Publisher: Mattel (1980)
Tennis for the Intellivision boasts an attention to detail other classic tennis games lack. The large players are pixelated but move in a realistic manner. Prior to serve you select a target location (inner, center, outer), and press a side button to toss the ball up. The top button lets you hammer down a hard serve, but since the margin for error is very small beginners should stick with the soft serve. The control scheme takes into account your timing and positioning to determine your return angle. It's possible to hit the ball out of bounds, into the net, or off the net. There are even "lets" (serves that clip the net but land in-bounds). The background features a crowd of pixelated faces, and their eyes actually follow
the ball! Four game speeds are available. As with most old-school games, the 30-page manual is carefully crafted and literally teaches you the rules of tennis! I'm surprised it didn't include an appendix with the history of the sport. I love how Tennis so faithfully recreates the sport, but it's hampered by the fact that it's a two-player only game. That said, the game is a lot of fun if you have a human competitor available. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: INTV (1986)
This is one of those obscure yet compelling old titles that classic gamers thrive on. With its crisp, vibrant graphics and cute dancing animals, Thin Ice is probably the most arcade-like game I've ever played on my Intellivision. You control an extremely well-animated penguin decked out in multiple colors and a red scarf. As you skate around the ice you leave a white trail that can be used to carve out square chunks which fall into the icy depths. The idea is to sink the five scattered penguins around the board, and it's quite satisfying to see them turn into little bobbing ice cubes. Thin Ice has a bit of a Qix flavor, offering an innovative mix of skill with strategy. Your main nemesis is a red seal who's constantly on your case. He'll bounce your tuxedo-ass right off the board if he touches you. To throw him off your trail, you'll need to swim through water or zig-zag around. Unfortunately, if there's one move the mushy Intellivision pad cannot
do well, it's zig-zags! A small polar bear is also out to get you, but you can "freeze" him by pressing one of the side buttons. Be careful not to carve out too
much of the ice, because then you'll be stuck with no way to sink the remaining penguins. Thin Ice is loaded with personality and amusing details. Bright snowy mountain peaks can be seen in the background, along with little igloos that signify completed waves. Between stages your penguin clears the screen by riding a big red sled across it. The game has an impressive title screen and a pleasant harmonized soundtrack. I used Thin Ice at Video Game Mania 8, and though I wasn't sure how it would go over, everyone seemed to like it. If you're a collector of Intellivision games, this is a showcase title for your collection. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Mattel (1982)
What an incredible piece of work this game is! Thunder Castle's rich graphics, orchestrated music, and innovative gameplay are light years beyond the early Intellivision games. The gameplay deftly combines elements of adventure and action in an exciting maze adventure. You control a knight who must defeat a certain number of foes in three unique stages. The first stage takes place in a forest surrounding a castle, where you are pursued by fire-breathing dragons. In stage two, you are chased by wizards in a castle, and the finale places you in a dungeon crawling with demons. In order to slay your foes, you'll need to "energize" yourself and hunt them down before the effect wears off. Walls disappear and regenerate constantly, creating an ever-changing maze. You can collect helpful items including a necklace to speed you up and a ring to teleport you to a random location. Thunder Castle's graphics are sensational - this is the best-looking Intellivision game I've ever seen. Each of the three levels feature thoughtfully detailed mazes, colorful sprites, and remarkable animation. The multi-colored dragons slink along menacingly, and wizards disappear in flashy displays of special effects. The dungeons are lined with human skulls, and even the tiny rats look remarkably detailed. On top of everything, each new level is introduced by a screen-sized, animated creature! The inspired music makes good use of renaissance-style melodies and deep, ominous tones. Even the controls are better than average. I'd love to give Thunder Castle an "A", but I found the extreme difficulty to be frustrating. Your energy never lasts more than a few seconds, and you're chasing creatures that are often faster than you are. The castle stage is a real ordeal, and I never lasted long in the dungeon. A skill level would have been nice. Still, Thunder Castle is a real showpiece for the Intellivision, and serious collectors should not hesitate to track this one down. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: INTV (1986)
