Major League Baseball

Major League BaseballThe Game: Play ball! Two teams play until they each accumulate three “outs” per inning. Try to hit the ball out of the park, or confound the outfielders with a well-placed hit none of them can catch. Steal a base if you’re feeling really brave – and then try to cover your bases as best you can when the other player tries all of these same strategies on you. (Mattel Electronics, 1979)

Memories: After Atari’s barely-there VCS baseball title Home Run, and the much better but still graphically simple Baseball! cartridge for the Odyssey2, Major League Baseball was a revelation. This was the moment, for many of us, when video sports games started to look like the sport they represented on home consoles. It almost redefined sports game sound too: the Intellivision has a good swipe at emulating the phrase “You’re out!” at the appropriate moment, an innovation which was nipped in the bud quickly by Mattel Electronics. Why? Continue reading

Auto Racing

Auto RacingBuy this gameThe Game: Rev up your engines, put the pedal to the metal, and cruise around a track (which apparently has a nice suburban neighborhood in the middle of it, full of folks who no doubt appreciate the roar of engines zipping around them), See the videotrying not to go off the asphalt, and trying even harder not to crash into bushes or buildings. (Curiously, water is less of an obstacle.) (Mattel Electronics, 1980)

Memories: In the early marketing blitz for the Intellivision, the image of Auto Racing‘s shaded rooftops and varied terrain was almost inescapable. The previous standard-bearer for this kind of game had been Atari VCS fare such as Indy 500, and on a graphical level at least, this new Intellivision contraption was on a whole different level. Continue reading

Checkers

CheckersSee the videoBuy this gameThe Game: The timeless strategy board game of conquest comes to the Intellivision, now with 100% more boopy beepy computerish sounds from the future than any game of Checkers you’ve ever played before! Play alone against the computer, or against a second player. (Mattel Electronics, 1980)

Memories: Almost a prerequisite title for any video game console back in this early days, this version of Checkers is curious in that it devotes a lot of screen real estate to showing you the men that have been taken out of play, and shrinks the board itself down to a relatively small space on the screen. Continue reading

PBA Bowling

The Game: Your own digital ten-pin alley awaits by way of the Intellivision. Line up your shots on two axes, and then let it fly; you still havepportunity to exert a certain amount of control on the ball as it rolls down the alley, presumably by Intellivision psychokinesis, and a split-screen view allows you to see the result of your play. You even get to see the ball return bring you ball back to you for the next play. (Mattel Electronics, 1980)

Memories: Before the Intellivision Bowling cartridge came along, video bowling games all seemed to be cut from the same cloth: an overhead view of the alley, and very minimal control of your bowling ball. The thing is, even with a horizontally-oriented display, this resulted in a lot of wasted screen space, and nothing that was in any danger of being a satisfying gaming experience. Mattel‘s in-house team took their cues not from those earlier games, but from television bowling coverage. Continue reading

Astrosmash

AstrosmashThe Game: The end of the world is near: asteroids and meteors are careening toward the surface of your planet at breathtaking speeds. Manning a speedy mobile laser cannon, your job is to take out or dodge the falling fragments from See the videoBuy this gamespace. Letting stray impactors past your defenses will actually diminish your score, but blasting them while they’re still incoming can create another dilemma: they split into smaller pieces which are still falling toward the ground. You’ll lose a cannon if debris lands on it, and you’ll lose the game (please note the air of certainty there) when you run out of cannons. Apparently this asteroid apocalypse is no force of nature either, as bombs both large and small fall toward you as well… (Mattel Electronics, 1981)

See the original TV adMemories: As was the case with the Odyssey2, some of the early arcade-style Intellivision offerings were near-beer versions of bigger brand-name hits – to which Atari, more often than not, held the rights. Astrosmash is one of the Intellivision’s signature games, and it’s a beautiful example of making a virtue out of not being able to ape a popular game too closely. Continue reading

Pinball

PinballBuy this gameThe Game: It’s a game of video pinball where you can even bump the table to influence the ball’s path. You can even launch the ball into a second level to score big bonus points. Just don’t let it slide out of the reach of your flippers… (Mattel Electronics, 1981)

See the videoMemories: As a rule, I don’t do the video pinball thing. You can look throughout Phosphor Dot Fossils and you’ll find very few big thumbs-up for video pinball. But so help me, Pinball on Intellivision is rather fun. It takes into account some of the physics (though far from all) involved in a pinball table, even the external factors such as the good old-fashioned, time-honored bump-the-machne maneuver. Continue reading

Snafu

SnafuThe Game: As one of four color-coded player icons on the screen, you begin the round at one edge of the rectangular playing field. Your icon leaves a solid wall behind it, tracing your path. You try to trap other players or computer-controlled See the videoBuy this gameicons in your wake, while avoiding the solid walls tracing their icons and your own trail, which is just as deadly. (Mattel, 1981)

