system Index M-O
Mean Santa
Grade: C
Publisher: 2600 Connection (2016)
Reviewed: 2017/1/26

screenshotMean Santa for the Odyssey 2 makes a good first impression with large multicolored sprites, smooth animation, and a scenic city skyline. Compared to its Atari 2600 cousin this Mean Santa is slower but a little more involved. On the first screen you steer Santa around on a sled guided by a purple mule. I like the look of those dark skyscrapers but the idea of avoiding chunks of frozen precipitation doesn't make much sense.

Except for the trees scrolling across the bottom of the screen you might not realize Santa was moving. If you have the voice synthesizer equipped you're treated to a "human beatbox" rendition of Jingle Bells. By the end of a stanza a house appears on the lower right, and you land on it to advance to the second screen.

Now the challenge is to navigate Santa through a maze while collecting holiday items like dolls, cookies, toy planes, and candy canes. If you touch the edge of the maze you're transported back to the center of the screen. Most of the time it's annoying, but sometimes it's a good strategy as it can prevent you from having to backtrack. The Odyssey 2 controller is responsive but its springy feel makes it hard to turn with precision. At least you can run by holding in the button, which turns out to be a real time-saver.

The scoring system is unusual. The goal is to visit 16 houses in the shortest amount of time, but that can take a while! By the time you reach the 13th house or so the game starts to feel a little tedious. Voice effects include a creepy chuckle when Santa lands on a roof and "that's easy" whenever he snags an item. There's no such thing as a quick game of Mean Santa on the Odyssey 2 but around the holidays at least I consider it time well spent. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 17:19
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Mean Santa (Atari 2600)
Berzerk Voice Enhanced (Atari 2600)
Reindeer Rescue (Atari 2600)
Tunnel Runner (Atari 2600)
Mega Maze (Philips CD-i)

Mission Impossible
Grade: D+
Publisher: Vectron (2016)
Reviewed: 2017/4/7

screenshotA few friends of mine recently had their collective minds blown when I popped in this cartridge and the screen displayed "GROUND CONTROL TO MAJOR VGCRITIC". Wow! As if that's not enough, the instructions are personalized as well! The opening screen plays a hauntingly sad rendition of David Bowie's Space Oddity, which is without a doubt the best music you'll ever hear on the Odyssey 2. The game itself is perplexing to say the least.

Mission Impossible is a puzzle/strategy title played on a grid. Your white ship enters the screen from the left, followed by two red "bounty hunters". The ships move in predictable patterns along the grid but you can alter their direction by placing green X's at intersections. Special items randomly begin to appear and the idea is to divert the ships towards certain objects and away from others. The rules are pretty complicated and the instructions are confusing. You definitely want to grab those red "energizer crystals" which allow your ship to hunt the hunters. Unfortunately you spend a lot of time directing traffic while waiting for these crystals to appear.

When they finally do appear you need to react quickly, but the mushy controls won't do you any favors. The scoring system is confusing too. When I lost my last ship the final stanza of Space Oddity kicked in to the message "CAN YOU HEAR ME MAJOR VGCRITIC?" I loved the intro and ending of Mission Impossible, but never quite managed to wrap my brain around the game in the middle. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: ChuChu Rocket! (Dreamcast)
Mr. Driller (Dreamcast)
Vector Vaders 2: The Director's Cut (Vectrex)
Bug Hunt (Atari XEGS)
Grid Runner (Saturn)

Monkeyshines
Grade: B
Publisher: Magnavox (1981)
Reviewed: 2014/2/4

screenshotIt's a scientific fact that adding monkeys to any video game will make it ten times better. It's like wrapping food in bacon! Monkeyshines is an oddly compelling platformer designed with two-player coop in mind. The excellent manual incorporates pictures of infra-red monkeys, which is probably worth a letter grade in and of itself. The instructions boast of trillions of random maze combinations, prompting my friend Scott to remark, "We're going to be playing this for a while!"

The idea is to tag as many monkeys as you can. Seems easy enough, but once tagged, a primate will turn red with anger. If the agitated monkey manages to vigorously rub himself against you, it's game over. After a while the monkey reverts back to his natural, non-pissed-off orange color. The four monkeys in this game really steal the show with their wacky antics. They swing around poles, hang upside down, and seem to be having a great time in general.

