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Video Olympics
Box artwork for Video Olympics.
Developer(s) Atari
Publisher(s) Atari
Distributor(s) GameTap
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Sports
System(s) Atari 2600
Players 1-4

Video Olympics was one of the nine Atari 2600 titles that launched with the system in 1977. Video Olympics contains a variety of takes on 8 different sports games using the tried and true Pong/paddle model that Atari invented, and so many others copies. Among the games included are Pong, Soccer, Fooz-pong (a take on fooz-ball), Hockey, Quadrapong (a four-way pong game), Handball, Volleyball, and Basketball.

Atari developed the Atari 2600, originally known as the Atari VCS or Video Computer System, in response to several things; the growing power and lowering costs of CPU technology, limitations by the design of dedicated consoles (such as Pong), and the increasing amount of market competition due to clones. The Atari VCS would be different in that it would be programmable, and not dedicated, so that it could play many (theoretically unlimited) different types of games. In addition to making a system that the cloners would be unable to keep up with (for a little while anyway), they created one programmable cartridge that would make all the other dedicated Pong console obsolete overnight: Video Olympics.

Unfortunately, due to limitations of space for the program, in order to cram all of those games in the cartridge, only two Pong games out of all 50 variations are for one player. However, this is still a feature that many Pong machines didn't have. All other games require at least two people to play. Making use of the paddle controllers allows up to four people to play certain games at one time. Atari later attempted to incorporate the concept of Video Olympics into an arcade game that they developed in 1978, using only slightly modified Atari 2600 hardware, called Tournament Table, which also included a one-player variation of Breakout. It was released as Pong Sports under the Sears Telegames label.

Controls[edit]

Console[edit]

  • Color/BW: Switch between color display and black & white display. (This feature made the game look better on black & white TVs that were still prominent at the time of the game's release.)
  • Left/Right Difficulty Switch: If set to A, the left/right player's paddle will be half its normal size, compared to when the switch is set to B.
  • Game Select: Select a game variation. The variations cycle from 1 to 50 and start back over at 1. See the Game Variation section below.
  • Game Reset: Starts a new game in whatever game variation is currently selected. Both players' scores are reset to 0, and the timer starts over.
  • Paddle Controller: Every game allows the player to slide their on-screen paddle back and forth through the use of the paddle controller. Many games allow the player to slide the paddle up and down, while some allow the paddle to slide left and right.
  • Controller Button: The controller button is used for different features depending on the variation of the game in play. Among the options that the controller button provides are:
    • Speed: If the button is held down when a player's paddle hits the ball, the ball is returned with increased speed.
    • Whammy: If the button is held down when a player's paddle hits the ball, the ball is returned at a sharper angle than usual. When the button is released, the ball travels at a typical angle.
    • Catch: If the button is held down when a player's paddle hits the ball, the ball sticks to the paddle until the button is let go. If the paddle is jerked very quickly, the ball will come loose.
    • Jump: A few game variations allow the player's paddle to "jump" in the air, which instantaneously pops the paddle to a higher position. The paddle will instantly pop back to its original position when the button is released.

Game Variations[edit]

Pong[edit]

Pong

The Pong games (game variations 1 through 12) are the basic representation of table tennis, and a reproduction of the original arcade hit that launched Atari to success. One to four players must prevent a ball from whizzing past their paddles and allowing their opponent to score. The game ends when one side earns 21 points. Serves are performed by pressing the button. Video Olympics provides no less than 5 distinct ways for players to challenge one another in the most basic, yet fun, video game challenge. The options for Pong games include:

  • Speed or Whammy controls.
  • One, two, or four players.
  • Single or double paddles.

