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A Black Falcon

Mattel Intellivision - Game Opinion Summaries / First Impressions, Part 1

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I got this console a couple of months ago... and quickly decided I wanted to make a Game Opinion Summaries list for it, because why not? And since it's for a pre-crash system I want to post it here, as I did with my Atari 2600/7800 and 5200 threads several years back. I have not done a list like this yet for the Colecovision, which I got last year, or for Atari 2600 or 5200 games I've gotten since the lists I did years ago. I am thinking about writing all of those. Anyway, after some long delays, here it finally is, part one of this two-part series! In this article I cover 19 of the 40 games I have for the Intellivision. Yes, 19; game 20 is Microsurgeon, and I haven't played it enough yet.

 

I'm sorry in advance if fans of this system don't like some of what i have to say here, but if I make any mistakes please mention them. Feedback would be appreciated.

 

This article is also available on my website here: http://www.blackfalcongames.net/?p=1235

 

Table of Contents

  • Introduction and System Overview
  • My Favorite Intellivision Games So Far
  • The Summaries
    • ABPA Backgammon
    • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Cartridge (aka AD&D Cloudy Mountain Adventure)
    • Armor Battle
    • Astrosmash
    • Atlantis
    • Auto Racing
    • B-17 Bomber [intelliVoice required, I don't have one yet]
    • Beauty & The Beast
    • Bomb Squad [intelliVoice required, I don't have one yet]
    • Bowling (aka PBA Bowling)
    • BurgerTime
    • Demon Attack
    • Dragonfire
    • Frog Bog
    • Golf (Tele-Games ver. of PGA Golf)
    • Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack (Tele-Games ver.)
    • Lock 'n Chase
    • Loco-Motion
    • Major League Baseball (1980)


The Mattel Intellivision released in 1979 as a test market product, then 1980 in full nationwide release in the US. This console was heavily marketed, and ended up selling a bit over three million systems, which is the second most of any console that generation. That's good but somewhat less impressive as it sounds, as the Atari 2600 sold tens of millions of systems while the next top four -- the Intellivision, Colecovision, Odyssey 2, and Atari 5200 -- sold one to three million each, but it's something. I'd never played an Intellivision before this year, however. I have known people who owned them though, and they never had much of anything positive to say about the system. I've heard that the controller is horrible, that the games aren't as good as Atari games, and more. So, I went into this not expecting the best... and unfortunately it lives down to expectations. There are some things to like about the Intellivision, but my first impression is that it's my least favorite of the five pre-crash consoles that I have, the ones listed in this paragraph. It's probably better than most of the other, lesser-known platforms that generation, though, I just don't have those.

Anyway, the Mattel Intellivision is an interesting system. It uses a 16-bit CPU, which was a first for the industry. However, while it's got a wider bus, the CPU has a slow clock speed when compared to the 2600. Indeed, many 2600-to-Intellivision ports end up running more slowly on this system than they do on the Atari, which is not great for a newer system. Graphics are almost always improved, but game speed is not. What is the Intellivision good at, then? Well, graphics for one; the Intellivision can draw much more complex and detailed visuals than prior consoles. In terms of overall graphics, the system sits right where its release date suggests, a bit above the 2600 but well behind the newer Atari 5200 and Colecovision, which released 2 1/2 to three years after this system to effectively start a new console generation. I wasn't expecting Colecovision-caliber graphics from this system, and it doesn't have them, but games often have nicely detailed sprites and environments that you'd certainly never see on Atari 2600. Audio is decent as well, for the time. The standard audio is fairly typical stuff, but like the Odyssey 2, the Intellivision has a speech synthesizer addon. This addon is fairly cheap, but while I have three of the four games that support it, I don't have one yet, unfortunately. Once I get one I will report on how the three games play, though I mention them below with little placeholder articles for now.

So, the Intellivision has some good and bad points in its graphics. In terms of controls, though, the system is infamously awful, and unfortunately I have to agree with the critics here. I may like the Atari 5200 controller, and I really do apart from a few things (durability, the side buttons), but this thing is awful! The Intellivision controller is terrible for several reasons, but the ergonomics are the biggest. The controller has two buttons on each side, a 12-key keypad set down behind little plastic dividers, and at the bottom a round disc that controls movement. The disc, which has a full 16 directions it can identify versus the average stick's four or maybe eight with diagonals, was an important innovation that presaged the creation of the d-pad. It is also, however, horribly uncomfortable. Perhaps the biggest problem is this plastic ridge around the disc. It's hard to not get your finger painfully rubbing against the hard edge of the ridge! The side buttons are uncomfortable to use as well, the idea of putting the main action buttons on the side of a controller was a bad one. I'll never understand why Atari and Coleco both copied this controller, of all things, in their next consoles! This vertically-oriented controller with side fire buttons concept was not a good one, and all three of the resulting controllers show why that is. Of the three, though, this is the most painfully uncomfortable to hold and use, it's not close. The controllers do look nice when set in the console, though. As with many consoles of the day, there are indentations in the console itself to store the controllers in, and when in there the flat top of the console has a pretty nice look to it.

To fit with this flat, sleek look, the Intellivision, uniquely, has its cartridge port on the side of the console. This is good for aesthetics, but bad for everyday use, because you need to press fairly hard to get a game to lock in to the system! I find that I need to hold the console with one hand on the left side while pressing the cart in on the right in order to insert a game, so don't put this console somewhere where you don't have access to both sides of the system, it won't end up well. Of course, with how short Intellivision controllers are you won't be putting it far from your chair, anyway. All the pre-crash consoles have very short controller cords, and this is no exception. Some models do have controller ports, though. The model 1 and 3 Intellivision have hard-wired controllers, while the Sears Super Video Arcade and model 2 have controller ports. I have perhaps the best overall model of Intellivision according to some Atari Age threads I read, the Sears Super Video Arcade. It's a nice looking console with controller ports, and I'm glad to have this one. It still works perfectly, even after almost fourty years.

As far as its game library went, the Intellivision's main life lasted from 1979 to 1983. Most of the games are from Mattel, and they are mostly original titles, not ports of arcade games. Atari had most of the best arcade games themselves, after all, and Mattel, like Magnavox, decided to mostly make their own games. Mattel did get one companies' arcade game rights, though: Data East. This led to one of the system's best games. Once they entered Coleco would be much more aggressive at getting arcade game rights, and between Coleco and Atari, Mattel and the others didn't get many arcade ports. The quality of Mattel's own games is uneven. In late 1983, with the great videogame crash of '83 destroying the console industry, Mattel gave up on videogames and discontinued the system. Others, including the Magnavox Odyssey 2, were also discontinued around the same time. However, some people at Mattel thought that the system had a future as a low-cost system, and bought the rights to the Intellivision sometime later. In 1985, the first two new games released in Europe. Those two games, plus some other new ones, released in the US as well in 1986, and the new Intv Corporation kept the system alive with new game releases until 1989. This is a fairly similar story to the Atari 2600, which was effectively discontinued in 1984, only to be resurrected in 1986, so it saw releases from 1977-1984 and 1986-1990 ('92 in Europe thanks to one or two late third-party releases there). However, at least around here, I regularly see some of those late Atari 2600 games. I have not seen any post-1983 Intellivision games locally yet, only these 40 games from '83 or earlier, so clearly the Intellivision wasn't as popular a post-crash console as the Atari. That makes sense, but it's still interesting that it was brought back, and there are some good-looking games among those later releases that I would like to get eventually.

Overall though, my first impression of the Intellivision is that it's okay. This system isn't awful or anything, but I don't really like it either. I can understand how people who played it as a kid would still like the system, but as someone who didn't play any pre-crash console games until decades later, as I said earlier it probably does rank fifth of the five pre-crash systems I have. (For the record, based purely on 'how much I like them' and not their overall game library quality or such, right now that ranking would be: 1. Odyssey 2; 2. Atari 5200;3. Atari 2600; 4. Colecovision; 5. Intellivision.) The poor controller is definitely a part of that, though the games are also a part; they're alright, but I haven't found many I really love. Right now I don't know if I have yet played an Intellivision game that I'd give an A rating to. Some of the games are good, though, certainly. That said, though, here are the first 20 Intellivision Game Opinion Summaries. The second 20 shouldn't take as long as these did to finish.

My favorite Intellivision games so far:

1. Snafu
2. BurgerTime
3. Demon Attack
4. Microsurgeon
5. Loco-Motion
6. Atlantis

I like these six more than the rest for sure, so far.


The Summaries

 

Formatting: As usual for my Game Opinion Summary lists, the title is first. Following that is the number of players, and any accessories supported or required. Next is the summary. At the end I list any other platforms the game has been released on as of this posting, as far as I know.


ABPA Backgammon - One or two players. Backgammon is a typical Intellivision game in some ways. The Intellivision sold itself on being more complex than the Atari 2600, and indeed this game is more complex than Atari Backgammon. The graphics are better, game much more accurate to the boardgame it is a conversion of, and controls more complex as well thanks to the systems' 12-key keypad. Getting used to the controls takes a little while, as it uses the keypad heavily, but this is a solid Backgammon game, if you actually want to play such a thing on an old console; I don't really. On a positive note though, there is an AI opponent here, a somewhat uncommon thing for a boardgame console game from 1978! However, I've never cared much for backgammon as a board game. I have played it before, and it's alright, but it has been a very long time since I last played the game, and while I don't remember a lot of the rules, and doubt I'll play it anytime soon either; far better games are available now. Backgammon has dice, so it has a random component not present in the timeless classic that is chess. Random elements in board games are common, and can work great, but I do think that the best games are probably less random. So, while this game definitely looks the part, with a clearly drawn backgammon board and dice, if I really wanted to play backgammon today I'm sure far better games are available on newer systems than this one. I don't play old consoles for games like this, for the most part. But if you want a solid 2nd-gen backgammon game, well, here it is. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections under the title Backgammon.


Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Cartridge (aka AD&D Cloudy Mountain Adventure or Crown of Kings) - One player. This game has the D&D license, but it isn't really an RPG. Instead, this is a maze exploration action-adventure game, building off of games like Adventure (Atari 2600), Hunt the Wumpus (TI-99/4A), and Quest for the Rings (Odyssey 2). Your goal here is to reach the Cloudy Mountain across the main world map and find the treasures within. You start on the let side of the screen, and at certain points enter dungeons. Each of these dungeons is a randomly laid out maze you will need to explore. Now, sort of like Hunt the Wumpus, your character here is an archer, so you'll be shooting enemies from a distance if you want to stay alive. In each maze, you need to collect arrows, kill or run away from monsters, and look for both exits and key items that you will need to progress. You'll want to avoid enemies some of the time because ammo is very limited, and you can't just go pick up used arrows. This definitely serves to increase the tension as you explore. Unfortunately, I find the game quite frustrating, as these random mazes, while not huge, are just large enough to get lost in. You need to find those exits and key items, but wandering around, looking for things while often not being certain if I've been through this area five times already because it all looks pretty similar, isn't much fun.

Now, some people like this kind of game design, and I recommend you play this game! I, however, don't really. There is a run button for faster movement, and that's great. Even, but still, this game aimed high for a game from 1982, and for the time is a quite advanced game despite not being what we would today call an RPG of any kind since there is no experience points system present, but I think I'd prefer something either simpler or more complex than this. AD&D is a good game, but while I probably do like it more than Adventure on the Atari 2600, I'd rather play Quest for the Rings or Hunt the Wumpus than this, their simplicity is a positive for games from this time. Still, AD&D is a solid evolution of the still-early action-adventure genre, as it headed towards better things. The Intellivision sold itself as a more complex console with better-looking and more complicated games than other consoles, and you see that here. That doesn't make the game better, but still it is an interesting game worth playing. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections under the title " Crown of Kings".


Armor Battle - Two player only. The Intellivision does Combat! Yes, this is one of several Combat knockoffs on the Intellivision. Like Combat it, unfortunately, requires two players, so I haven't really been able to play it. Most people agree it's not as good as Combat, though. It's got better graphics but apparently lesser gameplay, though I haven't really played much Combat either so I can't really compare. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Astrosmash - One or two player alternating. Astrosmash is a very simple single-screen shooting game that kind of crosses Astroids and Space Invaders, though without the greatness of either. This popular game is also on Atari 2600 and it's very simple: move left and right and shoot the asteroids as they descend. That's about it. Move left, move right, shoot as many rocks as you can. There are also a few ships to shoot, but it's mostly falling rocks. This game was made for overlong play sessions, by second gen standards -- you start with quite a few lives, and will not lose them easily for a long time. And on top of that, the game gives you extra lives so quickly that games will go on and on. You get lives faster than you lose them for probably at least a half hour or more. I find the game gets boring long before that, unfortunately; the core concept is solid and the game plays well enough, apart from the usual issues with how uncomfortable this controller is, but the difficulty balance and challenge are way off. The game looks alright, with some decently nice asteroids and an alright backdrop, but is very repetitive and simplistic. So, overall, this game is another average to below average Intellivision game. This system is definitely living down to its mostly not-great reputation, I think... too bad. There is something here, later in the game, but is it worth the tedium to get there? Also on Atari 2600 under the title Astroblast. That version is quite similar, apart from a graphical downgrade of course. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Atlantis - One player. Atlantis is a Missile Command-inspired defense game from Imagic, a third party who released a lot of games on the Intellivision in 1982-1983. Taking control of gun turrets, you try to protect the city of Atlantis from an endless horde of enemy spacecraft. It's a doomed effort of course, but try to survive as long as you can anyway! The Intellivision version of Atlantis has a reputation for being the best version of the game and one of the better games on this console, and after playing it I can see why. Now, in Missile Command, you control a cursor. In the original Atari versiion of this game, however, instead you just controlled three gun cannons which each shot across the screen at a different angle. On the Intellivision, however, Imagic went for a much more directly Missile Command-inspired game, as you move a cursor around the screen and fire from your two guns with the two buttons on each side of the controller.