Memories: Look familiar? A year later, and this gem of simplicity undoubtedly would have been titled Tron Light Print new overlaysCycles (and just for giggles, we’ve prepared a special keypad overlay to fit that theme. The light cycle sequence from the movie Tron (as well as the similar screen in the arcade game based on the movie) and the basic premise of Snafu are the same. Continue reading

Space Armada

Space ArmadaBuy this gameThe Game: You’re the pilot of a ground-based mobile weapons platform, and there are buttloads of alien meanies headed right for you. Your See the videoonly defense is a trio of shields which are degraded by any weapons fire – yours or theirs – and a quick trigger finger. Occasionally a mothership zips across the top of the screen. When the screen is cleared of invaders, another wave – faster and more aggressive – appears. When the aliens manage to land on Earth…it’s all over. (Mattel, 1981)

Memories: Sound familiar? It should. This early entry in Mattel’s library of Intellivision games is, rather obviously, a not-very-thinly-disguised version of Space Invaders, the game whose home version had made the Atari 2600 a household name in the home video game biz. Continue reading

Space Battle

Space BattleBuy this gameThe Game: You command a mighty battleship with three squadrons of fighters at your disposal to fend off five alien attack fleets. You can manually dispatch your fighter squadrons, send them directly into battle, and recall them to See the original TV addefend your ship. When your fighters go into battle, you can assume control personally and engage in a dogfight with the agile enemy fighters, or you can let the computer fight your battles on autopilot (it’ll get the job done, but usually with an undesirable, if not unacceptable, rate of losses for your side). The game ends when your squadrons have eliminated all of the converging alien fleets, or when the aliens have made quick work of both your squadrons and your command ship. (Mattel Electronics, 1979)

Memories: In 1979, Glen Larson’s TV space epic Battlestar Galactica was as hot a property as you could get on the small screen, with its movie-scale special effects (or at least, the show’s underbudgeted and overworked producers and special effects wizards hoped you thought the effects were movie-scale). Having watched rival toy maker Kenner score a major coup with the license to manufacture toys based on Star Wars, Mattel quickly stepped in to snag the rights for Battlestar Galactica. Short of whatever Star Wars sequel George Lucas turned out next, Galactica was as close as you could get to the next big thing. Continue reading

Star Strike

Star StrikeBuy this gameThe Game: Flying low over an alien installation, you are the last hope for the planet Earth. When the alien space vehicle has Earth lined up in the sights of its launcher, the planet will be destroyed. Your mission is to blast alien defensive See the videofighters and bomb their mothership into oblivion before that happens. (Mattel, 1981)

Memories: Star Strike was one of the games Mattel waved in everyone’s face to prove how superior the Intellivision was to its rival, the Atari 2600. But for its time, and considering that Atari’s biggest hits at this point were chunky home versions of Print new overlaysthe distinctly 2-D Asteroids, Missile Command and Space Invaders, Star Strike‘s Star Wars-inspired 3-D animated trench was quite impressive. However, the game was notoriously difficult for those weaned on the excessive simplicity of the aforementioned arcade adaptations. Continue reading

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Cartridge

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons CartridgeThe Game: Your quest begins as you set out from the safety of home to look for adventure in mountainous caverns. When you wander into the dungeons and caverns, your view zooms in to the maze See the videoyour adventurer is exploring, complete with treasures to collect and deadly dangers to duel. (Mattel Electronics, 1982)

Memories: Combining sword-and-sorcery – traditionally the territory of paper-and-dice role playing games – with video game action has been one of the more inspired mash-ups to come from the golden age of video games. As combinations go, it was almost inevitable – with Dungeons & Dragons being more geeky than mainstream in the 1970s, it was an activity with which game programmers – another geeky crowd – were likely to be acquainted. With all of that crossover going on, it was therefore inevitable that someone, presumably whoever had deep enough pockets to license the title and game elements, would eventually produce an official video game. Continue reading

Atlantis

AtlantisThe Game: You man three fixed artillery batteries defending the advanced underwater city of Atlantis. Alien spaceships pass overhead, and you have to choose your target – and which of the three guns you’re firing – carefully in order to knock them out. Any ships which survive one pass will drop down one level and make another pass. At the lowest level, the ships will begin bombing the city, knocking out habitation domes, power generators, and even your artillery nests. When the final destruction of Atlantis comes at last, one tiny ship escapes into the sky… (Imagic, 1982)

Memories: Sometimes it just takes a slight advance in hardware to make the same game a whole different game. Atlantis is the proof in the pixellated pudding, for the Intellivision edition not only has you defending the city under the ocean in broad daylight, it demands that you defend it in the dead of night, with only sweeping spotlights panning across the sky to pick out your approaching foes. And that is a whole different game – not being able to see the buggers is tough. Continue reading

