Happy Trails

Happy TrailsThe Game: Players control a lawman hot on the trail of a notorious bank robber – a notoriously messy one, it should be noted, since his loot is scattered all over the place. Using the controller, pieces of the maze can be shifted (even while one of the characters is on it) to allow the sheriff to recover the money and capture the bad guy, but while leaving a character going in circles momentarily, letting him wander into the open gap in the maze will cost a precious life. Clearing the maze will restart the chase anew, on a bigger and more complex maze. (Activision, 1983)

Memories: The first Activision title for Intellivision that wasn’t simply an Intellivision version of an Atari 2600 game, Happy Trails raised some serious hackles with the makers of the machine it on which it was designed to run. Continue reading

The Dreadnaught Factor

The Dreadnaught FactorThe Game: Piloting a series of solo space fighters, you’re humanity’s last hope against a fleet of gigantic, triangular wedge-shaped battle cruisers bearing down on Earth. Launching from a staging area equipped with a hyperspace See the videogate to fling your fighters into the void at top speed, you must strafe these cruisers in your fighter, bombing and blasting their gun emplacements, engines, and an assortment of weak spots on their ship. The enemy cruisers also have defensive fighters that they’ll launch to keep you from getting the job done, and of course the cruisers themselves are bristling with enormous laser cannons. Hitting all of the guns, engines and other “soft targets” on a cruiser will destroy it, giving you a momentary reprieve until the next cruiser arrives. If you run out of ships or fail to stop the enemy, they’ll wipe out your planet – game over, indeed. (Activision, 1982)

Memories: Further proof that long before Lucasfilm ever entered the video gaming arena, George Lucas was having a massive ripple effect on the medium: the dreadnaughts in Dreadnaught Factor are – and let’s not kid ourselves here – clearly Star Destroyers. They’re shaped and laid out like them, right down to the control tower. If you ever wanted to see what would’ve happened if Han really had taken the Millennium Falcon into a head-to-head battle with a Star Destroyer, or if that poor sap in the A-Wing hadn’t been out of control, this is your game. Continue reading

Night Stalker

Night StalkerThe Game: You’re alone, unarmed, in a maze full of bats, bugs and ‘bots, most of whom can kill you on contact (though the robots would happily shoot you rather than catching up with you). Loaded guns appear periodically, giving you a See the videolimited number of rounds with which to take out some of these creepy foes, though your shots are best reserved for the robots and spiders, who have a slightly more malicious intent toward you than the bats. If you shoot the bats, others will appear to take their place. If you shoot the ‘bots, the same thing happens, only a faster, sharper-shooting model rolls out every time. Your best bet is to stay on the move, stay armed, conserve your firepower – and don’t be afraid to head back to your safe room at the center of the screen. (Mattel Electronics, 1983)

Memories: An adaptation of one of the Intellivision’s signature games, Night Stalker is actually one of the strongest titles in the tiny Aquarius game library. This isn’t to say that it’s a great port, just that it’s less bad than some of the other Aquarius games. Continue reading

Robot Rubble

Robot RubbleThe Game: Robots descend from the mountains with one mission in mind: they’d like to fry you. In fact, they’re pretty adamant on that point. You’re armed with a weapon that can fling anti-robot grenades at them, but you have to account for a trajectory that can be affected by your own movement; mountainous See the videooutcroppings give you shelter, but not for long, since they also give the robots target practice. If you score a direct hit and blast a robot apart, you’re left with a narrow window of opportunity in which to land another grenade and permanently dismantle the remaining robot parts…if you can’t accomplish that, the robot will gather up its parts and reassemble itself to have another go at you. (Activision, 1983 – never released)

Memories: One of the strangest marketing policies to emerge from the golden age of video games was Activision‘s absurd – and eventually abandoned – strategy of trying to make its early Intellivision titles look and sound exactly like their Atari 2600 counterparts. While Activision was doing this, possibly to save the marketing department from having to prepare two different sets of artwork per game, Imagic vaulted ahead of them and became the definitive third-party software provider for the Intellivision. One only needs to look at the 2600 and Intellivision versions of Demon Attack or Atlantis to formulate the question “Why on Earth would Activision hobble their own developers like that?” Continue reading

