The Odyssey 2 Shooters Library

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Presented by Jex the Gamer

Note from Racketboy: I’m pleased to introduce a new contributor to the Racketboy family in Jax the Gamer!   He starts us off with a a great genre guide to an old-school console that doesn’t get enough attention around these parts.

Magnavox’s Odyssey 2 is not a well-known console system (see our guide to the Odyssey 2 console)  and neither is its library of games. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth playing, though; especially if you are curious in checking out the legendary Atari 2600’s competition. The following is a complete list of the Odyssey 2’s shooter games. They are worth checking out despite being similar to other games of the same time period because of some unique innovations and changes in gameplay.

Alien Invaders Plus

Alien Invaders PlusAt first glance, this game is just another clone of Space Invaders, and that game has way too many clones and copycats already. But once you start playing, you’ll quickly realize that this is a fresh take on the fixed shooter subgenre. Like Space Invaders, the player scrolls from left to right on the bottom of the screen, shooting up at the alien invasion in the skies overhead. There are three barricading shields to protect the player from the onslaught of alien lasers firing down at him, and there is even a sort of “mothership” that hovers around at the top of the screen behind the alien army.

But that is where the similarities end. Those three barricades cannot be broken down by laser fire like in Space Invaders, and it turns out, they represent the player’s extra lives. When the player is hit by a laser, the sprite changes into a tiny man (a robot, actually) running around and scurrying for cover behind his barricades. But pressing the fire button while hiding behind one of these will convert the barricade into another ship for you! This adds an extra layer of challenge to the game since the player not only loses a life when shot but also 1/3 of his cover.
The aliens themselves have their own shields, and it is frustrating as hell to get into the groove of aiming between the shields at the aliens while dodging their lasers and the erratic attacks from the mother-alien. Plus the mother-alien randomly swoops down to get in the player’s face from time to time. There are only two rows of aliens onscreen, but two rows are enough! Hitting the aliens bobbing back and forth behind their shields is a real hassle.

One final difference makes this game worthwhile even if you’ve played the hell out of Space Invaders already. The goal of this game is not the lazy “get the highest score.” There are two numbers at the top of the screen, one in each corner. The left one represents the alien enemy while the right one represents your robot. When the alien horde destroys you, they get a point; when you obliterate a fleet of them, you get a point. The goal of the game is to beat your enemy to 10 points. That is a worthy challenge!
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Armored Encounter

Armored EncounterThis game is paired with Sub Chase on a single cartridge. Both games are for 2 players only, both have war themes, and both are in the shooters genre.  Out of the two, Sub Chase is definitely worth playing, but this one is just a poor man’s version of the tank portion of Atari 2600’s Combat.

In case you haven’t played either version of tank combat, here’s how things go down: two players challenge each other to a duel of tanks. When the game starts, the tanks appear on either side of the battlefield and must strategically move around the screen in order to shoot the other player’s tank and avoid being shot in turn. The novelty of the duel is fun for a moment, but the true excitement begins when you play around with the various options for the battle’s scenario.

In Armored Encounter, there are three options to play around with: whether or not you use guided missiles, whether or not there are mines on the battlefield, and how many impenetrable walls are strewn around as terrain. Guided missiles are incredibly fun to play around with in this game. Mines are somewhat pointless because they are visible on the map, so it’s just a matter of avoiding the big white X’s onscreen. It would be much better if the mines were invisible so that you had to remember where they might be located. Finally, the impenetrable walls are an absolute necessity for the game’s replayability value since strategy changes as the terrain changes onscreen.

When compared to Atari’s Combat, the gameplay lacks in several ways. One, on top of a 3-minute time limit, there is also a bullet limit. Each tank can only fire 20 bullets. After that, they are sitting ducks. This proves to be less fun than Combat’s chaotic gameplay with infinite bullets. Another missing fun factor is the ability to leave on one side of the screen and enter in on the other side. At all times, the tanks fight in a box.

And the third strike against Armored Encounter is also its worst offense: no kickback when a tank is destroyed. In Combat, when a tank was hit by a missile, the vehicle bounced back from the impact. This was important because it gave the losing tank a chance to escape and reposition itself for battle once again. In Armored Encounter, a tank explodes and reappears in the same spot. That means the tank that shot it doesn’t have to re-aim at all; it simply fires off another missile for another point. Spamming shots successfully like this drops the fun level to 0, and it almost makes the game broken.

