Mattel’s Intellivision may always play second fiddle to the Atari 2600 in terms of public consciousness and pop culture ubiquity but there’s no justifiable reason for it to be that way. It is true that the Intellivision didn’t have the same number of arcade home ports that Atari did, but the games they had, were mostly high quality. In 1979-1980, Mattel had to create a number of games that either matched or exceeded Atari’s offerings in order to even compete for second place. In this regard, I feel like Mattel’s early offerings were better than the first wave of games available for the VCS. As mentioned in my last post, Mattel also put all their eggs in their sports games basket. This seemed to work and it also didn’t hurt that these games were, for the most part, very good.
The Intellivision was sold at a slightly higher price point ($299 vs. Atari’s $199) and along with it’s superior graphical capabilities, it came across as the high end video game console. You want simplistic, dumbed down versions of arcade games? Atari’s your choice. You want unique, ambitious and graphically pleasing games? Intellivision’s your choice. Now that may seem like an unfair comparison and an overly simplistic view of the two consoles, but I think fans of the Intellivision certainly see it that way. I’m a huge fan of the Atari 2600 so you won’t hear me bash the system or most of its games. I’m also a huge fan of the Intellivision as well and think it really deserved all the success it had.
The Intellivision has its strengths and weaknesses like any console. The way I see it, they are:
- Impressive, colorful graphics
- Cheap and easy to collect for
- Numerous high quality exclusives, including the best offerings from Imagic
- Colorful, well made overlays for most games open up deeper gameplay options
- Controllers of course. Everyone bitches about the Intellivision controllers and yeah, they aren’t great. The side buttons are mushy and the disc isn’t ideal for rapid back and forth movement types of games (hello, Astrosmash).
- Lack of arcade ports – Atari owned the exclusive rights to many of the most popular games of the time but some still found their way onto the Intellivision (e.g. Donkey Kong, Pac Man).
Before the beginning of the month, I already had a pretty respectable Intellivision collection. I owned many of the premier Mattel and Imagic exclusive games. I owned both the original model 1 and slimmed down model 2 Intellivision consoles. I even owned the Intellivoice with 3 of it’s games. I did not own the Intellivision computer add-on, which would have made a neat historical collector’s piece but not very practical. I did look for one online but I couldn’t find one for a price I was willing to pay so that little piece of Intellivision history remains out of my collection.
I did add one more of the Intellivoice’s title to my collection, Bomb Squad, complete in box. I also added Space Hawk, an space shooter similar in style to Asteroids as well as box and manual for Imagic’s Atlantis and manual for B-17 Bomber. I feel like I have a pretty decent list of games and I’m happy adding a title here. At this point, the Imagic games that made their way onto the Intellivision are probably the most interesting titles I would like to still continue to add as time/money permits.
Overall Grade: B-