Intellivoice and Games – B-17 Bomber, Space Spartans, Tron Solar Sailer

Mattel wasn’t the first home console to add a synthesized speech module, that honor went to Magnavox Odyssey 2’s “The Voice”. By 1982, the Odyssey 2 was a distant third place in the console wars and would be relegated to fourth after the Colecovision’s release later that year. Atari’s biggest competitor was the Intellivision and Mattel wanted to beat Atari to the market with an add-on that could take recorded speech and digitize it for in game use. Thus, the Intellivoice was born.

The Intellivoice contains generic synthesized words that could be used with any game for example, the phrase “Mattel Electronics Presents”. Each individual cartridge that Mattel released to be compatible with the Intellivoice would then contain its own game specific words and phrases meant to enhance game play. To get it to work, you simply had to insert the Intellivoice module into the cartridge slot on the side of the console then insert a compatible cartridge into the other side of the Intellivoice. Unsurprisingly due to its high initial cost and the high cost of the games that worked with it, the Intellivoice wasn’t exactly a smashing success. Mattel only released 5 games for the peripheral during its short life span and I own 3 of those.

Currently in my collection:

Intellivoice module

B-17 Bomber – game, manual, box, 2 overlays. 

A super sophisticated WW2 era flight simulator, B-17 Bomber offers a LOT of intricate game play for an Intellivision title. Too much intricacy maybe? 11 of the controller buttons are used as well as the disc and the side buttons, with the side buttons and disc performing multiple functions depending on what mission you’re on. You have a strategic map of western Europe that you must maneuver around and decide on where you are going to focus your aerial attacks. You have two different missions, a flight mission and a bomb run. Both aspects of the game are enjoyable and look good. The use of the Intellivoice in B-17 Bomber is effective as crew members notify you when and where enemies appear during flight missions and bomb runs. Yes, the title screen’s speech synthesis of (in generic robot voice) “Mattel Electronics Presents…..(in an equally robotic version of Slim Pickens from Dr. Strangelove voice) B-17 Booomber” is comical and cringe inducing. Don’t let that deter you from a very impressive Intellivision title. Sit down and read the manual and slide your overlay into your controller because you’re going to need both in order to successfully play this game. B-17 Bomber is a winner and my only complaint is that it may have too many bells and whistles for novice gamers. B+

Space Spartans – game, manual, box, 2 overlays. 

Another space themed action strategy game meant to be Mattel’s answer to Atari’s Star Raiders, Space Spartans is an Intellivoice game that uses the full extent of the Intellivision keypad. You’re being attacked by aliens and you must strategize how to best counter-attack while defending your own fleet of ships. Space Spartans provides an overworld grid that shows the position of your ship, your starbase, alien starbases and alien fleets. The disc moves the cursor while on the grid and then it is used to move your sights for firing in first person shooter mode. You can move your starbases within the grid to temporarily escape from alien attacks that are moving in or you can move them directly into the alien fleets to initiate battle. The physics of moving your sights during battle feels “floaty” and difficult to control. This is more likely due to my inexperience in playing Space Spartans than a flaw in the game itself. Those physics are probably intentional and as you take on damage, you will not be able to control your ships as easily, which makes sense and adds depth to an already very deep game. The Intellivoice is used effectively in this game as various male and female computer voices inform you of your ship and starbase statuses and where the alien attacks are coming from. I think Space Spartans is well made and may appeal to fans of this style of game, however, this isn’t really a game I consider “fun”. B-

Tron Solar Sailer – game, manual, box, 2 overlays. 

Easily the worst of the 3 Intellivoice games I own, Tron Solar Sailer (sic) is too confusing to be fun and this is after I just described two of the most complicated games for the system! You start the game by receiving a destination and a 5 digit code which you’ll then need to either remember or write down because once you move your “Solar Sailer” around a circular track in an attempt to reach the grid goal you’ve been given, you’ll then need to enter that code in to successfully move on. You must also shoot at enemies while you’re riding the track but I guess you can’t shoot too many or else you lose power. You also need to move from track to track on different vertical beams by pressing buttons on the keypad. Doing this will increases your energy when you run low. You can change your speed on the track by using the side buttons to accelerate and slow down. This becomes useful when attempting to avoid attacks and trying to reach certain beams to take you to the next track. The manual provides a fairly useful map of the circular track and how the sectors are divided up. The ultimate goal is to make it to the Master Control Program (MCP) in the center of the track. Once (if) you arrive in the middle, you will then play the second phase of the game in a first person point of view. I honestly couldn’t make it to this phase due to the complexity and confusion I had in playing phase 1 so I can’t speak personally on how this part of the game looks and plays. The Intellivoice is used to inform you which sector you’ve entered, notify you what your energy level is and when you’ve been hit. Nothing too groundbreaking but it does the trick. I think Tron Solar Sailer has potential but there is a steep learning curve and I’m not sure there’s enough fun here to warrant that. C-

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