The Game: The Empire Strikes Back puts you in the cockpit of Luke Skywalkers’s snowspeeder in a desperate bid to beat back huge Imperial Walkers – also known as AT-ATs – from destroying the Rebel back on the ice planet of Hoth. The AT-ATs’ heavy artillery can seriously deplete your snowspeeder’s shielding with a single hit, though you must score numerous direct hits before you can even begin to have the same effect on the onslaught of Imperial Walkers, let alone destroy one. Occasionally, a weakness will be exposed in the “neck” region of the huge mechanical monsters, and you’ll have a few seconds in which you may take advantage of that and blow the machine away. (Parker Brothers, 1983)
Memories: Based on Parker Brothers‘ rendition of The Empire Strikes Back for the Atari 2600, this is one of those games that you’d expect to be even better on the Intellivision…and yet something is “off.” The phrase “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” is very applicable here.
While this edition of Empire can boast slightly better graphics, they’re not as good as they should be – between Mattel‘s first-party games and Imagic‘s killer-app games, it’s instantly obvious that the Intellivision should be capable of drawing more menacing AT-ATs then this. This was the machine that had wowed us with Star Strike and a superb version of Demon Attack – there was no reason for it to be slavishly following the look of the same game on the 2600.
Control is another big issue; it’s just never quite smooth enough. It’s possible to get into a certain “zone” with the 2600 version of Empire; the controls on the Intellivision version are just unresponsive enough to raise the frustration level. That’s the path to the dark side…or at least to seeking out a better game.
Sadly, this was it for Star Wars gaming and the Intellivision; Jedi Arena remained a 2600 exclusive, while Return Of The Jedi: Death Star Battle and Star Wars: The Arcade Game were released for several consoles and computers, but not Intellivision. A further Intellivision Star Wars title was announced, but died early in development (assuming it even entered development): box art was mocked up for a game based on the Sarclacc scenes from Return Of The Jedi, but work was halted so early that the mockup art bore the movie’s original title, Revenge Of The Jedi.
The Force clearly wasn’t with the Intellivision on this occasion – sad, since this console should have been capable of a Star Wars game or two with a little more depth than what the 2600 could manage. Empire isn’t unplayable, but it’s also far from the best game in this console’s library: average at best.