However, if you are able to avoid such a scenario, the game is still loads of fun, especially if you don’t already have Combat in your game library. But even if you do, Armored Encounter can still be worth playing for the variations (and limitations) in gameplay that are absent in Atari’s version.
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Sub Chase

Sub ChaseNow this is a 2-player game worth your time! As already mentioned, this game came on the same cartridge as Armored Encounter, and it is the better game of the two. Sub Chase is a battle between a submarine and an airplane traveling in opposite directions onscreen. Players gain points by hitting each other, and whoever has the most points at the end of the 3-minute round wins. There are infinite bullets, but a player can only have one bullet onscreen at a time.

There are lots of factors to the gameplay that make this game a complicated battle of wits and strategy. First, there are three ways to play this game: players can choose to either have guided missiles or not, and if they choose guided missiles, they have the extra option of firing their missiles from the rear or the front of their vehicle. If they fire from the rear, the missiles can be guided both left and right as they fly toward the opponent, but if they fire from the front, the missiles always travel in a forward direction but can be slowed down or sped up (which changes the angle of their flight path).

This game is already very interesting, right? Now add to that the fact that the sub and plane can speed up and slow down as they travel across the screen in opposite directions. Now add to that their ability to change altitude in the sky and depth in the sea while speeding up and slowing down. Now add to that the existence of two “neutral” boats floating near the horizon, the meeting between sky and sea. These two boats subtract a point from a player’s score if they are hit.

Put it altogether, and you’ve got a game that seems simple at first but turns out to have great heights and depths of complexity. Competing players continuously learn how to outsmart one another in ever-changing strategies. What more could you ask for in a multiplayer game?
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Conquest of the World

Conquest of the WorldThis is a board game/video game hybrid. In its original packaging, it came with a map of the world which represented your battlefield as you fought against another player to conquer the world. But the video game portion by itself is a multi-directional shooter like Atari 2600’s Combat, and it is very playable on its own.

Conquest of the World is a 2-player game that pits tanks, planes, and submarines against one another in one-on-one successive battles. The fun is in switching up your tactics depending on what vehicle you have and what vehicle your opponent has. The game is very entertaining with a big replayability factor because there are many different (randomized?) areas for combat and a huge variety of encounters between the two players. Each vehicle moves differently and fires differently.

On top of that, an individual meter at the bottom of the screen represents your vehicle’s fuel. As long as you have fuel, you can move and fire. Different vehicles burn through their fuel at different rates. For example, the plane is always in motion and therefore is always burning fuel, whereas the submarine and tank can sit still without wasting anything. But the plane is the fastest and most maneuverable vehicle, so there’s a nice balance.

In fact, there is a nice balance of strengths and weaknesses in many ways for the different crafts. The submarine is the hardest to win with because you have to guide a missile to your target, but it is also the safest because you can hide underwater from your opponent’s attacks. When you run out of fuel, you don’t crash and burn (unlike the plane), but you are also just a sitting duck waiting to get picked off. The tank is limited to whatever land mass the computer decides to generate and is susceptible to mines but only slowed down by trees. The plane is quick, but it is easy to crash into trees or run out of fuel. As you can tell, the terrain is very important to the gameplay.
Rounds are won by whoever hits their opponent first. If the two vehicles collide, both players are awarded a point for their kamikaze effort. Overall, this is a great addition to any Odyssey 2 collection. Anyone who enjoys games like Atari’s Combat or board games like RISK should definitely get their hands on this gem.
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Cosmic Conflict

Cosmic ConflictThis fast-paced, space game is fun in short bursts. It is a first-person shooter with a 2D perspective. There are several games out there of the same time period that are very similar to Cosmic Conflict, but this Odyssey 2 exclusive title stands out in several ways.

First, it just seems to be faster and tighter in its handling. Quick reflexes are needed to wipe out the enemy ships. When lasers are fired, moving your ship moves the lasers along with it briefly. This is a nice touch and makes aiming a little less frustrating. Some enemies simply fly across the screen without attacking you. These are the easy targets to pick off, but if they fly off the screen before you can track them, they are gone for good. The enemies to watch out for are…you guessed it…tie fighters! Of course tie fighters. They come directly at you either head on or at a slight angle, and if they get too close before you can blast them, 50 points are knocked off of the fuel gauge, which, of course, is the timer for the game.