So yes, it's pretty much straight Missile Command, but with Atlantis graphics. And indeed, the game looks pretty good, with a detailed cityscape, a day and night cycle with a tougher challenge at night in the dark, and good enemy sprites. The game adds one significant control feature that separates it from Missile Command, though: by hitting one of the keypad buttons, you can take off in a little plane usually kept docked in the center tower on the screen and, controlling it directly, shoot the enemies down, Defender style! This is a single-screen game, but flying the little ship around, shooting in both directions to take out the enemies, is pretty fun. When flying around you can only use the ship, you can't fire from the turrets again unless the ship is destroyed or you land back on the central base. It's a system which works pretty well. Indeed, both the cursor and flying elements of this game are fun. The game does take a while to get challenging on the default setting so games are not short, however; yes, this is another game with difficulty balance that may not be ideal. However, it's more than fun enough to be worth playing anyway, every once in a while at least. Atlantis is, like most games of the era, very repetitive and does not match Missile Command's genius, but it is a good game for sure, and this is a great version. It may not be worth getting an Intellivision just for this game, but if you have one definitely get the game, it's one of the best ones here. Also on Atari 2600 and Odyssey 2, though each version is quite different.


Auto Racing - One or two player simultaneous. This is an overhead racing game. It has decently nice graphics with some nice looking roads and houses. It scrolls decently too, it's not single screen. There are even a bunch of different tracks to race! They are all made up of a set of components, but still it is impressive. Graphically, it's pretty good for the time -- the Atari doesn't have any top-down racing games that look anywhere near as good. However, gameplay is a problem. The controls are hard to get used to, it takes practice and perhaps also a look at the manual before you will figure out how to actually make the turns and not just go off the side at every corner. Looking at impressions people have of this game online, this seems to be a common complaint about this game: the controls are confusing and not that good. With some practice I did eventually manage to start making turns, but even then this is a slow-paced game with limited gameplay. The turns feel hard because of the bad handling, not because they really should be. Additionally, as with many Intellivision games, this one is mostly designed for two players -- all you can do in this game is play a two player versus mode race, or play solo in a time-trial mode, that's it. There isn't an AI opponent car, unfortunately. For 1980 this is probably a good effort at a more realistic racing game, but the controls, with the Intellivision disc, are a problem. I didn't find Auto Racing very fun, but it isn't a bad game, just a flawed one. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


B-17 Bomber - One player, IntelliVoice addon required. B-17 Bomber is a flight simulator, a fairly impressive thing for an early '80s game. With complex controls, where you can switch between different stations on your World War II bomber to change between shooting enemy planes, bombing, choosing where you're going, and such, it's an advanced game for the time. Unfortunately, it requires the IntelliVoice speech synthesizer addon. The game will run without it, but it has voice lines telling you vital info, so the game isn't very playable without one, and I don't have an IntelliVoice yet. However, even if I had one, I can't see myself getting into this game much at all; it may be impressive for the time, but in retrospect this kind of game quickly becomes horribly dated, and I'm not a flight sim fan regardless. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Beauty & The Beast - One player. One of Imagic's more popular Intellivision games, this game is Intellivision exclusive and not a port from another system. Imagic supported the Intellivision pretty well for a couple of years. However, I don't like it nearly as much as I was hoping. The game looks nice, but the gameplay is lacking, I think. Anyway, Beauty & The Beast is one of the many games heavily inspired by Nintendo's hit Donkey Kong. Thanks to Coleco the Intellivision version of Donkey Kong is no good, but this somewhat similar game is probably better. Unfortunately, I think it has problems as well. The game is no match for arcade Donkey Kong. My biggest problem with this game is its jumping controls. So, in the game, your goal is to get to the top of each screen. Each screen is a couple of floors tall, and you want to get to the top of each screen, which helps you climb the building to try to save the girl (the beauty) from the beast (an ape as expected). Unfortunately you're facing an endless series of buildings here, so you can never really win. You can climb from one floor to the next by hitting Up on the circle when one of the windows on each floor is open. If you're still climbing when the window closes, you'll fall and die, so be careful. I don't know why you can climb up when windows are open but not when they are closed, but that's how it works here. Your movement controls feel fast, as you zip around the screen, trying to avoid obstacles and go up open windows. However, when you need to jump over something, as I said the controls are very stiff and bad. I really don't like the jumping controls here, and they don't feel good at all; when I have to jump I often die. The jumping here feels somewhat like it does in Dragonfire, except here it's even more central to the game. The simplistic and repetitious gameplay is expected from this time, but that's fine if a game is good. Sadly, only part of Beauty & The Beast is fun. I know this game has fans, but I'm not one; this is below average, and I can only really recommend it for the graphics, which are admittedly pretty nice and detailed.


Bomb Squad - One player, IntelliVoice required. Another one of the four games requiring the IntelliVoice speech synthesizer, this one is a bomb-defusing puzzle game where you follow voice commands as you try to defuse each bomb by cutting the correct wires and installing the correct parts in places on the circuit. Naturally, without an IntelliVoice it's quite impossible, though it looks very difficult on the higher difficulty settings even with one. The game has a good concept though, so when I get an IntelliVoice I'll definitely want to give it a try. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Bowling (aka PBA Bowling) - One to four players alternating. Bowling is a pretty good bowling game for the early '80s. Showing off all of those buttons that the Intellivision controller has, Bowling has more commands than the simplistic Atari 2600 Bowling game. You can move up and down, aim and curve your shot, and adjust power. You even can select your ball weight at the start, and that does affect the game. Visually, this is a fairly standard effort, with okay but not amazing visuals of the lane and pins. It's an okay-looking game with a lot more depth than bowling on the 2600, so it fits in with the general 'more complex games' theme the Intellivision went for, and it does seem to be good. Of course there is no AI so if you're playing by yourself it's a solo affair, but oh well. Bowling plays well and is fun, so it is a good game. Once you get used to the controls it's a simple little game, and much better bowling games are out there on newer systems, but this one's fun enough to play once in a while. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


BurgerTime - One player. BurgerTime was an arcade hit in the early '80s. Mattel wasn't able to get the rights to many popular arcade games, as Atari had the best ones and Coleco got the rights to most of the better remaining arcade games of note, but Mattel did get the rights to one arcade company's arcade games, Data East. The somewhat strange single-screen platformer BurgerTime was probably their biggest hit, so it was ported to the Intellivision. This game is highly regarded on Intellivision, but I wasn't sure how worth it this would be since I do have the even better NES version. Well, it was worth getting, because yes this is a pretty good version of this game. The somewhat slow Intellivision CPU isn't known for being great at fast action games, but this somewhat unique platformer runs very well. For anyone who dosn't know it, in BurgerTime you play as chef Peter Pepper, and try to make giant hamburgers before living ingredients get you! Yeah, it's weird. So, you go around, dodging enemies on the maze of platforms, while trying to walk over all burger parts. When you walk over a part, it'll fall down to the next floor below, dropping other parts below it if there is another one on the next level. Each burger has several parts to drop, including the top bun, lettuce, and burger. Once you make all burgers on a stage you go on to the next one. You also have pepper spray, which will temporarily stun an enemy. The only other way to defeat enemies is that when you drop a burger part, any enemies also standing on that part when you drop it will die. They respawn elsewhere on screen quickly, though, so you can't get rid of enemies for good, you just need to learn to avoid them. BurgerTime is a fun and challenging game, and it's easy to see why it was so successful. BurgerTime is, indeed, one of the best games I've played on Intellivision. There are better versions of the game so don't get an Intellivision for this game, but if you have one, get it. Arcade port, also on the NES and many newer platforms, though none are ports of this specific version.


Demon Attack - One player. Demon Attack is another game from Imagic, and it's one of their most popular games. This single-screen shmup sees you moving left and right on a screen, shooting up at enemies moving around above. It was inspired by the arcade game Phoenix which Atari had the rights to, enough so that Atari sued Imagic over this game and Imagic settled out of court, so they probably paid Atari something. I think that Demon Attack isn't quite as great as the arcade or Atari 2600 versions of Phoenix, but it is also good and is on a lot more platforms. Demon Attack for the Intellivision has the same basic gameplay as the original Atari 2600 version of the game, but it has enhanced graphics and more gameplay, much like the TI 99/4A version but, by all accounts, better. Like that version, the game has two screens, one on a planet or moon where you do most of the shooting, and a boss stage in space against a giant ship. The planet is nicely detailed, so the background looks a lot better than the very simple Atari version.

The core gameplay is the same, though, apart from that added boss screen. Demon Attack plays well, as you move left and right and try to time your shots to hit the quickly-moving demons. It presents a good challenge, and there is nice variety as there are quite a few different types of demons on the regular screen. The boss stage mixes things up as well; here you need to hit a single point to destroy the giant demon ship, but hitting that point will be hard, as it's protected by a moving shield and lots of small demons that are sent at you. This game is well paced and fun, and keeps you coming back. Of course the Intellivision circle disc thing makes playing the game a little harder than it should be, but you kind of get used to it eventually. I don't know if it's the best version of this game, but it is good. However, whenever I play this game, I can't help but think that I'd probably rather be playing Phoenix, because that game is a bit better. Still, Demon Attack is a good game well worth playing on any format it was released for. Also on Atari 2600, Magnavox Odyssey 2, TI 99/4A, Atari 8-bit computers, PC, Commodore 64, and TRS-80 Color Computer. Each version is different, but this is one of the best.


Dragonfire - One player. Dragonfire is another Imagic game. This one's much less impressive, though, as it is pretty much just a straight, only graphically enhanced port of the Atari 2600 game of the same name. Dragonfire is a good Atari game, though, so that could work well. In this two-screen game, you first run across a bridge as a little guy, dodging fireballs as you go platformer-style, and then run around a large overhead-view space, collecting treasures while avoiding more fireballs that the dragon, now on screen, shoots at you. It's a fast-paced game, all about dodging and jumping and then avoiding and collecting, and it's okay to good on the 2600. Here, however, it feels worse. The graphics are improved, as the drawbridge and castle towers on the sidescroller stage look nicer and the dragon and its treasures are drawn with more detail, but the difference isn't enough to matter much.

Much more important are the controls, and they're not good. Yes, the controls are a whole lot worse because you need to try to make these tricky, timing-sensitive jumps with the Intellivision disc! This controller is hard to deal with even in ideal circumstances, and this games' jumping is, like Beauty & The Beast above, far from ideal. So, while I do find this game fun on the 2600 as the avoid-and-collect gameplay is somewhat addictive and fun, I'd recommend sticking to that version. It's the same thing, but better. The Intellivision version is too hard thanks to its controller to be worth the hassle, and has no additions to counteract that, unlike the better Imagic Intellivision games. Also on Atari 2600, Colecovision, Commodore 64, Commodore VIC-20, Apple II, and TRS-80 Color Computer. The 2600 version is the original. This is nowhere near that level.


Frog Bog - One or two player simultaneous. Also known as Frogs and Flies on 2600, Frog Bog is one of Mattel's more popular games, and Mattel did release it on Atari 2600 as well as Intellivision under the name Frogs and Flies. This is an extremely simple arcade-style game where you play as a frog, jumping between two lily pads to eat flies as they go by. You cannot move around on the ground; for some reason, these frogs can only move in the air, not on the ground. So, you press on the disc to jump in the direction you press. The disc gives you better control than the Atari 2600 version of the game. You can control your jump, so try to aim and time it so that you're in the air while flies are passing by. While in the air, hit a side button to extend your tongue, hopefully catching flies in the process. That's all there is to it. There is even an automatic tongue option, for somewhat easier play. You just jump back and forth, eating flies, for a while. As the game progresses time passes, from morning to afternoon to night, and once full night falls the game ends. So, Frog Bog games are time-limited and might last ten minutes at most. That's good, though, because by the time a game ends I'm ready to play something else, there isn't much to this one. Even so, the time progression is a nice touch you only infrequently saw at the time. The background graphics are pretty nice as well, with a detailed pond environment. The game also does have an AI opponent, so it's not two player only, and there are two difficulty settings. On the default setting the AI is extremely easy, but the harder setting presents a slightly higher challenge. The AI really is a very weak opponent though, so if you want to lose this game much at all you'll need to play it against another human. I like that they included a computer opponent, but I wish it was a bit tougher.

In comparison to the Atari 2600 version, the graphics are much more detailed on Intellivision, as expected. The Atari version looks okay for the console, but everything is a lot blockier. The core gameplay is identical, and the controls are good on Atari too -- it compensates for the loss of a 16-direction stick by having you hold the stick to change your angle. This control scheme is simple and works well. It's probably easier to control your frog on Atari than Intellivision as a result, so despite the better graphics in this verison, Mattel might actually have made a better game on the competing console. On either platform, though, overall Frog Bog is an average game. It's probably worth getting on one system or another because it is quite cheap and can be fun, particularly for two players, but don't expect too much from this one. Also on Atari 2600 under the name Frogs and Flies. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Golf (Tele-Games ver. of PGA Golf) - One or two player alternating. This golf game is a bit like Golf for the Atari 2600, but with a lot more simmish elements. Where the 2600 or Odyssey 2's golf games are pretty much minigolf games by another name, Intellivision Golf plays more like the real thing, with different clubs to switch between, a more complex meter for hitting your ball, and such. The graphical look is similar to those games but a better, as just like them each hole is shown in a single-screen overhead view. The graphics are definitely better than those games, as trees are identifiable and there are angled greens and everything, but it's still a single-screen game. The animating ball, which gets larger at the height of its flight, does look nice though. The more simmish controls make this game much more challenging than those golf games, however, and for someone like me who does not like golf, that's not really a good thing. This is probably a better game objectively than Atari or O2 Golf, but I find myself getting bored extremely quickly here and would probably rather play either of those games. I much prefer mini-golf to regular golf, myself. Golf fans might want to try this game out though, as it's quite possibly the first semi-realistic take on the sport. You will need to choose the correct club for each hit and such. It's a challenging game for sure. There is only one 18-hole course here, as usual for the time, but each hole is unique. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack (Tele-Games ver.) - Two players only (Poker); One or two players (Blackjack). For some reason I do not understand, this card game was the pack-in title with the Intellivision for its first few years. It's not a game I have much of any interest in playing, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that, so it's a somewhat strange choice for a pack-in. The games are fairly complex for the time, with three different poker variants and blackjack all on the cart, playable in 1 or 2 player for blackjack and 2 player only for poker, but I don't like this kind of game at all and don't want to play enough of this to learn how to play it, so even though I do have a complete copy with its detailed instruction book I don't know that I will ever play this again. It's fine, and probably even impressive, for the genre for the time, but I do not know how to play or want to learn poker. Plus, poker here requires two players, so even if I did want to try, I can't really. While I do know blackjack, and this is a totally acceptible blackjack game, it's not that much better than similar games on the Atari 2600 or Odyssey 2, and today there are a great many far better ways to play electronic blackjack than here, not that I want to do that almost ever. Overall this has to be one of the weakest and least interesting pack-in games ever to come with a console. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Lock 'n Chase - One player. Most Intellivision games are exclusive to the console. However, Mattel did get the rights to one companies' arcade games, Data East, and made several home ports of their games. The good Pac-Man clone Lock 'n Chase is one of those games, so it is one of the few arcade to Intellivision conversions. Most of the others are also Data East games. In this game you are a thief, trying to steal as much as you can before the police catch you. So, Lock 'n Chase is like Pac-Man, but with the new component of doors that you can close. At certain choke points in the maze, if you hit a button a door will close off that path for a set amount of time. You'll need to strategicly use this ability to try to get all of the dots in each stage. As usual on the Intellivision, the graphics are low-rez, so everything is near eachother, and keeping away from your enemies is hard. Like the original Pac-Man, the maze is always the same, but unlike that game the difficulty here is steep from the beginning! Indeed, getting far into Lock 'n Chase will take practice, this game is tough. This is probably a good port of the arcade game, but while it is good enough, this game is no Pac-Man, and I don't think I like it as much as K.C. Munchkin or Turtles on the Odyssey 2, either. This is a quality game worth playing if you like maze games, but between the high difficulty, mediocre graphics, and sometimes tricky controls for using the locks, I doubt I'll be playing a huge amount of it. Still, it is a decently good game I guess. Arcade port, also on the Atari 2600. The Atari version has much worse graphics as you would expect, but plays similarly. I like the later Game Boy sequel, also called Lock 'n Chase, a lot more; that game is pretty good. I covered it in my Game Boy Game Opinion Summaries article.


