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Intellivision Flashback

The Video Game Critic Review

1/16/2015


Intellivision Flashback effectively resurrects a console popular in the late seventies and early eighties. It was the chief rival of the Atari 2600, offering better graphics, elaborate controllers, and more sophisticated games. The console excelled at sports, strategy, and adventure games. If you enjoyed the Colecovision Flashback you'll probably want to snag this one too.

Unlike the Colecovision Flashback which included a pair of scaled-down controllers, this set is molded exactly like the originals. That's kind of a mixed blessing, considering the Intellivision controllers are regarded as some of the most uncomfortable ever designed. But while they may look the same, rest assured these new models are more comfortable. They feel lighter, the directional disc feels more responsive, and the side buttons are softer and easy to press. Best of all, since the wires aren't coiled they extend further than the controllers for the original system ever did.

Intellivision Flashback comes with 60 built-in games, offering a little something for everyone. Sports enthusiasts can enjoy Boxing, Bowling, Golf, Chip Shot Golf, Horse Racing, Soccer, Slam Dunk Basketball, Slap Shot Hockey, Spiker Volleyball, Super Pro Decathlon, Super Pro Football, Tennis, and World Series Baseball. These games have remarkable depth but you'll need to second player to enjoy most of them. Strategy fans will want to check out Utopia and three voice-enabled titles: B17-Bomber, Bomb Squad, and Space Spartans. The voices sound higher pitched than the original versions, but are still clear and understandable. The set of D&D-inspired adventure games includes Minotaur, Tower of Doom, and Crown of Kings. If arcade action is your thing there's Armor Battle, Astrosmash, Frog Bog, Pinball, Night Stalker, Shark! Shark!, Space Armada, Star Strike, Buzz Bombers, and Thin Ice.

Longtime Intellivision fans will notice a few glaring omissions like Lock N Chase, Burger Time, and Mouse Trap. It's a shame no Activision or Imagic games appear, considering they were some of more visually impressive titles ever produced for the system.

One interesting surprise is the inclusion of six previously unreleased Intellivision games which were actually developed back in the early 80's. Blowout features head-to-head action where you shoot down balloons with spears. Brickout tries to be Super Breakout (Atari 2600, 1981) but lacks the speed and precision. Deep Pockets is a slow billiards game that reminds me of something I played ages ago on my Atari 8-bit computer. Hard Hat looks amazing with its buildings and towering cranes, but the sparse instructions fail to explain how the game is played. Space Cadet is a simple yet surprisingly fun two-player contest where you hurl stars at your opponent's planet. Takeover is a sophisticated strategy game that would probably be a lot of fun if I knew how to play it. A set of overlays really should have been included with this one.

Back in the day Intellivision games came with plastic overlays which slipped over the keypad to provide a colorful label for the buttons. For some of the more complex games they are extremely necessary. Only 18 overlays are included with Flashback for use with 9 games. I like how they are exactly the same as the originals (interchangeable even), but not providing a full set was a mistake. Good luck playing B-17 Bomber or Bomb Squad without an overlay! Heck, even Bowling will have you scratching your head! You can purchase the missing overlays online for $14.99 (plus shipping), which frankly is not a bad deal for collectors.


Along the same lines, the lack of instructions is distressing. The paltry manual dedicates a short paragraph to each game which is insufficient to say the least! Unlike the Atari 2600, Intellivision games tend to have a complicated setup process and elaborate control schemes. The controller has no less than 16 buttons for Pete's sake! Fortunately you can access the complete set of original instructions (and overlay graphics) at http://www.intellivisiongames.com/flashback_games.html. Still, relegating such critical material to a URL makes the manufacturer appear cheap and lazy. That goes for regular game publishers as well - don't skimp on the manual!

Intellivision Flashback is far from definitive (I can easily envision a version 2) but it serves its purpose. The system allows you to play some groundbreaking games pretty much the same way people experienced them 35 years ago. The crystal clear video signal makes a world of difference; those big colorful aliens in Space Armada look beautiful. Intellivision games may not be particularly accessible compared to other systems, but they have a lot to offer once you get over the learning curve. Whether you want to relive fond memories of this old console or try it for the first time, Intellivision Flashback is a cost-effective way to get in on the action. I just wish it delivered a more complete experience.


eBay, Amazon
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