Tower Of Doom

Tower Of DoomBuy this gameThe Game: Abandon hope, all ye who enter the Tower of Doom. Armed and armored, adventurers enter seeking treasure, mystery and glory…but all that stands between them and those goals are dragons, monsters, bizarre traps that twist space and time, and, of course, twisty little passages (there are always twisty little passages). When a battle is lost in the catacombs, the player returns to his starting point for another attempt to plumb the depths, but eventually every player will run out of opportunities…or will have to grow powerful enough to conquer most of the Tower’s denizens. (INTV Inc., 1986)

See the videoMemories: Originally conceived as another entry in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons video game franchise, Tower Of Doom seems terribly familiar to anyone who played Mattel’s original AD&D cartridge: the overhead maze crawl and the close-up battles go back to the original game’s basics, rather than trying to further develop Treasure Of Tarmin‘s first-person perspective and interface, which was considered a step forward for graphics but not for game play. Continue reading

Dig Dug

Dig DugThe Game: You are Dig Dug, an intrepid gardener whose soil is infested with pesky Pookas and fire-breathing Fygars. You’re armed with your trusty pump, which you can use to inflate your enemies until, finally, they blow up. But both the Pookas and Fygars can crawl through the ground and can pop out into your tunnels, and if a Fygar sneaks up behind you, he can toast you if you’re not careful. (INTV Corp., 1987)

See the videoMemories: From the ashes of Mattel Electronics, which suffered a multi-million-dollar loss in the 1982-83 crash of the video game industry, several stalwart members of the “Blue Sky Rangers” development team banded together to form INTV Corporation, a leaner, meaner entity that would do what seemed unthinkable in the market climate of the time: keep supporting the Intellivision with new software until further notice. After the NES helped the industry make a comeback, Atari dusted off the 2600 and the stillborn 7800 – which had been ready to hit stores as early as 1984 – and tried to reposition them as budget alternatives to Nintendo’s increasingly ubiquitous machine. Continue reading

Diner

DinerThe Game: Chef Peter Pepper is back, and he’s been served up a second helping of inedible trouble. Roaming the vast, maze-like expanses of Ray’s Diner, the chef has to round up the scattered ingredients of dinner before he finds himself on See the videothe menu. For every four screen he clears, Peter Pepper gets a chance to catch more ingredients in a bonus round (but must avoid the flashing ingredients at all costs). The chef is also still armed with his trusty pepper shaker to stun his enemies briefly, and he can still replenish his short supply of pepper when bonus items appear. (INTV Corp., 1987)

Memories: A loose collective of “survivors” of Mattel Electronic’s Intellivision division, INTV Corp. slowly but surely got off the ground to offer new titles to Intellivision owners by mail-order, even as the NES was taking over the world. INTV’s library of new titles wasn’t a huge one, but it was at the very least a respectable selection, including arcade games such as Dig Dug and Pole Position whoses licenses had once been exclusive to the now-all-but-dormant Atari. INTV Corp. had access to the back catalog of started-but-not-finished (and finished-but-shelved-indefinitely) titles that had been swallowed in the fall of Mattel Electronics, and it was from one of these unfinished games that Diner got its start…but you might be surprised to find out where Diner really came from. Continue reading

Pole Position

Pole PositionThe Game: Prepare to qualify! Fly to the finish line in a fierce field of Formula One competitors in a qualifying lap. Leaving the track is trouble – and hitting one of the billboards dotted around the edges of the Mt. Fuji track is a sure way to See the videomiss out on the subsequent race. (INTV Corp., 1987)

Memories: Pole Position has suffered a few indignities before; an arcade game that was a huge evolution for first-person racing and boasted stellar graphics is bound to hit a few speed bumps on the drive home. But the Intellivision version of Pole Position is a gigantic pothole that’s likely to relieve most players of their drive to recreate the arcade experience. Continue reading

Slam Dunk Super Pro Basketball

Slam Dunk Super Pro BasketballThe Game: One or two players can set a budget and begin recruiting a top-notch basketball team (or, alternately, recruiting from who’s left after someone else has recruited a top-notch basketball team), and then it’s time to hit the court. See the videoEach player controls a team of three with offensive and defensive moves; the player can control any member of his team. (INTV Corp., 1987)

Memories: Several of the “Super Pro” sports games released by INTV Corp. – the entity that took on the task of continuing software support for the Intellivision long after Mattel Electronics had given up on the system in the face of the then-looming video game industry crash – began life as re-coded single-player versions of existing Intellivision sports titles. Slam Dunk is an example of a game that diverged completely from the code of its two-player-only predecessor (NBA Basketball). Continue reading

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