Loco-Motion - One player. Loco-Motion is a puzzle game with gameplay inspired by ssliding tile puzzles. The game screen is simple, a 5 by 5 grid of tiles with various train track layouts on them fills most of the screen, and curving loop pieces go off of the sides of the grid around the edges. You move pieces into the blank space in the grid, so you effectively move a black square around with reversed controls. On this grid, a single train car is always moving around. Your goal on each stage is to get it to go around all of the loops on the edges of the screen, beyond the bounds of the 5x5 grid you have control over. In order to do this, you need to move the tiles around so that the car goes around all of the edges. That's not all, though, that alone would be far too simple! No, you also have a time limit. If you take too long to go around some loops, they will lock off and send an enemy train at you. This removes the loop from the stage without you getting points for it, while also adding a major obstacle to avoid, another train moving around the stage that you'll need to keep away from the main one!

Yes, Loco-Motion has a simple concept, but it quickly gets very difficult. This game has a great concept and it's mostly well executed; Loco-Motion is one of the best games I have for Intellivision. It does have some issues, however. First and foremost, the game is very slow paced. The train you're leading around moves slowly, and the only speed-adjustment button isn't very useful. You will spend a lot of time in this game waiting, as you watch the train slowly move along its route. Additionally, those reversed controls take getting used to. I get the idea, instead of moving the black square around you are moving the tiles into or out of it, but the game almost makes more sense if you hold your controller upside down, which is a little weird. I kind of wish they let you choose between regular and reversed control options. Still, despite the very slow gameplay, with challenging puzzles and a unique concept, Loco-Motion is a pretty good game and definitely is a game that any Intellivision owner should get. It's one of the better Intellivision exclusives, the system does this kind of slower, more strategic game well.


Major League Baseball (1979) - Two Player Simultaneous. Major League Baseball is one of the early Intellivision games, and it is a title that Mattel adertised heavily as a part of their campaign to convince people to buy an Intellivision instead of an Atari. Like all baseball games at the time, it is a single-screen game which fits a downsized version of a baseball field onto one screen, and is two player only, there is no AI opponent. Later Intellivision baseball titles would add AI opponents, but this first one, which is by far the most common, doesn't have one. That's too bad, because as a result I won't have many chances to play this game. I like baseball, but don't have many opportunities for local multiplayer anymore. This is a simple game, but it has more depth than 2600 Baseball for sure. There are actually nine players on screen, for one. You can also switch which player you are controlling with the keypad, which is nice. Additionally, while pitching you can try to pick off runners. When fielding it can be hard to tell where a ball is going to land though, there is no ball shadow or arc, it just moves in a straight line until it stops somewhere, hopefully with your fielder nearby. There is a sound giving you a hint at when it's stopping, but good luck. When pitching you pretty much can just aim it left or right, so batting isn't anywhere near as hard as in a newer baseball game. You do have multiple pitches, but still batting isn't too hard. Overall, I can't really say much about what I think about this game because I haven't played it much, but sure, for a 1979 release this is somewhat impressive. Looking back flaws like the absence of fly balls and single player are pretty significant, though. This isn't a game I'll play much but I am glad to have it. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback Special Edition unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.

Part two will be next time, once I finish it.

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nice, even though I don't agree with you on some reviews (especially Golf and AD&D).

 

But please get an Intellivoice (you can buy it unboxed for 10 bucks) and give B-17 Bomber another chance!

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... So I just realized that I somehow wrote that whole thing without ever mentioning overlays. I really should, and I'd prefer to edit it into the first post, but apparently can't do that... bah.

 

Overlays - Overlays are something that I think the Intellivision did first. These plastic sheets go over the 12-button keypad part of the controller, and tell you what the buttons do. As with many other things about the controller, this questionable idea would go on to also appear in the Atari 5200 and Colecovision controllers, as well as the Atari Jaguar later on. The concept is good, and for some games these overlays are helpful. Games did not have large enough memory sizes yet to be able to have on-screen button indicators for everything like a modern game might, so having something physical, attached to the controller, is a good idea. Some of the overlays have nice artwork on them as well. I don't have overlays for all of the games I have, not even close, but I do have some overlays and they're helpful, because a lot of Intellivision games pretty much require them. However, if you don't have the overlay, some games are pretty much unplayable unless you look one up online or buy one, because the buttons are not at all intuitive, they could be anywhere. Those other systems with overlays make far less use of them than the Intellivision. Indeed, most 5200 and Colecoivsion games either don't come with an overlay, or they have one but it serves no purpose because all that's on it is like 'press numbers for difficulty or number of players', and those are in consistent places on the number pads so you won't need to always look at the overlay like you to on Intellivision. And on top of that, despite their overlays usually being less necessary, both of those systems have overlay storage built right into their cartridges, which is great. With the Intellivision you just need to try to not lose them, or only buy complete in box games and store them in the boxes. That's inconvenient.

 

My biggest issue with overlays isn't any of those things, though, it's that the concept of having a keypad on a game controller didn't prove to be a good one. A modern controller has a lot of buttons, but they are all in different places on the pad, so you can remember, through memorization and such, which are which. On a keypad, however, good luck with that! With 12 buttons so close together, that overlay is pretty much your only hope of knowing which button is which, a lot of the time. There's a good reason why only two systems released since 1983 have had keypads on them, and both failed -- the Jaguar and N-Gage. It just isn't a very good idea. I can understand what they were going for, it gives you a bunch of buttons for settings and such, but the alternate directions the industry would go in later, towards on-screen menus instead of lots of buttons and controllers with buttons in more notably different places, is, I think, overall better than this. I have an N-Gage, and trying to play a game like Tomb Raider or Tony Hawk with 15 buttons all right next to eachother is FAR more difficult than it is on a Playstation controller! It's kind of a nightmare really... the Intellivision isn't as bad as that, because of how its keypad is used and because it supports only pressing one button at a time, but it is still an issue.

 

And of course, that's not even getting into the ergonomics of the thing, which are poor. There's no way to make a 12+ button keypad ergonomically friendly, I don't think. So, overlays are an interesting idea and I like having them, and they definitely make playing games a lot easier than regular numbered buttons in these same games would -- see Gateway to Apshai (Colecovision) for an example of that, they didn't make an overlay for it so instead you need to reference the manual all the time to remember what each of the nine numbers does, it's not great -- but I do think that the keypad is one of several decisions, along with the vertically-oriented controller, painful ridge around the disc, total absence of ergonomics, and side-mounted, mushy fire buttons, that are why Intellivision are so disliked. That the Colecovision, and Atari 5200 controllers do many of the same things wrong is a lot of why their reputation is very nearly as bad.

 

And plus, since some models of Intellivision have hardwired controllers, they couldn't even do something to give it a better controller, like the trackballs do for the 5200 and Colecovision. Oh well. I know there are stick-replacement options out there, and some modern controller options as well, but controller ports would have made that a lot easier. Oh well.

 

nice, even though I don't agree with you on some reviews (especially Golf and AD&D).

But please get an Intellivoice (you can buy it unboxed for 10 bucks) and give B-17 Bomber another chance!

I really do need to do that, yeah. It's kind of surprising that boxed Intellivoices are so cheap, though! The Odyssey 2 The Voice has more games that support it, but clearly sold much worse because those things are sadly expensive... I guess Mattel must have really over-produced them. It's too bad that none of the later titles have optional voice support, that'd have been nice.

Edited by A Black Falcon

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My SVA controllers have rounded edges around the disc; they are very comfortable. The flashback controllers edges are sharp however. The intellivision side buttons are rubber and must have hardened over the last 35 years. There are ways to make them less stiff. I appreciate that I can use the intellivision controller right handed, an important feature for non-gamers, which was nearly everyone at the time.

 

Regarding keypads on controllers, realise at the time that almost nobody had computers in the home. The intellivision was the computer with educational games in mind. Overlays are nice but once you played a game a few times you don't really need them and the tactile feel of the buttons can help with some games.

 

The cpu is not the main reason for slow games. The exec software was written with a 20hz frame rate. Using the exec is optional for programmers but most mattel/aph programmers used it. Worm whomper and motu are examples of 60fps cartridges. Dreadnaught Factor is 30fps but has really smooth background scrolling.

 

And many people mistakenly press 1 to start. Keypad 1 starts many games at a slower speed. Typically press disc to start at normal speed but check the cartridge instructions.

 

Edit:

There are two versions of auto racing cartridges, one is more difficult to control. The older version is much less common but you can tell you have it if you press keypad rather than side buttons to continue after crashing. The more common, updated cartridge is not hard to steer at all. Two player mode is a waste of time so the game is just time trials. In those days it was tough to include computer ai in a 4k rom and three months of work.

 

Optional controllers like trackballs and steering wheels seem like a good idea. But the fact is developers made very few cartridges that used them. They didn't want to sell to a subset of the market.

 

And yes advanced dungeons & dragons is an excellent action-adventure game with lots of replay value.

Edited by mr_me

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Regarding the controllers, are you using an Intellivision II or original Intellivision? The Intellivision II controllers are less comfortable than the original's. I don't expect your opinion to change much on the controllers but thought I'd mention it.

 

For the Intellivoice, one of the big advantages it has over other system's voice synthesis is that the Intellivoice is based off of real voice samples that vary by game. Other systems have a small set of pre-canned samples that are shared across all games. The difference is that while other systems are typically limited to a single robotic voice, the Intellivoice's audio allows differentiation of gender and accent so many different voices can be heard (ex: Bomb Squad is a great example of this).

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Thanks for the comments.

 

My SVA controllers have rounded edges around the disc; they are very comfortable. The flashback controllers edges are sharp however. The intellivision side buttons are rubber and must have hardened over the last 35 years. There are ways to make them less stiff. I appreciate that I can use the intellivision controller right handed, an important feature for non-gamers, which was nearly everyone at the time.

 

Regarding keypads on controllers, realise at the time that almost nobody had computers in the home. The intellivision was the computer with educational games in mind. Overlays are nice but once you played a game a few times you don't really need them and the tactile feel of the buttons can help with some games.

Making a controller that's identical for left or right handed people isn't worth the horrible ergonomics of all of the vertical controllers, I would say. As for the rounded edges around the disc, though, yeah, the outside edge of the rim around the disc is indeed rounded. Is it not on other models of the console? That'd be even worse... though it's not as useful as it could be here, because what I was talking about was the inside edge of the rim, which goes straight up. My fingers like to get caught in the edge between the disc and that lip around it, and it's not comfortable.

 

As for keypads, sure you get used to a game after playing it for a while, but when games use the keypad as much as Intellivision games do, overlays are pretty essential, every game puts things in different places! At least with the 5200 and Colecovision you can count on the buttons doing the same things game to game in most cases. Not here. That's okay if you have all the overlays, and I do have some thankfully, but it's an issue. Overlay storage on the carts, like the 5200 and Coleco have, would have helped a lot more here than for either of those systems because of how many more Intellivision games need overlays.

The cpu is not the main reason for slow games. The exec software was written with a 20hz frame rate. Using the exec is optional for programmers but most mattel/aph programmers used it. Worm whomper and motu are examples of 60fps cartridges. Dreadnaught Factor is 30fps but has really smooth background scrolling.

And many people mistakenly press 1 to start. Keypad 1 starts many games at a slower speed. Typically press disc to start at normal speed but check the cartridge instructions.

Edit:
There are two versions of auto racing cartridges, one is more difficult to control. The older version is much less common but you can tell you have it if you press keypad rather than side buttons to continue after crashing. The more common, updated cartridge is not hard to steer at all. Two player mode is a waste of time so the game is just time trials. In those days it was tough to include computer ai in a 4k rom and three months of work.

... 20fps? That's not thought through well!

 

As for Auto Racing, I have the regular one (button to continue), but it's hard to control, you turn incredibly slowly. Even with braking, some corners seem impossible to get around unless you turn, like, before it even comes up on screen. I like arcadey racing games, more so than simulations... The courses go on a long time, too. For the time it's not too bad, I guess, and with time I'm sure you eventually get good at it, but I don't know that I will. ... On a related note though, Motocross fixes some problems from Auto Racing but introduces new ones in the process, so I'm not sure which one is better.

 

 

 

Optional controllers like trackballs and steering wheels seem like a good idea. But the fact is developers made very few cartridges that used them. They didn't want to sell to a subset of the market.

And yes advanced dungeons & dragons is an excellent action-adventure game with lots of replay value.

I got the Colecovision and Atari 5200 trackballs last year, and the 5200 one is really amazing! Sadly only a few games work with it as it doesn't have joystick emulation (I wish it did), but the games it improves are great with the thing. The Coleco one isn't nearly as good as a trackball, but it is nice as a controller extension with some nice, solid buttons that mean you don't need to use the mushy side buttons in games. Anyway, sure, most games on a system don't use optional addons, but still sometimes they are worthwhile because they improve games. There is a line though, sure. Like, I'm sure the Colecovision racing wheel makes Turbo better than a gamepad would, but I kind of wish I could just buy the game and not also an expensive, required addon controller... so yeah, supporting both the basic controller and an addon one is nice, like all of the 5200 trackball games do.