Tower of Doom strikes me as a real work of art. I never would have guessed that the Intellivision was capable of an arcade-style D&D game of this magnatude. You get 32 dungeon levels, auto-mapping, and amazing-looking battle sequences! There are dozens of useful items to find, including magical artifacts, treasure, projectiles, and hand-held weapons. It's even possible to flee or bribe your way out of a battle if you're desperate. After a great first impression, my enthusiasm was dampened somewhat by the frustrating traps and pesky monsters. Once you learn what hurts and what doesn't hurt, however, Tower of Doom becomes much easier. The user interface is clunky but tolerable once you get used to it. The action never stops as you constantly stumble across something new. Each skill level has a certain number of dungeons in conquer (ranging from 6 to 32) and there's a real sense of urgency as you approach the end. It's fun to experiment with the magic items, which offer cryptic descriptions of their effects, like: "Who stopped the world?" As you progress through the dungeons, new and more powerful monsters emerge, but only one at a time. The skeletons (armed with shields) look especially cool. For some reason, slain creatures resemble steaming piles of dung. The battle sequences look impressive at first with their extra-large graphics, but in fact these tend to be fairly shallow. Simply hitting a creature over the head with a sword is enough to dispatch most of them - assuming you have a sword. If you don't, you're in for a world of hurt as creatures will hound you relentlessly. Frustrating situations like that keep Tower of Doom from reaching its potential. But with its impressive graphics and smooth animation, this is one adventure that's easy to get lost in. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Mattel (1981)
This game has been quite a contentious subject on the site over the years. Many readers maintain it offers classic head-to-head gameplay, but I've never been convinced. To give the game another chance, I recently enlisted a few seasoned gamer friends to give Triple Action a solid workout. They were not impressed. The Triple Action cartridge offers three distinct mediocre games: Battle Tanks, Racing Cars, and Biplanes. It didn't take long for my friends to peg Tanks as a "Combat wannabe". The ability to fire three missiles at a time is cool, but the controls are just horrible. Not only are they not the least bit intuitive, but they will cripple
your hand! In Maryland, you can actually qualify for a handicapped license plate if you can prove that you've played this game! The second variation, Car Racing, places you on a narrow two-lane highway. There's no sense of speed, and often it seems impossible to avoid wrecking. Biplanes, the third game, is widely considered the best of the bunch, but that's hardly a ringing endorsement. Played from an unusual side angle, the primary challenge is to remain airborne, since it's incredibly easy to stall. Making matters worse, you can not
recover from the ensuing tailspin. Could I get a little realism
here people?? What appears to be a hot-air balloon occasionally floats across the screen, but my friend Jonathan explained that it's actually the exclamation point
in the phrase "THIS SUCKS!" If the three games have one thing in common, it's the fact that you're more likely to kill yourself
than die at the hands of your opponent. My friend Scott actually employed the strategy of "just let the other guy die" without making much of an effort to do anything. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Tron Deadly Discs
Publisher: Mattel (1982)
If the movie Tron accomplished one goal, it educated children and adults alike to the little-known fact that tiny people run around inside of our computers, hurling discs and causing all sorts of mayhem. In Tron Deadly Discs you control a character in an empty rectangular room with doors around the perimeter. These doors unleash waves of disc-throwing attackers - usually three at a time. You're also armed with a disc which ricochets back after it's thrown in one of eight directions. It's possible to use the doors yourself, but their purpose was never clear to me. Tron's gameplay consists of a lot of running and throwing, but objects move slowly so it's not as exciting as it could have been. I find it funny how the manual lists the game's four available speeds as: slow, slower, slowest, and "fastest". Can you imagine a modern game with those options?! Another knock I have on the game is how your discs is harmless
in its return flight. Being able to knock out enemies on the rebound would have added a lot more strategy. Every few waves a large horseshoe-shaped boss makes a dramatic entrance. The first time this thing appeared it caught me completely
by surprise! This is a 1982 game, for Pete's sake! They didn't even know what a boss was
back then! To defeat him you'll need to strike the white of his eye, and there's only a small window of opportunity. Tron's crisp sound effects are impressive. When you strike an attacker with your disc, you hear an amazing shattering sound. The low, rumbling sound of the boss is also impressive. I was a bit harsh in my original assessment of Tron Deadly Discs, but readers educated me to a few subtle nuances that improve the overall experience. First off, you can tap the throw button a second time to call back your disc immediately, instead of waiting for it to hit a wall. Next, you can use two controllers at once (one to move and the other to throw), which is far more comfortable than using a single controller. These tips make the game feel a lot less tedious, but it's still a little long. Deadly Discs' gameplay may leave a little something to be desired, but classic gamers will find it fascinating nonetheless. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: VGC 58,800
