Launch Titles – ABPA Backgammon, Electric Company Math Fun, Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack

2 of the 4 Intellivision launch titles from 1979 were card and educational games, not exactly your traditional space shooters, arcade hits or two player versus games that typically filled out a console launch list back then. I suppose that isn’t too unusual as the Atari VCS launched with blackjack and math games a couple of years prior, along with a number of other more exciting titles. The reality is, card based video games were pretty standard fare in the late 70s as they were easy to program, easy to play and they offered gamers a chance to play card games against a computer opponent if human players weren’t available. Plus gambling is illegal in most of the United States and shy of driving Nevada, New Jersey or to a riverboat or Indian casino, this might be the best way to get your gambling fix on a Friday night.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that card based games or in the case of Backgammon, board games from this era are still enjoyable today. Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack and ABPA (American Backgammon Players Association) Backgammon are interesting relics of a foregone video gaming era but I just can’t see myself or many others popping these games into their Intellivision for a good time. Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack maintains a bit of relevance thanks to Mattel packaging a copy of this game with Intellivision systems up until they produced the Intellivision II with BurgerTime as the pack-in title. As a result, LV Poker & BJ is probably the most common Intellivision game in existence. It was sold with almost 2 million consoles and it’s not a game that many consider collectible so it’s a bit like Atari’s Combat in that you can find a copy anywhere that sells used Intellivision games. The game itself is well made and fun for what it offers so I don’t have any grievances against the gameplay and computer AI. A nicely done rendering of a Vegas casino dealer is shown on screen dealing out cards during gameplay which is a nice addition as opposed to the barebones Atari Blackjack.

Backgammon is a board and dice game that I’d never played before prior to playing on the Intellivision. The game is moderately fun but overall, but let’s face it. It’s a board game for a video game console. Not terribly exciting.

Finally, Electric Company Math Fun doesn’t provide much of interest for an adult gamer and collector beyond the potential nostalgia associated with the PBS television show of the same name. I distinctly remember watching & enjoying the Electric Company back in the late 70s and early 80s when I was attending daycare and after school. It always aired in conjunction with Sesame Street and seemed like it skewed for a slightly older audience. You know, like maybe 2nd graders. Unlike Sesame Street which still airs today, the Electric Company stopped airing reruns from its original 70s run sometime in the 80s and now its known best as “the show where Morgan Freeman got his start.” There really isn’t anything within the actual game of Math Fun to indicate this is an Electric Company sponsored title beyond it being educational. If it was developed a few years later, it may have potentially had a simplistic rendering of the show’s theme song which would have been amazing. As the player, your job is to solve math problems quickly and correctly to get your gorilla (hence the big ape on the box cover) to the goal before your opponent in two player mode. In one player mode, you’re just answering math problems as quickly and accurately as you can to maybe beat your own personal best time or use as practice for a math test at school. You can also select how many questions you’ll be asked and at what difficulty level prior to playing so you can take on someone with a different skill level and still be on equal ground. Math Fun is one of those games that was made with good intentions and there are probably a lot of copies out there due to parents wanting to turn the Intellivision into an educational investment and not just a toy. The biggest problem with Math Fun isn’t that it’s an educational game. Its biggest problem is that it is terribly redundant with just the gorilla jungle to play. I doubt that even in 1979, children were too excited to pop this game into their console and today, there is absolutely no need.

Currently in my collection:

ABPA Backgammon – game, manual, box, 2 overlays C

The Electric Company Math Fun – game, manual, box, overlay D

Las Vegas Poker and Blackjack – game, manual, box, 2 overlays B


 

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