 

If you're going to have only one kind of controller on a system though, you'd better get it right. The Odyssey 2, with its durable and surprisingly comfortable controllers, does that. I will say that Intellivision durability is, for me, so far, quite good, though -- I mean, my system and both of the controllers work great, while I've got faulty systems and/or controllers for the 2500, 5200, and Colecovision lying around. That's good, if the systems in general are this durable. On the 5200 and Coleco, the side fire buttons are a frequent point of failure. I have multiple controllers for each of those systems with busted side buttons. Is this true on the Intellivision as well? I don't know, except that the ones I have have no problems.

 

As for AD&D, I'm sure that it has plenty of replay value thanks to the random generation, sure.

 

 

Regarding the controllers, are you using an Intellivision II or original Intellivision? The Intellivision II controllers are less comfortable than the original's. I don't expect your opinion to change much on the controllers but thought I'd mention it.

 

For the Intellivoice, one of the big advantages it has over other system's voice synthesis is that the Intellivoice is based off of real voice samples that vary by game. Other systems have a small set of pre-canned samples that are shared across all games. The difference is that while other systems are typically limited to a single robotic voice, the Intellivoice's audio allows differentiation of gender and accent so many different voices can be heard (ex: Bomb Squad is a great example of this).

 

Sears Super Video Arcade. I was lucky and got one locally, complete in box, for $60 a few months ago. ... Well, the cartridge for Las Vegas Poker and Blackjack was missing, but I got a replacement, and that was no big loss anyway...

 

Amusingly, the round gold sticker on the quite large reset button wasn't quite applied properly on this system -- it's slightly off of center. It's a little thing I notice when turning the system on or off, nothing major.

 

That does sound like some nice features in the speech synthesizer, though. They should have used it in more games, as an optional supported thing like the O2 does.

Edited by A Black Falcon

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Whereabouts are you located? I have multiple extra Intellivoice units, and if you happen to be local to me, come and get one.

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Thanks for the comments.

 

Making a controller that's identical for left or right handed people isn't worth the horrible ergonomics of all of the vertical controllers, I would say. As for the rounded edges around the disc, though, yeah, the outside edge of the rim around the disc is indeed rounded. Is it not on other models of the console? That'd be even worse... though it's not as useful as it could be here, because what I was talking about was the inside edge of the rim, which goes straight up. My fingers like to get caught in the edge between the disc and that lip around it, and it's not comfortable.

 

...

You must be using the controller wrong. Most people operate the disc with their thumb. And the inside edge of the lip around the disc is rounded. The disc is very comfortable to use. The intellivision flashback was a cheap emulation box made in 2014; still a decent effort. (Intellivision II controllers are also different.)

 

For maximum steering in auto racing press the disc at 4 or 8 o'clock (sw/se). Try the slow white car if you have trouble controlling the others. I generally use the red car.

 

Edit:

For arcade racing try intellivision bumpnjump. Don't waste your time with turbo or pole position. I like auto racing but i wish they made an update with computer controlled cars to race against and an option to select number of laps (you can always crash your car to get your time after one lap). Can't say I like motocross; it does give you different steering options.

 

As long as you don't press the disc too hard the controllers can last a long time. If abused the plastic flex circuit under the disc can wear out.

 

Regarding demon attack, it's okay on intellivision but I'd rather play phoenix on the 2600. Except those joysticks gave me blisters. At the time the intellivision controller was a major selling point for me. For shooters on intellivision try worm whomper, dreadnaught factor, and space battle. Worm whomper and dreadnaught can be played in emulation with any controller.

Edited by mr_me

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Thanks for sharing you thoughts and opinions.

Im always interested in first time impressions.

 

 

Cheers

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Slow games on the Intellivision? Try games like Dreadnaught Factor, Worm Whomper, Dragon Fire or Beauty & the Beast.

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I appreciate the initial time investment, but a lot of the author's personal preferences get in the way of full critique, pre-conceived decisions seem to be made about what was done right/wrong using 2019 sensibility, ignoring the console's pluses (and overstating the minuses) for hardware that has been virtually unchanged since 1979 (designed in 1977?).

 

For what I hope will be seen as constructive feedback on the next section submitted, please consider dropping the "the NES version is better" types of comparisons, it kind of distracts; stay focused on what appears to work (or not work) for the given game of the time, taking 30 minutes on the Intelliwiki would also give some additional info to put evaluations in more proper perspective.

 

Unfortunately, an Intellivision FAQ update won't be ready until Christmas most likely, which would definitely help your evaluations.

 

Please continue! It is great to see someone who is not a long-time Intellifan on the AA forums type something about the Intellivision.

 

Thanks.

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I appreciate the initial time investment, but a lot of the author's personal preferences get in the way of full critique, pre-conceived decisions seem to be made about what was done right/wrong using 2019 sensibility, ignoring the console's pluses (and overstating the minuses) for hardware that has been virtually unchanged since 1979 (designed in 1977?).

Sorry for the late reply. Personal preferences will always be a major element of any opinion, but I try to look at things in the context of the time. I mean, yes, I did not play an actual Intellivision before a few months ago, but I had heard about it and played some in emulation here and there. However, I will admit I did got it with probably somewhat negative expectations because the people I've known who had one when they were young didn't have much good to say about it and the controller is infamous for being one of the worst ever... but you never know until you try something yourself. Most people like to hate on the Atari 5200 for example, but I like that one. I like plenty of pre-crash games, even though the NES is the first console I remember using, so I was hoping to find some good things here and I have. Some of the criticisms you see about this system do have merit though, I think, particularly complaints about the controllers. I don't think criticisms about the controller to the extent I have are unfair, I've seen much worse said about them online...

 

For what I hope will be seen as constructive feedback on the next section submitted, please consider dropping the "the NES version is better" types of comparisons, it kind of distracts; stay focused on what appears to work (or not work) for the given game of the time, taking 30 minutes on the Intelliwiki would also give some additional info to put evaluations in more proper perspective.

 

Unfortunately, an Intellivision FAQ update won't be ready until Christmas most likely, which would definitely help your evaluations.

 

Please continue! It is great to see someone who is not a long-time Intellifan on the AA forums type something about the Intellivision.

 

Thanks.

The only time I mention the NES is BurgerTime, and ignoring all other ports of this popular title that's probably on several dozen platforms by now really wouldn't make much sense. I agree with the idea of considering a game in the context of the platform it was released on, criticizing a game for "bad graphics" or something merely because it's on a console not able to do better is rarely helpful, but the NES is not that much newer than the Colecovision -- it released under four years later if you consider the original Japanese release date, after all. It's one generation better, probably (since the Intellivision is best put in the second generation, I think; it's two years ater the 2600 but three before the Colecovision and 5200, so it's kind of in between... but it's closer to the former than the latter.), and you can tell, but it's a platform available while the Intellivision as being sold, and it has a version of the game with better graphics. I'd mention this same point in a summary of the Colecovision versions of Donkey Kong an DK Junior for sure. (Maybe I should compare it to the BurgerTime arcade machine as well, but I don't think I've ever played it.)

 

 

You must be using the controller wrong. Most people operate the disc with their thumb. And the inside edge of the lip around the disc is rounded. The disc is very comfortable to use. The intellivision flashback was a cheap emulation box made in 2014; still a decent effort. (Intellivision II controllers are also different.)

 

For maximum steering in auto racing press the disc at 4 or 8 o'clock (sw/se). Try the slow white car if you have trouble controlling the others. I generally use the red car.

 

Edit:

For arcade racing try intellivision bumpnjump. Don't waste your time with turbo or pole position. I like auto racing but i wish they made an update with computer controlled cars to race against and an option to select number of laps (you can always crash your car to get your time after one lap). Can't say I like motocross; it does give you different steering options.

 

Yes, I use it with my thumb, and when my thumb hits that plastic ridge it doesn't feel great. Newer systems don't put a plastic ridge around their d-pad for a reason, I think...

 

As for Auto Racing, thanks, that's helpful advice. I don't have Auto Racing's manual so I idn't realize the cars were different, so I was just using the green one because that's my favorite color. I just tried the white one some, and maybe it's slightly easier to turn? I still often go off on the sharper turns, but I guess you're supposed to slow to a stop for those or something? The game needs some challenge, so okay, i guess I can deal with that, if "learn when to start stopping" is the challenge. Even if I did still go off the track a bunch I think I did better than before. The game is still slow, choppy, and extremely repetitious, though. Being able to choose your number of laps and race against an AI opponent would be good, yeah.

 

Oh, to say one good thing about Auto Racing, it gets the controls right. That is, it controls car-relative, and not camera-relative. In top-down racing games, I've always found it extremely confusing when a racing game has you press up to drive up on the screen, and down to go down, and such! It makes much more sense when left turns your car left relative to its current orientation, and right turns you right. And that's what Auto Racing does. Maybe I should add this bit into the summary, it is worth mentioning.

 

As for Motocross, I like that it adds control options, though car-relative is the better one for sure. It also adds an AI opponent. The game runs agonizingly slowly though, probably even worse than Auto Racing, which is a bit much to take... is it trying to do too much for the hardware to handle or something?

 

As long as you don't press the disc too hard the controllers can last a long time. If abused the plastic flex circuit under the disc can wear out.

 

Regarding demon attack, it's okay on intellivision but I'd rather play phoenix on the 2600. Except those joysticks gave me blisters. At the time the intellivision controller was a major selling point for me. For shooters on intellivision try worm whomper, dreadnaught factor, and space battle. Worm whomper and dreadnaught can be played in emulation with any controller.

It's hard to resist pressing the disc harder in the hopes it'll respond faster, but I'll try not to. :)

 

As for those games, I have Space Battle, it's okay. Short games, but they are fun while they last, sure, once I managed to figure out the controls. Worm Whomper sounds like a good one, but I don't have it. The Dreadnaught Factor I have on 5200. It's a pretty good game there, and from what I've seen the Intellivision version looks good but probably a little less good -- lower resolution, and such. I know it's side-scrolling instead of vertical, though that doesn't make a game better or worse.

Edited by A Black Falcon

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In auto racing, the green car is the second slowest. You should be able to do track one with it's gentle turns without braking in the green car. Press the disc at the spots for maximum turning. Auto racing does have a low frame rate but the multidirectional scrolling was impressive for 1980 and being one of the earliest intellivision cartridges. Try Stadium Mud Buggies, it's like an improved version of motocross and came out nine years after auto racing.

 

The Dreadnaught Factor was originally designed for intellivision. Fixed direction shooters work best in the orientation of the TV as there is more playfield to shoot/fly. Arcade vertical shooters used vertical displays. On the atari 5200/800 it was much easier to program vertical scrolling. Resolution doesn't do much for gameplay but makes for nice screenshots.

Edited by mr_me

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Auto Racing is on of the very first games I got BITD. I put a ton of hours into this game and always loved it.

 

As far as the cars go, I find the white car almost painful to use. It is not usable on track 5 because you cannot drift it.

Red is a great car, on track 1 I'll use the Blue Car. Brakes? Why? Start with track 1. With the red car, you should never need to brake. You can even use 9 and 3 o'clock to turn.

Only the last right hand turn needs a little effort. I start the last straightaway at the bottom of the track (left side) and as I approach the turn, I start it early, you should not need to overturn the car.

If you do, it will slow you down. But, It is a lot more fun to over-steer... You can even make the car do a 360 in a strait line.

 

I don't know about the overlays... I never used them with the exception of the first few times I played horse racing and utopia. After a few times, you don't need them.

What they were great for was protecting your controllers from people that just did not understand you don't need to dig a nail into a button! I use the pad of my 2 thumbs. That is it.

The buttons are very intuitive and laid out the same in almost every game.

 

A super pro Auto Racing is on my wish list! Motocross is a good game. I don't think it is to slow. I could be faster! Start your games with the disc... That is the fasted speed on almost every game.

An exception or 2 may exist... I always use the disc. To play slower, I think it is 1 is the slowest then 2,3,4 and finally disc is the fastest. Like I said, I use the disc, so I don't remember the progression.

 

Mud Buggies... WHY??? Why did you not include realistic steering? Unless.. I didn't get a manual with it, so... Could be a case of RTFM.

 

Oh, overlays.. I remember Space Battle, I needed the overlay for a few weeks LOL, but I was 10. I haven't played that game in 15-20 years and I could play it. I would not remember squadron colors by button, but I could still play it with no problem. I would know the colors, when I deployed them! Hmmm, might have to dig that one out! I started making a version for the TI99 a few years back, but never finished it. I also, did not check the colors back then either! I remember getting into a conversion about the keyboard layout.. deploy, engage and return to base was.. 1,4,7 : 2,5,8 : 3,6,9 I got feedback to use 123 : 456 : 789

I guess I see it both ways. I wanted the radar screen to have sonar pinging etc. But never polished it up.

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Sadly, stadium mud buggies doesn't have realistic steering. It does have an interesting way to shift gears which I like.

 

In Auto Racing you can easily do track 5 in the white car. In the white car, you are less likely to oversteer and lose control but it's slow.

 

I never realised this but Auto Racing does use exec speeds. The instructions incorrectly says press any key to start, but pressing keypad 1/2/3 will start auto racing at a slow speed. Often people new to intellivision will press kp1 to start and play at a slower speed. There's no reason to play any intellivision game slower than normal speed so like 1980gamer says, with these cartridges, press disc at the titlescreen.

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Finally, part two of this two-part series is complete!  There are 24 summaries this time, which added to the 19 (really 17) from the first list, completes my Intellivision Game Opinion Summaries list so far.

 

Before I begin though, I got two new games, one from the part of the alphabet covered last time and one added to the second half, and also got an IntelliVoice speech synthesizer addon, so I will begin with new summaries of the two IntelliVoice game summaries from part one because I can play the games now, then the new game, and then the second half of the new summaries.  The IntelliVoice is a nice unit because it outputs the speech through your TV, not from a speaker on the box like some synthesizers then did such as the Odyssey 2 one, and can do multiple different voices, which is a nice touch in the games.  Unfortunately, only four games plus one Intellivision Computer Module game support it at all, which is disappointing.  Why didn't any of the later titles optionally support the IntelliVoice, with voices added here and there if you have one, like a bunch of O2 games do with the O2 The Voice?  But no, games either require it or don't support it at all, unfortunately.  So, it's a $20 addon for four games, which isn't great but is probably worth it for the low cost.

