Intellivision Reviews A

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
Grade: B
Publisher: Mattel (1982)
Reviewed: 2005/6/4


screenshotAlthough the original Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) "board game" is designed to be played with paper and dice, it's a natural fit for the world of video games. Its randomized encounters, tedious mapping, and turn-based combat practically beg to be computerized. Many old video games tried to capture the D&D formula with varying degrees of success, but this Intellivision gem practically nailed it.

A fast-paced, easy-to-play adventure, AD&D effectively conveys both the combat and exploration aspects of the original dice-throwing game. Your journey begins on a sprawling map screen complete with mountain ranges, walls, forests, and your final destination: Cloudy Mountain. It looks like something from Lord of the Rings! As you traverse the wilderness you'll stumble into a series of monster-infested dungeons.

These caverns are randomly generated and contain oddly-shaped rooms - something you don't see in old games. I love how the dungeons "draw in" as you roam, auto-mapping your progress. While searching for key items, you'll encounter bats, spiders, rats, snakes, blobs, demons, and dragons. It's a shame these creatures are all really, really tiny. The demons resemble aliens (complete with antennae) and I mistook the dragons for bears!

Another problem is how you can't see an approaching monster until the thing's practically on top of you. Be sure to listen for sound cues that signal when danger is near. You can shoot a limited supply of arrows, and it's great how they actually ricochet off the walls! You'll want to take advantage of this technique in winding hallways - just be sure the arrows don't bounce back at you!

AD&D's controls are responsive, and you can even run one way while shooting another. Five difficulty levels are included, and even the easiest is no cakewalk. If one element of the original game is missing, it would be the complexity. There are only a few items, no treasure, and no magic. Still, AD&D is a fun, arcade-style quest that will probably surprise a lot of gamers. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin
Grade: C+
Publisher: Mattel (1982)
Reviewed: 2000/6/10


screenshotTreasure of Tarmin must have been awesome in 1982, with its first-person view of the dungeon and a wide variety of monsters and objects. The control scheme makes excellent use of the keypad, allowing you to easily manipulate an inventory of items. As you forge ahead the hallway animation conveys an effective illusion of movement, although turning 90 degrees requires about a second to redraw the screen.

The small, non-animated monsters include snakes, scorpions, skeletons, dragons, and a minotaur. Items you come across include normal weapons, spiritual weapons, armor, containers, treasures, keys, books, and more! So what's the problem? Well, it's tedious to make your way through a huge dungeon, especially when every freakin' hallway looks the same. Still, AD&D Treasure of Tarmin is incredibly deep for a 1982 release, and if you have enough patience, you might still enjoy this one. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Armor Battle
Grade: D
Publisher: Mattel (1979)
Reviewed: 2002/9/22


screenshotWith Armor Battle, it's clear Mattel was taking aim at Atari's Combat, trying to "show it up" with better graphics and deeper gameplay. While it may have succeeded on those counts, Armor Battle isn't that much fun to play. A two-player-only game, both players get two tanks situated on a randomly generated battlefield with roads, trees, water, and buildings. While these obstacles are meant to provide strategy, they rarely do.

Most battles are a series of one-on-one confrontations with each tank blasting away until the other blows up. This occurs because the tanks don't relocate after being hit (as in Combat), leaving them open to continuous fire. Another problem is the control. The directional disk is only used to turn the tank - you have to hold in a side button to move forward. This would make sense if the cannon could aim independently of the tank movement, but you can only shoot forward.

One cool feature is the ability to lay invisible mines (one at a time) but they are rarely a factor. The funniest part is how the game doesn't officially end until you lose 50 tanks! I thought one round was bad enough, but then the game told me I had 48 tanks left! Armor Battle is one of those games that looks great on paper, but is less than thrilling to play. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

2 players 

Astrosmash
Grade: C
Publisher: Mattel (1981)
Reviewed: 2009/12/18


screenshotIn 1981 Atari had a runaway hit on their hands by the name of Asteroids. Mattel needed an answer, and what they came up with was pretty good! Astrosmash is a fast-paced shooter combining elements of both Asteroids and Space Invaders. You move a cannon back and forth over a planet surface, firing at raining asteroids which split in half when shot. You'll also need to keep an eye out for white "spinners" which cost you a life should they reach the surface. Upon scoring 20K, a huge bomb-dropping mother ship makes an appearance.