Publisher: Mattel (1982)
This is a lousy game based on the Disney film Tron. You control Flynn, a guy who moves around the inside of a computer trying to reset chips and stop the Master Control Program (the boss). The gameplay is terribly over-complicated and not particularly fun. Just to give you an idea, the instruction book is 25 pages long, and the game has a practice mode, which is never a good sign. The gist of the action involves running through a moving maze, avoiding the "recognizers", and touching certain chips. As any Intellivision veteran will tell you, the controllers just aren't well suited to this type of maze action. The passages are tight and it's easy to get hung up on the edges. The boss battles involve matching up pairs of numbers, which is about as fun as it sounds. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Tron Solar Sailor
Publisher: Mattel (1982)
Can somebody explain to me Mattel's fascination with Tron
? They must have made a deal with Disney (or the devil), because they have no less than three
games based on that weak
film! Tron Solar Sailor is even more aggravating than usual because it requires the voice module, and you actually have to write down
codes that it tells you. I know a little bit about video games, and if you need a pen and paper to play, that's not
a good sign. You move your ship though a grid containing spiders and tanks. Your first impulse is to shoot at everything in sight, but this will quickly drain your energy. If you want to excell at this game (and who doesn't?), you have to play defensively, dodging the shots from tanks. Should you make it to the correct sector, you'll have to enter the code you wrote down. What's the point? If you make it to track "zero", you'll navigate a 3D tunnel while collecting digits to override a code. Solar Sailor is too complicated and not fun. The music and voice effects ares pretty cool, but they're wasted. I'm pretty sure I hate this game. Yes, yes I do. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Imagic (1983)
Tropical Trouble could easily be a sequel to Beauty and the Beast. The characters look very similar, but this time your damsel in distress is on a deserted island; and the action occurs over multiple, side-scrolling stages. On most screens, the object is to move from left to right while avoiding obstacles like rocks, bushes, and red-hot lava. If you get pushed all the way to the left, you'll lose a life. You can dodge or jump over objects, and grabbing a blanket makes you momentarily invincible. While the stages do vary somewhat (one features a coconut-throwing monkey), the gameplay is always the same. You have to keep moving, and constantly pushing the directional pad wears on your thumb. It's a relief when you make it to the final screen, which takes place on a bridge. By dodging rocks tossed by "Bruiser", you can knock him into the water below and reunite with your sweetie. Then it's back to the beginning for some more difficult action. The graphics and animation in Tropical Trouble are terrific, as you would expect from an Imagic game. The control is okay, but the Intellivision controllers aren't well suited to this kind of action. Tropical Trouble is interesting at first, but once you've seen all the screens, the gameplay gets a little stale. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Imagic (1983)
If nothing else, Truckin' does a good job of simulating driving a big rig across the USA. You get to race other trucks and see a lot of interesting scenery along the way. Unfortunately, you're also saddled with the responsibilities of a real truck driver; including planning your routes, picking up and delivering cargo, resting, keeping your gas tank full, and avoiding the cops. There's no question that Imagic packed as much realism into this game as possible, but whether it's any fun is another matter. Truckin' has two main variations. The first is a speed contest where you race across the country through eight cities. The second involves delivering goods, which really opens up the strategic possibilities. As you can imagine, the user interface is pretty complicated. You'll need to use almost every button on the controller to switch between the slew of different screens. The main "road" display is pretty impressive, at least by 1983 standards. Even though it only takes up half the screen, it does feature a nice rear-view mirror. Huge trucks scale in as you approach them, but the scaling is rudimentary and the oncoming trucks swerve wildly; making them impossible to dodge at high speeds. It doesn't help that the steering controls absolutely suck. The scenery is blocky and changes abruptly, but at least it reflects the area you're driving through. Texas has oil derricks, Kansas has cornfields, and New York has skyscrapers. When you drive up the coast you can even see water on one side of the road. To adjust your course, you need to turn off onto side roads, which requires some tricky maneuvering. It's also necessary to consult a paper map (included), which is tedious to say the least. I didn't have the patience to be any good at Truckin', but if you're willing to stick with this for the long haul, you might just get something out of it. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Coleco (1983)