The fuel gauge also counts as your score upon completing the game, so it’s all about racing against the clock to pick off 15 enemy ships as efficiently as possible to get the highest score. The game ends once you complete your mission or once your fuel completely runs out.
Cosmic Conflict is aesthetically pleasing. It looks good and sounds good. It truly feels like you are in the cockpit of some spacecraft, flying around through empty space. The “ALERT” signal is a nice touch whenever a tie fighter is coming at you, and the messages you get from star command upon completing or failing your mission help to immerse you in the moment. Is it the best game ever? No, but it is a nice example of a quality “space” game made in the 8bit era; especially if you consider that it was made in 1978!
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Atlantis

AtlantisThis is a good example of an Odyssey 2 port that doesn’t measure up to the computing power standards of other consoles’ versions, yet it is charming and fun in its own way. Atlantis is a classic 8bit game that is fun to play no matter what console you play it on. Most likely, gamers will prefer to play it on the Atari 2600, but the Odyssey 2 version is not a failed attempt.

This port of Atlantis is not as pretty as its competition on the 2600, and the audio is not as good either. But it does have four levels of difficulty, the screen is smaller and the bullets are bigger which makes it easier to aim, and to make up for only having 2 gun turrets in this version (typically, Atlantis has 3 gun turrets), the player has a limited supply of “blitz bombs” to decimate the enemy’s numbers.

It is just different enough to be worth checking out after playing the superior 2600 version to compare the two ports. But when all is said and done, this is still Atlantis, a classic shooter game for home consoles during the 8bit era. Your job is to protect your precious underwater city from the enemy in the skies by strategically using the firepower at your disposal, and it’s a heck of a lot of fun.
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Demon Attack

Demon AttackAnother great example of the charm of ports on the Odyssey 2 is Demon Attack, another classic shooter from the 8bit era. Demon Attack is a fixed shooter like Space Invaders or Galaga. What makes this game stand out from the hundreds of other fixed shooters is the unique design of the enemies you have to gun down. Apparently they are demons, but they look like some kind of bird-octopus hybrid. And that’s a sweet enemy design! Different colors of demons represent variety in enemy behavior and abilities, and they hover over you and bob around at different levels onscreen. It’s a nice change of pace from the hordes of efficient, perfectly-lined-up aliens in other games.

The Odyssey 2 port is inferior to the Atari’s 2600 version both in graphics and audio (although the bit-crushed sound effects of this version are really cool), and so it has to compensate in other ways. Limitation breeds creativity, after all. For example, one of the exciting things about playing Demon Attack initially is the unpredictability of the enemies. But after playing Demon Attack for awhile, that novelty wears off as you get used to the enemy behavior. The Odyssey 2 port is like playing the game for the first time all over again because it had to make changes to the routine and formula of the game’s enemy AI due to its power limitations.

The screen is smaller and there are only 2 baddies onscreen rather than the usual 3, but the lowest creature seems to be closer to you than in the 2600 port. This makes it a little bit more difficult to avoid enemy shots, and when you die, your ship reappears in the exact same place at which it got blown up, so you need a faster reaction time than in the 2600 version, which placed your ship out of harm’s way after exploding.

This port is probably not worth getting if you already have the 2600 version, but Demon Attack as its own game is a solid title that is definitely worth checking out. If the 2600 version is inaccessible, the Odyssey 2’s option is a fairly good substitute. This is a shooter not to be missed.
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Super Cobra

Super CobraThis game is the sequel to the classic arcade game Scramble; this time, you handle a helicopter. If the gameplay of Scramble is appealing to you, then you will definitely enjoy Super Cobra as well. In this game, your helicopter must fly horizontally through claustrophic caves while protecting itself against all kinds of enemy ships and rockets. At the same time, the helicopter must periodically refuel by hitting fuel tanks on the ground (gotta love video game logic).

Due to the Odyssey 2’s limitations, there are a lot of changes in this port from the original version. Instead of a non-stop flight through caves made possible by a scrolling screen, Odyssey 2’s Super Cobra is divided into separate screens; once the helicopter gets to the end of the screen, the action stops, and the screen transitions to the next screen before the helicopter continues onward. Also, each screen gives the helicopter a unique number of bombs which could be less or more than the last screen’s supply. The graphics are blocky and the space feels more confined. Instead of a fuel gauge, the helicopter has a shield of 10 hit points. When the helicopter gets hit by an enemy, it does not explode; rather, the hit points decrease. If the helicopter crashes into the cave’s side, it simply restarts at the beginning of that screen rather than having to start at the beginning of the game, and only one hit point is deducted.

With so many differences in this port, it might as well be considered a different game. A very fun, different game. The limitations of the console are used in creative ways to still make a really entertaining game that is okay with being different from other ports. Each screen feels like a mini-level. The confined space is more challenging. The hit points system doesn’t disrupt the gameplay like the arcade version. Each stage is like a puzzle where you have to figure out the most effective way to use your limited supply of bombs to rack up the most points, and this must be decided for each screen since the number of bombs changes each time.