The action is non-stop and a handy auto-fire feature unleashes three shots per second (sweet). Obliterating asteroids is a blast, and their explosions even incinerate other objects in the vicinity. To discourage the player from becoming passive, the game actually deducts points whenever an asteroid reaches the surface, so your final score is actually your "peak" score. For the first few minutes, Astrosmash is the best game you've ever played, but over time it wears out its welcome. The game drags on for far too long, and after 20 minutes or so you tend to grow weary of it all.

The main culprit is an overabundance of lives - one awarded every 1000 points! I actually racked up over 20 reserve ships on the hardest difficulty! Even in advanced stages the game seems to replenish ships as fast as you can destroy them. I also noticed that the animation gets choppier and the collision detection suffers as you progress. It's still a good game, but I prefer the Atari version of Astrosmash, known as Astroblast (Atari 2600, 1982). © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: hard/auto
Our high score: 47,770
1 player 

Atlantis
Grade: A-
Publisher: Imagic (1982)
Reviewed: 2007/8/23

screenshotWhoa! The Atari 2600 version of Atlantis was great, but this Intellivision version is amazing! Imagic pulled out all the stops for this, with outstanding visuals and surprisingly rich gameplay (relatively speaking of course). Heck, even the art in the instruction manual looks great. The gameplay involves shooting down invading ships that fly progressively lower across the screen until they begin frying your city below.

The half-submerged city of Atlantis looks gorgeous with its oscillating generators perched upon shadowed undersea mountains. Unlike the Atari version, you actually move crosshairs around the screen to precisely aim your missiles. Missiles are launched from cannons on both sides of the screen, and I love how they rotate in flight. Upon reaching their target they explode into a cloud of flack, so you don't have to hit your target dead-on.

Since you can fire two missiles at a time, the game takes on a certain Missile Command flavor. You also have the option of unleashing your "Sentinel Saucer", which you move freely around the screen while firing missiles from both sides. Atlantis contains three distinct stages: day, dusk, and night. The day screen features a bright blue sky with white clouds, and dusk looks somewhat gray and overcast. The night screen is pitch dark save for two floodlights that pan the night sky for enemies. That's one nifty piece of programming.

So what's not to like? Well, the controls could be better. Instead of using the left buttons to fire the left cannon and vice versa, the top buttons shoot the left cannon, and the bottom buttons fire the right. A balanced approach would have made the controls much more comfortable. The night stages seem to last a lot of longer than the day stages, which is annoying because they tend to be very hard. There's no co-op mode, but you do get three skill levels. Ambitious in scope and easy on the eyes, Atlantis is truly a showcase title for the Intellivision system. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: Medium
Our high score: EV 8650
1 or 2 players 

Auto Racing
Grade: D-
Publisher: Mattel (1979)
Reviewed: 2007/2/3


screenshotMy friend Jonathan tossed out a great line while helping me review this game: "Dave, are you mad at me? Is that why we're playing this?" Auto Racing is one relic that might be best left buried deep below the earth's crust. If its counter-intuitive controls don't make you wince, its never-ending races certainly will.

The action is viewed from an overhead perspective, and by all accounts the graphics are quite good. The houses on the side of the road have a slick 3D appearance with realistic shadows and colorful bushes. The roads twist and turn in every direction, but the scrolling has a herky-jerky quality that's not exactly pleasing to the eye. The two-player contests are similar to Micro Machines, in that you score points by taking a commanding lead or having your opponent crash.

The main problem with this game lies with its steering controls. Pressing right always turns right, no matter which direction your car is facing, and even after you get the hang of it, it's very easy to suddenly become disoriented. Having to press the disk "lower" for sharper turns complicates matters even further.

Another issue is Auto Racing's hit-or-miss collision detection, which will have you asking, "What the [expletive] did I just crash into?" The unpleasant "roar" of the car engines sound more like an out-of-tune radio signal. Finally, the races are simply too long. The two-player matches are meant to last until someone scores 50 points - which is a complete joke.

Even racing solo (for best time) requires you to complete five long, boring laps. Auto Racing's gameplay was ahead of its time, and I'm sure it's quite fun with two players who know what they're doing. But only the most patient gamers will be able to overcome its steep learning curve. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, Games Database