Wow - this is a tough one to grade. Some gamers detest it vehemently, but Turbo for the Intellivision does have some redeeming qualities. The scaling buildings and trees are huge and convey a modest sensation of speed. The lighted tunnels are easy on the eyes, and on the coastal stretch it really does look like you're driving along the edge of a cliff. The cars are blocky but scale nicely into view. The collision detection is forgiving, which is good because the controls are suspect. For starters, you need to use the second
controller for some reason. You might expect to steer by simply moving the directional pad left or right, but no. You steer by moving your thumb around the perimeter
of the disc, as if you were turning a steering wheel. I have mixed feelings about this scheme. It does approximate analog control, but it's imprecise and I never felt comfortable with it. Even so, my friend Steve seemed to grasp it with no problem. He ran up some pretty high scores which made me think twice about giving this game a bad grade. There are four difficulty levels. The easy level (1) is the most playable, but Steve could play it indefinitely (I think he's still playing it). Cranking up the difficulty however introduces an annoying side effect. When you're trying to get back up to speed after a wreck, other cars enter from the bottom, causing you to crash again and fall further behind. Turbo is an awkward title but in retrospect Coleco probably did the best they could with it. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 2
Our high score: SLN 7392
Publisher: Mattel (1981)
This is a likeable little game that's like an early version of Warcraft. In Utopia, you are given some money to develop a little island, and you can construct housing, factories, boats, schools, and other structures. If you play against a friend, you can even deploy rebels to mess up the other person's island. Rain storms and hurricanes randomly cross the screen, and schools of fish and pirates appear in the seas. You can set the number and length of rounds, and between each one you are presented with an update of your progress. These updates are given in terms of points, so you'll need to play a few times to tell if you're actually doing a good job. Besides building structures, there's really not much to do except move your boats around. This lack of action may turn off some people, but strategy-minded players will appreciate this highly original game. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Mattel (1982)
Vectron begs the question, "What the [expletive] is going on?"
Yes, I'm afraid Vectron is every bit as abstract as its name and verbose instructions would suggest. Apparently some programmer working at Mattel decided to get creative and now we all have to suffer. Vectron's screen layout reminds me of Reactor
(Atari 2600, 1983), with a lot of non-descript shapes floating around an enclosed area. Your goal is to construct a structure by positioning "energy box" and shooting it from the top of the screen. Meanwhile you'll need to fire at shapes that whittle away at your structure. Vectron's 17-page instruction manual makes the game seem more complex than it is. The Intellivision control disc provides 16 degrees of control, but I still found it hard to aim my shots. Using the side buttons to position your "energy box" is touchy and clumsy. There's a lot happening on the screen at a given time, and completing a wave feels more like an accident than an accomplishment. I'm all for originality, but Vectron needs more fun and less "huh?" © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Coleco (1983)
I always loved Venture because it brought to life the fantasy world Dungeons and Dragons in its simplest form. You wander hallways, enter rooms, avoid traps, shoot arrows at monsters, and grab treasure. Yes, Venture's graphics are simplistic, but that just adds to its charm. I only wish the designer didn't go with that cutesy smiley face as the lead character - it looks like he's shooting out of his ear! The rooms vary in size and shape, and each is a little adventure in of itself, with its own unique treasure, monsters, and theme song. Most contain one treasure item and three monsters moving around randomly, but some feature moving walls or "hidden" creeps that don't appear until you grab the treasure. This Intellivision version plays exceptionally well, with responsive controls, smooth animation, and a lively musical score. I really like how the monsters assume "death poses" when shot, and then slowly disintegrate into nothing. Just be sure to steer clear of their remnants (even one pixel), because they are fatal to the touch. Venture is supremely enjoyable at first, but after you complete all three stages (four rooms each), they start to repeat. The replay value is questionable, since the rooms generally play the same each time through. Still, with four skill levels and all the elements of the arcade, there's not much to complain about. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 4
Publisher: Imagic (1983)