Speed or Whammy: With every variation of Pong, you have the choice between Speed or Whammy controls. Every odd game variation provides the players with the ability to speed up the ball whenever contact is made with the paddle, while the even games give players the option to return the ball at sharp or odd angles with the Whammy button.
Number of players: Game variations 1 and 2 are the only two variations on the cartridge that allow one player to play alone. Player one controls the right paddle and must attempt to score 21 points before the computer controlled left paddle does. Game variations 3 and 4, and 9 and 10 are for two players. All of the rest of the Pong variation require four people to play, in teams of two players. In most four player variations, both teammates' paddles occupy the same vertical column. However, in game variations 7 and 8, the third and fourth players' paddles are positioned closer to the center of the court.
Single or double paddles: Game variations 1 through 8 provide only one paddle per player. If the ball sails past any player's paddle (with the exception of game 7 and 8), the opposite team scores one point. However, game variations 9 through 12 provide each player with two paddles. The paddles move in parallel with one another. If a player misses the ball with the "front" paddle, they will still have an opportunity to return the ball with the "back" paddle.

Soccer[edit]

Soccer

The Soccer games (game variations 13 through 18) transform the television set from a ping-pong table to a soccer stadium. Each player attempts to kick the ball past the goalie and into the goal for one point. The first player or team that reaches 21 points wins. Soccer is really only differentiated from Pong by the fact that points are only successfully scored by slipping the ball past a smaller opening. If the ball hits any area behind the player other than the goal, it continues to reflect off the wall. The options for Soccer games include:

  • Speed, Whammy, or Catch controls.
  • Two or four players.
  • Single or double paddles.

Speed or Whammy: With almost every variation of Soccer, you have the choice between Speed or Whammy controls. Every odd game variation provides the players with the ability to speed up the ball whenever contact is made with the paddle, while the even games give players the option to return the ball at sharp or odd angles with the Whammy button. The only exception is game variation 18, four-player double paddle Soccer, which allows players to catch and hold the soccer ball for greater control and surprise attacks.
Number of players: Game variations 13 and 14 are for two players. The remaining Soccer variation require four people to play, in teams of two players. Each players' paddles occupy separate vertical columns. Even when playing with double paddles, each player occupies their own sections of the field.
Single or double paddles: Game variations 13 through 16 provide only one paddle per player while game variations 17 and 18 provide each player with two paddles, and is therefore only available in four-player variations. Since all four player's paddles occupy a different portion of the field eight layers of people are created, four per team. Also remember that game variation 18 of Soccer is a Catch variation, not a Whammy variation.

Fooz-pong[edit]

Fooz-pong

The Fooz-pong games (game variations 19 through 22) are a virtual representation of the classic fooz-ball table game, where players manipulate rows of toy men on rails and spin them around to knock the ball into the opponents goal. The screen is transformed once again from a soccer field to such a fooz-ball table. Each player commands two columns of men, four men per column with only three visible at a time. The game ends when one side earns 21 points. The options for Fooz-pong games include:

  • Speed or Catch controls.
  • Two or four players.

Speed or Catch: Game variations 19 and 21 provide the players with the ability to speed up the ball whenever contact is made with the paddle, while the games 20 and 22 give players the option to catch and hold the ball while the button is pressed.
Number of players: Game variations 19 and 20 are for two players while games 21 and 22 are for four players. Every player's columns occupy a distinct space on the table and have one of the opponent's columns between them.

Hockey[edit]

Hockey

The Hockey games (game variations 23 through 32) transform the television set into an ice covered hockey arena. Each player attempts to shoot the puck past the goalie and into the goal for one point. The first player or team that reaches 21 points wins. Hockey is differentiated from Soccer by the fact that the goal is pushed forward a little bit, and the puck can slide behind the goal. If the puck slide back there, it continues to reflect off the wall and the edges of the goal. The options for Hockey games include:

  • Speed, Whammy, or Catch controls.
  • Two or four players.
  • Single, double, triple, or fooz paddles.

