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Baseball! Odyssey^2, 1978


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For the record, I'm out of actual 1978 Odyssey^2 carts. The remaining carts for the year 1978 will be played using the wonderful Odyssey^2 Multicart.

 

Baseball! Odyssey^2, 1978

 

I'm almost certain that if I took a look at every (programmable) home videogame system ever made and eventually intended for a TV in a living room in the USA I'm pretty certain I'd find a Baseball game for it.

 

For some reason, as a youth, I never took to enjoying the real-life game of Baseball. Neither have I ever developed any interest in Football, Hockey, Basketball, Soccer, Rugby, Men's Volleyball, Curling . . . well, the list is a little long but I think you get the idea. Subsequently, I really have very little interest in sports titles on any system for any era. It's not that I think they necessarily suck or something. I just couldn't care less about them.

 

So, when I tell you I enjoyed a videogame of Baseball you have to understand that it doesn't mean I think it's a great game or that I think everyone should play and enjoy it. It merely means that I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, which is to say, I enjoyed it "some" compared to expecting to enjoy it "not at all". Despite the fact that we've enjoyed, to some extent, nearly all of videogame Baseballs in the past (all of them with the notable exception of Atari's Homerun), for some reason, I continue to not expect to. The pleasant side effect of low expectations is constantly being surprised, though it can be draining.

 

EDIT: (The following lines accidentally got cut from the original version of this entry. Sorry!)Not only was I surprised that we enjoyed this Baseball "some", I was surprised that we enjoyed it "quite a bit". As far as gameplay goes, this was the best Baseball we've played so far, and it's the first Baseball that my son has asked to play again!(Now I know why people who write about games all the time stick to a set format. It's too easy to leave something out! )END EDIT

 

For Odyssey^2 Baseball!, I think the main feature that wasn't available previously on the other systems (Bally, Atari, Fairchild, RCA and Magnavox) is the ability to throw the runner out as they run around the bases. If the ball is hit to the outfield, the fielding player moves the outfielders to retrieve the ball and a single press of the action button sends the ball right to second and generally will keep a runner on first. If the runner has already made it to second (because you were exceptionally slow in getting the ball) you can use the joystick to direct the ball to third base, home or first base instead. This adds a lot to the playing of the game and can allow a smart runner (or a poor fielder) turn a base-hit into a homerun. Really, the best thing to remember to do is throw it to second and then not do anything because after two seconds of no player input, the ball automatically goes back to the pitcher and it's the next batter up.

 

Graphics-wise, this game is functional, but it neither has the smoothness of animation as found on the Bally, nor the level of detail as found on the APF (recall the APF had bleachers with a few fans in them, as well as having each team run out to its field positions.). However, it is far above the blink-fest which is Atari's Homerun. Oh, and I forgot to mention: It's Red vs. Blue, again.

 

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Here are shots of just the infield players waving at the photographer.Sound-wise, this game opens playing something close to being music, but sounds more like an atonal sound effect. The sequence of, um, notes? is supposed to be the opening line of "Take me out to the Ball game". You'll think you must've lost your sense of pitch if you hear it. The rhythm is close to being right, but the notes are not. In fact, they are so explicitly not, that one wonders why the programmers even bothered to leave this exceptionally bad example of videogame music in the game. I will be shocked if the Odyssey^2 ever has anything which passes for a musical game on it. It's a shame, really, because that built-in keyboard would make playing some simulated musical instrument possible. I'm certain I had fun playing notes in Atari's Brain Games. Maybe the Odyssey^2 has untapped musical potential at this point.

 

One nice design touch: if the pitcher throws the ball and the batter misses it and the catcher catches it, the ball is thrown back to the pitcher from the catcher. If the pitcher throws a wild pitch that soars past the catcher and past the bottom of the screen, the ball is thrown back to the pitcher from the bottom of the screen and not the catcher. I like the illusion that it adds to the persistence of the ball's existence, you know? Wherever you see it leave the screen, that's from where it should return, as if the umpire had been inspecting it before tossing it back into play. It's not consistent throughout the game, but I laughed when I saw it happen the first time. (May have been a tech reason for it, but I prefer to think not.)

 

Well, what next? Computer Golf and I'm going to try to get my whole family to play it with me, as I think it's for one to four players.

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As you know, Baseball is really not my thing. But I did give the game a try just to look at the graphics. Two things worth mentioning:

 

- I really liked the bat swinging animation and the "feeling" of hitting the ball. It was more enjoyable than what I recall from the previous Baseball games.

 

- Yet another bug on an Odyssey 2 game: not only the bat sits in mid air after you've hit the ball, you can also still swing it!

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