OVERKAL, the Spanish Odyssey clone

Here is a very strange video game system. This Spanish Magnavox Odyssey clone is believed to date 1973 (which would make it the oldest European video game system). It does not mention any date or Magnavox license. The warranty card has an address for a manufacturer named "Overkal" or "I.S.S.A". Whether this is the real manufacturer or not remains a mystery. For now, this system is believed to be a pirate sold without license.

Amazingly, it differs from the original Odyssey by several points.

Push-buttons instead of cartridges:

Odyssey cartridges contained a set of jumpers connecting the different Odyssey circuits together to play the games. Here, the cartridges were replaced by a set of five push-buttons connecting the circuits exactly as the cartridges did. Although Odyssey could play more games with additional cartridges, this clone can only play the games hard-wired by the push-buttons.

Only seven games:

Due to the limitations of the push-buttons, Overkal played seven games: Tenis (Tennis), Futbol (Football), Esqui (Ski), Ataque submarino (Submarine), Persecution (Cat and Mouse), Carrera espacial (Analogic), Ruleta (Roulette), and Tenis de Mesa (Table Tennis). Seven overlays of two sizes were provided. All the text originally written in English has ben translated into Spanish.

No electronic rifle:

The most amazing Odyssey games were the Tennis variants and the shooting games. Other games were not that amazing since they required many accessories (Affairs of States, Simon Says, etc). The reason why the electronic rifle has been removed is not known. It could be for cost reasons. Maybe the engineers who designed this Overkal clone did not know the existence of the electronic rifle, though this doesn't make real sense as Odyssey had a plug for it, some information in the user manual, and finally, some data in the Magnavox service manual.

Hard-wired controllers:

Instead of plugging to the unit, both controllers are hard wired. Though this might look strange, it is actually better. As a matter of fact, Odyssey suffered a problem with the solders of the controller plugs. Controllers were quite hard to plug in and out, so the solders got less and less resistant as far as the controllers were plugged in and out. This resulted in dead contacts, hence unplayable games. Hard wired controllers solved this problem.


Other interesting details are the internal circuits and the switch box. The internal circuits are very similar to those of Odyssey. Odyssey had a mother board on which small daughter boards were plugged. Here again, the same design was used with better connectors and improved circuit board drawings in order to remove jumper wires (though small jumpers are still there). However, it is strange to see that the system still uses daughter boards. One could have redesigned the circuit board so as to contain all components on it. Maybe it was easier, cheaper and faster to copy Odyssey "as is"... The switch box is another strange device. The system has an antenna plug, so can be plugged straight to the TV set. However, the switch box is still there, allowing to plug the game on TV sets that a different antenna plug.

(...) Still, this is an interesting unit obviously designed by someone who knew what they were doing, a pirated design with switches replacing the jumper connections made by the normal Odyssey p.c. cards. I like the idea. If he had put in more switches, he could have played not only all of the Odyssey games but some new ones... but that clearly wasn't the objective, which was to make something that would sell... altogether: Clever, but a freak! (Ralph H. Baer)

The system showing its six push-buttons and same Odyssey controllers.

Front side showing push-buttons replacing Odyssey cartridges.

Circuit board: nicer design, still similar to Odyssey.

Tennis game screenshot (ball not served).