Beauty & The Beast

Beauty & The BeastThe Game: You control Bashful Buford, apparently a redneck cousin to Mario. You’re trying to reach the top of the Mutton Building to rescue your ladyfriend, Tiny Mabel, from huge Horrible Hank, who’s chucking boulders at you. See the videoYou can jump over these, and use open windows to get a leg up on the next floor of the building. Avoid bats and birds – and try to catch any floating hearts Mabel sends down, because they make Buford invincible for a short time. If you reach Hank and Mabel, you advance to the next few floors, which get increasingly cramped since the Mutton Building tapers off to a point. If you can reach Hank and Mabel at the top level of the building, you can clobber Hank right off the side of the structure and rescue Mabel – but not for long, since it all starts again a moment later, only faster. (Imagic, 1982)

Memories: Remember the hideous mutant of a game Coleco made for the Intellivision under the name of Donkey Kong? Not only did it bear only the most superficial resemblance to the arcade game of the same name, but it was even more inadequate than the legendarily bad version Coleco turned out for the Atari 2600. Continue reading

Burgertime

BurgertimeThe Game: As a trundling chef, you’re simply trying to make four nicely-stacked burgers, but there’s one little obstacle – the ingredients are coming to life and stalking you! If the walking pickles, eggs, and hot dogs catch up with you, See the videothey’ll make a meal of your chef. You have a limited number of pepper shakers you can use to repel your enemies (talk about pepper spray!), but the only way to do away with them permanently is to squash them by dropping a layer of your burger-under-construction on top of them. (Mattel [under license from Data East], 1982)

See the original TV adMemories: Burgertime was one of Mattel’s biggest arcade game licensing coups, and the arcade game is usually fondly remembered. The best feature of the Intellivision edition of Burgertime may, in fact, be its calliope-like music – after a few minutes, it grates on the nerves, but it’s a very close match to the arcade game. The graphics are a bit blocky, but the game is still recognizable as Burgertime. Continue reading

Demon Attack

Demon AttackThe Game: Demons coalesce into existence in mid-air above your cannon. Send them back where they came from by force – but watch out, as demons in later levels split into two parts upon being hit, which must then be destroyed See the videoindividually. After fending off several waves of attackers, you blast off to deep space to confront their mothership. (Imagic, 1982)

Memories: No bones about it, the Intellivision version of Demon Attack is the definitive version of this game. It also drew a lawsuit from Atari, who had just licensed the arcade game Phoenix from Centuri (an American operation which had, in turn, licensed it from Taito in Japan). In a lot of ways, Phoenix and the Intellivision version of Demon Attack were very much alike – swooping alien attackers who split into two equally lethal halves when hit, and a Comet Empire-like alien mothership with only a single vulnerability (and an endless stream of defensive fighters to cover that weakness). Continue reading

Donkey Kong

Donkey KongThe Game: In the rotund plumber Mario’s first adventure, you have to help him reach the top of a perilous scaffolding to rescue a damsel in distress from the dastardly Donkey Kong. (Coleco, 1982)

See the videoMemories: Remember how much of a train wreck Coleco made of Donkey Kong when they made that dismal version of it for the Atari 2600? Well, if anything, Coleco’s equally mind-numbing translation of Nintendo’s original smash hit for the Intellivision proves that Coleco was definitely trying to make their ColecoVision version of Donkey Kong look better. Continue reading

Dragonfire

DragonfireThe Game: You’re another treasure-hunting glory seeker who’s about to meet more than his match. If you can survive crossing the drawbridge into the castle – a task made incredibly difficult by the glowing fireballs of dragon breath being hurled toward you – you’ve got an even more hazardous obstacle ahead: the dragon himself is guarding a huge stash of treasure. Even if he can’t stop you from pocketing every shiny thing in the castle, chances are you won’t make it out alive. (Imagic, 1982)

Memories: This is a game that worked well with the Intellivision’s disc controller. Especially on the second screen. It’s a rare case where I don’t mind that devilishly difficult controller at all. Vastly expanded from the same game as we knew it on the Atari 2600, Dragonfire is yet another example of Imagic concocting pure genius for the Intellivision. Continue reading

Dracula

DraculaThe Game: Looking for a game where you can spread your wings a little? If bat wings are okay, then Dracula is the game for you. As the impaler himself, you wander the city streets at night, looking for victims to bite. Whether you’re chasing a fleet-footed mortal or avoiding adversaries who also roam the streets, turning into a bat is often the only way to fly. You also have to keep an eye on the clock – if you haven’t returned safely to your crypt by sunrise, Dracula turns to dust. (Imagic, 1982)

See the videoMemories: Yet another Intellivision-only gem from the gang at Imagic, Dracula would seem, on the surface, to do some of the same things that Texas Chainsaw Massacre does on the Atari VCS: it puts the player in the role of the villain of the piece, going through the game and searching for victims. But where Texas Chainsaw Massacre tries (rather unsuccessfully, it must be said) to reach for Tobe Hooper-worthy shock value, Dracula keeps things simple – and it makes sure the player is vulnerable too. Continue reading

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