Super Cobra for the Odyssey 2 is a fantastic example of the type of gaming the console offers in competition with the likes of the Atari 2600 and the Intellivision. This is a port worth experiencing even if you have Super Cobra on every other platform you own. It’s a fantastic shooter converted into a unique design born out of necessary creativity. And it’s better for it.
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Showdown in 2100 A.D.

Showdown in 2100 A.D.This is a new and awesome take on a very old arcade game called Gunslinger. In that game, two players faced each other as cowboys with a single, large cactus in the middle of the screen. The cowboys could shoot their bullets straight at their opponent or at a diagonal angle toward the top or bottom of the screen. The bullet ricocheted off the edges of the screen to make things more interesting.
This game takes that idea and runs with it into new territory. The cactus was ditched and in its place are multi-colored trees (giant mushrooms?) strewn randomly all over the level. Now the bullets ricochet off of the trees instead of the edges of the screen. This makes for even more unpredictable gameplay. The diagonal shooting was taken away, but in its place, the cowboys are given free movement anywhere onscreen, though players will still tend to face each other in the traditional way just because there’s little time between flying bullets. But the point is that the option to go anywhere on the screen is there.

The game looks beautiful, the gameplay is as fun as a 2-player ought to be, and there’s a high replayability value due to the randomized tree locations and the unpredictability of the bullets bouncing off of everything. This is the very definition of what the Odyssey 2 does best: it takes a classic game or idea, switches things up a bit due to limitations or copyright, and creates a fun alternative to the original. This game is a true hidden gem for players who want to fight each other onscreen.
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Freedom Fighters

Freedom FightersThis game is just plain old arcade bliss. It has everything one could hope for in a shooter game of this time era. It’s difficult, it’s in space, and it’s all about shooting stuff for points. The player’s ship must avoid and destroy two types of enemies: ships (yellow stars) and mines (white block clusters). It can get really frantic onscreen with more and more of these enemies flying around. And since it’s an arcade game all about the points, the enemies are just a challenging distraction to your true objective, which is to rescue captives from their confinement crystals (purple, rotating rectangles) since that’s what earns the most points.

Of course, confinement crystals are scarce while the number of enemies clutters up the screen. The player’s ship must navigate through it all, and here is where a bit of Defender-like gameplay comes in. You know the classic arcade game Defender, right? Well, Freedom Fighters moves a bit like it. Your ship can move around the screen with player one’s joystick, but player two’s joystick actually puts the ship in hyperspace mode so that you can scroll the screen left or right from your initial location in space.

What’s the point of this? Hyperspace mode is necessary if you want to go looking for confinement crystals rather than waiting for them to slowly drift passed you. It also allows your ship to move faster (duh!), so avoiding enemies is easier. It comes at a price, though. The longer a ship is in hyperspace mode, the longer it takes for the ship to slow down to regular speed again. So be careful when scrolling left or right. You might just find your way blocked and can’t put the brakes on fast enough. That’s a really cool balance of gameplay.
Hyperspace mode gets even more interesting when two players play together. This type of gameplay is encouraged in the manual, actually, and it’s probably why hyperspace mode is done with joystick #2. One player can navigate around the space shown onscreen while the other player can decide when to go exploring into space or make a quick escape. Both joysticks’ fire buttons work too, so this game will either make the players the best of friends or bitter enemies depending on how well they work together to rack up the points. There is even an optional survival mode where the ship cannot fire at all and has to collect points by staying alive.

Inspirational, Freedom Fighters. Job well done.
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Invaders from Hyperspace

Invaders from HyperspaceThis is a very unique game; I can’t think of anything else like this. Invaders from Hyperspace is a game for 1 or 2 players, or for no players actually. Let me explain. In this game, player one has a red ship and player two has a yellow ship. Near the ships are a series of “planets” that are the same color as the players’ ships. As long as one of those planets is the color of one of the players, that player can continue to play no matter how many times he or she gets killed off. But the planets can be shot, and when that happens, their color changes. So shooting the other player’s ship is not going to kick them out of the gameplay; changing the planets’ color is how to get rid of them for good.

The only problem with that strategy is the aggressive AI which appears in the form of two other ships whose mission is to change the color of the planets to their color too. So it’s a chaotic mess of ships shooting each other and every planet in sight to preserve their ability to tap back in if they get shot. And in fact, if both players are destroyed and there are no planets left for them to be resurrected, the two AI ships will continue to battle it out, hence why this can be a game for 1, 2, or 0 players.

