Pendulous review update – 16-bit emulator and full game release

I wrote a review of Pendulous in August 2015.  In February 2017, the games’ original creator found my review and decided to release the full game for free in response.  That was a very nice thing to do and I have been enjoying the full game ever since, but I never made a post about it, I only mentioned it in that article.  Now, however, I have made anther find related to this game, one which makes this little update quite valuable: there’s now a way to play Pendulous, with no problems, in 64-bit Windows 10!  Yes, it’s true, and it’s because of an emulator called OTVDM.  So, I went back to my Pendulous review and lightly edited it to add in mentions of these two important items, mention of the release of the full game, and to cover that emulator I learned about recently that runs 16-bit Windows applications. A few spelling errors were also corrected. The rest of the review has been left as it is.

The review is here: http://www.blackfalcongames.net/?p=225

The links to OTVDM and the full game are in the links section at the end of the article.

Posted in Classic Games, PC, Updates | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Opinion List: Update to the Consoles Ranking List and new Platform Favorite Games Lists ‘new’ platforms

In 2015, I made a list of how much I like all of the consoles I had at the time. Additionally, that list also includes lists of my favorite games for every console I own.  I did not attempt to make an overall-favorites list because that would be too hard, so this will have to do because this new update is the same way.

In the four years since,  I have gotten quite a few more platforms, so I thought that while I work on my ongoing game opinion summaries lists, the time has come for an update to that article. There are things to like about every console and ranking them is a somewhat silly enterprise, but it’s fun to do anyway so here a list is.

Now, while I have bought games, in some cases many games, for all but a few of the consoles I had as of 2015, I am not going to redo the ‘my favorite games’ lists for most of the consoles I covered in the first article. Instead, for now I will just make lists for the new platforms. I could add games to the old lists, but for the most part they still stand as good summations of what I think of most of those consoles. The only exception is the 3DS, whose list has changed so much that I need a new one, so that is below.

The other platforms that I have bought over the last four years and will make ‘my favorite games’ lists below for are: 3DO, Atari Jaguar, Colecovision, Mattel Intellivision, Nintendo Switch, Nokia N-Gage, Philips CD-i, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Tiger R-Zone, Wii U, and Xbox One.

Console Ranking List

1. Nintendo 64, N64
2. (tie) Super Nintendo, SNES
2. (tie) Sega Genesis, Gen (with Sega CD, SCD & Sega 32X, 32X)
3. Nintendo DS, DS
4. Game Boy, GB
5. TurboGrafx-16, TG16 (with Turbo CD, TCD)
6. Gamecube, GC
7. Dreamcast, DC
8. Nintendo 3DS, 3DS
9. NES
10. Wii U
11. Wii
12. Odyssey 2, O2
13. Nintendo Switch, NS
14. Game Boy Advance, GBA
15. Atari 5200, 5200
17. Atari 2600, 2600
18. Xbox 360, X360
16. Saturn, SS
19. Xbox
20. Neo Geo Pocket Color
21. Virtual Boy, VB
22. Game Boy Color, GBC
23. Xbox One, XONE
24. 3DO
25. Atari Jaguar, JAG
26. PlayStation Portable, PSP
27. Sega Master System, SMS
28. PlayStation, PSX, PS1
29. Colecovision, CVIS
30. PlayStation Vita, PSV
31. Game Gear, GG
32. Atari 7800, 7800
33. Mattel Intellivision, INTV
34. Philips CD-i, CDI
35. PlayStation 3, PS3
36. Nokia N-Gage, NNG
37. PlayStation 2, PS2
38. Tiger R-Zone (if you count this as a console)

If you compare this to the old list, you will see that most systems stay in the same places they were before with only a few exceptions. Those are, first, I moved the 3DS way up the list. While the 3DS is not quite the equal of the DS or Game Boy, it is a fantastic system I still use every day. The system is now fading out, but lasted into 2019 and has a larger and better library than it did four years ago, and also I have played more of the games.
Second, I moved the Atari 2600 up a few spots, above the Saturn and Xbox 360. Those systems are both pretty good, but while I really do prefer the 5200 to the 2600, the 2600 has a lot of games which are still very fun. All systems age over time, but today the 2600 is well under-rated and deserves to be remembered.

OItherwise, it is mostly the same as the old list. I’d like to make some comments on where teh new systems fall on the list, though. A few of these were tough choices, and I’m far from certain about the best order of a few parts. Most notably, I’m torn between the Wii and Wii U, and also I’m not entirely sure about the order in the new Xbox One, 3DO, and Jaguar block. I went with the Wii U over the Wii, despite the Wii’s far larger library, because in the last few years since I got it I have played a lot more Wii U than Wii, and while the Wii absolutely has a vastly larger and better game library, if you compare only the top games the Wii U is right there with it, or better; nothing on the Wii has addicted me like Mario Maker.

