Friday, July 2, 2010

Game of the Week: Pick Axe Pete for Odyssey 2

Odyssey 2 Video GameThe Magnavox Odyssey 2 was never the most popular of home video game systems back when it was being sold in stores during the late 1970s and 1980s. Okay, scratch that. Actually, the system was extremely popular, just not in the United States. In Europe the same gaming system was known as the Philips Videopac G700 and was quite popular. Under other names, the Odyssey 2 was also a bit hit in countries such as Japan and Brazil.

Released to consumers in 1978, the Odyssey 2 was meant to be competition for the Atari 2600. The Odyssey 2 never quite reached those heights, but it did fairly well. And why shouldn't it? While its colors were limited, those colors were often stronger and brighter than those of the 2600 and other systems of the times, such as the Intellivsion. Also, in the opinion of many young gamers back in the day, the joysticks for the Odyssey 2 were preferable than those of the Atari 2600 because the Odyssey 2 joysticks didn't stick as much and had more of an "arcade" feel to them.

The Odyssey 2 had its faults, however. The system never had very many games, not even a hundred total. Also, the graphics for the Odyssey 2 weren't predictable. Some games had strong graphics, compatible with those of the Intellivision, while others games were little more than colored squares and lines on a screen, often as bad or worse than the ugliest games for the Atari 2600.

Still, there were a handful of excellent games for the Odyssey 2. One of those games, perhaps the most popular of the lot, was Pick Axe Pete.

Pick Axe Pete was sort of a climbing game, somewhat similar to the more popular arcade game Donkey Kong, where you climb up and down ladders between levels on the screen while trying to collect keys to unlock and go through doors for points. You had to avoid boulders while doing this, and you had some trusty help from a constantly-swinging pick axe which could destroy the boulders. It sounds easy, but it wasn't. Going through one of the doors advanced your character to the next screen, which was faster and more difficult. Every once in a while rolling boulders will leave behind items that can be worth points or even another pick axe, which is often needed as the pick axes tend to wear out after a while. But don't fret if your pick axe is gone! You can still jump or duck your way around those boulders.

One interesting aspect about Pick Axe Pete was that you don't have to leave the very first screen if you don't want to. Just skip collecting those keys and going through doorways and you can stay on the first level forever while collecting tons of points. The big drawback however is that the game will still get faster and faster and faster.

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