All of this is not even the main goal of the game. The whole point of the game is to destroy 10 enemy ships, but they are so ferocious and you get so preoccupied with preserving at least one planet of your color that the goal just doesn’t matter after about 5 seconds. It’s very challenging, very confusing, and definitely unique. But is it fun? Yes, to some extent it is. But really, this is a novelty game that should be played at least once just for the strange experience.
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Powerlords

PowerlordsAt first glance, this game looks and plays awesome. Your ship is on a single screen showing an alien world with a big, angry volcano. That’s different, and therefore, it’s interesting right away. Add to that the fact that the entire alien world seems out to kill you: the volcano’s eruption will kill you, the falling magma boulders from the volcano will kill you, the giant snake with his laser death eyes will kill you, and there’s some kind of portal that opens on the side of the volcano that tries to suck you in with a tractor beam, and if that happens, yep, it’ll kill you too.

So at first the game is interesting because it seems super challenging and chaotic. The player’s ship can exit on one side of the screen and enter on the other, so that’s cool. The ship’s laser range is limited, so that seems to up the difficulty. And the tractor beam can make everything feel disorienting. The snake is fast and accurate with its laser death eyes too. Surely, this is one of those incredibly difficult games!

It is if you don’t know what to do. But once you figure out that you can just keep firing at the snake to keep it at bay, shoot the portal when it opens periodically, and slightly move to the left or right to avoid the falling lava boulders, the game gets boring really fast. Most of the time, you can just hover in one spot and continuously shoot the snake. The manual says the game gets more and more challenging as the points accumulate, but after 2,000 points and no noticeable difference in the difficulty level, the game just can’t hold my attention anymore.

It’s a shame because the game looks great and has a fantastic premise, but the gameplay lacks significantly once the player figures out the easy way to stay alive and collect points at the same time. But if the player is ignorant of the easy strategy, yeah, this game can be really fun. One way that this game could have been improved is to have some other objective other than just collecting points. Another way would be to have a stronger tractor beam; it’s really not that powerful. If Powerlords had one or both of those ideas implemented, this would be an Odyssey 2 classic.
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Sid the Spellbinder

Sid the SpellbinderThis is an interesting educational game for the kiddies. It looks like a Centipede clone for preschoolers. At the bottom of the screen is the player’s ship and a stockpile of his missiles. Across the screen scuttles Sid. Every time he exits and enters the screen, he’s closer to your missile supply. If you can shoot every segment of his body before he gets to your missiles, you’ll be rewarded with some education time. Otherwise, he’ll eat some of your missiles and then it’s still education time.

The next segment of the game takes advantage of the Odyssey 2’s voice module. The computer asks you to spell a certain word, and you are given two tries to get it right. Several rounds of that later, Sid is back to try to eat the player’s missiles again. Spelling words correctly rewards the player with more missiles; spelling words incorrectly simply means that the player must face Sid with the amount of missiles he had left the last time. Once the player’s missile stockpile reaches 0, it’s game over.

This game is creative in its fusion of shooter action and education. It’s not difficult to hit Sid, and the words aren’t challenging either. It is the perfect difficulty level for kids just learning how to read and spell. The only problem with this game is the voice module itself. I had a hard time understanding what the computer wanted me to spell. The word “many” sounded like “main,” and the word “sure” sounded like “chore.” If it’s hard for me, then it would be really hard for a kid to comprehend the synthesized voice, I think.

This kind of defeats the entire purpose of the game. But Sid the Spellbinder should still be applauded for making the effort to create a fun educational game. There’s not too many of those out there.
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UFO

UFOThis game is an interesting twist on the Asteroids formula. Like the arcade game, UFO is about a single ship in the middle of space surrounded by space debris which you’ve got to shoot for points. Sometimes an aggressive and sharp-shooting alien craft will arrive on the scene and try to kill you. Your ship is able to move in any direction, and you are able to fire in any direction too.

What makes this game unique is the way you are forced to play. A white dot rotates around the ship in a clockwise direction as you move around the screen. This dot represents the ship’s aiming reticle. In order to aim, you have to move around until the white dot lines up with the intended target. This is very difficult to do. Most often, you’ll find yourself accidentally hitting space debris rather than intentionally, and forget about facing those enemy crafts! But there is a strategy to it: the reticle will continue to rotate clockwise until reaches the direction you are pressing with the joystick. If you switch directions, the reticle will continue to move until it reaches that direction instead. So you end up doing a lot of circular motions like how a real UFO might hover and bob. This gameplay style is very foreign to most gamers who feel comfortable with other shooters of this subgenre like Asteroids or Space Fury.