 

Or read this on my website with a bit nicer formatting: http://www.blackfalcongames.net/?p=1239

 

Table of Contents

 

B-17 Bomber
Bomb Squad
Frogger
Microsurgeon
Mission X
Motocross (aka Moto-Cross)
Night Stalker
Pinball (1983)
Safecracker
Sea Battle
Sharp Shot
Skiing (Tele-Games ver. of US Ski Team Skiing)
Snafu
Space Armada
Space Battle
Space Hawk
Space Spartans
Star Strike
Tennis
Triple Action
Tron: Deadly Discs
Vectron
Venture
Zaxxon

The Summaries

 


B-17 Bomber - One player, IntelliVoice addon required. B-17 Bomber is a flight simulator, a fairly impressive thing for an early '80s game. In probably the first attempt at a "realistic" flight simulator on a console, you control a B-17 bomber during World War II. Your mission is to choose a target in occupied Europe, fly to your destination, bomb the site, and return alive. This will be pretty hard, though! With many different jobs to control all at once, including four gunners, pilot, navigator, and bomber, challenging enemies which can very easily permanently knock out your gun turrets, tricky bombing, and limited fuel, finishing even a short-range run in this game is tough indeed. This is yet another game that's extremely impressive for the time, but may be hard to go back to today.

 

To start, you choose a target on a map. There are different kinds of targets, including airfields, factories, and more. Closer targets will be easier to deal with, ones deeper into Europe harder, of course. Then, you set the acceleration up and then switch to the pilot's seat and take off. The whole map is rendered in 3d, impressively. The framerate is very low of course, but that's to be expected, this game is a fully 3d flight game, on the Intellivision! The manual is invaluable here, by the way, you need it to know what to do. I don't have an overlay for this game, but fortunately do have a manual. Once you reach Europe, enemy fighters will come at you, and a voice sample will tell you which direction they're coming from. It's quite useful. Then, you switch to that gun, and will need to try to shoot them down before they hit your turrets, which you have one of on each side of the plane. Finally, a pre-crash flight combat game where the turret-style flight combat actually makes sense! I found hitting the enemy fighters frustratingly hard, though, and you have no margin for error: if you miss the enemy fighters will shoot your turret in notime, and if a turret gets hit even once that's it, you lose it for the rest of the run. That's maybe too harsh, but oh well. You'll need to navigate by looking at the map every so often, there aren't on-screen indicators telling you where to go to get to your target, by the way. Once you get there, you can switch to bombing view, and try to drop bombs with the right timing so you hit the target. Bombing is not too hard, but you only have a short window over the target. Then, you'll need to try to turn around and fly back, though good luck with that, in my tries I didn't have even close to enough fuel to get back.

 

With practice you'll get better, of course, but while this is a pretty cool game for the time, with complex gameplay and the IntelliVoice for very helpful voice samples in different voices for enemy warnings, various stations, and more, the core gameplay is simple and challenging. The turret-shooting sequences are more frustrating than fun, I think. Still, if you have the hardware and a manual take a look, B-17 Bomber's interesting. Hard and dated, but interesting for sure. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Bomb Squad - One player, IntelliVoice required. Another one of the four games requiring the IntelliVoice speech synthesizer, this one is a bomb-defusing puzzle game where you follow voice commands as you try to defuse each bomb. In this somewhat imposingly difficult game, you've got a lot to do to defuse the bomb. First you choose a difficulty, with three speeds and up to three numbers to find available. Even on the slowest speed and only needing one number, though, at first this game is tough! I'm sure that it gets easier with experience, but good memorization skills will be required to be good at this game. Once you choose the difficulty, a grid of numbers appears, with each number broken up into an 8x4 grid of spaces, fitting with the number of LEDs used to display the numbers. You then choose a space that you want to know the status of, hit the correct button, and you go into a puzzle.

 

Next, you'll see a screen with a lot of wires and circuitry on it, and some objects on the board that you can interact with. Then the Intellivoice will tell you the order you need to replace or remove some of those pieces in. You'll need to memorize this order and what you need to do in each one; you can press a button to have it repeat the instructions, but this uses time, of course. Having a voice tell you this is a great use of the voice unit, it works very well. Next, you use your tools to remove those chips and replace them with what's needed. Accessed with face buttons, you've got cutting scissors, grabber pliers, a soldering iron, and a fire extinguisher. First you cut out the object you're removing. Voice instructions will helpfully tell you to move up, left, right, and such, to get your object correctly centered to make the cut. Again, that is great use of the voice unit here; this game wouldn't work well without it. Next you switch to the pliers, grab the chip, take it out, and drop it off the field on the right. Now, you interact with side buttons, and while most Intellivision games duplicate the buttons on the left and right sides of the controller for left or right handed players, this game doesn't do that; grab is on the left and drop on the right. It's a bit odd, but the game is slow-paced enough that I guess it works. Before you drop it make note of the shape and color of the object, though, because when replacing, you need to replace each part with one that matches its color or shape. Next, put the right part in, solder in the wires connecting it to the board -- don't forget this step! -- and then move on to the next part that needs dealing with. Once all parts on a board are fixed, you hit a number button to return to the main screen, and choose another space. It's a slow process. You can move the cursor faster by holding the upper button, but still this is a slow-paced and very memorization-heavy game.

 

All this time, a timer is counting down. On the slowest setting you have a half hour. Once you think that you know the number code, or are almost out of time and have to try anyway, you can try to guess the code to disarm the bomb. If you get the code right, you win and save the day, but if you're wrong the bomb goes off and blows up the city. There's a little animation to end the game showing those results. Overall, Bomb Squad is a pretty interesting and experimental puzzle game, but I don't find it very fun, so far anyway; the ticking timer makes the game very tense, and I find it hard to keep everything memorized. I've watched a video of a good player playing the hardest mode of this game well, and it's quite impressive but I doubt I ever could be that good. The gameplay is all rote memorization and repetition, too. You go through the same steps with every part, slowly removing and replacing it, and it gets repetitive. Bomb Squad is very interesting and is definitely worth a look, but some will like the gameplay loop more than others and I'm not sure that I will play this game a lot more.


Frogger - One player. Frogger is one of the more popular arcade games of the early '80s. In this simple but quite fun game, you play as a frog, trying to get across a road and dangerous river to the safe ground on the other side. You move left and right, dodging cars and trying to not fall in the water in your quest to get all of the frogs across the road. Originally by Konami, the early home ports of Frogger were made by Parker Bros., this version included. Parker Bros. released many more games on Atari 2600 and 5200 than Intellivision, but did have six Intellivision releases, including this one. And very much like the Atari 5200 version, this game is a tale of contrasts. In particular, the contrast between the reasonably nice-looking representation of this arcade classic on the one hand, and the frustratingly poor, imprecise controls on the other. The graphics here are probably closer to the Atari 2600 version than the 5200, but still, they look good. However, the circle pad, like the Atari 5200 joystick, is kind of awful for arcade games like this that demand precision! Sure, most of the time I make the move I intended to make in this game, but I'm sure to accidentally make a wrong move sometimes, and the controller is more at fault than me, I think. Getting into the far-left top spot is particularly difficult in this version, it seems, more so than it probably should be. Frogger is a great game and this is mostly a good version of the game, with nice graphics and accurate audio, but the barely serviceable to bad controls really bring it down. Overall Frogger for Intellivision is not recommended because of the controls. Stick to versions on platforms with accurate digital controls.


Microsurgeon - One player. Microsurgeon is a fascinating, but extremely slow-paced, early twinstick shooter from Imagic. Yes, this is a twin-stick shooter! This game has a very interesting concept: you control a miniscule robotic drone, and fly around inside a human body to destroy ailments. You can choose different patients, which all look identical but vary in difficulty, as the number of illnesses increases with each difficulty level. Oddly, you do not continue to fix multiple patients in each game' instead, once a patient is saved or dies that's it, the game ends. You will need to start a new game with a different patient to challenge the harder levels. It works. The controls are done pretty well, though they take some getting used to. You use two controllers, and move with one disc while shooting with the other. Buttons on one of the pads switch between your three different weapons... that is, I mean medicines, that you can shoot. You need to select the correct type of medicine for each different ailment. Which one to use for each illness is listed in the manual. Another button lists the health status of all body parts on screen, so you know where to go, presuming you know where in the body each of those parts is that is.

 

This game may seem like a lot at first, but Microsurgeon is actually a somewhat simple game once you get used to it. Using your little drone, you move around the body, going to the damaged organs and fixing them by shooting the bad cells with the correct kinds of medicines until the organ is healed. While you do this, the body will try to destroy the intruder by sending white blood cells and such at you; try not to kill too many of those, if you can. Microsurgeon is an interesting game, but you move excruciatingly slowly. You move more quickly in blood vessels or other passages, and very slowly if going through organ walls and the like, but either way you move very slow. This helps keep the tension up, and makes games last a reasonable amount of time, which is important for a game where the whole body only takes a couple of screens, but can make it feel boring, as you slowly edge around towards those damaged organs so you can shoot the bad things in them. This game has a great idea and it is good, and is definitely innovative for the time, but the slow pacing keeps it from staying fun, I think. Microsurgeon was only also released on one other platform, the TI 99/4A computer. That version is better, with higher-res graphics and on-screen patient status and minimap displays, but the core gameplay is the same.

 


Mission X - This is another port of a Data East arcade game, along with Burger Time and Lock 'n Chase. For some reason Data East was the only arcade company Mattel got rights to at the time, I wonder why; I guess Atari and Coleco locked down all the other big ones? Anyway, this game is a vertical scrolling shmup, but it has a height component, you can fly up and down... which naturally makes hitting flying enemies in front of you nearly impossible, since judging height is not going to happen. Fortunately, most targets are on the ground; you spend most of this game bombing Xevious-style, at a target in front of your ship which moves forward or back depending on your altitude. It's neat to see a scrolling shmup from '82, but this game gets old fast. The height component is a real issue too, one which makes this game much harder to deal with than regular shmups, when you're fighting planes and not only ground targets.

 

That most of the targets are on the ground isn't the greatest either though, as you need to be very precise to hit them with your bombs, making hitting them frustratingly difficult. I never have really liked this style of bombing in shmups, either here, in Xevious, or elsewhere; the set forward distance you can bomb at is no fun! This game tries to deal with that by letting you bomb closer when you're at lower altitude and farther forwards when you're at higher altitude, and that does work, but you still need to be very precise to hit your often small little targets. And while it'[s helpful for bombing, again the height component makes fighting those initially few airborne foes very difficult, so this kind of design has issues either way. ANyway, though, Mission X is an okay game, but with sometimes frustrating gameplay and almost no variety, it has some issues. I like shmups, but these very early scrolling shooters often aren't my thing; I don't love most Atari 2600 scrolling shooters either, Vanguard and such. Mission X is an interesting and perhaps influential game for the time, but ultimately is average, I think. Arcade port.


Motocross (aka Moto-Cross) - One or two player simultaneous. Motocross is a slightly newer overhead racing game. And like Auto Racing, the controls are a bit tricky. Motocross takes what Auto Racing did and makes a more complex experience out of it, with rolling hilly terrain, an AI opponent to race against if you want, and a track editor. The game also has both car-relative or camera-relative control options, so anyone should find one they prefer. Whether it's better than Auto Racing is a matter of opinion, though, because this is another game which may have tried to do too much for its hardware, as the framerate is excruciatingly low, and figuring out the terrain undulations can be pretty difficult at this resolution! Additionally, the method this game uses to make both bikes visible is problematic. In this game, there is no split screen. Instead, both bikers are on a single screen together, and if one person gets too far ahead they stop, and will not be able to move forwards again until the other poerson has caught up a bit. This can lead to incredibly annoying games of tug-of-war, as the person behind tries to catch up, gets a little forwards, then instantly is pushed back thanks to the person in first now being able to move again, leading to both stopping and starting repeatedly unless the one ahead slows down to let the other person catch up... which means you might get passed, of course, since you can't take a real lead. When this happens it's not much fun. I have played newer racing games that use a similar method to this, such as Moto Roader on the Turbografx, and it's frustrating there as well. Micro Machines' solution, with a points system, is a far better one.

 

Despite the issues, though, I do appreciate the AI opponent option. The AI tries to stick to a good line so they are a reasonable challenge, and having someone to race against adds quite a bit to this game over Auto Racing, even with the issue I outlined above. I have always much preferred racing against opponents, rather than pure time-trials. But with its extremely low framerate, choppy gameplay, simple track-layout design that struggles to hold your interest through the relatively long laps of each race, and sometimes annoying way leads are handled, Motocross is at best only slightly better than Auto Racing. I'm not constantly going off the track in this game like I do in Auto Racing, and again I like racing against someone, but while it's an interesting early take on motorcycle racing which does things I haven't seen in any other pre-crash racing games, Motocross is a bit below average. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Night Stalker - One player. Night Stalker is a slow-paced single screen topdown shooter. This game plays a bit like a slower-paced and deliberate, and slightly stealthy, take on Berzerk or Wizard of Wor, except sort of like in some other games like Turtles, before you can fire you need to get ammo by picking up gun powerups. Yes, you start out with none, and they will randomly spawn around the maze as you go. You play as a little guy in the classic Intellivision style, and move around a single-screen maze, collecting ammo and shooting bats, spiders, and robots. The graphics are nicely drawn, with creepy enemies and an environment made of black walls and a blue background, with some nice touches like a large spider-web in one corner. There is only one screen, unfortunately, though; multiple screens would have been nice. The gameplay is good, but extremely repetitive. This may be a maze game, but unlike Pac-Man and most other games in the genre, not only is the game endless like most such games, but there aren't even discreet levels. Instead, you just go around the screen, collecting ammo and shooting things, as the game slowly gets tougher as more and harder enemies appear, until you die too many times and get Game Over.

