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An in-depth description of your experiences playing a game.
Bill Loguidice's picture

Working Through My Collection: The Mattel (Radofin) Aquarius (02)

I didn't get much of an opportunity like I hoped for after my first entry to continue working with my Mattel Aquarius collection through this past weekend, but I did get the stuff cleaned up, a bit better organized, and also cataloged, which I'll share in this post. I'm now at least at a good point where I can dive right in, and thanks to suggestions from some of our members, like Rowdy Rob, I also have something of a plan of how I want to share videos and other content that give a sense of working with the computer before I move on to other stuff.

Mattel (Radofin) Aquarius games
The software...

Here's the full list of the items presently in my collection (as always, I'm interested in selling or trading any duplicates):

Bill Loguidice's picture

Working Through My Collection: The Mattel (Radofin) Aquarius (01)

In my ongoing quest of late to make more profound use of my collection, I broke out the Mattel (Radofin) Aquarius stuff last night. In the opening to the Aquarius chapter in my as-yet unpublished book, "Videogame and Computer Entertainment Systems: The First 15 Years," I describe the computer as follows:

The Mattel Aquarius is another “quaint” entry in the encyclopedia of home computers. The April 1985 edition of Compute! magazine declared it the computer “with one of the shortest life spans” in history, and indeed, only 20,000 units were ever sold outside of liquidation centers. Production ran for only four months, from June to October 1983. The Aquarius became an unmitigated disaster for Mattel’s Mattel Electronics division because the system was sadly obsolete even before it arrived in stores. With Mattel’s Intellivision videogame console (discussed elsewhere in this book) hosting two failed computer add-ons of its own, these events did nothing to help steel the company heading into The Great Videogame Crash.


So, yeah, not exactly inspiring tech, but the system and its accessories are certainly lookers, even if the hardware inside is lacking.

Here are some views of my Aquarius collection, spread out:

Mattel/Radofin Aquarius Collection (1 of 2)

Bill Loguidice's picture

Bill's Stonekeep Slog 001

Much like my Darklands slog, I have no idea if I'll keep up with this, but I've chosen Stonekeep (which Matt covered in detail here and here) as my "quicker gratification" computer RPG. I did a similar preliminary setup with Stonekep as I did with Darklands, in that I have an original boxed copy of the game, but also have the GoG DOSbox-enhanced version so I can play it directly on my main Windows 7 PC. As I related earlier, Stonekeep was one of the games I owned back in the day in some compilation or another that I was unable to get to run on my PC at the time. That was the way it was back then, where one little incompatibility or not freeing enough main memory for DOS or some such thing would put a serious crimp in your computer game playing plans.

Anyway, my particular boxed copy of Stonekeep came with all the usual stuff, including holographic box cover, CD jewel case with play instructions, nifty hard cover novella, and various warranty cards:
Stonekeep box sprawl
What you see under the stack of inserts are tear sheets from a magazine from the day that has both a review and hints, which the previous owner included. Nothing special, of course, but I always appreciate little touches like that.

Bill Loguidice's picture

Bill's Darklands Slog 001

I'm still not sure if I'm going to make this a formal slog or not, or even how long I'll keep this up, but for what it's worth, this counts as the first Darklands play entry. As mentioned, I've been trying to figure out how to find time to play more involved games, starting with Darklands. So, even though I didn't actually finish reading the extensive Darklands manual, I decided to start playing the game anyway to get a real feel for the game before going through the rest of the manual. Sometimes that's what you need to do. First thing of course was I created my characters. It's interesting that there's no traditional way to create character classes--you just sort of guide your characters down certain paths. I'm not sure if I did that correctly as I tried to make traditional fighter, priestess, wizardress, and thief classes for the four character slots. It seems at least for the priestess, it was a total failure...

iPhone photo of desktop with Darklands packaging
Yeah, Darklands is definitely a classic CRPG. Just take a look at that box contents sprawl on my desktop...

Matt Barton's picture

Eye of the Beholder

Well, my slog is not going well. I managed to get to the second level of the dungeon and do some poking around, but then dosbox crashed so badly I lost my saved game. I noticed that Abandonia has the Amiga version, too, think I'll give that one a go now.

