The Game: Don’t be too eager to say “By the power of Greyskull,” because there’s one problem: Skeletor has wrested the power of Castle Greyskull for himself, and seems none too keen on giving it back. As He-Man, the player is tasked with reaching the castle via a flying vehicle, shooting down fireballs (and, if possible, ensnaring Skeleton in traps from above) along the way; provided He-Man doesn’t use up all of his fuel in the aerial fight, he lands at Greyskull and must dodge Skeletor’s fiery projectiles in order to do battle with the ghastly one. Only one will win. (Mattel Electronics, 1983)
Memories: Early in Intellivision‘s shelf life, the Intellivision programmers had learned a hard lesson: don’t assume that because Mattel’s toy division has the toy license, Intellivision has the game license. This painful lesson had hit home hard when Mattel Electronics’ in-house game designers came up with a winner of a game for Battlestar Galactica, only to discover that they couldn’t release it under that name. When it came to the multimedia marketing slam dunk that was Masters Of The Universe – a hit toy line bolstered by a hit animated series – Mattel made damned sure the video game rights stayed in-house.
Unlike Space Battle, which didn’t arrive until long after the show upon which it had originally been based was little more than a memory of its former glory, Masters Of The Universe: The Power Of He-Man arrived on time and on target, featuring colorful artwork depicting the main character and including an exclusive Masters Of The Universe comic setting up the plotline behind the game. The game itself was simple enough for the late-single-digit/early-double-digit age group that was likely to be pestering mom and dad for “the He-Man game”, and in the end, Masters was the kind of story that people who talk about corporate synergy dream of at night.
Even more than that, however, it’s a fun game, finally delivering on the “side-scrolling-and-shooting-at-everything” game play – inspired by the arcade game Defender that had thus far eluded Intellivision gamers, despite such third-party attempts as the normally-reliable Imagic‘s Nova Blast. Not only that, but Intellivision turned out to be more adept at a fast-moving side-scrolling game than anyone could’ve imagined, thanks to some new programming tricks which were first tried out on Masters. The Greyskull screens, for example, feature a daunting number of sprites that can collide with He-Man, completly blowing away anything that had previously been achieved even on the Intellivision.
The fun factor is where it’s at, however. When the Masters Of The Universe franchise was at its height of popularity (which, for the record, Mattel, was the first time only, regardless of how many times you’ve tried to reinvent it), I was already too geeky to be in on the craze surrounding the glorious macho cheese of the cartoon, but in hindsight, it means I managed to overlook a great video game the first time around too. Masters is one of the better first-party titles in the Intellivision library.