 

So, your little guy will explore the one-screen maze, get gun powerups, shoot enemies, and repeat. You get points for killing enemies, and that is the only way to score here; there are no pickups that get you points, unlike most maze games, but like Berzerk, this is a pure shooter. Your movement speed is somewhat slow, so you will need to think ahead to avoid the shots the robot will shoot at you, giving this game adifferent feel from Wizard of Wor or Berzerk. The challenge level is fairly well-balanced, as it starts easy but gets hard as you go, but the very simple gameplay and lack of any alternate screens makes this game very repetitive, though. Sure, it has nice creepy graphics and okay to good gameplay, but the gameplay loop doesn't have enough to it, I think. I'm not a big fan of Berzerk either, it's just a bit too simplistic and makes me wish that there was a point to your quest beyond just playing until you lose, but at least there the maze changed on each screen. Here it's always the same, and having to go pick up ammo all the time is both bad and good; it does add complexity, but running out of ammo can be frustrating. Overall Night Stalker is a fairly highly-regarded game on the Intellivision, but I don't think I will be going back very often; it's too repetitive and just killing things for points until you die isn't enough of a purpose to keep me playing this long-term. Still, it is good, if you don't mind the slow pace. There is also an Atari 2600 version of the game, under the title Dark Cavern. It's not quite the same as the Intellivision game, with worse graphics and less complex enemies and such, so while it's an okay, average game, the Intellivision version is a bit better. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Pinball (1983) - One player. I had pretty low expectations for this game because the other pinball games I have played on consoles from the '70s are pretty bad, particularly in their physics, but Pinball surprised me. Going far beyond pinball games on the 2600 or Odyssey 2, not only does this game have multiple screens and some solidly good table design, but for the time the ball physics are actually decent. And yes, there are even two different screens in the table, instead of just one! The table here even kind of looks like a pinball table, too, except stretched horizontally of course. The graphics aren't amazing, but looks alright, and having multiple screens is a big advantage over other pinball console games of the time. The game controls well, with the expected controls with a flipper on each side and tilt buttons, and is reasonably fun to play. Figuring out the scoring options, how to get to the second screen, and such are fun and will keep you coming back for a while. Pinball is a pretty limited game from a modern pinball game standpoint, but for the pre-crash era it is probably the best pinball console game I have played. The game usually is not as cheap as a lot of Intellivision games are, but it's a pretty good game and released later in the system's initial run, so perhaps not as many copies sold as did for earlier games. Pinball for Intellivision is well worth playing if you like pinball, to see a console pinball game that does about as much as one could in this era. That isn't saying all that much, pinball physics were not properly possible yet and this holds this game back for sure, but it's something. Do try Pinball if you can. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Safecracker - One player. Safecracker is an interesting, but strange, Intellivision-exclusive Imagic game where you play as a spy, breaking into safes all over a city. This pretty good-looking game has two elements, driving and safecracking. You start the game with 7, 8, or 9, for Easy, Medium, or Hard. Once you begin, first you drive around the city, going to a building the game directs you to. The directions are obtuse, as the game has a colored border that changes colors based on which direction you need to go at each intersection, so you'd better have that manual to know which color means which direction. This is definitely confusing until you get used to it, and after more than a few games I still can't; even after looking up the manual online, the whole colors-for-directions thing is very confusing, and figuring out which buildings you're actually going to is quite annoyingly difficult. At first you're looking for Embassies, which have diamond-shaped windows. You need to pull over by the diamond windows, stop, and hit Enter to go in and try to take on the safe. It's easy to miss the buildings and wander around lost, though; these directions are hard to follow and don't make much sense.

 

Additionally, the turning controls are odd -- you don't turn with the circle, but by holding the lower button and then hitting left or right on the circle to turn. You cycle between directions as you tap left or right while holding the button, or turn around by hitting down while hitting the button. This is also confusing and poorly thought trhough. Using the circle on its own moves you around in the lane, to avoid oncoming civilian traffic or the police. The controls work, awkwardly, but could be better. The graphics are nice, though, and the large city scrolls well, better than in Auto Racing or Motocross I would say. It's a little jerky and there are only a handful of buildings that repeat, but looks great. You're just driving at first, but as you progress, the police will try to stop your car. You can shoot back at them to get them out of your way. I only wish this nice engine was running a driving game that's fun to play... oh well.

 

If you manage to find your next target building and stop at it, your spy will enter, and you're faced with the other part of the game: the titular safe-cracking. Here, you need to figure out what number will open the safe, giving you its contents. You hit one side button to quickly make numbers scroll by, and when it passes the target number it'll beep. Get close and then get to the number by increasing the count by one with the other button, and you'll unlock the safe. There is a tight time limit, so this can be tricky. If you want, there is a TNT button (on the overlay, it's 4 I think) that will destroy regular safes, giving you the contents but alerting the police and not giving you a Treasury number. Either way, you return to your car and follow the directions to drive to your hideout in town, where you see your score and such. You then move on to the next target building, using the same process, but with more numbers to guess and police to avoid. Your goal is to get four numbers from other safes that unlock the safe in the Treasury building in the city. Crack that safe and the game probably ends. I haven't gotten anywhere remotely near that far though, sadly. Safecracker has a good concept and engine, but the bad driving controls and very confusing directions make this a game to probably avoid, unfortunately, unless you have a lot of patience for this kind of thing.


Sea Battle - Two players required. This is a sadly two-player-only naval strategy game. It looks pretty interesting and is way above anything like this on Atari, so it's really unfortunate that they didn't make any AI for the game. The game plays on a single screen, and two players, each with a fleet, move ships around in an effort to defeat the other player's fleet and take their base. The map is well-drawn and looks good. This game is a strategy game much more so than it is action, so it takes some learning to figure out how to play, but if you have someone to play against and know how, it looks like it could be fun. Unfortunately, I won't have many opportunities to play this one because it's multiplayer only. Oh well... This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Sharp Shot - Two player simultaneous (or one player with no opponent). This very simple minigame collection looks like it was for kids based on the box, and it's pretty simplistic -- it's a one-button game where you just need to hit the button at the right time to do something. There are four minigames on the cart. One minigame is football passing. You control the quarterback, and hit the button at the right moment to throw the ball straight ahead to an open player. In the next one, you shoot enemies in space when they fly through your target sight. Hit the button with the right timing. In the third, you are an archer, and shoot enemies with arrows. You move back and forth automatically, and have to shoot with the right timing to hit the enemies. And in the last minigame, you are a ship, shooting enemy ships with torpedoes as they move into your path. The game has okay, average graphics for the console and the four minigames give it some variety, but they are all extremely, extremely simplistic one-button affairs. If you hit the button at the right times you get points, if you don't you won't. It gets boring in minutes. This is meant as a two player only game, so the two players compete to see who got a better score, so there isn't any AI opponent. You can play solo though, if you record your best scores on paper or such. Either way it's not that good really; Sharp Shot had an idea, but is too simple and boring to be any good. It may be amusing for a couple of minutes, but even back then I'm sure you can find much better kids' games than this. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Skiing (Tele-Games ver. of US Ski Team Skiing) - One or two player alternating. Skiing is another game which shows Mattel's focus on making the Intellivision the home for more realistic and complex games, when compared to the Atari 2600. So, where skiing games for Atari or the Odyssey 2 are very simple ski-straight-down affairs where you just move left and right to stay in the gates, Intellivision Skiing has much trickier controls and much improved graphics. Does that make for better gameplay, though? Well, maybe, or maybe not. First, like those games, there is no AI opponent here; either you take turns with another human, or you're only competing against yourself to see what best times you can get in each of the several ski racing modes available. The game does have those more realistic controls, though, and while that makes it different, it also means that turning is a lot harder than in those other skiing games. You'll need to turn hard and accurately to make the turns, and will slow down to a crawl if you don't turn correctly. You can jump and slow down with the side buttons, and will need to do both at the right times, but correctly angling your skiier with the disc is the most important challenge. You will need to memorize each course in order to do well at all, as you do need to have some sense of where the gates are to be able to make them in good time.

 

The game is okay, but this is another game where the disc controller makes for tougher controls than you'd have on a d-pad, as it's just not precise at all. You need to be exactly lined up with the gates in order to make them and not have to stop and lose all your speed, but turn just a little too much and oops, you stopped anyway. Once you get used to it the game plays okay, but where Activision's Skiing for Atari 2600 is a very simple but fun little game, the slightly more simmish style here has probably aged worse; it's not actually realistic, it's just enough so to be a lot less fun until you put more time into it. The game looks alright though, with nicely drawn trees and such. In gameplay, however, this is another average game for this system. Seeing a slightly more realistic take on skiing from 1980 is interesting, but the controls can be frustrating and the pace slow. The game does have speed options, but it always feels a little slow. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Snafu - One or two player simultaneous. Snafu is Mattel's take on the classic game Snake, except in multiplayer, against human and/or computer opposition. The game has a bunch of diffent modes, and is somewhat impressive. In fact, this game is my favorite Intellivision game that I've played so far. So, being a Snake-inspired game, Snafu is a lot like Surround on Atari 2600 -- think Tron's Light Cycles, but before that, and with up to four players on screen. Yes, four. You can compete against three AIs at a time, and indeed that is the default, which is pretty awesome. No "multiplayer only" disappointment here! There is also a two human and two AI mode, for multiplayer play. As in the games that inspired it, in Snafu each player controls a moving dot which represents a vehicle, and which leaves a trail behind it. Everyone is always moving, and if a vehicle runs into any players' trails, or another player, they are destroyed and their trails are removed from the board. So, as players lose the board opens up, though whether the remaining players can capitalize on that depends on their situation.

 

The core gameplay here is always the same, try to be the last one alive, but Snafu has many variations on that basic theme present that you can play. The modes include simpler ones with only the regular four-direction movement of most games in this genre, and some with eight-direction movement, which is a lot to get used to in a snake game; I've never used eight-direction movement in a snake or lightcycle game before, I don't think! But it's here, and it's pretty interesting. There are also variations for how many obstacles are on the screen from the start, from none to quite a few. Once you select amode, you select how many wins it will take to get an overall winner. Then, you play that mode, with each player, or computer, getting a point for each win until one reaches the target number. With that the game is over and that competitor wins. There is sadly no championship or anything, only single games that end once a player wins after which you select a new mode to play, but still, for a game this early Snafu is pretty feature-rich; that kind of thing became more common later on.

 

The game controls fairly well, and the Intellivision disc gives you good control of your direction, but eight directions in this genre is more than I've seen before and it is hard to get used to at first. It is probably advisable to stick to the more traditional four-direction modes at first to get used to the game. They are also a lot of fun, and play like you'd expect. Then, after a while, try the weirder stuff like 8-direction mode. You can pass through a diagonal trail if you're heading on the right diagonal angle to it, so this adds a lot of strategy to the game. I like Snake and Tron lightcycle games quite a bit, and this is a very good one, with features I haven't seen elsewhere and some good competitive gameplay. Once you get used to the 8-direction movement on the disc, the additional movement options it opens up make for some fun and challenging gameplay, which allows you to escape from certain death... or run into even more walls, depending. The other gameplay options are interesting to play around with also, to have a simpler or more obstacle-filled screen for example. Snafu is a very good game, and it is definitely recommended. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Space Armada - One player. Space Armada is Mattel's take on Space Invaders, one of the most popular games of the time. It's not as good as Space Invaders, though -- there are fewer aliens, very few modes, and a big programming problem here, unfortunately. The game plays well enough at first, just like Space Invaders: you move left and right, and shoot upwards with a button. However, perhaps due to the system's low resolution, there may only be a few rows of aliens, but they start pretty close to you so it gets hard quickly. The game mixes things up as you go on with invisible enemies sometimes, too. You'll need to kill all of the invisible enemies before they reach the bottom or you lose. You have a bunch of lives, but if an enemy reaches the bottom it's an instant game over, as with Space Invaders. Space Armada is fun, but the difficulty balance is very poor, as the game gets almost impossibly hard very quickly -- not too far into the game, the enemies start so low on the screen that it becomes effectively impossible to win. I'd recommend playing the versions of Space Invaders on the Atari 2600 or 5200 instead, the 2600 version's graphics aren't as good but the gameplay is much better and there are a lot more modes and options there. The enemies in Space Invaders don't start as close to the ground as they do here, either. Space Armada is a very cheap game maybe worth having if you have the system and see it for a dollar like I did, but don't expect much; it's average to bad, due to the difficulty. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.

 


Space Battle - One or two player alternating. Space Battle is a first-person space shooting game with a simpler strategic component that separates it from other games like this on other platforms. The first-person space shooting game was a relatively popular one, and this is Mattel's take on it. First, you choose a difficulty, from several available. This game has two screens, the map view and battles. On the map view, you are defending a starbase that is under attack. You have three fleets of fighters to send at the enemies that approach from the edges of the screen, and your controller buttons will order fleets to head towards different enemy groups. The controls are a little tricky, but eventually kind of make sense. I had trouble at first figuring out how to get your fleets to go where I want, but the way it works is that some keypad buttons select the fleet you're controlling, then other buttons change targets and tell them to head towards the currently-selected enemy. You can't send fleets to specific points, unfortunately, only towards enemies. Once one of your fleets and an enemy one collide, a battle begins. You fight the battle yourself by hitting another keypad button; it isn't automatic. Again, the controls are clumsy.

 

Once you do take command, you'll find a fairly standard for the time first-person space shooting game. Like many Intellivision space games there is a nice starfield background, but the gameplay is familiar Atari-like stuff. As per usual for space combat games from the pre-crash era, this game may look like you're in a space fighter, but really it's just a target-shooting game, you don't move your ship around. Instead, just move the cursor and fire when you think you will hit an enemy, as the enemy ships zoom around in front of you. It's simple stuff, but works. While you fight, it is important to note, the rest of the game is still progressing, so other fleets will advance. You can return to the map screen at any time with the press of a key, and may need to if another fleet is getting close to the center and you need to try to stop them more than the one you are currently fighting. It's a solid concept for the time and can be fun.

 

However, this is one of those 2nd-gen games that's over in minutes. Either you'll win and defeat all the enemy fleets, or lose and die, but either way there's only one level then the game ends. Again the game does have multiple difficulty options to add some playtime, thankfully, but still this game is very short, and the default difficulty is very easy, I won in only a few tries. The higher settings are tougher, but still this is not a challenging game. Most 2nd-gen games that aren't endless are like this, second gen games usually either never end or are absurdly short. Oh well; the industry was young and people didn't know what would work yet, and making games in the tiny amounts of memory they were allowed is difficult. The strategy bit about aiming fleets around is interesting, though the controls are a bit confusing, and the shooting works fine, but it's nothing special. Overall Space Battle can be fun, but is average. Also on Atari 2600 under the title Space Attack, though as usual the graphics are better and controls more complex here. The starfield background looks nice on this version, and it's a better game on Intellivision. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Space Hawk - One player. Space Hawk is another game inspired by Asteroids, but unlike Astrosmash, this game takes its inspiration in gameplay and not just graphics. In Space Hawk, you're a person in a space suit with a jetpack, and fly around in search for the Space Hawks. You can fly around endlessly in any direction, looking at the Intellivision-style starfield scrolling behind you, but don't actually go anywhere, really; the Space Hawks will come at you regardless of which direction you go, so the movement element is just for avoiding their fire and such and not for exploring a level. You will be attacked by one Space Hawk at a time, and it will fly around, on and off the screen, shooting expanding shots that look a whole lot like rocks at you. Huh, I wonder where they got that idea from... heh. And like Asteroids you do have a momentum system, though here you can turn it off with the press of a keypad button, if you prefer the much simpler default game. It's probably a better game with momentum on, as I found the game too simple otherwise. I've never loved Asteroids' momentum system, but it is better than the alternative, as this shows.

