Video Carnage 05 — Odyssey²

The racing games for the Odyssey² were both pack-in games on the same cartridge.  I mentioned them before, and there really isn’t a whole lot to say about them.  The Odyssey² game library contains some surprisingly good and memorable games, but these to ain’t really among them.

Speedway! (1978)

Speedway! Spin-Out! box

The idea behind this game is very simple.  Race your car along the track for two minutes and rack up as many points as you can.  You must dodge lots of other cars as you drive, because if you hit them you will crash and be momentarily stalled.

When you boot up the console, you get this familiar screen:

Odyssey² Select Game

The Odyssey² was one of those oddball home consoles with a full keyboard, so you could select the numbers 1 through 4 in this game.  Selecting game #1 got you “Speedway!”.

Odyssey² Speedway!

And that’s pretty much it.  It’s not much to look at, and the sound is just different levels of noise.  Pushing the joystick up gets you moving, left and right steer, and joystick back is the brake.  There are two difficulty settings.  The easier setting isn’t really worth playing at all – it’s much too easy.  The cars all come down and move around in the same pattern, and after a while you will have it figured out.

The second difficulty level is a lot more challenging though.  The cars still come in a pattern, but things move a lot faster and you don’t have as much time or room to get out of the way.  You’ll have to excuse the lack of screenshots to show you how things progress.  My emulator refused to cooperate with its screenshot functionality, so I had to scavenge these few from the interwebs.

The 2nd level difficulty actually makes this game kind of fun to play, but since I had it as a kid, and since it was one of the only games I had, I can’t really enjoy it myself any more.  But it’s not bad for top-down racing – as long as you don’t mind driving an orange car on purple streets.

Spin-Out! (1978)

This one is a two-player game, and it has a top-down view as well.

Odyssey² Spin-Out!

Pressing 2 or 3 at the select screen will get you into this game, but they are a little different.  Game 2 is a 3-lap race, and game 3 is a 15-lap race.  And each of these two versions has four difficulty settings, numbered 1-4.  Difficulty 1 is slow speed with the track shown above.  Difficulty 2 is fast speed on that same track.  Difficulty 3 is slow speed again and puts some barriers on the track, around the top of that screenshot.  Difficulty 4 is the fast version of difficulty 3.

If you clip an obstacle like a wall or a barrier or the other car while you’re racing, your car will “spin out”… thus the title.  And then you get to hear something other than noise coming out of the speakers!  If you crash head-on into the wall, your car will crumple up into a blocky primitive 8-bit sprite for a moment.  Then you’re good to race again from the same spot.

The joystick moves the vehicle in the same way as it did in “Speedway!”, only whichever direction the car is facing, that joystick direction will drive.  Left and right relative to that direction steer the car left and right.  This is a fairly simple driving mechanic that has been used in top-down driving games, and game developers have abandoned it at their own risk, usually with bad results.

The joystick button speeds up your car, so you’ll want to be pressing that sucker down most of the race.  From experience, there can be a bit of strategy involved in the barrier track when there is room for only one car to pass through.  You can make a small lead larger by slowing down a bit in order to get your opponent spun-out on the barrier as you slide through, thus giving you a chance to take that bigger lead.

But of course, since this is a two-player game only, it’s no fun at all with just one person.  Unless you want to try to beat your best time.

Not bad games for 1978, I think.  The speed can get quite fast-paced, so they definitely can feel like racing games, even though the choice of that pinkish purple colour is baffling.  If you have an Odyssey²… well you probably have this already.  If you want to play just about as primitive a racing game as can be but still have fun doing it, check these games out on the O2EM emulator.  It’s a DOS emulator, so I don’t know if it works on anything past Windows XP.  You should also get the excellent “O2EM launcher”, but I won’t link to it because it’s hosted on SourceForge.  SourceForge has gone the CNET route and is packing adware with their downloads now, so fuck SourceForge.  May they painfully cramp up and suffocate from the way they’ve jammed their head up their ass.  If you want “O2EM launcher”, I can email it to you.

Seriously, fuck SourceForge.