Colecovision made a huge splash in 1982 thanks to its superior arcade-quality graphics and a killer pack-in: the insanely popular Donkey Kong. The system offered a wide variety of arcade hits, although most were second-tier titles like Venture, Time Pilot, Ladybug, and Pepper II. Pushing the envelope in all directions, Coleco released a series of hardware "expansion modules", including a rollerball (trak-ball), steering wheel (with pedal), and an Atari 2600 adapter which resulted in a major lawsuit.
The Colecovision proved quite popular initially, but Coleco overextended themselves with the release of an ill-fated home computer version of the Colecovision called the Adam. This poorly constructed system was both a commercial and technical failure, with a large number of units returned defective. The Adam fiasco, combined with the video game crash of '83 would spell the end of Coleco's video game aspirations.
Console design: B-. The Colecovision console is black and rectangular with a silver strip along the front. Like the Intellivision, its flat design includes two "bays" to house the controllers (not very well I might add). The cartridge port is located on top of the unit, making it easy to insert cartridges. Unfortunately, much like the Intellivision the short, coiled controller wires force you to play close to the console. Making matters worse, the "player one" controller port is located closer to the back.
Console durability: F. If you can find a Colecovision console that works perfectly, consider yourself lucky. Coleco wasn't known for making the most high quality products, and this is apparent in the number of broken Colecovision consoles I've owned. Even my most reliable unit has random issues.
Controllers: D. The controllers feature a directional "knob", a keypad, and one button on each side. Unlike the Intellivision controllers, the side buttons are easy to press, but their location makes it hard to press them rapidly. Although fine for short play sessions, the knob-shaped joystick will cramp your hand during extended play. Much like the console, the controllers are cheaply constructed and easily broken.
Media: B+. Colecovision's cartridges are only slightly larger than the Atari 2600 and include a slot in the back to slide in keypad overlays (which few games used). Most cartridges featured a colorful logo on the front but minimal artwork.
Packaging: F. The boxes sport a dull gray color scheme, with the front cover typically showing a kid playing the arcade version of the game. I guess they were pushing the arcade angle, but the packaging was far from enticing.
Graphics: A-. In 1982 no other console could match Colecovision's graphics (although home computers could come close). The adaptations of arcade hits like Donkey Kong and Time Pilot are nearly arcade-perfect, putting to shame other home versions of the era. Only some choppy animation prevented these from being arcade quality.
Audio: B. Colecovision wasn't known for its audio, but it did a fair job of emulating the sound effects of its arcade lineup.
Pack-in game: A. Before the Colecovision came along pack-in games were treated as an afterthought. After the Colecovision they became a huge selling point. Colecovision had the audacity to include their bigger hit, Donkey Kong. It was very close to the arcade version, and in 1982 that was the yardstick by which games were judged. Kids would buy a Colecovision for this game alone.
Launch titles: A. The Colecovision hit the streets with no less than a dozen launch titles behind it, including popular arcade hits like Zaxxon, Turbo, Venture, Mouse Trap, and Carnival.
Library: A-. Colecovision was all about bringing home the arcade experience and it served its purpose. Easy to play and fun, most Colecovision games have held up well over time. In addition to its impressive arcade games, the system also boasted some amazing sports games although these never played as well as they looked. One technical drawback is its inability to scroll smoothly, which is most evident in side-scrolling titles like Tutankham.
Collectability: B. The Colecovision's fun arcade games make it attractive to collectors. The hardest part is finding a console and controllers in good working condition. It's difficult to find complete Colecovision games with boxes, instructions, and overlays, but the loose cartridges are fairly common.
Innovations: Arcade-quality graphics, steering wheel controller, Atari 2600 adaptor.
Pros and Cons:
+ Fun, arcade style games.
+ Excellent graphics.
- Hardware cheap and prone to breakage.
- Poorly designed controllers.
- Choppy scrolling.