Speed, Whammy, or Catch: With each variation of Hockey, you have the choice between Speed, Whammy or Catch controls. Every odd game variation provides the players with the ability to speed up the puck whenever contact is made with the paddle. Most even games give players the option to return the ball at sharp or odd angles with the Whammy button. However, game variation 28 and 32 allows players to catch and hold the puck and release it for well aimed shots at the goal.
Number of players: Game variations 23 through 28 are for two players. Game variation 29 through 32 require four people to play, in teams of two players. Each players' paddles occupy separate vertical columns.
Number of paddles: Hockey provides the greatest number of variations with respect to the number of paddles that players can play with. In game variations 23, 24, 29, and 30, each player has one and only one paddle. In game variations 25 and 26, both players get two interspersed paddles, and in game variations 27 and 28, they each get three. Games 31 and 32 are sort of the four-player equivalent of Fooz-Hockey. Like Fooz-pong, each player gets a string of four paddles in a column, of which only three can be seen at a time.

Quadrapong[edit]

Quadrapong

Quadrapong (game variations 33 and 34) is the ultimate four-player Pong variation. It can only be played by four players in teams of two, with each player guarding a side of the table. Unlike Pong, you don't have to guard an entire length, only the opening in the center of your side. The game ends when one team earns 21 points. The option for Quadrapong games is:

  • Speed or Catch controls.

Speed or Whammy: Game variation 33 provides the players with the ability to speed up the ball whenever contact is made with the paddle, while the game 34 gives players the option to catch and hold the ball while the button is pressed.

Handball[edit]

Handball

The Handball games (game variations 35 through 38) are a take on the classic handball experience pitting two players against one another at the same distance from a wall. Not only must you manage to intercept the ball when it is your turn (indicated by remaining solid), but you must stay out of the way when you are not up to return the ball (indicated by blinking.) The game ends when one side earns 21 points. The options for Handball games include:

  • Speed or Whammy controls.
  • Two or four players.

Speed or Whammy: Game variations 35 and 37 provide the players with the ability to speed up the ball whenever contact is made with the paddle, while the games 36 and 38 give players the option to return the ball at sharp or odd angles with the Whammy button.
Number of players: Game variations 35 and 36 are for two players while games 37 and 38 are for four players. In four player games, players 3 and 4 share a column up ahead of players 1 and 2. Turns are taken between teams, not players, so either player on a team can choose to return the ball without penalty.

Volleyball[edit]

Volleyball

The Volleyball games (game variations 39 through 42) bring the view of the action from up above, to down on the side, as players attempt to best one another at Volleyball. Gravity is in effect throughout the game, and each player must bounce the ball over the net and on to the other player's side while preventing the ball from ever touching the ground on their own side. The game ends when one side earns 21 points. The options for Volleyball games include:

  • Jump or stationary.
  • Two or four players.

Jump: Game variations 39 and 41 provide the players with the ability to jump up whenever the button is pressed. Jumping instantly pops the player up to a higher level. Because the jump is instantaneous and not gradual, it is possible to miss the ball if you jump when the ball is below the height of your jump, so time your jumps carefully. Game variations 40 and 42 do not allow players to jump at all.
Number of players: Game variations 39 and 40 are for two players while games 41 and 42 are for four players. In four player games, players 3 and 4 player higher up and can block the ball by spiking it back over the net.

Basketball[edit]

Basketball

The Basketball games (game variations 43 through 50) keep the view of the action down on the side, as players attempt to shoot more balls through the hoops. Gravity is in effect throughout the game, and each player must bounce the ball into the net occupying the space above your opponent. The game ends when one side earns 21 points. The options for Basketball games include:

  • Whammy, Jump, or Catch.
  • Two or four players.

Whammy, Jump, or Catch: Only one of these options can be active in any game variation. Games 43 and 47 feature none of these options. Games 44 and 48 allow players to bounce the ball at sharp or odd angles with the Whammy button. Games 45 and 49 allow players to jump up and bounce the ball even higher, making it easier to reach the basket. And games 46 and 50 allow players to catch and hang on to the ball until they are ready to shoot the ball.
Number of players: Game variations 43 through 46 are for two players while games 47 through 50 are for four players. In four player games, players 3 and 4 player higher up and can serve as defense against shooting opponents, or as assists when the ball won't quite make it up as close to the basket as it needs to.