 

Unfortunately, what this game also shows is that it's hard to make a good Asteroids game, and they didn't quite manage it here. The rocks that the Space Hawk is shooting get in the way between you and them, so you will need to choose between shooting the rocks and thus protecting yourself, or trying to fly around to get a shot a the Hawk itself. It's a decent mechanic, but sadly you will only ever face one Space Hawk at a time. This makes for a very simplistic game. It does get harder as you survive longer, but you're only ever fighting the same Space Hawks, shooting the same things at you, throughout. Once you shoot a Space Hawk enough to kill it, another one will come at you, in an endless loop until you eventually die. That may sound simple, but the game has tricky and somewhat original controls, for good and ill. You move with the disc, and aim and fire with the keypad, essentially, to fire in any direction. The Intellivision doesn't support pressing a button while you are also pressing on the disc, though, so control is a bit clumsy. Between that and the very slow, one-enemy-at-a-time design, Space Hawk looked cool at first glance and I was looking forward to trying it, but I got tired of it very quickly and don't find it very fun. This is another average-at-best Intellivision game with flawed, and somewhat slow, gameplay that is okay, but does not hold up to the better shooting games on other consoles. Space Hawk is not bad, but is not good either. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Space Spartans - One player. IntelliVoice Required. Space Spartans is essentially Mattel's take on Star Raiders, or, also, a more complex version of Space Battle. As in Space Battle and Star Raiders, your goal here is to defend starbases on a single-screen map. When you begin a game you place three starbases, and choose a difficulty to start from in this endless game. In each level, you need to defeat all enemy fleets without losing your starbases. Like in Space Battle but with a grid, the enemy fleets will move around the map screen, heading towards your starbases. Using a keypad combination -- the overlay is highly recommended here -- you can warp, and once you warp onto a square with enemies in it, and then hit a button to switch to battle view, you'll start that fight.

 

Battles work like all of the first-person space shooter battles I've seen on pre-crash systems, so again just like Space Battle this is a target-shooting game. Unlike Star Raiders on the 5200, you can't actually fly anywhere within each sector, either; once warped in, instead you just sit there, rotating around and firing at the enemies coming at you. Controlling your aim is slow and somewhat frustrating in this game, though; I started to get used to it with time, but faster, more precise controls would do wonders here, aiming accurately is harder than it should be. Oddly, in this game the cursor stands for your ship, because if enemy shots hit the cursor you take damage. Some other games do this, but it is a little strange; I'd expect shots in the center of the screen or such to hit me, but no, the cursor sight is their target. I find this game pretty hard. Where some other space shooting games of the time are easy enough to hit enemies in, this one's a lot tougher; the enemies move quickly, and zoom into and out of the screen as they go. You will learn their patterns with time, but this game is a lot harder than Space Battle, that's for sure! That's a good thing overall though, a harder and more complex game like that was a good idea. Also like Space Battle though, the rest of the game is progressing while you're in a battle, so you may want to warp to a different sector before defeating the enemies in one sector in order to protect a more threatened starbase. Enemy fleets will regenerate over time though, so battles can drag on if you're not good enough at hitting the enemies, as they respawn as fast as you hit them.

 

Interestingly, as you take damage you don't just fill up a damage meter, but will lose systems on your ship.  The IntelliVoice will tell you what damage you've taken and what you are repairing.  Hits will eventually take out your targeting computer, warp drive, movement thrusters, and more, leaving you a motionless lump in space once all of them pile up. I don't know that letting your ship movement get even WORSE was a good idea in a game that's as hard to control from the beginning as this one is, but it does that. Oh well. If you do manage to warp to a starbase that isn't under attack, though, you can fully heal all damage on the map screen. This requires keypad buttons, to select Repair and then the systems, followed by some time for the repairs, but is invaluable. So, protect those starbases! You're done if they are all destroyed. If you blow up all enemy ships in a level, you'll move on to a new, harder one, until eventually you lose. The game claims to be re-creating the Battle of Thermopylae in space, which makes absolutely no sense in any way other than that it's an endless hopeless fight, but... okay. Oh, as for the voice component, it's useful but not as central here as it is in B-17 Bomber or Bomb Squad. Voices will say things to you such as how many ships are left in enemy fleets, describe ship damage, and such, so it adds some nice flavor to the game, but this game would work without voice I'd think. Overall, Space Spartans is a fun game, but the frustrating controls really hold it back. Space Spartans is no competition for Solaris on the 2600, but it's is an okay game. Get it if you have an IntelliVoice, but it's probably only a bit above average overall. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Star Strike - One player. Star Strike is a simple, early rail shooter. More than just a little inspired by the original Star Wars movie, this game is essentially a game based around the Death Star trench run scene from that great classic. You fly a spaceship, flying down a trench on some artificial planet. The trench graphics are pretty cool and are this games' main selling point. You need to bomb five ships before they take off, while avoiding fire from enemy fighters which look very much like TIE Fighters and which come up behind you and shoot at you. Separate buttons shoot and bomb. The game is extremely short and simple. Two enemy fighters come up from behind you, fire three or four times, and then zoom ahead. You can shoot them if you want more points, or let them go. Either way, pairs of fighters will keep coming at you. When an audio chime sounds, the next enemy ship is coming up, and you need to hit the bomb button... from the exact right altitude to hit it. There is no in-game indication of this, so you'll just need to memorize how high off the ground you should be to hit it. At about the center of the screen you pretty much need to hit the bomb button right when the sound plays, which is before the port comes on screen, to hit. The timing is a lot tighter than that in the Atari Star Wars game.

 

As you go, your planet slowly comes into view on the top of the screen. Once it's reached the center, if any of the ships are still alive and get past you once more it will take off and destroy your planet in the distance. That's Game Over. If you do bomb them all, a short audio bit plays with a little animation and the game ends. So yes, this is another one of those very short 2nd-gen games that is over in minutes, either successfully or otherwise. The scoring system is simple too, the score slowly decreases over time and hitting enemy fighters increases it a bit. So, there is a maximum score. The game present some challenge, since you need to learn the height to be at when bombing, and there are five difficulty levels to make the game harder than the pretty easy default setting, but it's a very simple game with no variety and only okay controls and gameplay. This game is average stuff; Atari's take on it in the Star Wars arcade game, or the Parker Bros. home ports of that game on the 2600, 5200, and Colecovision, are better than this. That game has more variety, more stages than just one, and better controls and gameplay. Still, Mattel's take on the Death Star trench run is okay enough to be worth playing a few times, before the repetition sets in. Also available on Atari 2600, with worse graphics there of course. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Tennis (for Intellivision) - Two Player Simultaneous. Two Players Required. This game is a good, but sadly two player only, take on tennis. Tennis has nice visuals with a side-view perspective, good controls, and a reasonably accurate take on Tennis for the time. Going far beyond Pong, in this game you'll need to serve accurately and hit a button to hit the ball, it won't automatically hit balls near your player. If you have two people who learn the game, I'm sure it would make for some exciting games, but the absence of a computer opponent means I'll almost never be touching it, unfortunately. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Triple Action - One player (the racing game) and two player only (the tank and plane games). This three-in-one cart contains three small games, two two player only and one one player only. First, there's another Combat knockoff, which like Armor Battle is two player only and plays a lot like Combat but once again not as good as the Atari original. The graphics are better than Combat, but it can't match it in options, and it is still two player only. Next, there's a pretty decent little vertically-scrolling straight-road racing game where you try to get as far as you can, scoring a point for each car you pass successfully. You move left or right to dodge oncoming cars on a two-lane road. This kind of game was popular and games like this appear on many formats, though the one I've played the most is probably Speedway! on Odyssey 2. I like that game more, but this is also fun. And last, there is a two player only biplane flight combat game, where you get a point for each time you shoot down the other plane or they crash. For some reason in the flying game, up on the disc makes you fly upwards and down flies you downwards, so the game doesn't use flight controls unfortunately. I'm used to flying games having flight controls so this is confusing. You can shoot and change your speed, and have to be careful because stalling and crashing is very easy. This mode seems like it'd be fun with two people, for a few minutes here and there.

 

On the whole this cart is not great for one player, but the one single player game, the racing one, is kind of fun so it's alright I guess if you get it for a really low price like I did. The other two also look decent, particularly the flying one, if you have two players. This feels like a game that should have been a pack-in with the system, but it wasn't, and indeed it didn't release until several years into the systems' life. I'm not sure what the point of this was, then. There already was a Combat knockoff on the system, and the other two are pretty simple little games which are amusingly fun but hardly essential. This is another average Intellivision release. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Tron: Deadly Discs - One player. Tron Deadly Discs is one of three, yes three, Tron games that Mattel released on their console. This is the only one of the three I have, though I would like to get the other two. Tron: Solar Sailer, particularly, is interesting as it's the fourth of the IntelliVoice games. As for Deadly Discs, though, it is inspired by the disc arena section from the film. You play as Tron, and defend free programs by defeating an endless succession of evil programs coming at you in this single-screen arena, or something like that. Or in gameplay terms, you move around the screen, which looks a bit like an arena, and try to hit the enemy programs with your disc while not taking too many hits from theirs. The concept of an action game based on the disc battle is a good one, but this game has some issues and is, unfortunately, kind of boring, particularly on lower difficulty settings. The character graphics are nice enough and the Recognizers that come on screen every so often look like they should, but I find the game boring.

 

The game does some interesting things for the time, though -- it's another early twin-stick game, as you move with the stick and fire with the keypad -- but these controls are far from Robotron. Because, again, the Intellivision only supports one input from a controller at a time, you have to stop to fire, and then can only shoot one disc at a time, in eight directions, and have to wait quite a while for it to return to you. You can call back your disc, but Microsurgeon's two-controller free firing feels better. Regardless though, this game is too slow to be fun for long. And not only that, but the disc will only hurt enemies on the way out, but always goes all the way to the other edge of the screen! So, after every shot, hit or miss, you've got to wait a long time for the disc to hit a wall or stop once you let go of the button and get all the way back to you before you can finally try to hit them again. Also, this is another Intellivision game which runs slowly. At least as far as I've gotten so far, everything about this game is a bit slow-moving. I'm sure it eventually gets hard, but aiming shots with the keypad is kind of frustrating because of how long you have to wait if you miss. The slow pace of the combat isn't great. This game was also released on the Atari 2600. That version is similar but a bit worse, as shot aiming is better here and the Recognizer boss isn't in that version. I have the 2600 version and thought it was pretty average, and unfortunately the improvements here don't make it much better. That's too bad, Tron is a great movie. Also relesed on Atari 2600.


Vectron - One or two player alternating. Vectron has a really cool name and look, but also has a reputation for inscrutably confusing controls and gameplay. And indeed, yes, well, the controls are very confusing. In this action-strategy game, you move an indicator left and right along a curving path through the screen with the lower side buttons on each side of the controller, and place things on squares you so highlight with a button on the keypad. Yes, you move the cursor with the side buttons, not the circle. Instead, pressing directions on the circle will fire in the direction you press from a cannon in the top center, to take out enemies. Your goal in the game is to build up a base and defend it, but it's pretty hard to do and the controls are difficult. Even once I started to get a handle on them, having to press buttons on both sides is bad even by Intellivision controller standards; in most games you only need to use the buttons on one side of the controller and they are duplicated on both sides for left or right handed players, but not this one, you've got to use both sides, and quickly too. It's not good.

 

Anyway, in Vectron, once again you move that cursor, which the game manual calls the "energy block", building energy base sections, or orb things, in the four spaces within by shooting at the cursor and hitting it, while also shooting at enemies trying to destroy the buildings. One enemy type is invincible, so you need to shoot around it to hit the other ones trying to destroy your cursor. If you let too many base sections get destroyed or if too many enemies hit the cursor and you run out of energy, you lose a life, and three deaths and it's Game Over. You'll get Game Over quickly, because the game is very hard, and I often lose lives without knowing why. There aren't any difficulty options, either, only the one too-hard one. The game seems to probably be endless, but I haven't managed to beat a single level of the game yet so I doubt I'll know. From what I read online, getting to level five or ten is quite an accomplishment, and I believe it. Vectron has a really cool look and interestingly original gameplay, and despite the weird controls and insane difficulty I still want to like this game. I probably will play it more, but it's too flawed to be great, unfortunately; this is a decent game with issues. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Venture - One player. Venture is an arcade game from the early '80s, originally by Exidy. The home console ports were made by Coleco, this one included. Coleco's Intellivision games are often poor, but this is one of the better ones, as it contains all the content from the arcade and Colecovision versions of the game. Venture is a top-down action-adventure game, perhaps an early step towards action-adventure games like Zelda. You control a red smilie face with a bow, and go around finding treasures. Each of the three levels has an overworld screen, where you control a dot moving around between rooms while avoiding giant enemies, and four rooms, where you control the smilie face closer up, shooting at enemies before they can kill you and grabbing those treasures. Watch out though, touching a dead enemy will kill you, so stay away until after they finally dissolve fully! That's a weird quirk in this game. The enemies dissolve one pixel at a time in this version, which is cool; on Colecovision they just have a 'death' sprite that vanishes after a while, so there is one way that this is the better version. The game plays well, though the controls feel a bit less precise here than on the 2600 or Colecovision because of the Intellivision circle, I find myself walking into walls or miss enemies sometimes because of the disc. I'm sure you get used to it eventually though.

 

This is a fun game for a while, as you go around each level, killing baddies and getting treasures. There are 36 treasures to collect, as between levels the game shows your treasures through the first three loops through the game. After that the game infinitely loops stage nine, which is kind of disappointing; it means you only see one of the three levels, over and over, if you're good enough to finish the nine stages. Some classic games do things like that, but it is odd. On a related note, Venture controls well enough and plays great, but like with other games like Berzerk, it makes me wish for a goal beyond just points; I like this kind of game better when you can actually win. Unfortunately, that last level loops forever. So, Venture is fun but isn't something I'll be likely to play a lot of. Visually, Venture is simple looking but the look works well. It looks like the other versions, just with a bit of a visual downgrade compared to the Colecovision, as, as is expected.  It does still have music though, which is pretty cool.  It is very simple, but not many Intellivision games have background music.  I like that it contains all of the levels too, the Atari 2600 version doesn't and Coleco usually just ported their 2600 games over to Intellivision for their games on this system. Fortunately they did better here. Arcade port, also on Colecovision and (with only two levels) on Atari 2600. The Colecovision version is best, but this is also good.


