Odyssey 2 Reviews P-R

P.T. Barnum's Acrobats
Grade: C-
Publisher: Magnavox (1980)
Reviewed: 2020/3/28

screenshotThis type of game somehow found its way onto every classic console. There are two clowns bouncing on a teeter-totter, launching one another to pop rows of moving balloons overhead. P.T. Barnum's Acrobats may be a shameless Circus Atari (Atari 2600, 1977) clone, but it has a few interesting tweaks. For one thing, the balloons are actually round! This may sound obvious, but in 1980 that was not the kind of thing you took for granted! Those balloons could have been perfectly square in 1980 and no one would have batted an eyelash.

To begin each round you must hold in the button to make a clown walk to the edge of a platform and jump off. I like this little sequence because it adds a bit of drama. That clown must feel pretty nervous peering through the TV glass to see me with a controller in one hand and a beer in the other. There's little margin for error in this game, especially since each half of the teeter-totter is only four pixels wide!

When you do hit that sweet spot the other clown goes shooting into the air to the sound of a shotgun blast! He sometimes flies clear off the screen, as if this game just can't be contained by CRT technology. When making contact with balloons the physics gets a little funky, and not in a James Brown sort of way. The clowns tend to get sucked into balloons, making it extra easy to clear a row.

But the best case is getting a clown trapped on top of the balloons, racking up crazy points a la Breakout (Atari 2600, 1977). Miss the teeter totter and your clown splatters into the floor, yet still climbs right back up that ladder for his next jump. Now that's what I call work ethic! You get 10 lives which seems excessive but the controls are so touchy you'll run right through them. I thought the Odyssey had analog controls?

If you own the voice module a creepy dude yells stuff like "oh no", "mercy", or "arrrgh". All in all, P.T. Barnum's Acrobats isn't so bad. It's got round balloons for Pete's sake, so just shut up and play the damn thing. Note: There's also an alternate version of this game with nervous jumpers (knees knocking), square balloons, and a more graphic death animation. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: 0
Our high score: 677
1 or 2 players 

Pachinko
Grade: C-
Publisher: Magnavox (1980)
Reviewed: 2003/6/22


screenshotI was expecting the game from the Price Is Right, but Pachinko is much different. It resembles a pinball game played by two players, each moving a man with a flipper across the bottom of the screen. Scattered above are buckets of various point values. Two balls bounce around the screen. When you touch a ball, it changes to your color, and any points it scores are awarded to you.

Sometimes a ball can bounce into several buckets before coming back down, racking up some big numbers. The point values of the buckets change periodically, and the first player to make it to 100 points wins the game. Pachinko is a simple game that requires more luck than skill, but it's still somewhat enjoyable for some unknown reason I haven't been able to figure out. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Pick Axe Pete
Grade: B+
Publisher: Magnavox (1982)
Reviewed: 2010/5/11

screenshotIs Pick Axe Pete a legitimate classic or a poor-man's Donkey Kong? That depends on who you ask, but few can argue that this game is hard as balls. You begin in the center of seven platforms. Three doors are scattered about, but you can't enter without a key. You can drop unharmed between levels, and ladders periodically appear so you can climb. Bounders are continuously rolling and bouncing all over the place.

Fortunately this guy Pete is one nimble bastard. Using various joystick/button combinations you can duck, jump, somersault, and roll to safety. The animations that accompany these moves are very smooth and pleasing to the eye. Pete begins with an axe that whacks away continuously like the hammer in Donkey Kong. By jumping, you can even smash boulders on the level above you. This axe wears out over time, but a replacement will sometimes appear at the bottom of the screen.

A key occasionally floats to the top, and this is your ticket to the big points. If you can snag the key and enter a doorway, you're awarded a bonus and as you watch Pete perform a series of calisthenics. You're then transported to a new screen, and while most look very similar, there is a pitch-black stage that's extra difficult.

What makes Pick Axe Pete so hard is the fact that, like most Odyssey 2 games, you only have a single life. You have to be really focused to rack up a high score, since one false move will do you in. My friend Scott jokingly refers to this game as "Pick Ass Pete". Man, that guy is so immature... and hilarious!! Scott also claims that Pete looks "just like Jumpman's older brother." You have to keep your sense of humor when playing something like Pick Axe Pete, because a game this tough can break your will. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 150
1 player 

Piggyback Planet
Grade: C-
Publisher: Cardoso Games (2013)
Reviewed: 2013/8/25

screenshotIt's always exciting to see how much power today's programmers can squeeze out of ancient consoles. Piggyback Planet contains two elements you rarely (if ever) see in an Odyssey 2 game: multiple screens and a huge (albeit blocky) boss. On the first screen you move a ship along the left edge, shooting at enemy ships flying up and down the screen. The audio is sparse but glistening blue stars provide a nice backdrop. Holding in the fire button engages auto-fire, and if you find a good spot you can pick off aliens without even moving.