One really cool feature is that when you are not firing, a force field charges up around your ship, which enables you to collide with any object—debris or enemy craft—without dying, and points are still rewarded for this type of kill. But once a collision occurs, it’ll take a few seconds for the force field to charge up again.

UFO is definitely worth playing for the strange gameplay mechanics, the intense difficulty, and the interesting variation off of the traditional Asteroids forumula. This game is good, clean arcade action with an intense difficulty. Just perfect for an old-school shooter game, and it’s a bit of a hidden gem since it is exclusive to the Odyssey 2.
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Exojet

ExojetYet another interesting exclusive for the Odyssey 2! In this shooter, the player is flying through a canyon. It looks similar to the scene at the end of Star Wars: A New Hope. Enemies attack the player from a high level and a low level, and the player’s reticle changes position accordingly. If the player collides with the sides of the canyon, it’s game over. If the player collides with an enemy, it’s game over. The only time the player has an extra chance at life is if the player’s shield is up when enemy fire hits. The shield looks like flickering shoulder pads, by the way. It took me a while to even notice I had a shield. Once it disappears, it takes several seconds to reappear, and you will learn to feel very vulnerable in those shield-less moments.

The action is so fast that you really have to “lead” your bullets ahead of the enemy’s current position to get a hit. For the enemies coming in low, it’s smarter to let them take the first shot and dodge it before going in for the kill…or just have really fast reflexes. For the enemies coming in high, watch out! because their lasers can curve to home in on you. Right when you start feeling comfortable in the handling of the game is when you discover that you’ve been blown up. It just sneaks up on you like that.

The game looks beautiful. Very aesthetically pleasing. And it has a nice rhythm to it. After every 10 kills, you’ll pass a white base and the enemies will get tougher after that. Other small changes occur in the gameplay the farther you progress as well. It is a nice challenge as far as original and exclusive shooters are concerned.
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Attack of the Time Lord

Attack of the Time LordThis is a defining game of the Odyssey 2 and I don’t just mean under the shooters genre. This game takes advantage of the voice module, and the gameplay has original style and intensity. Yes, it could be considered a clone of the Space Invaders formula, but Attack of the Time Lord gets it right in many ways.

First of all, the enemies are very challenging. They are difficult to hit, especially from your ship’s little pea-shooter gun. They have a bizarre flight pattern. And they are downright diabolical in where they let loose their firepower. It is very easy to get trapped by them.
The first level isn’t so hard, but the second level proves that you’re in for a rough ride. Each of the first four levels introduces a new form of firepower at the enemy’s disposal, and they are very effective at boxing you into corners or pinning you between bullets. After the first four levels, no new firepower is introduced, but the enemies get faster and smarter, as if they weren’t fast and smart already!

On top of that, you have the evil Time Lord himself mocking you between each round. Sometimes you won’t have a clue what he’s saying because of the voice synthesizer’s limitations, but you just know he’s saying something evil. He must be stopped…but you’ll have to overcome 256 levels of his minions to do it. Whew! What a game!

However, you could go the easy route and choose to play the game without the Time Lord making an appearance between each level, but that’s just pathetic. Actually, it’s cool that the developers gave that option since not everyone has a voice module for their Odyssey 2, and not everyone has the patience to listen to the Time Lord make his threats between every single level, but if you have neither of those excuses, you are just pathetic for choosing the Time Lord-less option!
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Blobbers

BlobbersMy gosh! This game is a broken mess! Apparently the object of the game is to survive as long as possible in a box with growing and multiplying “blobbers.” The way to survive is to fire at the blobbers to reduce their size or destroy them completely, but your only way of doing that is to drive your vehicle to the opposite side of the screen from the blobbers and try to blast them from there.

The only problem with doing that is the fact that there’s a bunch of moving squares in the middle of the screen that block 90% of your shots! And you hardly move faster than the blobbers, so you are continuously on the move with no hope of making a shot between the rapidly moving squares because you have to stop the vehicle first before you can fire. Ridiculous.

One cool idea that this game introduces is being transported by the squares to the other side of the screen. But that is the only interesting thing about this game. It’s an interesting premise but is poorly executed. If the blocks allowed your bullets to pass through them or if there was more space between them or they just moved a damn bit slower, this game might work alright. As it is, forget it!
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Flash-Point

Flash-PointFlash-Point is a great game for several reasons. One, it has both an overworld and an action screen. Two, the action is very similar to Robotron 2084, a classic arcade game. Three, it is challenging and fun and looks fantastic all at the same time. And four, it was meant to be released for the Odyssey 3, which never came out, and that makes this game mysterious and rare.

