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Intellivision Flashback: Reviews, Questions, and Pictures

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I think that the original Intellivision Flashback thread, which predates the final product by about a year, is getting too long and too cluttered with "My Dollar General doesn't have it yet, dammit!" posts. So I thought it might be a good idea to create a fresh thread, so that owners of the Intellivision Flashback can share their experiences and impressions, ask or answer questions, post pictures, etc.

 

I'll start with my own (slightly edited) review from the original thread, and I'll follow it up with some pictures of the inside of the console and controllers:

 

09/29/2014: I received my Intellivision Flashback earlier today (I preordered it from Toys 'R Us this past summer). I haven't had the chance to try it beyond playing a few of the games for a few minutes each, but so far, I'm very impressed at what AtGames was able to do with it, especially at such a low price point.

The first thing I did was to take apart both the console and the controllers to have a look inside, because that's what I'm programmed to do. I found that the very lightweight console is indeed ~75% empty space inside: the logic board, which seems to host all the main components, is a remarkably small 1.5" by 4.25" (approximately). The two hand controller connectors are mounted on its outside edges, and between the connectors, there is one SDRAM chip and one Flash chip (a M12L16161A and a M29W320FT, in case anyone is interested), along with a nickel-sized "glop top" near the center which must be the integrated SoC. The only other components inside are a small daughterboard for the power plug and console switches, and the A/V cables. I haven't looked at the hand controllers in detail, but although I can see some evidence of cost reduction, I was pleased to see that they use the same technology internally as the originals. I understand that the pinout doesn't match that of the Intellivision II controllers because of a design snafu, but this is easily fixable with a simple adapter. AtariAge member "nurmix" provided pinout information here, and is offering adapters here.

 

I have a few minor nits to pick about the design of the main menu, but it does its job. The biggest difference from the original Intellivision that I noticed during gameplay was in the sound (which always seems to be the most challenging aspect to emulate): the sound effects and speech seem a bit quieter relative to the music, and the music plays at a higher pitch, than on the original hardware. This is especially noticeable in games with lots of music, like Thunder Castle and Snafu and Deep Pockets. It might be my CRT TV, but the colors also seemed to be slightly different from the original system. But again, even though it never quite gave me the illusion that I was using my original Intellivision, the Intellivision Flashback came remarkably close to it. Players who are new to the Intellivision won't come away from using the Intellivision Flashback with a completely inaccurate impression of what it was like to play these games on the original system—unlike those whose first impressions of the Intellivision came from the dreadful 10-in-1 and 25-in-1 Plug-and-Play units from Techno Source.

 

If you consider the total experiencethe graphics, the sound, and the controlsthe Intellivision Flashback is probably the most authentic turnkey alternative to an original Intellivision console that you can get. Emulators running on desktops and laptops can more accurately reproduce the audiovisuals, but they are usually hampered by the lack of original controllers (unless you're one of the few who have interfaced a hand controller to a PC or Mac), and of course they require some degree of setup and configuration. Intellivision Productions' own Intellivision emulator for the iPad only includes six games and doesn't play them at full speed, and you don't get physical controls, either. The earlier Techno Source units (mentioned earlier) weren't the original games or the original controllers, so they failed on both counts. I'm sure that the hand controllers and overlays were the most expensive items on the Intellivision Flashback's bill of materials, but they were well worth the investment: having authentic controls adds so much to the experience.

 

I'll have more to say once I've had the chance to spend more time with it, but so far, I think the Intellivision Flashback is a worthy product. As stated earlier, it's an especially good option for players new to the Intellivision, since it provides a sufficiently authentic Intellivision gaming experience while avoiding the common issues with the original hardware and software (age, scarcity, RF-only output, piles of physical cartridges, worn controllers, etc).

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Okay, here are some quick pics of the interior of the console and controllers:

1.jpg
2.jpg
3.jpg
4.jpg
5.jpg
6.jpg

From the bottommost picture, you can see that there's a lot of empty space inside the console. The second picture from the top is a closeup of the logic board and power/reset daughterboard, and the controller pictures are shown with the keypad overlay on and off. If I'm not mistaken, the flexboard is a different shape than the Mattel originals; I tried to find one of my spare NOS Mattel flexboards for a side-by-side comparison, but I think I have them all in storage. The biggest improvement to the controller (at least from an ergonomic point of view) is the side action buttons; the new ones are soft rubber, but the originals were much harder.

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Good idea on this topic. While not wanting to be negative in any way, I am interested in knowing where the product needs to improve in its emulation for the next release. It might be good to get feedback from people on specific issues that affect games. I had issues with Sea Battle and Tower of Doom, for example that affect gameplay. I would hope that Keith and IP would want that kind of feedback to give to the AT folks so that the next version is that much better.

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Good idea on this topic. While not wanting to be negative in any way, I am interested in knowing where the product needs to improve in its emulation for the next release. It might be good to get feedback from people on specific issues that affect games. I had issues with Sea Battle and Tower of Doom, for example that affect gameplay. I would hope that Keith and IP would want that kind of feedback to give to the AT folks so that the next version is that much better.

There's this thread.

