Intellivision Reviews T

Grade: B-
Publisher: Mattel (1980)
Posted: 2014/8/3

screenshotTennis 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 serving 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.

2 players 

Thin Ice
Grade: B
Publisher: INTV (1986)
Posted: 2009/3/31

screenshotThis 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.

Our high score: 8400
1 or 2 players 

Thunder Castle
Grade: A-
Publisher: Mattel (1982)
Posted: 2017/10/7

screenshotThis terrific Lord of the Rings-inspired maze adventure boasts rich graphics, melodic music, and three unique stages. You are a knight who can kill monsters when in an "energized" state. Thunder Castle's first stage features a castle nestled in a lush forest. Dragons slink around menacingly as the forest maze magically reconfigures itself. To energize you must touch one of the bats that flies randomly around the screen. You can't outrun a dragon but you can slay the beast by chasing it into a dead end.

The second stage pits you against wizards inside a castle with a lot of interesting passageways. The third stage is a skull-lined dungeon infested by pitchfork-wielding demons. Each maze has its own asymmetrical design, and randomly-appearing magic items spice up the action. These include a necklace that lets you move faster, coins that add to your point total, and a ring that teleports you to a random location. The only item you need to avoid is the comb (yes, a comb) which cuts your score in half.

Each stage is introduced by a screen-sized animation, my favorite being the wizard with the mouse dangling from his staff. My one critique of this game is the sluggish movement of your knight. Considering the generous number of free lives, the game can be a little hard on the thumb. Nonetheless, Thunder Castle remains not only the best-looking but also the best sounding game I've played on my Intellivision. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 8,400
1 player 

Tower of Doom
Grade: B+
Publisher: INTV (1986)
Posted: 2003/10/21

screenshotTower 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 magnitude. 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.

1 player 

Triple Action
Grade: D-
Publisher: Mattel (1981)
Posted: 2007/8/18

screenshotThis 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.

2 players 

Tron Deadly Discs
Grade: B
Publisher: Mattel (1982)
Posted: 2022/1/30

screenshotMattel was big on Tron, releasing no less than three Intellivision titles based on the film. Deadly Discs was the most popular and it's easy to see why. On a system known for more sophisticated titles, its simplicity is appealing.

You're the character Tron in the middle of an enclosed room lined with doors. Waves of disc-throwing attackers enter, usually three at a time. You're armed with a deadly disc of your own which ricochets back after it's thrown in one of eight directions.

The gameplay is exciting as you run for your life, avoiding the crossfire while trying to disintegrate advancing warriors. It's particularly satisfying when you can nail two or three of them with a single throw. The difficulty ramps gradually and your score seems to increase exponentially as you progress.

Periodically a large, horseshoe-shaped behemoth makes a dramatic entrance, and the first time it appeared I was caught completely off-guard. Bosses were a fairly new concept in 1982. To defeat "the Recognizer" you'll need to strike the white of his eye and there's only a small window of opportunity to do so.

Tron Deadly Discs boasts amazing audio. The sound of warriors "shattering" is gratifying, and it's followed up with a subtle ringing sound. When you strike a door it makes a cool "airlock" noise. Finally, the low rumble of the boss entering is so ominous my cat Claire came over to the TV to see what the hell was going on.

For a game that features non-stop running and throwing, Deadly Discs feels very slow and deliberate. The manual lists four available speeds as: slow, slower, slowest, and fastest. Which to choose? Even "fastest" is relatively slow compared to your typical arcade game.

You "aim" your throws at eight angles via the keypad. My friend Eric pointed out that using the overlay is actually a detriment, as it makes it more difficult to "feel" for the right button. I often hit the wrong button in the heat of battle.

It's a shame your discs are harmless during their return flight. It's possible to tap the throw button a second time to call back your disc, but I find that awkward. You can use two controllers at once but the scheme remains the same. It would make more sense if you could use the disc on the second controller to throw.

Once you make peace with the controls Tron Deadly Discs can be habit-forming. It's not exactly pick-up-and-play but the challenge is substantial. And when it comes to longtime Intellivision fans, I'm pretty sure this one is virtually review-proof. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: fastest
Our high score: 58,800
1 player 

Tron Maze-A-Tron
Grade: F
Publisher: Mattel (1982)
Posted: 2000/3/15

screenshotThis 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.
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1 player 

Tron Solar Sailor
Grade: F
Publisher: Mattel (1982)
Posted: 2001/2/17

screenshotCan 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 excel 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 are pretty cool, but they're wasted. I'm pretty sure I hate this game. Yes, yes I do. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 2300
1 player 

Tropical Trouble
Grade: C-
Publisher: Imagic (1983)
Posted: 2003/3/13

screenshotTropical 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.

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Recommended variation: med
Our high score: 3550
1 or 2 players 

Grade: D
Publisher: Imagic (1983)
Posted: 2003/3/13

screenshotIf 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.

1 player 

Grade: C-
Publisher: Coleco (1983)
Posted: 2012/6/19

screenshotWow - 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
1 player 

Grade: B
Publisher: Parker Bros. (1983)
Posted: 2016/10/19

screenshotTutankham is dungeon-crawling at its purest: grab treasure, shoot monsters, and get the hell out. I've played just about every version but this Intellivision edition has proven elusive. As one of the more rare Intellivision games, it commands over $100 for the cartridge alone. Fortunately my new ROM-playing cartridge lets me review games previously out of my financial reach. Now that I'm playing Tutankham at long last, I can tell you it's a glorious thing.

The graphics look so colorful and clean! I love how the snakes, birds, and scorpions scoot around the mazes so smoothly and quickly. If only your explorer would get the lead out of his ass! His slow movement makes it difficult to traverse the narrow corridors, and the 16-point directional pad doesn't help! My friend Scott suggested that thing around his neck might as well be a boat anchor!

Make sure the coast is clear while turning a corner, and for the love of God don't enter a portal if there's something on the other side! Red scorpions materialize so fast there's almost no time to react. The collision detection is unforgiving but at least the game restarts you exactly where you died.

The shooting controls are excellent due to the fact you can use the keypad to fire left or right. Tutankham is challenging but addictive. There's a nice risk/reward dynamic as you decide whether to venture down a dead-end to grab some bling. Don't forget you have smart bombs!

Upon reaching the end of a dungeon you're awarded with a strange looking item. Scott and Brent were arguing whether it was pizza or bacon, but I'm pretty sure it's a parchment of some sort. Tutankham has a very unique flavor on the Intellivision and that makes it a treasure in of itself. Educational note: King Tut's full name is Tutankhamun, but Stern shortened it for the arcade game. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 2
Our high score: 36,000
1 or 2 players 

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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, Games Database, Moby Games