White Water is really two games in one, but neither is particularly compelling. Still, this game deserves credit for originality. Half the time you're guiding a three-man raft through a white water river valley, and the other half you're ducking into the woods to play a ridiculous "capture the flag" game with the local natives. Your ultimate goal is to ride the river and collect treasure in the shortest time. The graphics are first-rate. The meandering green river bank looks exceptional, and the water itself contains rapids (white ripples), rocks, shoals, whirlpools, barrels, and beaches. The rafting action is challenging and certainly original, but it's often more frustrating than fun. There are just too many
obstacles, which in turn encourage you to go slow -- instead of taking chances. This tends to understate the thrills and excitement associated with real white water rafting. The instructions provide the best advice: Don't try to steer all the time; let the rapids carry you. Hitting rocks can send men flying out of the raft, but you can try to pick them back up by moving over them. The beaches give you an opportunity to stop your raft and head into the woods to break up the monotony. The flag game is simple but provides some variety and introduces some much-needed strategy. White Water is great in concept, but it failed to win me over. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
World Championship Baseball
Publisher: Mattel (1983)
World Championship Baseball was the result of Mattel's attempt to "update" its line of sports games. Apparently it was a bit rushed, as the title screen reads "All Star Baseball" (unlike the label) and there is said to be a nasty bug that can crash the game. In addition, there is no voice synthesis, which sucks for a system known for that feature. Still, World Championship Baseball does have an impressive feature list, including a single-player mode, variable difficulty levels, positioning of fielders, overrunning bases, sliding, fly balls, pitch-outs, errors, foul balls, bouncing balls, leading off, stealing, pick-offs, and extra innings. No other classic baseball game offers this kind of robust gameplay. The overrunning of bases is an awesome feature, giving your runner an extra burst of speed up the line. The graphics are basically the same as the first Intellivision baseball game, but the diamond looks a little better. I love how sliding creates a cloud of dust. Control is good, although you often need to glance at your controller to choose your fielder, which is a pain in the ass. The computer usually chooses the closest fielder automatically, but sometimes makes poor decisions. Once you get the hang of the controls, you'll be turning double plays in no time. The computer is a worthy opponent. He doesn't swing at balls, and won't hesitate to steal. The sound effects are odd. The crowd is silent except between innings or after a homerun. A series of beeps are used to simulate umpire calls like "YER OUT!" You'll need to use your imagination. The biggest flaw would have to be the weak pitching controls; it's nearly impossible to strike anyone out! But despite that, I was highly impressed with this ambitious game. As far as classic baseball games go, only the Atari 5200 Baseball is in the same league. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
World Series Major League Baseball
Publisher: Mattel (1983)
For those who grew up with the Intellivision, this baseball game is one of myth and legend. In 1983 Mattel tantalized gamers with mind-blowing television ads depicting a baseball game with dramatic close-up camera angles. It's a shame so few of the Intellivision faithful ever got to experience this amazing game. World Series Major League Baseball (WSMLB) was only available via mail order, much like the Intellivision ECS (computer and keyboard) which is required to play it. WSMLB is a collector's dream, but in terms of playability, it's a little hurting. It plays like a technical demo, albeit an impressive one. You can challenge a friend, play the CPU, or watch the CPU play itself. The two teams (AL and NL) are stocked with fictional players like Smokin' Breen, Gunner Schnepp, Tex Barnes, and Papa Sells. Each player has a set of statistics that he allegedly adheres to. The action is presented via a series of "close up" camera views similar to those used in modern games. The players are blocky but gigantic
by classic gaming standards. While pitching (or hitting), you view the action from the shortstop position, and the pitcher windup looks remarkably fluid. Unfortunately, it's hard to judge pitches from this perspective. In fact, you and a friend might want to agree to throw nothing but straight fastballs. The screen scrolls as the ball is tossed around the infield, and the outfield features scaling players. The runners on base are shown via picture-in-picture windows that are fairly astonishing - perhaps the most impressive aspect of the entire game. The controls are similar to the previous Intellivision baseball games, except you now swing via the disc
. That's right - it's the first
analog swing mechanism! WSMLB's slick presentation includes a batter introduction screen that displays his statistics along with his "close up", and players even have different skin tones
. With the voice synthesizer attachment you'll hear a play-by-play man who does a pretty decent job ("He makes the catch!"). In fact, he's comparable to the announcer in Joe Montana II Sportstalk Football
(Genesis, 1991) - a game released almost 8 years later!