 

But in a nutshell, I'd have four, two of which are SUPER important:

 

  • URGENT Fix collision detection - this emulator bug makes some games unplayable
  • URGENT Fix sound issues - Poker and Baseball, for example, just sound wrong
  • GOOD TO FIX Sometimes some graphics seem to 'dither' wrong. Look at Hover Force's screens when showing the fuel, etc. It looks muddled, but if you look closely, it seems some pixels (not Intellivision, but the underlying hardware) are in the wrong place.
  • MINOR Is there a scrolled / offset issue? Games seem pushed off to toward the right edge of the screen
  • FANBOI Tweak the controller wiring to match original -- this is a fanciful wish, as I think the confusion of making the controllers incompatible with older copies of the system could be harmful. Maybe a keyed connector could do the trick, where those who want to use w/ an Intellivision II or Sears, who presumably would know what they're doing, could file off the 'key tab'. That way, they wouldn't fit in the older FBs.
Edited by intvsteve
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IMO the controllers need to be "fixed" to work with original hardware in the next revision. That is my #1. Lots of us are capable of making adapters, but that just isn't good enough. Fix the controllers or I'm never looking at an Intv Flashback again (and will probably sell the one I have).

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From the bottommost picture, you can see that there's a lot of empty space inside the console. The second picture from the top is a closeup of the logic board and power/reset daughterboard, and the controller pictures are shown with the keypad overlay on and off. If I'm not mistaken, the flexboard is a different shape than the Mattel originals; I tried to find one of my spare NOS Mattel flexboards for a side-by-side comparison, but I think I have them all in storage. The biggest improvement to the controller is the side action buttons; the new ones are rubber, but the originals were just pieces of solid plastic.

 

Great idea to start a new thread on this. Nice pictures as well.

 

One thing I have to correct in your post... the original Intellivision controllers ALSO used rubber for the side buttons. Granted, it wasn't as soft as the Flashback rubber, but it was still rubber. The Intellivision II controllers had the hard plastic torture buttons.

 

As you posted above, I documented the differences between the original and AT Games controller circuit matrices (flexboards as you call them) in the original Flashback thread. The matrices are the same from a circuitry standpoint, but they terminate in completely different ways, with the AT Games version using a separate daughter board (as shown in your pictures, and in mine, below). This also required subtle changes to the plastic controller housings as well, with additional screw holes for the daughter board. If anyone wanted to use an AT Games matrix in an original controller housing, for example, they'd have to do a few mods just to make it fit physically. And to be clear, I'm not talking about the wiring / pinout differences here, just the connector differences, since as you mentioned, I've already worked that out with my adapter cables, which you linked to in your original post. (thanks for that, by the way) :thumbsup:

 

 

Circuit matrices (side by side - unfolded):

http://www.notatari.com/files/INTY/circuit_matrices_side_by_side (differences).jpg

 

Circuit matrices (side by side - folded):

http://www.notatari.com/files/INTY/circuit_matrices_side_by_side%202%20%28differences%29.jpg

 

Original controller (disassembled):

http://www.notatari.com/files/INTY/original%20controller%202.jpg

Edited by nurmix

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There's this thread.

 

  • MINOR Is there a scrolled / offset issue? Games seem pushed off to toward the right edge of the screen

 

Keith Robinson told me AT Games had some sort of emulation issue they couldn't work out that would cause one edge of the screen to not properly display the border color on certain games. I believe this is what you are referring to. No idea if a fix is in the works though.

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This picture shows the difference between the two [lower] controller housings. The Flashback housing is on the left, a Sears housing (identical to the original Mattel housing other than color) is shown on the right.

 

Note the 2 screw holes for the Flashback daughter board, and the plastic "pin" to secure the circuit matrix in the original:

 

http://www.notatari.com/files/INTY/both_controller_lower_housings.jpg

 

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One thing I have to correct in your post... the original Intellivision controllers ALSO used rubber for the side buttons. Granted, it wasn't as soft as the Flashback rubber, but it was still rubber. The Intellivision II controllers had the hard plastic torture buttons.

Thanks for the correction! I remembered the original Master Component hand controller buttons as being a soft, somewhat flexible plastic, but it's been a while since I took mine apart.

 

(thanks for that, by the way)

No problem! Thanks for those pictures; it's very interesting to see the old and new controllers side by side. I'm still amazed to see an Intellivision hand controller with a 2014 copyright date inside!

 

In the last few Master Component hand controllers that I had to open for repairs, the point of failure was the contacts where the flexboard/matrix met the cable (they were usually dirty, or misaligned, or both). Looking at the daughterboards and edge connectors that the new controllers are using, I think the new design may prove to be more durable over time. It reminds me of the way the Aquarius hand controllers are designed: those also use a flexboard/matrix connected to an edge connector on a daughterboard, and even soft rubber action buttons.

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Here's what I meant about the graphics "dithering".

 

Also notice the missing border.

 

The first is a regular Intellivision, the second is the Flashback. Same TV.

post-35516-0-45101500-1414114483_thumb.jpg

post-35516-0-25077600-1414114495_thumb.jpg

Edited by intvsteve

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I've noticed that effect, too. On my CRT TV, it seems especially noticeable with dark colors (like the red and blue in your screenshots). I'll take some pictures when I have the chance to hook up my Intellivision II again.

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