was sold only in Europe, and was dubbed the Philips Videopac + G7400.
The Videopac + console had almost exactly the same internal hardware as the American Odyssey³ prototype, but externally it was very different. The keyboard did indeed have more keys than the Odyssey²/Philips G700, but they were still made from a flat plastic membrane keyboard, instead of from physically clickable keys. Unlike the American prototype, there was no built-in joystick holder.
The Philips Videopac + G7400 could play four types of cartridges.
- All the standard Odyssey²/Philips G7000 cartridges. The backward compatibility would ensure that many Odyssey owners would upgrade to this system and still be able to use all their old games.
- A series of remakes, in which popular Odyssey²/Philips G7000 games were re-released with high resolution, beautifully rendered background graphics, similar in quality to what one would see on a ColecoVision. If these game were played on a regular Odyssey²/Philips G7000 the game would play just like the classic version, but the high-res background graphics would not be visible.
- A series of totally new Odyssey games. These had standard Odyssey foreground graphics but also had high resolution background graphics. If these game were played on a regular Odyssey²/Philips G7000 the game would play correctly, but the high-res background graphics would not be visible.
- A series of totally new Odyssey³/Philips G7400 only games that could only be played on the Odyssey³ or G7400. These games not only had hi-res background graphics, but they had hi-res foreground graphics, scrolling screens, multiple screens and the ability for more complex gameplay.
- Only four such games were ever made: Norseman, Helicopter Rescue, Trans-American Rally and the Home Computer Module.
Home Computer Module
“Philips Videopac+ C7420 Home Computer Cartridge: The cartridge plugs into the system at the front, connecting to the main case that holds the additional CPU and memory in the back. The connectors for loading/saving data to an audio system (red, white and black cables for microphone, headphones and remote control) are attached to the main case.”
What’s new with the Odyssey² today?
After years of clamoring for a multi-cart of their own, O^2 owners finally had their wishes answered by John Dondzila. His Odyssey² Multicart not only included almost all the standard American releases, it also included a number of the European-only releases, as well as the Unbelievably Rare Power Lords and Clay Pigeon! Videopac. [For ordering information, go to John Donzila’s Web site – Ed.]
A New Odyssey² video game! – AMOK!
John Dondzila has provided O^2 owners with what they have been clamoring for – a new O^2 cartridge! The name is AMOK! and at last you can play a fast-paced action O^2 game which also gives you more than 1 life! In AMOK!, you are a lone human trying to find your way through the mazes of a huge space station. Sentry robots are running berzerk, trying to kill you at every turn. If that’s not bad enough, the evil, indestructible SMILEYBOT will stop at nothing to get you! AMOK! features 12 mazes with increasing difficulty levels.
New Odyssey 2 cartridges we can buy today!
Odyssey² PC Emulator
In Fall 1996, Dan Boris began work on an IBM-PC compatible emulator for the Odyssey² and its games. This was a most impressive accomplishment, as there is practically no technical information on the O^2 available. He thus studied the system to back engineer how it worked, and figured out how to do it on his own.
New games discovered in Europe
In late 1996 Marco Kerstens obtained a set of about 100 Videopac chips, that had been purchased at a Dutch fleamarket in Eindhoven, the home of Philips Electronics. They turned out to be a collection of Videopac games on EPROMs. Some later detective work discovered that Philips employees often copied Videopac games for their friends and colleagues. An examination of the EPROMs showed that they included mostly Philips games, 3 Parker Brothers games, and both of the Imagic games. However, the unanticipated surprise was that there were a few totally unknown games in this set! Carl J. Gade’s (firstname.lastname@example.org) Odyssey²/Philips Videopac Web page had this to say:
“Two of these games were made by a company called GST-Video. This name is also present in some of the Videopac Plus games, such as Super Bee, Norseman, and Blobbers. At this time it is unknown how this name was related to Philips. One of the GST-games has a title-screen, which shows the name Jake. [“Martian Threat”]
The second game is listed on a little piece of paper that came with the EPROMs as a ‘simulation game’ by GST-Video. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get this game to work….
Two more, ‘new’ games were found in the set of EPROMs. The first is listed as ‘Laser’, but it turns out this probably is not the right name of the game. About a year after the find of the EPROMs two more remarkable finds were reported. One concerns the find of a Videopac multi cart, or game switching device. In this device a PROM was found labelled ‘Robot City‘. The game turned out to be ‘Laser’. The same name, Robot City, also turned up in the second find, by Rikard Ljungkvist, of what may be a real prototype. The second new game is listed as a ‘catch game’ (again, no actual title is known [this “catch” game has since been tentatively identified as Play Tag (aka Plantage) – Ed.]). So, all in all, four games were discovered that had not been known to the Videopac collectors community before….
