Mattel Electronics' classic Intellivision console lives once again on the PS2 and this compilation largely lives up to legend. It offers more than 60 classic Intellivision games including several unreleased titles. The games work well with the PS2 controller and cover most of the classic console's library including big hits like Astrosmash, Night Stalker, and B-17 Bomber plus many other unforgettable games from the golden age. Each one has been emulated beautifully and take advantage of the PS2's analog controller - though the keypad interface is decent but still awkward. Despite its faults, this comprehensive package should please nostalgic gamers and collectors alike.
Mattel's entry into the video game field 20 years ago was one of the most highly regarded out there, with the Intellivision console offering more realistic graphics and sophisticated gameplay than the other consoles on the market. Thanks to the efforts of the Blue Sky Rangers, a group of former Intellivision programmers, this pioneering system has been given new life over the past few years in a variety of platforms, including PCs, handheld phones and even mini-portables. Now, the latest release in the Intellivsion Renaissance has arrived. It's a comprehensive package for the PS2 called Intellivision Lives and includes more than 60 games from the classic era. The titles are divided into several categories, as the games were marketed in a similar fashion. Players can select from sports, combat/sorcery, chliden's, arcade, and gaming (gambling) genres. The package also includes a couple of unreleased games and demos as well, which are quite interesting and should please classic gaming fans. There's a good selection of most of Mattel's releases (though sadly lacking third-party titles from Imagic and Activision) with a few exceptions such as the Tron movie tie-ins. A shame, since Deadly Discs and Solar Sailor were two of the best games on the system. The Electric Company educational games are included, but lack the titles due to licensing issues.
Despite the cosmetic changes, the most important thing is the gameplay. Fortunately, the classic games included on the package remain as addictive and appealing as they were when they came out two decades ago. The sports titles have lost their big-league surnames, but retain their playability and fun. Players should have fond memories of Football, Soccer, Baseball, Skiing, Basketball, Golf, Hockey, and Auto Racing and none of the games have lost much of their appeal. While the graphics seem simplistic and rather primitive these days, they were quite advanced for their time, and outclassed everything else on the market. Despite the ancient appearance, the gameplay was still remarkably sophisticated for its time and each has held up well over the years. Each features multiple players on the field, realistic player animations and many of the same strategies you'd find in real life - a more remarkable achievement when you consider the technological restraints the designers faced. The only drawback was the fact that a lot of these games had only two-player modes, which is annoying even now. There are later period revised sports games from the INTV era, and many of the sports titles feature better graphics, more options and single player modes. There are also a few of the 'rarer' sports titles including Stadium Mud Buggies, Pro Wrestling and Volleyball titles which were developed later on. These retain the classic Intellivision feel and are definitely worth playing.
In addition to the console's famous sports titles, Intellivision Lives includes a number of the system's most memorable action games. Anyone who owned an Intellivision will remember the simple addictive fun of Astrosmash, the Space Invaders inspired Space Battle and the challenging maze game Night Stalker, which was a more sophisticated version of the classic Berzerk. Pinball was another great game and ranks among many players' favorite titles. These titles have held up quite well over the years and remain highly playable and addictive. The package also includes deveral titles in the package were aimed at children such as Frog Bog, Vectron, and the late period Thin Ice make a good case for the console's versatility. In addition to action and sports titles, the console was also known for its sophisticated strategy titles such as Utopia and Sea Battle. There's a remarkable level of detail and depth in these games. The console also brought gamers several pioneering games that offered innovative features for the first time. One of these was the racing title Motocross which allowed you to create your own courses and race them, which really showcases the console's power.
Showing how sophisticated and adult-oriented the console was, Mattel Electronics released a variety of casino and board games including Poker & Blackjack, Royal Dealer, Backgammon, Checkers and Reversi included. There are also a few odd-ball gambling titles like Horse Racing that show the inventiveness and risk-taking that was prevalent during gaming's golden age. Lesser-known titles such as the addictive Centipede variant Buzz Bombers, the remarkably sophisticated helicopter game Hover Force and the late-period masterpiece Thunder Castle show that the console's technology was incredibly sophisticated. The fact that the designers were able to implement so many unique ideas and how many actually worked shows that the Intellivision hardware was far ahead of its time.
Intellivision Lives' interface is surprisingly easy to use. Players navigate through the games by entering Hal's Pizza, where each group of games is placed inside an arcade cabinet. Before playing each game, players can view the instructions, read a quick blurb on the game's history and view the original box. In each set of games, one game has a special challenge, where if you beat the high score, you can unlock a hidden game or a classic commercial. The commercials themselves are an especially nostalgic touch, and feature the late George Plimpton extolling the virtues of the realistic Intellivision games as opposed to the 'primitive' Atari 2600 games, though truth be told, both have now taken on a quaint charm. Additional extras on the disc include extensive and interesting interviews with the designers that take you behind the scenes to the creation of many of these classic titles. Players will also find a slide-show history of the Intellivision console's lifespan that gives you an overview of the console's multiple lives under several companies' reign.
From a technical standpoint, the developers at Digital Mayhem have done an outstanding job with this collection. All the games look and feel just as they would on the classic console, complete with authentic sound effects, right down to the infamous 'cheering' sounds. Even the famous voice module games have their complete speech packs intact, making this as close as you can get without playing on the actual console. One of the biggest innovations of the console were its unique disc controllers, which were far ahead of their time. These allowed a great deal of precision movement for the games, and its no surprise that they translate perfectly to the PS2's analog controller buttons, which definitely resemble the feel of the original controllers. Funny, how two decades later, technology has advanced so much, yet has a strange way of coming full circle. Unfortunately, the somewhat awkward keypad interface is a bit annoying to use. Players can call this up using the select button and then highlight the button they wish to press. This isn't so bad in the casino and gambling games, but the interruption during more action-oriented titles is quite annoying. Still, this is a welcome improvement over the aggravating controls in the PS1 Intellivision collection, and most players should be able to adjust to this quirky interface after awhile. Despite these problems, this is still an essential purchase for any fan of classic video games, and offers a comprehensive selection of titles covering the console's wide spectrum of releases. This outstanding collection is a shining example of emulation packs done right. This makes it an appropriate tribute for a visionary system and the games' enduring appeal proves why the Intellivision legacy remains so strong after all these years.
While this review covers the Intellivision Lives collection for the PS2, the Blue Sky Rangers have released many other Intellivision products over the past few years. If you're interested in their history and current projects, we recommend that you check out their excellent website, http://www.Intellivsionlives.com which offers a treasure-trove of information, stories and artifacts about all things Intellivision.