Magnavox Odyssey 2: A Beginner’s Guide
Note from racketboy: For some reason, we don’t typically venture before 1985 in our discussions of console gaming. However, our newest forum moderator and content contributor, MrPopo is broadening our horizons with a blast back to 1978 and Magnovox’s Odyssey2 console. BTW, The RetroGaming 101 series is aimed at gamers who are just starting out in the classic gaming scene or are curious about an older console that they don’t know much about yet.
Magnavox released the first video game console, the Odyssey, in 1972, predating the Pong machines by three years. However, the games were all included on the circuitry; the cartridges were nothing more than a series of jumpers to select the game. When the Fairchild Channel F and the Atari 2600 released in 1976 and 1977 respectively, which both featured programmable ROM cartridges, Magnavox responded with the Odyssey2 (also known as the Philips Videopac G7000, the Philips Odyssey, and a few other names around the world). While inferior graphically and with a smaller library than it’s competitors, the Odyssey2 managed to last until the crash of 83.
- Successor to the first video game console, the Magnavox Odyssey, and took advantage of the new technology of programmable ROM modules.
- Was released by Philips in all territories outside the US. In Europe it was known as the Videopac, while in Brazil it was the Odyssey.
- It launched in 1978 in the US and Europe, and 1982 in Japan, where it did poorly.
- The only console of its generation to have a keyboard. The Odyssey2 featured a touch keyboard standard on the unit which allowed for more complex input than offered by the standard joystick of the era. It also allowed for a Computer Intro! game pack to be released that allowed owners to create programs in a limited form of assembly. (See Classic Commerical)
- The Odyssey2 had an addon speech module which vastly improved the sound capabilities of the console beyond the beeps and boops of its contemporaries. The module enhanced the music and sound effects and even added voice to certain games. (See Classic Commerical)
- One of the first examples of a console that floundered due to insufficent third party support.
- The Odyssey2 had several games which combined the functionality of board games with the new video game technology. Players would set up their pieces on a game board, and the Odyssey2 was used to act out specific encounters reached on the board, such as fighting a group of monsters.
- The Voice: Addon module which enhanced the sound of the system far beyond its competitors
- Integrated keyboard used for game selection and input
- Computer Intro! programming cartridge
- Chess Module addon gave a secondary CPU and memory to allow for a decent (at the time) chess implementation
- More limited color palette than the Atari 2600
- No third party support outside of Europe
- Full Game List
- Due to no third party support some of the in-house developed games were noticable ripoffs of known titles. The biggest example is KC Munchkin being a Pacman clone, while the sequel was merely inspired by Pacman.
- A few games, such as Quest For The Rings, were board game/video game hybrids, and a complete boxed set can be difficult to find.
Imports and Modifying
- While there is no region locking on the Odyssey2, a few carts from the Europe Videopac releases will not play properly on an American Odyssey2 system.
- In an unusual move the Odyssey2 requires the owner to open it up in order to switch the RF output from channel 3 to channel 4. Once the case is open a switch is found that allows the toggle.
- An original model Odyssey2 will likely need to have its video out plug replaced with a standard RCA plug in order to fit in most RF switches. Alternitavely, you can replace either model’s video out plug with a standard coax connector to plug directly into the cable jack on modern TVs.
- O2EM is the most complete Odyssey2 emulator out there.
- It requires a BIOS image to run, and a separate BIOS image if you want to emulate the Voice module.
The Voice add-on for the Odyssey2 was one of only two accessories for the console. It was a rather interesting add-on that provides some impressive voice and sound capabilies to the system. You can get a good idea of what if offered from this vintage commerical on Youtube.
Also see this print advertisement.
|C7010 Chess Module
The C7010 chess module which was a Europe release only. Since the stock Odyssey hardware had limited memory, it needed this add-on to give it the power to run a chess simulation. You can learn more about the C7010 module and see some additional photos and documentation here.
Variations in Hardware
- There were two versions of the Odyssey2.
- The first version featured detachable controllers at the rear, which were painted silver.
- The second version had hardwired black controllers, again coming from the rear. The hardwired controllers can be relatively easily removed, though, as they are not directly soldered to the mainboard; instead they plug in akin to a modern PC’s front panel LEDs.
- One key difference is in the nature of the video out plug. The original Odyssey2 has a fatter plug which will only connect using the original model RF switch. The second version used a standard RCA plug which was compatible with the Atari 2600 RF switch.
- Due to low demand the Odyssey2 system can be had for $20 or less at times (check eBay). Around 2 million consoles were manufactured and the system did not have many stand out titles.
- Individual games can be had for $5 complete and $1 loose (check eBay). The priciest games tend to be complete copies of the board game/video game hybrids.
- The Odyssey Voice is harder to find but still does not command a high price, due to a general lack of demand. It typically can be had for under $30. (check eBay)
Want to learn more about the Odyssey2? Check out these links to feed your curiousity