Even though Imagic and Activision made games for both the Intellivision and the Atari 2600, when I think of Activision games, I think of Atari and when I think of Imagic games, I think of Intellivision. This is largely due to the early print ads I saw, as described in my console of the month post, for Imagic games such as Microsurgeon, Beauty and the Beast and Demon Attack. 2 of which (Beauty and the Beast, Microsurgeon) were never even ported to Atari. I understand now that Imagic began developing games for Atari first then ported hits such as Demon Attack, Atlantis & Dragonfire to the Intellivision but the fact that two of the best Imagic games (in my opinion) were console exclusives to the Intellvision, continues to feed my belief that Imagic shone brighter on this system. I still have quite a few to go if I’m going to collect all Imagic games available for the Intellivision, but I have 4 pretty solid titles already.
Currently in my collection:
Atlantis – game, manual, box, 2 overlays. Your job is to protect the underwater city of Atlantis from an invasion hell-bent on destroying the city from above. You man two anti-aircraft weapons and must shoot enemy planes out of the sky while preventing your city from being annihilated. You also have your own ship you can send out into the sky to attack the enemies, and determining the best times to use the ground and air attacks adds some minor strategy elements. You must fight during day, dusk and night and each day that you successfully defend your city allows for more points as well as re-use of you air ship which may have been destroyed or ran out of fuel the previous day. Atlantis is a very good game, with bright colorful graphics, which is an Imagic staple. A-
Beauty and the Beast – game, manual, box, 2 overlays. On the surface, Beauty and the Beast is a Donkey Kong clone, a game where you control a man attempting to save his girl from the clutches of a big ape. In Beauty and the Beast, the “big ape” or “beast” is the huge, muscled, massively bearded Horrible Hank. Instead of a short mustachioed Italian, you play as Bashful Buford attempting to save Tiny Mabel from Hank’s clutches. You have to climb up the sides of a tall skyscraper, shimmying up open windows to reach each new level. Hank throws boulders down at Buford, but the boulders’ trajectory is much less predictable than the barrels in Donkey Kong and they’ll even break into two on later levels. Mabel will toss down hearts and if Buford collects, he achieves a short burst of invincibility, which is crucial considering the various hazards that await Buford. He has to watch out not just for boulders, but also mice, bats, birds and windows that can close on you while you’re climbing. Hank continues to take Mabel up further each time Buford catches up to him until he reaches the very narrow top of the skyscraper. Once Buford catches up to him here, he is able to toss Hank off the top and it all starts over again. I love this game and while it doesn’t have the level variety of Donkey Kong, it is a solid and fun game in its own right. A-
Demon Attack – game, manual, box, 2 overlays. Another vertical shooter in the same vein as Phoneix and Galaxian, Demon Attack’s print ads mesmerized me back in the 80s by showing the huge mother ship screen. The massive and colorful ship shaped like a huge demon head took up half the screen and looked amazing. This was just another game I knew I had to have once I finally bought my Intellivision. I own Demon Attack on both the Atari and Intellivision and I have to say I slightly prefer the Atari version’s gameplay simply due to the controls. Yes, the game looks better on the Intellivision and the Atari version is sorely missing the demon mother ship stage, but this is a game that screams for a joystick that allows you to make the herky-jerky movements necessary to succeed. The good thing about Demon Attack for the Intellivision is that it almost feels like a completely different game from the Atari version. B
Microsurgeon – game, manual, box, 2 overlays. Microsurgeon is the definition of innovation and ambition on the Intellivision. You essentially are playing a surgery simulation game mixed with science fiction elements. You operate a micro-probe sent inside of random patients, traveling through his/her body curing the various maladies afflicting them. A status screen tells you which parts of the body need attention and your job is to move from organ to organ addressing the most critical of issues. You have 3 different means to cure the patient; ultrasonic rays, antibiotics and aspirin, but you don’t use aspirin all that often. From a gameplay standpoint, the pluses for Microsurgeon are the interesting concept, the depth and variety of the patients you encounter and use of strategy to balance doing the best job for your patient but also maximizing your profits through the calculation of a medical bill you’ll be charging at the end of the game. The downsides to Microsurgeon are how slowly your probe moves whenever it leaves the veins, arteries and lymph fluids your intended to travel through and managing movement with administering medicine. It wouldn’t be a big deal if the pathways were wide enough to allow your tiny probe through, but they often times aren’t. If you leave those pathways, not only do you move slowly, you are also then attacked by white blood cells who mistake the probe for an infection. If your probe runs out of power due to excessive amount of time spent in the patient’s body or through attacks by the white blood cells, your game is over. The final bill will be a fraction of what it would be if you were able to save the patient and properly exit the patient via the mouth, nose, ears or eye. In order to manage movement of the probe and delivering medicine to the patient, the manual suggests using two controllers to play the game. If you’re trying to administer ultrasonic rays at clogged arteries or tar spots in the lungs, you have to press in the direction of what you’re trying to hit while pressing the side buttons. But if you use the 1 controller approach, the disc also moves your probe so you’ll be moving at the same time that you are aiming which will inevitably lead you out of the pathways you are meant to stay in. Next thing you know you’re slowed to a crawl while white blood cells come after you hard. I tried the two controller approach but it wasn’t ideal for me so I gave up on it. In all, I think Microsurgeon was a game ahead of its time and deserves kudos for being one of the most interesting Intellivision titles out there. B+
Pitfall – game, manual, box, 2 overlays. Ok, I’m going to admit….I don’t really “get” Pitfall’s appeal. In this Activision classic, you play as Pitfall Harry, an adventurer in the Indiana Jones mold who’s searching for gold and other lost treasures deep in the jungle. You can move from screen to screen, avoiding hazards along the way such as scorpions, crocodiles, cobras, rolling logs, pits, quicksand & swamps. You can move left or right and even below ground into the caverns. The upper and lower levels of the game are both visible simulatenously but the underground screen is the equivalent of 3 on the surface, which is important to know if you’re going to go below ground to take shortcuts to the surface level screens. My issue with Pitfall isn’t the innovation in creating an early platformer with 255 different screens to choose from. My issue is that the end result is a bit boring! I’m searching for treasure and I rarely find it. I also dread coming to screens with the 3 crocodiles with no vine to grab onto because I know I’m going to die at least once. My tactic is to run to the left, that way if I do die while jumping over the crocs, at least the game sets me down on the other side of them so I can continue on towards the left. It’s possible I just don’t know how to properly play this game, but I get bored to tears running and jumping and running and jumping and rarely finding anything except death at the jaws of the crocs. I give this Activision classic major kudos for trying something beyond single screen action but the “classic” appeal is still a little lost on me. C+
Stampede – game only. The second Activision game in my collection, Stampede is a game that requires quick movement and even quicker decision making. You control a cowboy riding horseback and your goal is to lasso as many steer as you can without letting 3 steer pass you by. You play the game from the far left as the steer enter the screen from the right. Different color steer move quicker than others so you’ll want to lasso the slower ones first as those are the ones you’ll likely pass by. There will also be stationary steer that you have to lasso as soon as you see them or else you’ll miss them for sure! You can also nudge the steer by running into them to keep them in front of you and this is a very important tactic to employ as the levels get harder and harder. Stampede’s looks are very plain with the monochromatic color scheme used for all the characters on screen but ultimately, it makes very little difference. This is what Activision did best, a simple concept executed almost flawlessly with the net result being a memorable, fun game with high replay value. B