Aliens do fire back, but their missiles are so big and slow that they're not really a factor. You can activate a shield, but it's so unnecessary I always forget I have it. The second screen features a massive boss ship that consumes the entire right half of the screen. It unleashes huge laser blasts and hurls heat-seeking rings toward you in predictable patterns.

You destroy "Big Boss Blu" by shooting him 25 times in his clearly-defined weak spot. The next time bosses convene for a conference I would suggest that one of their sessions be entitled "Hiding your Weak Spot: A Secret to Success".

The battle can get pretty intense because you only have one life, so one false move means game over. On a technical level Piggyback Planet is exceptional, but its gameplay could benefit from some fine-tuning. The first screen doesn't get challenging until the second or third waves. The boss fights are extremely repetitive as you alternate between shooting his weak spot and dodging his attacks.

The difficulty is too low, and the early waves just seem to drag on. The boss destruction scene is underwhelming, and I have no idea what the title of this game means. Piggyback Planet has enough razzle-dazzle to attract Odyssey 2 fans, but the bottom line is that this game could have been a lot more fun. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 324
1 player 

Pocket Billiards
Grade: F
Publisher: Magnavox (1980)
Reviewed: 2001/3/1


screenshotYou know a pool game is bad when both players root for each other to make the shot. But not as an act of support - only to bring this God-awful train-wreck of a game to an end! Before you remind me that this is just the Odyssey 2, I should let you know that I HAVE played a very GOOD pool game on the Atari 2600 (Trick Shot)!

The graphics and sound effects here are minimal. The physics and shooting angles are completely unpredictable and grossly inaccurate. For some reason, the balls tend to roll either up-and-down or side-to-side. Every shot is soft; you can't even shoot the cue ball the length of the table! There are two game variations, eight ball and rotation, but both are two-player only. This is one sorry game. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

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2 players 

Popeye
Grade: D+
Publisher: Parker Bros (1983)
Reviewed: 2002/6/25

screenshotI know these Odyssey games tend to re-use the same character shapes over and over, but no way is that generic "man" shape going to pass as Popeye! Even worse looking is Bluto - that big, blocky, green thing looks more like Frankenstein. This is one sad-looking version of the popular arcade hit. I didn't even recognize this game. At least Olive Oyl looks somewhat respectable (in a pixelated kind of way), and the things she tosses do look like hearts -- if you tilt your head a certain angle.

There are some tiny stairs on the lowest level, but to reach the higher platforms you'll need to utilize the "elevators" (which look like division signs) moving vertically on each side of the screen. Although the graphics truly suck, the gameplay really isn't a far cry from the original game. You move across platforms, collect hearts, eat spinach, and punch Bluto off the screen every now and then.

Bluto at least makes an effort; he jumps around, swats at you, and throws things, but overall he's not too bright. You can loiter around the bottom level collecting hearts for quite a while before he finally gets a hold of you. Unlike other incarnations of Popeye, this has only one screen. Reaching new screens was a major appeal of the arcade game, so this shortcoming is a major flaw.

Parker Bros. managed to incorporate the part where you can drop a bucket on Bluto's head, but it's difficult to execute and really not worth the effort. Also included is a two-player mode where the second player controls Bluto. The sound effects are decent and include a nice rendition of the Popeye theme. Popeye for the Odyssey is hideous for sure, but if the graphics don't scare you off you're in for a fair amount of arcade action. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 9
Our high score: 467
1 or 2 players 

Power Lords
Grade: C
Publisher: Magnavox (1983)
Reviewed: 2002/2/23

screenshotPower Lords looks pretty exciting at first, but there's really not much to the gameplay. The screen features a huge volcano in the center, with a big cobra lurking in the crater. Meteors rain from above. You control a little red ship trying to shoot a white star that periodically appears on the volcano. You'll also need to avoid the meteors and attacks from the snake. Unless you stun him, the cobra will try to blast you with lasers that shoot from its eyes. It's a pretty impressive graphic effect for the Odyssey 2.