Zaxxon - One player. From Coleco, this game is a worse port of the bad Atari 2600 version of Zaxxon. Sega's arcade version of Zaxxon was a big hit and helped popularize the isometric shooter. This Atari 2600/Intellivision version of the game isn't isometric like the arcade game or its more accurate ports, but instead is a behind-the-ship rail shooter with poor graphics and worse gameplay. The perspective has some advantages, in theory, though. The behind-the-ship view should give you a much better ability to see where the other ships are so you can hit them more accurately, and indeed it does. It's a lot easier to hit your target here than it is in regular Zaxxon. Unfortunately, it's not much of an improvement and everything else about this version of the game is a lot worse than the original. The graphics are poor, with extremely blocky visuals straight out of the Atari 2600.

 

The gameplay is slow, even slower than the Atari version. The game is also extremely simplistic. Zaxxon is a simple game, but this one's even simpler -- you just fly through the bases, avoiding walls while shooting turret enemies on the ground, and then fly through space, shooting space fighters. Rinse and repeat once you get to the next base. The game seriously lacks challenge too, as enemies are easy to avoid or shoot. Coleco has a reputation for making shoddy Atari 2600 and Intellivision games that are far worse than their Colecovision games, and this one backs that up, that's for sure. While the Intellivision may not be able to match Colecovision Zaxxon, I'm sure it can do a lot better than this boring, ugly, slow, not fun game. Skip this one. The original Zaxxon arcade game has been released on a great many platforms, but this particular behind-the-ship version is only on the Atari 2600 and Intellivision. They are both bad, but the 2600 version is probably slightly better thanks to it playing a little more quickly. Play almost any version of real Zaxxon instead of this.

 

And that is all the games I have so far.  Games I have seen for Intellivision but not purchased: Several more of the two player only sports games (Football, Basketball, Soccer), and two more Coleco games (Donkey Kong, Carnival).  I got everything at all interesting.

 

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5 hours ago, A Black Falcon said:

... You move with the disc, and aim and fire with the keypad, essentially, to fire in any direction. The Intellivision doesn't support pressing a button while you are also pressing on the disc, 

Regarding Space Hawk.  You aim with the disc, top side button to shoot, and thrust with bottom side button.  Only hyperspace is on the keypad.  You can use the side action buttons while pressing the disc at the same time.

 

You may know this but as a reminder;  with most, not all, Mattel cartridges starting a game with keypad 1, 2, or 3 will set a slower playing speed e.g. skiing, space hawk, deadly discs, night stalker.  Always start these games with the disc for normal speed.

 

There were two different Space Battle cartridges issued as there was a change in the rom to increase difficulty at all speed/levels.  The map screens look slightly different.  The updated rom also has a fifth difficulty level by starting with keypad 4.

 

The games in Sharp Shot were actually created for a TV call in game show "TV Powww".  Kids would play the game live on TV by screaming in to the phone to activate fire action, hence the single action controls.

 

Triple Action Biplanes was/is a favourite.  Never noticed it as a kid but the controls are upsidedown.  Now, I instinctively crash on takeoff.  Holding the controller upsidedown does work.

 

I pretty much agree with your assessment of Vectron.  Thanks for your post I enjoyed reading it.

 

Edit:. One tip with Vectron, move in one direction.  Avoid moving back and forth unless you have to grab an energy pak.  It's not hard to get through the first three levels.

Edited by mr_me

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Thanks for your detailed reviews. It's neat to see a first impression on these games we grew up playing and knowing so well. Some of them hold up quite well, and some really don't. 

 

In case this wasn't already pointed out, for Tron Deadly Discs you can use both controllers to avoid the simultaneous keypad/disc input block, i.e. left hand controls disc (you call it the 'circle') on left controller and right hand uses keypad on right controller. It sounds messy, but actually is quite liberating and allows you to move and shoot at the same time. Also, you don't have to wait for Tron's disc to go all the way to the edge of the screen. If you tap any keypad button in flight the disc returns to you. This feature is used all the time as you often miss targets. It might be that you are holding the keypad buttons down to launch your disc? Lastly, most seasoned players know how to consistently kill the Recognizer by standing in the correct spot (depending on where the Recognizer enters the screen from) and timing a shot to hit his eye when it is white. This is the key to big points and making the game progress faster, which not only increases the speed of gameplay but introduces different enemies. Give it another try!

 

As pointed out above, pushing the disc is the default fastest game speed when starting most Intellivision games from the start up splash screen. 

 

I never had Pinball as a kid, but have really enjoyed playing it now. It actually has three different tables, not two. 

 

There was nothing better than head to head Biplanes in Triple Action once you and your opponent knew how to climb, stall, dive, etc. The other two games are indeed shite.

 

B-17 Bomber was so great, but lacked a proper progression and ending to make it complete. The slow crawl from England to mainland Europe also was annoying. 

 

Make sure to check out the incredible Stonix homebrew. I don't even like breakout games that much but dammit I'm determined to finish all 100 levels.

 

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mr_me: ... You're right about Space Hawk, I'm not sure what I was thinking there when I wrote how the controls work.  I've fixed that on my site, but can't edit posts here unfortunately, that's an annoying limitation.

 

Here's the new second paragraph of the Space Hawk summary.  It's mostly the same but I changed the controls part.

 

Unfortunately, what this game also shows is that it's hard to make a good Asteroids game, and they didn't quite manage it here. The rocks that the Space Hawk is shooting get in the way between you and them, so you will need to choose between shooting the rocks and thus protecting yourself, or trying to fly around to get a shot a the Hawk itself. It's a decent mechanic, but sadly you will only ever face one Space Hawk at a time. This makes for a very simplistic game which feels slow, and slow-paced, even in its highest speed setting. It does get harder as you survive longer, but you're only ever fighting the same Space Hawks, shooting the same things at you, throughout. Once you shoot a Space Hawk enough to kill it, another one will come at you, in an endless loop until you eventually die. That may sound simple, but the game has tricky and somewhat original controls, for good and ill.  You aim your astronaut with the disc, thrust with one side button, and fire with the other button.  A keypad button uses hyperspace, Asteroids or Defender-style, to randomly warp out of danger, hopefully.  The controls work, but are slow.  I often wish I could use thrust and fire at the same time, but you really can't, it's one or the other it seems.  And having to aim with the disc while using side buttons for thrust feels awkward.  With very slow, one-enemy-at-a-time design, Space Hawk looked cool at first glance and I was looking forward to trying it, but I got tired of it very quickly and don't find it very fun. This is another average-at-best Intellivision game with flawed, and somewhat slow, gameplay that is okay, but does not hold up to the better shooting games on other consoles. Space Hawk is not bad, but is not good either. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.

 

 

Also, as I also edited into the summary, yeah the game plays a little faster if you start it with the disc instead of a button, but it still is slow, I think.  Part of that is the game design probably, with how there's only ever one enemy and such, not always near you...

 

Oh, and a harder version of Star Battle would be nice; though that's kind of what Space Spartans is, it is a very easy game.

Edited by A Black Falcon

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So you can beat Space Battle consistently at level four? I'd say I can beat it more often than not, but it's still challenging to me.  The easier rom has an extra dotted ring at the edge of the radar map while the updated faster rom does not; that's how you can tell which cartridge you have.

 

Regarding Space Hawk, the game may have been inspired by Asteroids but you'd be disappointed if that's what you expected.  I play Space Hawk by ignoring the bubbles and mostly chase and kill space hawks.  I do enjoy the game, however you get so many extra men that I just stop playing once I get to rainbow bubbles.

 

Intellivision controls have to be specifically programmed to support pressing two action buttons at the same time.  Intellivision Defender is one cartridge where you can fire and thrust at the same time by pressing two side action buttons.  Can't say I feel the need for or miss that feature in any other cartridge.

Edited by mr_me

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1 hour ago, mr_me said:

So you can beat Space Battle consistently at level four? I'd say I can beat it more often than not, but it's still challenging to me.  The easier rom has an extra dotted ring at the edge of the radar map while the updated faster rom does not; that's how you can tell which cartridge you have. 

 

 What do you mean, an extra dotted ring?  On my copy there are the two rings of dots in the center, then three quarters of a ring of dots around the edge; it's missing on the right side for some reason.  I presume this means it's the easier version?  I hope so, because yeah it's very easy.  I just played three games, and it's fun... until you win after like three minutes.  I just played the game and did have fun, but won three games out of four on the higher difficulties (hitting the disc and pressing "4", which the manual says is the hardest setting), only losing the first game because I'd forgotten how the somewhat odd controls work and had to look at the manual (I have the manual but not an overlay).  I did have only two ships left in the game on the highest setting, but I still did win.  But sure, it's fun, it just barely presents any challenge and games only last a couple of minutes.

 

One thing I forgot to mention in the summary is that I like how the enemy ship explosions will take out other enemies, that's cool.  I quite like how that works in UFO! for the O2.  That is a very hard game anyway, but it sure helps make this game easier.

 

Regarding Space Hawk, the game may have been

inspired by Asteroids but you'd be disappointed if that's what you expected.  I play Space Hawk by ignoring the bubbles and mostly chase and kill space hawks.  I do enjoy the game, however you get so many extra men that I just stop playing once I get to rainbow bubbles. 

 

Intellivision controls have to be specifically programmed to support pressing two action buttons at the same time.  Intellivision Defender is one cartridge where you can fire and thrust at the same time by pressing two side action buttons.  Can't say I feel the need for or miss that feature in any other cartridge. 

Ah.  In Asteroids though, being able to thrust and fire at the same time is pretty useful...

 

4 hours ago, popsicle said:

Thanks for your detailed reviews. It's neat to see a first impression on these games we grew up playing and knowing so well. Some of them hold up quite well, and some really don't. 

 

In case this wasn't already pointed out, for Tron Deadly Discs you can use both controllers to avoid the simultaneous keypad/disc input block, i.e. left hand controls disc (you call it the 'circle') on left controller and right hand uses keypad on right controller. It sounds messy, but actually is quite liberating and allows you to move and shoot at the same time. Also, you don't have to wait for Tron's disc to go all the way to the edge of the screen. If you tap any keypad button in flight the disc returns to you. This feature is used all the time as you often miss targets. It might be that you are holding the keypad buttons down to launch your disc? Lastly, most seasoned players know how to consistently kill the Recognizer by standing in the correct spot (depending on where the Recognizer enters the screen from) and timing a shot to hit his eye when it is white. This is the key to big points and making the game progress faster, which not only increases the speed of gameplay but introduces different enemies. Give it another try!

Ahh, that's how that works.  I did try using both discs, like Microsurgeon, but it didn't work so I thought the game didn't have two controller support.  That probably would make the game slightly better.  Also, yeah, I probably am holding down the buttons, I guess you shouldn't do that.  Still, that the disc can't hurt enemies on the way back is stupid.  That reminds me of 2600 Breakout/ Super Breakout, which I find boring and borderline unplayable because the ball only hits one block every time it goes up the screen, it'll just warp right through any other blocks it should bounce off of on the way back...

 

As for killing the Recognizer, I'm sure there's a trick to it but yeah I haven't figured it out.

 

4 hours ago, popsicle said:

 

As pointed out above, pushing the disc is the default fastest game speed when starting most Intellivision games from the start up splash screen. 

 

I never had Pinball as a kid, but have really enjoyed playing it now. It actually has three different tables, not two. 

 

There was nothing better than head to head Biplanes in Triple Action once you and your opponent knew how to climb, stall, dive, etc. The other two games are indeed shite.

 

B-17 Bomber was so great, but lacked a proper progression and ending to make it complete. The slow crawl from England to mainland Europe also was annoying. 

 

Make sure to check out the incredible Stonix homebrew. I don't even like breakout games that much but dammit I'm determined to finish all 100 levels.

What do you mean, progression in B-17 Bomber?  Like, some win screen if you destroyed every single enemy base or something?  That'd be a crazy hard task... really what I was wishing for was not having it destroy my turrets after like two seconds of missing the enemy fighters, though.

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35 minutes ago, A Black Falcon said:

...On my copy there are the two rings of dots in the center, then three quarters of a ring of dots around the edge; it's missing on the right side for some reason.  I presume this means it's the easier version?...

Yes, that's the original/easier rom.  The updated rom is harder at all levels and adds a fifth level.  If you get the updated cartridge, press kp4 to start level five.  (Might have said level four by mistake earlier.  The disc starts level four).

 

In B17 Bomber, after a few missions the difficulty suddenly ramps up to impossible and essentially ends the game, unsatisfactorily.  With practice you should be able to shoot down enemy fighters consistently.  Try aiming ahead/above them.  When the game gets difficult, fighters become more frequent, and you may not get the voice warning and then miss your chance to shoot them.

Edited by mr_me

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7 minutes ago, mr_me said:

Yes, that's the original/easier rom.  The updated rom is harder at all levels and adds a fifth level.  If you get the updated rom press kp4 to start level five.  (Might have said level 4 by mistake earlier.  The disc starts level 4).

 

In B17 Bomber, after a few missions the difficulty suddenly ramps up to impossible and essentially ends the game, unsatisfactorily.  With practice you should be able to shoot down enemy fighters consistently.  When the game gets difficult, fighters become more frequent, and you may not get the voice warning and then miss your chance to shoot them.

I like that you can take less bombs (more fuel) for long range high dollar targets, like cruisers in the water, for a risk vs reward type mechanic. But when you fly back to England, way more targets than you destroyed fill up the map (mostly AA guns) and the next few runs are impossible. B-17 side note - I think I read that the gauges screen was not originally supposed to actually be in the game but was more of a debugging tool for the programmers. 

 

Someone on this forum put out a hack of Deadly Discs that has the disc hit enemies on the return flight. They must have felt the same frustration! 

 

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I heard the gauges in B17 were originally meant to be animated like mechanical scrolling digits.  But there was either no room or time to include it on the cartridge.

 

In Deadly Discs, the disc loses momentum on the return, otherwise you couldn't catch it.

Edited by mr_me

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