Monday, January 9, 2012

Video game of the week: Killer Bees! for Odyssey 2

The Odyssey 2 home video game console, also known as the Videopac outside the U.S., had a decent following in the early 1980s, but it was never the most popular system. A large part of that had to do with the system's lack of strong graphics and sound, but that meant the creators for the Odyssey 2 games had to work all that much harder to make stronger gameplay.

To that end, such unique games as Killer Bees! came about.

The player controls a swarm of bees in an arena. The bees attack robots, which slows down and eventually can destroy the robots, leaving behind a tombstone where the robots died. The most dangerous enemy? Another swarm of bees, and they fly around quickly trying to attack the player's bees. One by one, the player's bees are picked away, and once there are no more bees for the player, the game ends.

For today's gamers, this might sound a little silly and overly simplistic, but for the early 1980s it was actually a pretty decent game. Unfortunately, the Odyssey 2 was never shown a lot of love by consumers and collectors, and such games as Killer Bees! never caught on big time.

While the graphics for the Odyssey 2 were never great, here they are quite sharp, bright with no blurring. The sound is simplistic, as well, but it's appropriate for the system and the time period. The controls are excellent.

The game speeds up slowly, adding to the tension, and while Killer Bees! might not be a game you would want to play for hours and hours, it is a nice little game that can give you a short break.

Killer Bees! was truly a different game for its time period, and deserves to get a little notice for its uniqueness. Collectors of retro video game systems could do far worse than to pick up a copy of Killer Bees!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Video game of the week: Discs of Tron for arcade

In 1982, Walt Disney Pictures released a movie called Tron. Since then there have been a ton of video games based upon the movie, and there has been a sequel film only released in 2010. While the original movie and the sequel did alright at the box office, and they have their cult followings, neither has been a huge success with the general viewing public. Still, the movies live on in part because the original was one of the first films to really tackle the subject of video games, part of the plot being about real humans becoming part of a computer world and taking part in actual games.

Like I said, there have been lots of Tron video games, both in the arcade and for the home console markets, as well as for computers. But of them all, my personal favorite has to be Discs of Tron.

Discs of Tron was not the first Tron video game. That honor goes to a game simply titled Tron, which was popular in its own right and not a bad game by any means. But Discs of Tron, to this day, has the best action and continual gameplay of any of the Tron games.

In this game, the player controls the Tron character in a world of video games. Specifically in this game, Tron moves around on a giant floating circle in an arena while using flying discs as a shield and as a weapon to defeat his enemies.

The first level of the game is fairly easy, with Tron moving around on one circle while facing one simple enemy. But as the game progresses, Tron must move around on more circles simply in order to survive the barrage of enemy discs, bombs and other attacks coming his way. Sometimes there are shield in the center of the screen, these shield making it more difficult for Tron to hit his target, but also making it more hard for the enemy combatants to attack Tron.

The control system for this game was quite complex for its time. The main controller was a large joystick with two buttons, one a trigger and the other smaller on top, but the player also had to use a dial for Tron to aim his attack discs. By today's standards that's no big whoop, but in the early 1980s this was considered complicated gameplay. Still, it wasn't anything a gamer couldn't figure out, and the complexity of the controls actually added to the fun once you were familiar with them.

There were at least a couple of different cabinets for this game. One was the traditional cabinet in which the player could just walk up and insert his or her quarters. The other was a cockpit cabinet in which the player could sit down within the cabinet for play. It seems I've seen a couple of smaller table cabinets, but my memory might be playing tricks on me.

This game is still popular today, and if you search online you can probably find a few free versions of it to play.

Anyway, Discs of Tron is my all-time favorite arcade game. It was fun, exciting, had great graphics and sounds, and could offer hours of play. For only 25 cents. You can't find that nowadays!