Matt Barton's picture


slog-a-thonslog-a-thonWith the holidays coming up soon and everyone (hopefully) having at least a few days off, I thought it might be fun to start planning a "Slog-a-thon." What I mean is a day or two when anyone interested can dedicate at least six hours to playing a classic CRPG he or she has never played before. Afterward, we meet back up here to post our slogs, which amount to a paragraph or two about our experience playing the game. What did you like, what gave you trouble, how well does the game stand up today, etc. Remember, a slog is not so much about the game itself; it's more about YOUR personal experience with it.

I'm thinking we could do this on Dec. 26th for maximum convenience, but let me know what would work best for you. I'm not really concerned about a particular TIME you do your slog, but it would be nice to have us all doing it on the same day.

So, if you're up for it, choose a game and mention it in the comments below. I'd like to have us all doing different games for maximum variety. Any platform or era is fine, though you'll definitely get brownie points if you choose a particularly esoteric game and platform.

Handball (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

Handball (Odyssey, 1972)The lines are advancing! Push back or we'll be crushed!

Ending out our tour of 1972 home videogames we have Handball for Magnavox Odyssey. It is another Tennis variant. You hit the Ball Spot and then try to wiggle it past your opponent's Player Spot by controlling the ENGLISH. The difference here is that the Center Line Spot becomes a WALL Spot and is adjusted to exist on the left side of the screen. The players then alternate hitting the Ball Spot against the Wall.

This game uses cartridge #8 and an overlay (above). This game isn't worse than the other Tennis variants. In fact, it's SLIGHTLY better. Having a wall to hit the ball against is novel considering the only things we've EVER seen it deflect from has been the Player Spots.

The instructions list some gameplay variants involving the positioning of the SERVER and the RECEIVER but they don't change the game play significantly enough to go over here.

A few words about the term "Crap Game from Hell".

Volleyball (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

Though there isn't even a passing resemblance and they're obviously Male, I still like to refer to these six volleyball players (from left to right) as: Ayane, Christie, Helena, Hitomi, Kasumi and Lei Fang.Though there isn't even a passing resemblance and they're obviously Male, I still like to refer to these six volleyball players (from left to right) as: Ayane, Christie, Helena, Hitomi, Kasumi and Lei Fang.

Fast-forward to the present day (2010, to those of you reading this in some 25th century museum/blog-vault), videogame volleyball will evolve/has evolved/evolved into poly-polygonal, progressively scanned-tily clad women bouncing around on exotic beaches and buying each other cute gifts. Back here in 1972/73, where I am, Volleyball for Odyssey is the primordial soup of videogame volleyball. Don't forget, those little figures on the overlay are static; frozen eternally in those positions. The only movement on the screen occurs with the PlayerSpots and the BallSpot, just like in the previous 20-or-so Odyssey games.

What is exciting is that this game utilizes a new numbered cartridge! Seeing a shiny new number "7" on the cart used to play the game does add a little excitement to its initial playing. To recap, for anyone who may not know, cards for Odyssey don't have programs on them. They act as switches to simply toggle the display of, and modify the behaviors of, the "spots" which Odyssey broadcasts to your TV. The hardware variation used by this lucky number "7" cartridge creates a half-height version of the CenterLineSpot (only seen previously in Table Tennis) and stations it at the bottom of the screen as a volleyball "net".

Wipeout (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

Wipeout Overlay: Looks more intestinal than intense...Wipeout Overlay: Looks more intestinal than intense...Wipeout was the first home videogame racing simulation. I know there was nothing in the arcades in 1972 with a racing theme, and I've never read anything about mainframe versions of a racing game, either. That being said, just as we saw with Invasion and Baseball, Wipeout is more boardgame than videogame.

Addressing the videogame portion first. The overlay is a stylized racetrack, reminiscent of the twisted cargo fleet's course in Submarine. The players take turns acting as the Driver and serving as the Timer. Prior to a racing phase, the Timer uses the left controller to position their light behind the clock on the left side of the overlay. The Driver uses the right controller to control the light that represents their race car. The Driver's goal is to maneuver their light around the race track. The Timer's job is to hit the reset button (on the Driver's controller!) to "serve" the BallSpot so that it comes in from the right side of the screen, crosses the screen and hits the light behind the left side clock to deflect back across the screen and off the right side again. The Timer player does this throughout the Driver's journey around the track. The Driver starts with 30 laps in their count. Every time the Timer player hits the reset button, one lap is subtracted from the lap count. If the Driver leaves the track, they lose two laps. If the Driver's light is actually hit by the Timer's BallSpot, they lose a big fat five laps! The idea is to get around the track before the lap count evaporates entirely.

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