Let's Talk RCA Studio II

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Let's Talk RCA Studio II

Postby scotland171 » January 30th, 2015, 9:30 am

Here is a console that lives mostly in infamy.    Anyone experienced this console?  There are emulators, so maybe we could give Dave a pass and let him review some games on emulation?   Does anyone have anything positive to say about this elder of the console universe?

[QUOTE=Project Slamstar from a Q&A thread in 2005 ]The RCA Studio 2 was the 2nd console released with interchangable cartridges (after Fairchild's Channel F). It came out in 1977. It had only black & white graphics, and the sounds came out of the system itself. The only controls were a normal keypad, nothing extra, and they were part of the console itself. It had 5 games built in, and 9 were released for it. It was cancelled in 1979 [/QUOTE]

[QUOTE=The Video Game Critic from a Q&A thread in 2005 ]Thanks for the info and links. That's informative, but I don't think I'll be hunting that one [RCA Studio 2] down anytime soon. I love collecting video games, but first and foremost I'm a video game PLAYER. All of the systems I review have games that I consider to be enjoyable, despite their age. However, when you start talking about the Studio 2 and the Fairchild, you're crossing into the "good to own, not to play" area I would prefer to avoid. If one falls into my lap I'll be happy, but the games don't look particularly appealing. Correct me if I'm wrong. Take care Dave[/QUOTE]

Here are some thoughts -
While the controller gets jeers for being just buttons...say, isn't that what the NES controller is?  Considering it has digital buttons for 8 directions, that's not total garbage, is it?

The game Space War has a 1 button play option.  That's it.  You press or release a single button.

There were actually clones made for this system.  Unlike most clones, these tended to be better than the original, such as having color or wired controllers.

Apparently there is no on/off button.  That's not a good sign.

The processor is the RCA "COSMAC" microprocessor, which is said to be about what the Fairchild has. Great name anyway...COSMAC.  An RCA COSMAC microprocessor has the distinction of being the single most distant microprocessor from Earth, as it was used in NASA's Voyager spacecraft.  Which means that if Star Trek The Motion Picture ever come true, earth will one day be threatened by a sentient RCA Studio II seeking its creator.  (FYI - the Pioneer spacecraft had an Intel 4004, but Voyagers have gone farther now)

So, can you find something nice to say about the Studio II before V'ger comes back?


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Let's Talk RCA Studio II

Postby Sut1 » January 30th, 2015, 10:11 am

In the UK the RCA Studio II was released as the Academy Apollo. I've only ever seen one come up on eBay (although admittedly I've never been actively looking) and yes it was in colour ! This was released under various names and distributed by various companies throughout Europe (similar to the PC-50x and Interton 4000 systems). It also made it to Japan as the Visicom, both Europe and Japan received games never released in the US (Sumo Wrestling, Flipper).

Rumour has it the Euro clones where actually the RCA Studio III, see this great thread at Atari Age:

Games wise I've never played on a real system, only via emulation and I can only describe it as poor.
The Channel F looks like a Xbox compared to this. The Pong game is choppy, Gunfighter is also choppy and awkward. The system really struggles with action games.

Although I did have relative fun with Space War, the simplistic action is surprisingly addictive and the hunt for a perfect score kept me playing.

Personally I'd file under fun to collect, but not to play.

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Let's Talk RCA Studio II

Postby ptdebate1 » January 30th, 2015, 1:46 pm

Dave did end up indulging the Fairchild Channel F! Although it did turn out that there were some fun games for that system (read: homebrew Pac Mac).

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Let's Talk RCA Studio II

Postby goldenband1 » January 30th, 2015, 2:13 pm

Oddly enough I have a handful of games for the Studio II -- mysterious heirlooms from my wife's late father, who was a programmer. They showed up in the family home out of nowhere, but we weren't able to find the console. I don't know if I can quite bring myself to buy one, especially given the uptick in prices and the weirdness of the hardware and its interconnects.

Like Sut, I've only played in emulation, and found a little bit of amusement in Space War. Homebrewers have been pushing it to new heights, from what I understand, though not all the games work in MESS.

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Let's Talk RCA Studio II

Postby Sut1 » January 30th, 2015, 3:15 pm

[QUOTE=goldenband]Oddly enough I have a handful of games for the Studio II -- mysterious heirlooms from my wife's late father, who was a programmer. They showed up in the family home out of nowhere, but we weren't able to find the console.[/QUOTE]

You haven't got the mysterious US version of Bingo have you ?!?!

Common as muck in Europe but the U.S. version is a legend of almost mystical proportions. Another thing with the NA model (aside from the lack of colour) but hasn't it got one of those insane TV/Power supply switch boxes like the Atari 5200 ?

It might be worth considering for the Critic after all his site is THE site for 2nd generation game reviews, I believe the Studio II and the APF are the only NA ones missing from his collection.

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Let's Talk RCA Studio II

Postby goldenband1 » January 30th, 2015, 5:06 pm

No, I don't have Bingo. I know what a white whale that one is. [smile] My wife's father didn't work for RCA, so I imagine he had the Studio II simply as an early adopter or out of technical curiosity.

I'm glad that the VGC ultimately did cover the Channel F, so maybe there's hope for the Studio II. If nothing else, some of those homebrews are pretty respectable.

BTW I also have a Microvision (which is sort of comparable), and for that I do have a complete US collection. A couple games are actually, legitimately fun, proving you can make a good game with extremely limited resources.

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Re: Let's Talk RCA Studio II

Postby Sut » July 26th, 2015, 1:39 pm

Here's my brief overview of some the RCA Studio II'S games. All played via emulation.
I don't think a system has ever had me reaching for the game instructions as much as this one.

