Not to be left behind in the Star Wars craze of the late 70s and early 80s, Mattel felt the need to develop a plethora of space related games for the Intellivison. Some ended up being good, others not so good. Some had fairly original gameplay and graphics, others that were derivative and less enjoyable than counterparts on other systems.
The most obvious of the clones in this line-up of space games in my collection is Space Armada. A clear answer to Space Invaders, which was an Atari exclusive at the time, Space Armada is way more colorful and graphically superior to Atari’s port of Space Invaders. Unfortunately, Space Armada is nowhere near as fun or addictive as Space Invaders. Not only that, Space Armada plain pisses me off! I played 20 consecutive games and I wasn’t able to get to the second screen once! The large enemy sprites look great but as they move across and down the screen, you realize that their size is a detriment to your ability to clear each wave before they reach the bottom. Like Space Invaders, Space Armada tries to lure you into shooting UFO across the top of the screen for big points but you need to simply ignore them if you want to have any chance of getting past screen one. Pressing the side buttons rapidly on the Intellivision controller in conjunction with moving back and forth with the disc along with sketchy hit detection, makes this game too hard for its own good. I won’t be coming back to it anytime soon.
The next two games, Space Battle and Star Strike ask an age old gaming question. What is better, a game with depth but minimal fun or a shallow game that is slightly more fun? Space Battle is a space strategy title where you are in control of 3 different space squadrons whose goal is to protect the mother ship. Alien invaders are attacking from the distance so you’ll need to send your squadrons off to fight. Once they reach the aliens, you can choose to let the computer fight the battle for you or use the keypad to manually fight them. I’m not sure why you wouldn’t manually fight the aliens at every possibility as this is by far the best part of the game. If you make it out of the battle with ships available, you can send them back to the base or you can ship them off to take on the next alien swarm. Strategy plays into your decision when you see the alien swarms of varying sizes moving towards the mother ship at varying speeds and deciding where to send your squadrons first. You might also have to take yourself out of battle to send them elsewhere if the other aliens swarms approach quicker than you were expecting. You don’t actually score points in Space Battle, you only successfully take out the alien swarms and protect the mother ship, or you don’t. Space Battle was innovative for its time and the graphics during the battle scenes were impressive for an early Intellivision title in 1979. The game effectively utilizes the Intellivision keypad in a way that few games actually do and the overlays and manual are extremely helpful in understand what to do and how to do it. It’s one of the better games for the console but it’s not really my cup of tea.
Star Strike on the other hand, is all flash and little substance. Star Strike was one of those games that was a visual marvel in 1981 and was highlighted on television and print ads for the Intellivision. You fly a space craft in what appears to be a trench, not unlike the Death Star scene in Star Wars, except this one is green. Your goal is to bomb 5 separate targets on the surface of the Death Star, err, I mean space station before your timer runs out. If you are successful, you save Earth from total destruction but if you die or your time runs out before you can bomb all of the targets, the space station will shoot it’s weapon at the Earth and completely blow our planet to smithereens. Enemy space ships will attempt to thwart your mission by coming up behind you in pairs and shoot at your ship while you focus on avoiding the sides of the trench and bombing targets. They eventually fly past you where they are now in your sights and you can shoot them down but its all temporary anyway as more enemies always come at you no matter if you destroy them or not. These enemy planes are more of a nuisance than anything else but if they hit your ship too many times, you will die and the game will be over. As I mentioned already, the visuals of Star Strike are quite impressive. The trench appears to be moving under your and provides a 3D effect which is cool. The Earth slowly moves from left to right on the screen and into the space station’s sight as the timer winds down, which is another cool effect. Finally, the way the screen appears to shake more violently with each target you destroy provides an effect that you’re damaging the space station to the point of total destruction. When you hit that 5th and final target, the screen shakes so much that it can be a bit jarring the first time you see it. But alas, Star Strike is mostly flash. Visuals are an A+ but the gameplay is sadly very repetitive and shallow as the game never really offers more than what I’ve already described here. Once you’ve seen the Earth and the space station explode, there’s not much else to bring you back to Star Strike.
Currently in my collection:
Space Armada – game, manual, box, 2 overlays D+
Space Battle – game, manual, box, 2 overlays C+
Star Strike – game (x3), manual (x3), box (x2), overlays (x4) B-