The Game: Bongo the ape sets your toes on fire while you’re asleep during a jungle expedition. So naturally, you drop everything to take revenge on the goofy gorilla…but first you have to traverse craggy outcroppings, cross treacherous bridges, hop across a river on the backs of hippos, duck the attacks of charging rhinos, all to set Bongo’s toes on fire as he sleeps… and then the whole thing starts again. (Sega, 1983)
Memories: Possibly the single rarest Intellivision game that doesn’t require extra gear such as the ECS computer keyboard, Congo Bongo was Sega‘s singular foray into providing home versions of its arcade titles for Intellivision players. Sega had already been collaborating with Coleco for some time, but had recently gone it alone with Atari 2600 and 5200 editions of such games as Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator and Congo Bongo. If Sega had a single problem with its early attempts as a software publisher in the American market, it was timing: most of its games arrived just as the video game industry crash was forcing retailers into a no-win scenario of price cuts and losses.
As such, Congo Bongo would be the only Sega title for Intellivision (Zaxxon having already been adapted – though not terribly adequately – by Coleco). Visually, it hits much closer to the mark than the Atari 2600 edition of the same game; arcade Congo Bongo took a lot of its pseudo-3-D cues from Zaxxon, making it a tough test of any home game system’s audiovisual mettle. Though its graphics are still chunky, the Intellivision gets the broad strokes and most of the details of each playfield across.
Where Congo Bongo becomes a real jungle is in its collision detection – jumps that seem like they should be safe aren’t, and trying to sneak around certain obstacles won’t produce the desired result. It really falls to the player to make the necessary mental adjustments to survive in this particular jungle. But for a game that still fetches large sums of money as a loose cartridge, and even larger sums if still in its original box, Congo Bongo may be a bit of a disappointment to some collectors who have waited so long just to discover that they can barely cross the waterfall.