In Built Games:
Doodle and Patterns are basic (very basic) drawing programs. Doodle you can draw yourself some blocky, black and white patterns yeah ! Patterns is just as dull, the RCA Studio II draws the patterns once you have finished doodling - who wants to watch a console draw ?
Freeway is an horrendous Street Racer (Atari 2600) style game without the fun 2 player mode (1 player only here folks) and comes complete with horrible, ear piercing loud beeps. First generation racer Car Race GP (http://www.pong-story.com/gi.htm) is a better and quicker game than this !
Bowling is capable of keeping you occupied, at least for one game. Again it's very basic but it is a decent time waster.
Addition is a simple maths challenge under the pressure of a timer, but because the keypad only has 10 keys the 3 numbers always add up to a number no higher than 10.

Doodle D
Patterns D
Freeway F
Bowling C
Addition F

Grand Pack
Grand Pack is a European only compilation cartridge featuring Doodle, Patterns, Bowling and Blackjack but in colour ! Essentially the built in games from the American Studio II plus Blackjack. Seems some European MPT-02 systems didn’t come with games built in.

European version isn't too scarce, the US one is mega rare. However rarity does not make it a fun title, the game is a boring random number generator.
You will need your own Bingo cards to play the game. The Studio II will also 'verify' the winners numbers with a drawn out verification procedure. Yawn!

Star Wars
A European exclusive, a great famous name, highly likely not an official licence !
Another dull game, You are either the 'chaser' or the 'runner' the chaser has to lock onto the runner in the view finder and once dead centre fire and destroy the ship. Runner entails avoiding the chasers view finder for a pre-determined amount of time.
This sounds more fun than it is.

Concentration Match
Another European exclusive. A version of the memory match card name on console. Turn the cards over to find matching pairs, personally I prefer the card game as it flows quicker. Decent enough to pass 5 minutes though.

Pinball (aka Flipper)
Boy, where to start with this one ? The final European 'exclusive'. A very small and square shaped table with 8 bumpers in two perfect rows of 4. The flippers have no animation so they are either down or up, you see no swing motion making timing your hits awkward. Plus both flippers have gigantic gaps behind them for the ball to fall into. Combine this with iffy collision detection and it leaves a game which is just no fun.

I have to confess I have little understanding or fondness of American sports, but even taking this into account Baseball on the Studio II is basic in the extreme. Horrendous static squares represent the players. I give the developer some kudos for attempting this sort of game on the Studio II, but it just isn't up to it. The screen is a mess with a completely incoherent scoreboard taking up a third of the screen. Game play is simply a case of one player selecting one of three pitches and the other player pressing 5 on his keypad to hit the ball. And like Pinball before it there is no ’swing’ animation to help you gauge your hit.

Fun With Numbers
This was labelled "TV Arcade II" in NA ! How anyone can liken this to an Arcade game is beyond my comprehension or the arcades in which RCA developers frequented were unlike any arcade I ever knew. This is another title that had me reaching for the instructions. You have to guess a 3 digit number, the RCA gives you a 'clue'
every time you guess e.g. 000 = None of the digits are correct, 001 = one digit is correct but is not in the proper position, etc. Play it once, win the game, never play it again.
The other game variation is 'Reverse' nine digits are displayed on screen and you have to 'reverse' the digits to put them into sequential order. Again another nice brain teaser but your unlikely to play It more than once, especially if you succeed.

Tennis / Squash
Now you would think that any second generation console would have a decent game of TV Tennis. The first generation was almost exclusively Pong so it should be no problem for a second generation console right ? No, not with the RCA Studio II, good lord how did they mess this up ? Choppy ball movement which effectively ’blinks’ across the screen. Combine this with seemingly random 'swerve' movements and you have yourself a very poor Pong clone.
However despite it’s shortcomings it is still Pong and Pong is fun.

Speedway / Tag
Both games on this cartridge are 2 player only. And it’s one of the less awful games on the system.
Speedway, 2 squares race each other round a track, differentiated only by a black square on one of the cars. The track is basic and any collision either with the track walls or your opponent brings your squares to a halt. Fun enough for a single game with a friend.
Tag. Again two squares do battle this time in a game of ‘tag’. The square with the black square is ‘it’ and has to chase the other square down. Again passable for one game.

Gunfighter / Moonship Battle
I was actually looking forward to trying this cartridge, in the traditional second generation gaming style of completely cloning and ripping off a more popular game here is the Studio II versions of Gunfight (Outlaw) and Space War! However the machines limitations rear their ugly head again. The ‘cowboys’ in Gunfighter aren’t animated as they blink up and down the screen. There seems to be no strategy and the game soon becomes tiresome. On the plus side at least there is an one player option but unfortunately the AI is poor.
Moonship Battle is underdeveloped. I likened it to Space War but it’s missing all the inertia and angles from that game and reduces it to two odd shapes moving tamely around the screen trying to shoot each other.

Well here is something the Studio II couldn’t really go wrong with isn’t it ? It plays fairly OK to be fair it’s just a standard console adaptation of the card game and again is passable for a few minutes although playing in black and white diminishes the experience somewhat. I’ve also noticing the best games on this system are ones I can play for 5 minutes without shutting my laptop in disgust.

I have played the remaining ‘games’ Biorhythm, TV School House I and TV School House II: Math Fun. But to be honest they are too banal to comment on. There are also some exclusive games for the Japanese version of the RCA Studio II - The Visicom but they are either not dumped or I can’t figure them out.

So is the RCA Studio II the worst console of all time ? It just might be.

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Retro STrife
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Re: Let's Talk RCA Studio II

Postby Retro STrife » December 30th, 2016, 9:28 am

Anyone else tried one since? This system is currently on my radar to buy once I find a decent one, so maybe I'll update here after I get one and try it out.

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