22 years after its debut, I have finally become acquainted with the finest home video game system of 1979. Though I am slightly embarrassed to say so, I have fallen head over heels for Intellivision.
The system was released at a time when I should have been the target market. Curiously, I never knew anybody who had one at that time. Almost everybody I knew had an Atari 2600, except one kid who had a Colecovision. Myself, I had the misfortunate of being tethered to the hideous Odyssey2 from Magnavox. There were already so many strikes against me having any friends, and I did not need the additional loadstone of that awful system.
Anyway, I had always been curious about the Intellivision, but I didn't know much about it. For one thing, I was slightly put off by these controllers, even without having touched one before...
But this was the system my wife and brother-in-law had as kids and they still rave about it. So, hoping to surprise her, I kept my feelers out on eBay for several months last year until I finally pulled the trigger on one. From the auctions I had been monitoring, I could tell there was still a lot of interest in the console and many of its games. There was even some heated final-seconds bidding on the auction I did win.
And so I came to see the error of my ways. Get thee behind me, 2600, as the Intellivision does, indeed, rock.
I believe I have about 1/2 to 3/4 of the games released for the system, and there have been surprisingly few dogs. Even better are the games exclusive to the system, such as Shark! Shark!, where you are a little fish that grows in size by eating smaller fish and avoid getting eaten by predators. The game play is fun and quirky, and there's an odd feeling of momentum if you let your fish simply drift. Simply put, the game has a great feel to it.
A lot of the games have so much to offer, though the joy I derive from them is sometimes unintentional. There's the much maligned Auto Racing cartridge which has vehicles that are ridiculously difficult to control, and yet this consistently reduces my wife and I to hysterical laughter. Then there's the Intellivision-exclusive Dracula, where you are in the title role and have a certain quota of victims you have to reach before sunrise. It is rare today to see a game where you are the villain, so imagine how strange this game must have seemed back in the early 80's.
I even enjoy playing on the Intellivision many types of games that I otherwise would avoid. I hate golf in all forms, real and virtual, and yet I keep finding myself going back to Chip Shot Super Pro Golf, with its full selection of clubs, 99 different courses and a hilarious "ker-plunk" sound that makes me repeatedly sink balls into the ponds just for my amusement. I also enjoy the three Dungeons & Dragons games to different extents, though I usually despise sword and sorcery stuff in any media.
Then there's Utopia, which was the world's first Sim City type game (and which was another reason I sprang for the console). Each player has their own island upon which they plant crops, build factories, hospitals and schools and try to keep the populace fed and happy. It is a preposterously enjoyable simulation game.
Much to my surprise, there are still new games being released for the system, albeit as "homebrew" (bootleg cartridge) titles, and most are titles that were developed but not released in the 80's.
As for those controllers of which I was weary, they work very effectively for some types of games, but they have underwhelming performance in most maze games. On the other hand, the many buttons on the controllers allow for more complex games.
I have one last thought, which I think will help to explain why this is a superior gaming experience. My favorite title is Frog Bog, which is nothing more than two frogs that you jump back and forth between two lilly pads as they try to catch insects. You can play the game in a daylight or nighttime mode, and the sky gradually darkens to night in the former and the moon slowly sets in the latter. I find playing this to be a very calming, almost zen-like experience.
But the nicest thing about the game is actually on the back of the box, where it says players can play at different difficulty levels at the same time, specifically so they can give younger players a break. I think that is a great consideration, not just the thought that went into coding the game to have such a feature, but gently recommending adults to do this. And I think it is the kind of thinking that makes many of the Intellivision titles better than their peers from that era.
So there's my blatantly full-on nerd confession. I am currently enamored with Intellivision, and many of its games make me very deeply happy.
In fact, I believe I hear Bump 'n' Jump calling now...