This game apparently takes place in a city with lots of buildings (the purple areas of the overworld map are the buildings). You play as some kind of car or robot or something that must travel around the city to get rid of flashing points (hence the title of the game). If these flashing points are ignored, they will destroy that sector of the city. It’s up to you to stop them.

Once you make contact with a flashing point, the overworld changes to the action screen, where you play some sweet dual-joystick action. Like Robotron 2084 or Smash TV, one joystick controls the player’s movement while the other joystick controls the direction of the player’s firepower. The action screen is filled in entirely; there is no empty space, even where there are no enemies standing. The filled screen represents your point system, and it’s a unique way of doing it that really gets the blood pumping.

Not only do you have to kill all the enemies on the screen, but you have to do it as quickly as possible because wherever the enemies tread, they leave behind only empty space. Once you kill all of them, your points are tallied by how much filled space is still present onscreen. The green area in the middle of the screen gives you more points than the blue area. So you’ll find yourself not only trying to kill all the enemies, but also trying to preserve the screen’s “filling” as much as possible. Since the enemies follow you wherever you go, you have to strategically move to stay alive and “herd” the enemies. Very, very cool.

The overworld map has some strategy too. The grey areas represent streets, and you move the fastest while traveling along those. Since time is not on your side, it’s important to travel as quickly as possible from flash-point to flash-point, to remember which ones have been onscreen the longest, and to make tough choices between traveling across town for one flash-point or dealing with the cluster of flash-points in your immediate area. Don’t stress over it too much, though, because you’ll most likely get a game over well before the city is completely demolished. It’s a challenging, frenetic game that you need to play because it’s really fun and because it’s for a console system that never came out.
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Martian Threat

Martian ThreatMartian Threat is a single-player, unreleased prototype that is kind of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it has some very good ideas and presentation. On the other hand, the gameplay is just so very difficult. It is inspired by Asteroids-like games. You play as some kind of defense system of Earth that must stop the invading aliens from dropping THE bomb.

Every time you game over, you are treated to a well done representation of the aliens dropping their bomb, and then the whole planet of Earth slowly dies and turns into a black hole. It is a marvel that a prototype game has a complex game over screen like this; the developers really wanted you to feel the doom of Earth. Strangely, the gameplay itself takes place in an obscure enclosed area with no sign of Earth or space in sight. The player is a decent-looking ship that flies around with very little inertia, so it has to roar the engines in the opposite direction to break speed. This is very similar to the Asteroids ship’s physics.

Within the enclosed space is an alien turret that appears at the edges of the screen. It spews globs of something at you, and you will find that the longer you stay alive, the globs will change color and get stronger. Initially, your ship can take 10 hits before exploding, but near the end of the game, just three hits will take you down.

The main objective of the game is to just survive for a little over a minute in the enclosed space with the alien turret and its globs. You will find that to be challenging enough. Just keeping from crashing into the sides of the screen is tough. But since the globs come right at you, and the turret will just keep sending more your way unless you destroy it, it’s time to use your weapon system. Again, that’s easier said than done.

Here is where most people will give up on the game. In order to shoot your lasers, you have to hold down the fire button while pushing the joystick in a direction (kind of like how it’s done in the game Berzerk). But the lasers fire from your ship diagonally which feels counter-intuitive for most shooters fans, not to mention the fact that you are usually still sliding with momentum toward a scary-looking wall while trying to aim and shoot. It’s a very frustrating task to get used to, but dedicated gamers might find some enjoyment in the experience. They may even survive past a minute and end up saving the whole freakin’ world!
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Neutron Star

Neutron StarThe slippery physics in games like Asteroids can be both fun and frustrating at the same time. This game is proof of that. The concept is interesting, the gameplay is chaotic, but the game is just too hard to enjoy except in small bursts.

A ship in space must defend a system of satellites from the fragments of an exploded planet. Satellites still in working order are represented by a yellow “+”, while destroyed satellites are represented by a red “x.” As planet fragments enter from the right side of the screen, the ship can shoot the rocks, but you get no points for that. To get points, the ship must dump the rocks into the black hole on the left side of the screen. This is the highlight of the game because the black hole really does suck you in! It is incredibly satisfying to get as close to the black hole as possible, dump a planet fragment in for points, feel the black hole’s dangerous pull, and slowly distance yourself from it with your back-thrusters.

