system Index U-Z
Utopia
Grade: C+
Publisher: Mattel (1981)
Reviewed: 2000/3/15

screenshotThis 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.

Our high score: 1056
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: King Salmon (Genesis)
Take The Money And Run (Odyssey 2)
Go Fish! (Atari 2600)
Free Food For Fish (Odyssey 2)
Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat (Xbox)

Vectron
Grade: D
Publisher: Mattel (1982)
Reviewed: 2009/11/25

screenshotVectron 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 nondescript 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.

Our high score: 13080
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Roc 'N Rope (Atari 2600)
Tron Deadly Discs (Atari 2600)
Space Shuttle (Atari 5200)
Classic Games from the Intellivision (Playstation)
Namco Museum Volume 1 (Playstation)

Venture
Grade: B+
Publisher: Coleco (1983)
Reviewed: 2006/3/5

screenshotI 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 cute 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 and 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: 3
Our high score: 99600
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Venture (Atari 2600)
Venture II The Abysmal Abyss (Atari 2600)
Venture (Atari XEGS)
Venture (Colecovision)
Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (Intellivision)

White Water
Grade: C
Publisher: Imagic (1983)
Reviewed: 2002/6/9

screenshotWhite 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.

Recommended variation: 5
Our high score: 2:32.2
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Flag Capture (Atari 2600)
Raft Rider (Atari 2600)
River Raid (Atari XEGS)
X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse (Super Nintendo)
Soul Blade (Playstation)

World Championship Baseball
Grade: B+
Publisher: Mattel (1983)
Reviewed: 2017/8/27


screenshotWorld Championship Baseball is a big step up from Major League Baseball (Mattel, 1979), which was impressive in its own right. For some reason World Championship's title screen reads "All Star Baseball" as if Mattel couldn't decide which generic title to go with. Anyway, this game boasts an impressive feature list including fly balls, bouncing balls, manual positioning of fielders, overrunning bases, sliding, pitch-outs, errors, foul balls, leading off, stealing, pick-offs, and extra innings.

Best of all, there's a single-player mode with multiple skill levels. No other classic baseball title offers this degree of robust gameplay. Overrunning of bases is a remarkable feature, and I love how sliding kicks up a cloud of dust. The graphics are basically the same as the first Intellivision baseball game but the diamond looks brighter. I love how the players quickly scamper on and off the field between half-innings.

I just wish the controls were better. Each fielder is mapped to a key on the keypad, and switching between them is clumsy. I constantly find myself having to look down at the keypad to select the closest one. The computer is a worthy opponent. He doesn't swing at balls and won't hesitate to steal. In fact, if you walk away from the television don't be surprised if all the CPU runners have scored while you were away. Sneaky bastards!

There's not much audio, but a series of beeps are used to simulate the umpire yelling "YER OUT!" and that sounds amazing. I'm just wondering why the voice synthesizer wasn't supported. The biggest flaw with the game would have to be its weak pitching controls; it's nearly impossible to strike anyone out! Even so, World Championship Baseball is exceptionally good. As classic baseball games go, only Realsports Baseball (Atari 5200, 1982) is in the same league. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Major League Baseball (Intellivision)
Realsports Baseball (Atari 5200)
Realsports Baseball (Atari 2600)
RBI Baseball 2 (NES)
RBI Baseball (NES)

World Series Major League Baseball
Grade: C
Publisher: Mattel (1983)
Reviewed: 2011/4/28

screenshotFor 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 spacebar 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.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Major League Baseball (Intellivision)
Hardball 94 (Genesis)
Tecmo Super Baseball (Genesis)
Tecmo Baseball (NES)
World Championship Baseball (Intellivision)

Worm Whomper
Grade: C
Publisher: Activision (1983)
Reviewed: 2008/4/7

screenshotThere 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.

Our high score: 24771
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Worms Forts Under Siege (Xbox)
Worm War I (Atari 2600)
Classic Games from the Intellivision (Playstation)
Crossbow (Atari 7800)
Megamania (Atari XEGS)

Zaxxon
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1983)
Reviewed: 2015/8/21


screenshotAs 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 

If you like this game, try: Zaxxon (Colecovision)
Zaxxon (Atari 2600)
Viewpoint (Genesis)
Zaxxon (Atari 5200)
Space Ranger (Philips CD-i)


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