Intellivision In Hi-Fi

Intellivision In Hi-FiMore or less an album songs performed by or inspired by the Intellivision video game console, Intellivision In Hi-Fi is an affectionate throwback to the days when video game music was anything but hi-fi. To come even close to approximating a popular piece of music was a feat, and achieving true polyphony, even in just a flat, synthesizer-esque tone, was pure luxury. Intellivision was the first home game console to manage this level of musical sophistication, and even so, it only did so on the most primitive of levels – no attack or decay or anything as fancy as sounds intended to emulate acoustical instruments. But even with that extreme return to the basics of making music, Intellivision game designers pulled off some real winners – the jazzy chase music heard when Snafu drops from a four-player game to a two-player death match, the catchy theme (coined by a then-unknown musician named George “The Fat Man” Sanger) from Thin Ice, and the sticks-in-your-head-and-stays-there music from Shark! Shark!. All of these and more appear on Intellivision In Hi-Fi.

There are also numerous Intellivision-generated ditties from never-before-heard programmers’ concept tests and a few aborted works in progress. These include classical pieces such as “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (better known to many as the theme from 2001), and more decidedly modern works along the lines of the James Bond theme and a McDonald’s jingle, among others. (It’s interesting to note that a James Bond video game was later made, but not for the Intellivision, and not by Mattel Electronics, the company that originated the console in 1979.)

To round things out, there are a few more tracks which are either songs about the Intellivision, or are reinterpretations of classic Intellivision musical themes on actual instruments. This along brings us to George Sanger’s surf-rockin’ “Surfing On Thin Ice”, which is in itself a good reason to buy this CD. Jazzy interpretations of music from Snafu and Shark! Shark! also prove to be entertaining. Confusium provides two tracks featuring copious samples of Intellivision sound effects and vintage TV ads starring George Plimpton; the first of these opens the CD to great effect, while the latter is simply too bloody long and wears out its welcome. (At nearly 15 minutes, I find it hard to sit through the whole thing without skipping to the next track.) Best of all, however, is Michael Schwartz’s “My Intellivision”, an appropriately new wave-flavored pop tribute to the machine, sung from the perspective of someone who pines for his long-lost Intellivision.

3 out of 4Naturally, this CD is really for those who are already enthusiasts of the game machine in question; Intellivision In Hi-Fi doesn’t feature gobs of stuff remixed into a more modern form, opting instead to give you the actual beeps-and-boops sound of the original hardware. I’m a fan of both approaches, but this album’s diverse sampling of original sounds and reinterpretations should have something to please just about everyone.

Order this CD

  1. Compare This! – Confusium (5:03)
  2. Snafu (1:33)
  3. Shark! Shark! (0:29)
  4. Buzz Bombers (0:29)
  5. Mind Strike (0:24)
  6. The Jetsons’ Way With Words (0:21)
  7. Melody Blasters (Blasters Blues) (0:31)
  8. Thin Ice (Carnival Of The Penguins) (0:43)
  9. Billiards Blues (1:34)
  10. Surfin’ On Thin Ice – The Fat Man (3:06)
  11. Also Sprach Zarathustra (0:47)
  12. Scooby Doo’s Maze Craze (0:32)
  13. Thunder Castle Songs (1:29)
  14. Lounge Shark! Lounge Shark! – The Tilton-Tate Orchestra (3:21)
  15. Maple Leaf Rag (1:21)
  16. My Intellivision (1982 Mix) – Michael Schwartz (4:38)
  17. James Bond Theme (0:37)
  18. You Deserve A Break Today (0:36)
  19. Linus & Lucy (1:14)
  20. Blow Out (0:58)
  21. Yogi’s Frustration (0:23)
  22. Rocky & His Friends (0:16)
  23. The Bullwinkle Show (0:19)
  24. Snafu City – The Buddy O Trio (3:12)
  25. The Closest Thing To The Real Thing – Confusium (13:58)
  26. Tron 1.1 – Tom Kahelin (7.49)

Released by: Intellivision Productions /
Release date: 2002
Total running time: 55:42