magnavox

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Analogic (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

Analogic: Takes place on a spacescape overlayed by a grid of seemingly random numbers.Analogic: Takes place on a spacescape overlayed by a grid of seemingly random numbers. It impresses me that the Odyssey, a system that doesn't do math, would be the system to introduce a game with arithmetic as its focus. In addition to being the first math edutainment vehicle, Analogic is also the first Science Fiction-themed home videogame.

The Analogic Überlay is a grid of seemingly random numbers superimposed over a simple spacescape. I say "seemingly" because those numbers are actually a maze. (It's important to keep that in mind for later.) Each player controls a PlayerSpot which starts the game at either the planet Even in the upper left, or the planet Odd in the lower right. They represent “light beam transceivers”. The light beam itself is the BallSpot. To setup the game, players bring out the BallSpot and, using their ENGLIGH knobs, maneuver it so that it is constantly bouncing back and forth between the two PlayerSpots.

The object of Analogic is for each player to traverse the space between the Odd/Even worlds and reach the other player’s starting position before their opponent does by choosing odd or even numbers on a vertical or horizontal path. Doing so will involve math.

Haunted House (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

Haunted House Overlay: Even the translucent areas retain their spookiness.Haunted House Overlay: Even the translucent areas retain their spookiness.I love the Überlay for this game. It's a silhouette of a stereotypical haunted house. The house is three stories tall and filled with items such as bats, cats, skulls and candelabra. You play the game by moving your Detective through the house and "lighting" each item one at a time, in order, as specified by numbered, drawn cards. (For those just tuning in, "Lighting" involves moving your TV square behind an on-screen area, causing it to glow.) If you successfully light the item, you collect the card for that item.

Cat and Mouse (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

Cat & Mouse Overlay: What's a five-letter word for devoured?Cat & Mouse Overlay: What's a five-letter word for devoured?Picture a crossword puzzle grid (see overlay left). You know the type, empty squares (for the letters) and full squares (uh, not for the letters). The players start with their Player Spots on the Mouse and Cat icons respectively, which are already placed in the maze. In one corner of the maze is a "mouse house". (Yes, that's what "they" call it). The mouse has to get to his house before the cat gets him, but must do so by moving through only the white squares of the maze. The cat must obey the same limitation. If either the cat spot or the mouse spot overlap with one of the dark parts of the crossword puzzle-like landscape, they have to go back to their starting position.

Submarine (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

Submarine's Overlay: Similar to Ski except for the "being torpedoed" part.Submarine's Overlay: Similar to Ski except for the "being torpedoed" part.I think that Submarine would count as the First Home Shooter, ever!

PlayerOne plays the Convoy Commander and controls the square on the screen designated as “The Convoy”. The Convoy Commander must move the ConvoySpot through the shipping lanes, represented by a convoluted path, by staying on the path the whole way. If the Commander strays off the path, a ship in the aggregate ConvoySpot inevitably hits a mine and sinks. Meanwhile, PlayerTwo is the Submarine Commander. The Submarine Commander sits just outside the shipping lanes and tries to sink the convoy ships.

Ski (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

The Overlay for Ski: Deep in the heart of the Vazhdok Mountains . . .The Overlay for Ski: Deep in the heart of the Vazhdok Mountains . . .Ski! We liked this! Whoo-wee!

There's an alien concept you need to understand about this game in case you haven't actually seen it. Look at the Uberlay. This is a different type of Uberlay from the Hockey, Tennis or Football Uberlays, which were translucent. The Uberlay for Ski is almost completely opaque. The only areas through which any light shines at all are the dashed lines indicating the skier's intended trail and various obstacles located "off-trail" like trees and mountains.

Hockey (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

1972HockeyOverlay: It is pretty, but I keep thinking, why are they facing-off over the Japanese flag?1972HockeyOverlay: It is pretty, but I keep thinking, why are they facing-off over the Japanese flag?Hockey is another "sport port" from the real-world to your television through the magic of . . . The Odyssey!!! I'm not sure I "get" this game of Hockey. I do get it in the real-world, all right, but not this variation.

The game starts with a face-off, which is refreshingly different from the first three games we played. (Table Tennis, Tennis and Football) Set the two paddles across from each other and maneuver the PUCK between them so that it is whizzin' back and forth at an amazin' speed.

Football (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

1972FootballOverlay: This is the overlay for Football on the Magnavox Odyssey.1972FootballOverlay: This is the overlay for Football on the Magnavox Odyssey.Football on the Odyssey, for my son and I, is worse than staring at a blank wall. We're not into football. We don't watch football. We don't even own a football. (well, we have a Nerf(tm) somewhere.) I honestly think that if two football fans played this game they would try it for 15 minutes and say "Screw this! Let's go outside and throw a football around."

Football is more of a "football abstraction". It's as if the game is asking you to pretend that you are playing a football simulation. It includes an Ãœberlay, a gameboard, about 40 cards, a football marker, and a yardage marker and utilizes no less than three of the pack-in Odyssey carts. The gameboard is included to use with the football and yardage markers to keep track of the ball and, um, the yardage, as one would expect.

Matt Barton's picture

Coin-Op TV interviews Ralph Baer, Inventor of Electricity

Who invented PONG? Better yet, who invented the video game? Most people would say "Nolan Bushnell," and a few others "William A. Higinbotham." Or was it Steve Russell? It's a tough enough question for any serious videogame historian. However, if you asked Ralph Baer, he'd tell you that he was the first person in the history of the world to "come up with the idea of playing games on a screen" or some such nonsense. At any rate, although an avid self-promoter, Ralph Baer truly hasn't gotten the credit he deserves for his hard work and ingenuity with the "Brown Box," the first home game console and the progenitor to the Magnavox Odyssey. Now, thanks to Coin-Op TV, you can see Baer in his domain, and get his perspective on how videogame history REALLY begins with him. (Note, if the link doesn't work, try here.)

Matt Barton's picture

Scorched Parabolas: A History of the Artillery Game

Author: Matt Barton
Editing: Bill Loguidice
Online Layout: Matt Barton
Special Thanks: Bill Loguidice, Erwin Bierhof, Gavin Camp
All screenshots by the author using various emulators.
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