I don’t own all 26 Channel F Videocarts so I won’t be able to review all of them on my blog this month but I figured the best I could do was review them in small groups based on cart #. I’ve already discussed what the two built in games were like as well as Videocart #5 so I’ll be kicking this post off by reviewing the first 3 carts in the series.
Videocart #1 contained 4 “games” and I’ll use that term loosely here since two of the variations on this cart aren’t actually video games in the current sense of the word. These games are: Tic-Tac-Toe, Shooting Gallery, Doodle & Quadra-Doodle. Tic-Tac-Toe is exactly what you’d expect it to be. A tic-tac-toe grid shows up on the screen and you can play an opponent or even the computer(!!!) for a game of tic-tac-toe. Now I’ve played enough tic-tac-toe over the years to know how to win every time as long as I get to go first and that strategy translates to the computer/video game version. The control scheme is a little wonky (move controller left and right to move your cursor left and right, there is no up and down motion on the grid, pull up to make your mark on the grid) but not difficult to figure out. It’s tic-tac-toe, what more do you need to know. The upside is that you save lots of paper by playing this iconic game on your Channel F!
As for Shooting Gallery, this is a pretty interesting little game if I’m being honest. The goal of the game is to shoot your arrow (or block) from a paddle somewhere on the left hand side of the screen in an effort to hit a target (or block) that falls from the top of the right hand side of the screen. The challenge lies in that the position of your paddle is ever changing which means you have to rely on banking shots off the top or bottom of the screen to hit the target. The goal is to minimize the number of shots it takes to hit the maximum number of targets in the allotted time limit. You can adjust the speed of the targets as well making Shooting Gallery quite challenging and fun.
Doodle and Quadra-Doodle are video game drawing games in essence. Very primitive version of both Mario Paint (Doodle) and those trippy-3D screen savers from years past (Quadra-Doodle). In Doodle, you are given 3 colors to choose from and four different sized line thicknesses to make your masterpiece (good luck!) In Quadra-Doodle, the computer will draw kaleidoscope patterns on the screen automatically for you to “ooh” and “ahh” over. As the back of the box suggests, “great for parties.”
Videocart #2 is the combination of Desert Fox and Shooting Gallery (again). Since one of these titles is a repeat from Videocart #1, I will just mention what Desert Fox is about. Desert Fox is very similar to what Combat would do for the Atari VCS a year later. Desert Fox is a two player only game where you control a tank on a playing field with mines to avoid and barriers to hide behind while your opponent shoots at you. The goal is to hit your opponent more often than you get hit yourself within the pre-determined time limit. Fun stuff in the late 70s, but hasn’t aged well to be honest.
Videocart #3 solely consists of Video Blackjack, which would ultimately be a very popular card game turned video game for the era, finding its way on multiple consoles. There’s not much to say about Video Blackjack besides the fact that you could play 1 or 2 players against the dealer, just like you were in Vegas or Atlantic City! Having a 2 player option is pretty cool for 1976 as that meant each player would have to consider what the other player had in their hand as well as the dealer if they wanted to count cards.
All 3 of the first Videocarts are no frills, bare bones carts but all 3 predate what Atari or Intellivision would offer in the next few years. I give these 3 a pass for being innovative and groundbreaking for the time even if their fun factor has faded over time.
Currently in my collection:
Videocart #1 (Tic-Tac-Toe/Shooting Gallery/Doodle/Quadra-Doodle) – game, box D+
Videocart #2 (Desert Fox/Shooting Gallery) – game, manual, box C+
Videocart #3 (Video Blackjack) – game, manual, box B-