The problem Neutron Star has is an intense difficulty curve. Flying back and forth between the black hole and the rocks’ entrance takes time, and juggling just one or two rocks at a time is tough enough. But very quickly, you’ll be desperately protecting your satellites from five rocks onscreen, and all of them are headed in different directions. As soon as you blast one, another one appears, so the only way to get points without losing satellites is to predict the rocks’ trajectories. If they are going to hit a satellite that has been destroyed already, well then, that’s no big deal. They can be ignored for the moment as you zip over to the black hole for more points. Just be careful because it is very easy to fall into the black hole. The other way to game over is if you only have 2 satellites left intact.

It’s a nice concept, and it works in small bursts. But the odds against you are so overwhelming that you’ll find yourself more frustrated than satisfied at the end of a playthrough.
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Clay Pigeon

Clay PigeonWhat a bizarre and quirky game! Clay Pigeon is about…shooting clay pigeons. Your avatar stands on the right side of the screen, and the clay pigeons are launched from the left side. Your avatar can aim at different intervals, and after two shots, you’ll have to reload by pointing your gun down at the ground. The goal is to hit as many clay pigeons as possible, obviously.

Mediocre, right? But then things get a little weird. Your avatar can walk around, so if he goes too far to the left, he’ll fall over and waste time while the clay pigeons fly. Random birds come flying by to drop bombs on your head, and these also use up precious time if you are stunned by them. If you fail to shoot the minimum requirement of clay pigeons, an even bigger bird comes in to snatch you up and carry you away in the sky. What the hell?

This is a clay pigeon nightmare! And it’s so strange that it’s charming. And fun. It’s worth playing for the novelty of it. It’s almost not a shooter. It almost doesn’t fit in any genre. And it was only available for the Odyssey 2 in Brazil! The only other game like that is a flight simulator called Nightfighter. You should definitely play Clay Pigeon just for the unique experience.
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Kill the Attacking Aliens

Kill the Attacking AliensThis game shouldn’t be on this list because it’s a homebrew made in 2003. But it’s just so good that it needs some more attention, especially on a list of shooters for the Odyssey 2. Kill the Attacking Aliens boasts good graphics considering the system it’s working with, seven unique stages of gameplay, and even powerups!

In each level, your ship has two objectives: save the buildings and landmarks of earth from the aliens’ bombs and kill all the aliens. How do you complete these objectives? By shooting things, of course. Protecting Earth from the bombs gives you bonus points, but the bombs will just keep coming unless you take out the alien horde at some point, so that’s really your primary goal.

Something special about your ship allows you turn to face left, right, and up, but not down. It’s an odd thing, but it can actually be useful when you want to fire a bunch of aliens and bombs all in a row; you just scroll down while facing to the right or left. The Zoolander-like problem of not being able to turn downward can get confusing sometimes, but ultimately, it’s a nice gimmick.

But what really make this game worth checking out are the powerups and the 7 different levels in the game. This game is loads of fun. It’s quite an accomplishment to make a new and interesting shooter for an old system like the Odyssey 2, so Kill the Attacking Aliens is definitely worth your time. Check it out!
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4 Comments

DocHix says:

Great article…always nice to see any kind of Odyssey 2 coverage. It really is great system to own (if you can find one in good working condition) and is home to a few unique exclusive titles. I also agree with the reviewer that the limitations of the system led to some creative programming. How about a follow-up on Odyssey 2 platformers?

Hobie-wan says:

UFO and Attack of the Timelord were my favorites as a kid as I had an Odyssey instead of a 2600. Invaders from Hyperspace seems impenetrable at first, but there’s quite a bit of strategy involved. Go after the other player or work on changing the planets to your color? Perhaps purposefully crash into some planets that aren’t your color to give some breathing room at the expense of respawns that are your color? I think it is pretty deep for such an old action game.

DK1105 says:

I grew up in the 16/32 bit eras so in all respect I should have no interest in the odyssey 2 but I is one of my favorite consoles ever. I bought 3 of them on a whim because I found a great craigslist deal for 3 boxed consoles and a bunch of games mostly in boxes and it quickly turned into a deep love. I keep debating on if I want to go for a full set or not.

c0wb0y says:

What a Fantastic write-ups on these games! I learned a lot about the games not yet in my collection.
I was in the same boat as Hobie-wan as a kid – we had an Odyssey 2 instead of an Atari. The Odyssey joystick is so much better – but I didn’t fully appreciate it until I bought a 2600 as an adult.
One thing I love is how the Odyssey games often seemed like a rip-off of other games, but on closer examination they added so many tweaks which made them deeper strategy-wise. In addition, you can enter a number at start-up to select the different modes/gameplay rules. Lots of bang fo your buck.
It is hard for me to pick a favorite console from my collection, but this one is among the top on my list.

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