With the very kind help of Markus Gietzen and Dan Boris the games have been rescued from possible decay. ROM dumps have been made, which can be used for multicarts and emulators. Hopefully you will soon be able to enjoy these games.”
New games discovered in Brazil
In recent years Brazil has turned out to be a great source of information on rare games for the O^2. A Brazilian video game magazine, Micro & Vídeo, December 1984, #11, previewed an Odyssey² game that was never released. Entitled A Turma da Mônica (“Mônica’s Gang”), it was planned to be based on comic characters that were very famous in Brazil at the time. The magazine displayed drawings of 4 stages in the game. Set to be programmed in Brazil, this game would have been unique to that country. No prototype has yet been found.
More exciting was the discovery of Clay Pigeon!. Not prototypes, but the actual cartridges themselves were found in Brazil. This game lets you control an animated rifleman (an 8-bit Charlton Heston?) that took aim at clay pigeons (clay discs shot at for target practice). A nice touch was that when things went poorly, your character actually had an animated temper tantrum!
Even nicer, this UR game is now available on John Dondzila’s O^2 Multicart, so O^2 gamers everywhere can now enjoy this game.
In general, I’d like to recommend William Cassidy’s WWW page on O^2 games in Brazil. It can be accessed here.
And although I never would have expected it, someone has discovered yet another previously unknown Odyssey² game, and from the looks of the graphics and manual, it’s a rather advanced one at that. Entitled Comando Noturno, (Night Commando,) Marcelo Ribeiro translated an article about this game from Issue #8 of Odyssey Aventura, the Brazilian O^2 fanclub magazine.
You are in a modern battle, piloting a fighter. Your mission is to bomb an enemy target in the darkest night hour, and to do this, you’ll have to fly using only the instruments. On the screen is your fighter panel with all the instruments. In your hands, the joystick works as a real flightstick and the keyboard gives the flight instruments’ readings. The board computer takes the readings and identifies the aircrafts and anti-aircraft batteries that you find during the flight. Are they allies or enemies? Your first mission is easy. You have to leave the base, fly to the target and bomb it. Then, return to base and wait for your next orders.
In the meantime, the command reserves you more complicated missions, where you have to cross the regions where the enemy forces are ready to intercept your flight. Together with them are the allied forces which can confuse you in the darkness. Your fighter is modern and is very well equipped, but you need to be very good to operate it. You need to accurately calculate the fuel you have and use it wisely. Your fighter can fly very high and at very high speed, but a drop at high speed can be fatal. And don’t forget your landing gear; you must retract it after you take-off and put it down before landing.
You do it all using the keyboard. Be aware of the reading of the distance to the target: you can’t come back to the base before you reach it. Don’t forget to choose the best gun for your strategy. The cannon will help you hit the enemy fighters. The bombs will annihilate the anti-aircraft batteries in the ground.
But be smart: if you use all the ammunition before reaching the target, you can’t complete your mission. And the command is merciless: you can’t come back. “Comando Noturno!” is a game for pilots who want excitement and who love danger. Enter this battle and check it out!
Programming the Odyssey²
Sören Gust (email@example.com) has been working on bringing to light the details of the Odyssey²’s operating system. He has kindly produced a very detailed and technical Web page for the use of classic video games aficionados, which contains information on the BIOS of the O^2. The information was compiled by disassembling the BIOS and some games for the Videopac G7000, and by running small programs on the machine and on the O^2 emulator by Dan Boris. You can find his homepage, “The BIOS of the Videopac G7000 / Odyssey 2” BIOS of the Videopac G7000 / Odyssey² video game console.
Pre83 collects programming resources for computer platforms released before 1983.
Dan Boris’s Web page contains a vast amount of technical information concerning the Odyssey². Those interested in the details can check it out here.
A short summary is provided here: The O^2 is based on the Intel 8048 microcontroller. The 8048 is clocked at approximately 1.78 MHz. The 8048 has 64 bytes of internal RAM, and 1K of internal ROM that contains the system BIOS. The 8048 has 2, 8-bit I/O ports, an internal timer/counter, an interrupt input, and 2 single bit testable inputs.
Besides that RAM that is internal to the processor there are 256 bytes of RAM external to the processor. The VDC can generate 4 different types of graphics “objects,” a background grid, single characters, quad characters, and sprites. The VDC can draw 4 independent sprites. Each sprite is 8×8 pixels in one color and can be positioned freely anywhere on the screen. The VDC can generate up to 12 foreground characters from its internal character set of 64 characters.