The manual would have you thinking the randomized platforms were the eighth wonder of the world. I hate to break it to the programmer, but they all look pretty much the same! Game variations include moving mazes (no thanks I'm trying to quit) and invisible mazes (aww hell no). Scott and I steered clear of the "bananas mode" because the instructions clearly stated it was "for professionals only". You can keep the extra variations; the basic game is all you need. Monkeyshines is an entertaining little title that provides the best coop action I've seen for the system. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: tag
Our high score: SDZandVGC 17
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Super Monkey Ball (GameCube)
Amazing Maze (Bally Astrocade)
Rubik's World (Nintendo DS)
Maze (Fairchild Channel F)
Food Fight (Atari 7800)

Mr. Roboto
Grade: A
Publisher: Ted Szczypiorski (2006)
Reviewed: 2006/6/21

screenshotObviously inspired by Electronic Art's Archon (Atari XE, 1983) and taking its name from that cheesy Styx song, Mr. Roboto delivers some of the most entertaining two-player action you'll experience on any classic console, much less the Odyssey 2. Each player controls a set of robots on a grid, protecting their respective "CPU". The CPUs resemble a monitor with Matrix-inspired green characters moving down them - nice touch!

The game itself is a superb combination of strategy and reflexes. Players take turns moving their robots one square at a time, and can also inject "viruses" into opposing robots to slow or weaken them. When two robots attempt to occupy the same square, they are transported to a "combat screen" where both run around shooting at each other while avoiding star-shaped "power surges". The last robot standing wins the square. Should a robot reach the opponent's CPU, he must then navigate a totally new screen with shifting "firewalls" and firing cannons (controlled by your opponent).

For an Odyssey 2 title, this is remarkably sophisticated, but it's the audio that really steals the show. The "voice" prompts you during each turn, and during battles, it shouts funny lines like "Mercy, run!" and "Owww stop!" To be honest, I wasn't expecting much from this derivative title, but my friends could not get enough of it. The contests are not only highly competitive, but often border on hilarious.

Mr Roboto even offers an options screen and a solid single-player mode with respectable AI. Simply put, if you own an Odyssey 2 and don't own this cartridge, there's something wrong with you. IMPORTANT NOTE: Although everyone loves this game, I had to dock Mr. Roboto a half-grade due to some technical issues which may or may not be limited to my system. The cartridge is very temperamental when used with the voice module. It has to be inserted a certain way, and is prone to locking up during games. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Killer Bees (Odyssey 2)
Berzerk Voice Enhanced (Atari 2600)
Mystery Science Theater 2600 (Atari 2600)
Berzerk (Atari 5200)
Ballblazer (Atari 7800)

Nightmare (Europe)
Grade: F
Publisher: Magnavox (1983)
Reviewed: 2005/10/1

screenshotFinally - a game that lives up to its name! This weak title was never released in the USA, probably because it's so absolutely, positively horrible. You control a guy situated at the bottom of a big box that's supposed to symbolize a house. The object is to reach the "escape hatch" at the top while avoiding wandering ghosts and "lightning balls". "What's a good horror game without lightning balls?", I say sarcastically.

Your character doesn't look so bad, rendered in three colors. The ghosts look decent, but the hollow "house" negates any potential for strategy. The ghosts move side-to-side in predictable patterns, and I was able to elude them indefinitely by simply moving diagonally in alternating directions. The controls and collision detection are flaky, and the game is so unpolished it often appears to be broken.

Apparently, there are occasionally opportunities to "catch" the ghosts, but the rules of the game are confusing. Nightmare looks and plays more like an ill-conceived, half-baked project. You'd have to be pretty hard-up for entertainment to derive any sort of enjoyment from this crap. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 840
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Escape (Arcadia 2001)
Journey Escape (Atari 2600)
How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Nintendo DS)
Football Frenzy (Neo Geo)
Irritating Stick (Playstation)

Out Of This World/Helicopter Rescue
Grade: F
Publisher: Magnavox (1979)
Reviewed: 2021/4/18

screenshotNobody ever gets tired of Lunar Lander games... said no one ever. Out of the World is designed for head-to-head action as each player must gently land a falling capsule and then dock with a mothership moving across the top of the screen. You have a limited fuel supply so you can't mess around.

The action begins with both landers falling fast, so the first time you play your lander will crash before you even know what's going on. Even when you know how to play each game only lasts a few seconds. The act of pressing the correct keyboard buttons to restart a game can take longer than the game itself - and is about as much fun.

The second half of this cartridge, Helicopter Rescue, feels like a tech demo. You control a blocky green helicopter trying to rescue as many people as you can in two minutes. You simply methodically pick up people from a building and drop them off. I will admit the helicopter is impressively large for 1979, and there's even a subtle 3D-ish rotation effect.

Unfortunately the gameplay is slight. No matter how efficient you are it's pretty much impossible to rescue more than six people in the time allotted. Out of this World/Helicopter Rescue isn't exactly a winning combination, but at least you won't waste much time coming to that conclusion. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Super Cobra (Odyssey 2)
Strategy X (Atari 2600)
Towering Inferno (Atari 2600)
Choplifter II (Game Boy)
Fire Fighter (Atari 2600)


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