WSMLB is loaded with bells and whistles, but it can be a little tedious to play. Having to hit the space bar on the keyboard before each batter steps to the plate is truly annoying, as is having to throw the ball back to the pitcher after every pitch. When the ball is hit, the correct player is rarely selected so you'll need to hit the "switch" button. The camera angles are haphazard, and sometimes your player is completely out of the frame (especially during foul balls). You'll hear cheers and boos, and I love how the fans look in the stands. Sometimes they're calm and sometimes they're waving their arms, but there's always a lot of activity. The tall structure behind home plate looks like a building but it's supposed to be a net. The organ music and fanfares sound great, but I hate how the CPU pitcher waits for the music to finish before throwing the ball. It's quirky as hell, but World Series Major League Baseball was clearly way ahead of its time, introducing many innovative features that we take for granted today. Rough visuals and aggravating controls notwithstanding, classic gamers are bound to find beauty in this. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Activision (1983)
There aren't many rapid-fire shooters for the Intellivision, but Worm Whomper fits the bill. Somewhat inspired by Centipede, you defend yourself against an army of insects who approach from the right side of the screen. Your free-roaming farmer is armed with a spray gun, and it's cool how you can hold down the fire button for rapid-fire. A second button lets you throw "plough balls" to clear out obstacles. At first I was intrigued by the fast action of Worm Whomper. There tends to be a lot of moving objects on the screen, and the worms look appropriately slimey as they slink around. Unfortunately, the challenge just isn't there. You have to play through endless, lengthy waves before the game starts to get interesting, and by then my thumb was killing
me. That's too bad, because Worm Whomper could have been the intense arcade shooter the Intellivision really needed. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1983)
As the first shooter to utilize a diagonal, isometric perspective, the Zaxxon arcade game was an amazing sight. You could navigate a ship over fortress walls, dip under force fields, and the 3D effect was entirely convincing. Sadly, the Intellivision couldn't handle such advanced graphics, so in this version we're stuck with flying straight up the screen. This perspective really tends to understate the sense of 3D-ness. What the [expletive] am I even looking
at? The illusion of clearing walls is okay but it's really hard to gauge the altitude of enemies, many of which resemble gyrating blobs. Apparently the altitude bars along both edges of the screen change colors to match up with targets on your particular plane. So when you fly low and the meters turn purple, it means you can shoot purple enemies. This system may have been serviceable if only the collision detection was more forgiving. You really need to be precise to hit enemies, yet they'll easily ram you if you're anywhere in the general vicinity. Bogus!
I thought the first level was hard, and then I realized enemies haven't even started shooting
yet! Another problem with this game is how you need to constantly mash that uncomfortable fire button. The Atari 2600 version suffers from similar issues, but at least that game was smoother and better looking. On the Intellivision only the boss encounter is better, featuring a detailed killer robot that makes ominous robotic sounds. Sega tried their best, but Zaxxon for the Intellivision fails to capture the 3D splendor of the original. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 1
Our high score: 18,900
1 or 2 players
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