Another nice effect is the lava that pours out of the volcano when it erupts. You can move your ship off one side on the screen and appear on the opposite side, and you'll want to utilize this strategy to maintain your distance from the cobra. A gravitational ray kicks in during the later stages, adding to the difficulty. I love the nifty graphics, but they can't hide the mediocre gameplay. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 5778
1 player 

Q*bert
Grade: A-
Publisher: Parker Bros (1983)
Reviewed: 2001/7/6


screenshotI'm surprised the Odyssey 2 got a version of this arcade favorite. I'm even more surprised at how well it turned out! The graphics are certainly a step down from most other home versions, but at least none of the gameplay elements have been sacrificed. All the balls, enemies, and flying disks are here. There's even the little intro before each level to demonstrate what you need to do. The blocks are rectangular, not diamond shaped, but otherwise the game looks fine.

The characters are nicely drawn and the animation is much smoother than most other home versions. There are several game variations, including some two-player modes. My biggest beef is that Ugg (one of the nasties you have to avoid) often appears without warning on the bottom edge of the screen, resulting in some undeserved deaths. Otherwise I'm pleased with this fine translation. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Quest For The Rings
Grade: C+
Publisher: Magnavox (1981)
Reviewed: 2001/3/1

screenshotWow, this game gets an A+ for effort! Part board game and part video game, Quest for the Rings comes with a nice game board, finely-crafted plastic and metal "tokens", a keyboard overlay, and an oversized, beautifully illustrated manual. Heck, even the box looks like a work of art. Evidentially a lot of resources went into creating the elaborate maps and engraved tokens. Too bad they didn't spend more time on THE FREAKIN' VIDEO GAME! Geez, you'd think it was an afterthought or something!

Quest is a two-player cooperation game. Players traverse the map on the game board, switching over to the video game to hunt for rings in monster-infested dungeons. There are four characters to choose from: a sword-wielding warrior, a spell-casting wizard, a wall-penetrating phantom, and a "changling" who can turn invisible. It's nice to have a choice but let's face it, without weapons the changling and phantom aren't much fun.

Before beginning each dungeon, both characters are shown entering into a "time warp", depicted by some downright irritating visual and sound effects. There are four types of dungeons, each one screen in size. These can feature normal walls, moving walls, walls that are deadly to touch, or invisible walls. Monsters include the human-shaped orcs, giant spiders (which look like octopi), "bloodthirsts" that look like pterodactyls, and large fire-breathing dragons! These dragons put those hollow ducks in Adventure to SHAME! Unfortunately, only the orcs can be killed!

In theory, a "dungeon master" is supposed to use the keyboard to specify the content of each dungeon based on board movement. But I'd recommend abandoning the board altogether and letting the computer generate random dungeons for you. Both players can work together, but the action isn't too deep. Getting a ring usually requires one player to act as a decoy. Your characters move like snails and can only attack from the side, making them highly susceptible to monsters approaching from above and below.

The collision detection is highly questionable, and close proximity to a bad guy usually means death. The graphics aren't bad at all. When a large monster eats your character, he is depicted as being consumed with his legs still twitching! That's a nice touch I haven't seen in any other classic games. But ultimately Quest for the Rings just isn't very fun, and that's too bad. Despite the numerous "extras", the gameplay rarely rises above mediocrity. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

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2 players 

Robot City
Grade: A-
Publisher: Magnavox (19??)
Reviewed: 2002/6/25

screenshotIt's a crime that this Odyssey game was never released, because it's remarkably good! You control a jackhammer/helicopter-looking thing moving around a generic maze. The object is to destroy four wandering tanks that can fire at you. So far it sounds like every game you've ever played right? Well, wait - there's more! Each tank is protected by a shield that surrounds it on all sides except for the back! You need to sneak up behind these guys to take them out.

That's not so easy, because the tanks tend to rotate whenever they reach an intersection. Once shot, a destroyed tank forms an impenetrable barrier which alters the maze and may force you to alter your strategy. But the best part of Robot City is how you can lure the tanks into shooting each other (like Berzerk!). This adds a layer of complexity you won't find in most Odyssey games.

Each stage has a short "intro screen", in which the stage number is introduced by a large (but pixelated) tank. It's a nice touch. The initial stage is somewhat slow and methodical, but the pace picks up in a hurry. The sound effects are pleasing to the ear, and they change with each stage. You'll find Robot City on the Odyssey 2 multicart. Don't miss out on this one. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 160
1 player 


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Screen shots courtesy of The Odyssey 2 Homepage, Classic Gaming.com