As for the Xbox One’s placement, it’s a very good system in a lot of ways, but the game library holds it back; with very few exclusives and often underwhelming first-party offerings, it has to go lower than the other Xboxes. I decided to put it over the 3DO and Jaguar, despite it probably having fewer exclusive games than either of them, because on the whole, including the games and services, it’s an impressive system. As for the 3DO and Jag, as per my 3DO-Jaguar-32X list from a bit ago the 3DO probably has to go above the Jaguar, though I do find the Jag’s oddness quite charming. Either way on that, the two are pretty close so I put them next to eachother, at the right point in the list. There are things I like about the Jaguar, but it’s too flawed to finish higher on the list than it is, unfortunately.

Lastly, I was somewhat torn between the Intellivision and CD-i for fifth worst. Putting the PS3, N-Gage, and R-Zone in the bottom five were easy calls, but deciding between those two for numbers 33 and 34 was much harder. I ended up deciding that the Intellivision edged out the CD-i because even though the CD-i has better controllers and far better framerates in most of its games, I rarely enjoy the kind of games the CD-i is best at, video-heavy titles, so I find the Intellivision’s best games to be better than anything I have played on CD-i. Thus the Intellivision narrowly avoids being in the bottom group.

As for the Colecovision, I could understand why some people would put it much higher on the list, but while I like some things on it for sure and it was definitely a very important system for the industry, for now I think it’s in the right place. If I get a better controller for it someday and some more games it could move up, though.

It’s hard to rank consoles. I like most of the systems on this list in some way or another, after all; only the bottom four are systems I really all-around dislike. For quite a few of these systems I look at their placement and think ‘this should go higher’, but you can’t move everything higher all of the time, so I guess this will have to do.

Platform Specific Lists for Consoles Not in the Old List Or Significantly Changed

Note, this list is alphabetical by platform.

3DO

1. Star Control II
2. StarFighter
3. Samurai Shodown
4. Return Fire
5. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Slayer
6. BattleSport
7. Super Street Fighter II Turbo
8. The Incredible Machine
9. Blade Force
10. Shockwave 2: Beyond the Gate

Honorable Mentions: Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Star Wars: Rebel Assault, D, Gex, Shanghai: Triple Threat, The Need for Speed, Road Rash, Soccer Kid, Myst, PO’ed. Not on my list, but noteworthy: Out of this World, Flashback, Alone in the Dark 1 and 2.

Atari Jaguar and Jaguar CD

1. Tempest 2000
2. Jeff Minter Classics (Homebrew Release)
3. Iron Soldier
4. Zoop
5. Hover Strike: Unconquered Lands (CD)
6. I-War
7. Cybermorph
8. Club Drive
9. Val D’Isere Skiing and Snowboarding
10. Blue Lightning (CD)

Colecovision

1. Mr. Do!
2. Nova Blast
3. Pepper II
4. Linking Logic
5. Omega Race
6. Space Fury
7. Gateway to Apshai
8. Zaxxon
9. Defender
10. Venture
11. Miner 2049er

Honorable Mentions: Time Pilot, Space Panic, Fortune Builder, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Junior, Looping.

Mattel Intellivision

1. Snafu
2. BurgerTime
3. Demon Attack
4. Atlantis
5. Space Spartans
6. Microsurgeon
7. B-17 Bomber
8. Loco-Motion
9. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
10. Pinball
11. Bomb Squad

Honorable Mentions: Vectron, Tennis, Lock ‘n Chase, Dragonfire, Bowling, Venture.

Nintendo Switch

For this system I’m going to list new games and classic ports or remakes seprately. First, new games.

1. Super Mario Maker 2
2. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
3. Super Mario Odyssey
4. Splatoon 2
5. Tetris 99
6. Collection of Mana (for the first English version of Mana 3!)
7. Gunlord X (DC homebrew port but I’ll count it)
8. Puyo Puyo Tetris
9. Mario & Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
10. Kirby Star Allies
11. Xenoblade Chronicles 2
12. Blossom Tales
13. Starlink: Battle for Atlas

Honorable Mentions: Nine Parchments, Super Bomberman R, Fire Emblem Warriors, Shining Resonance Refrain, Kamiko, Daemon X Machina, Fire Emblem: Two Houses, Dragon Quest Builders, Octopath Traveler, Mega Man 11, Mutant Mudds Collection, Golf Peaks, Party Crashers, Sweet Witches, Jumping Joe & Friends

Nintendo Switch classic remakes, re-releases, or enhanced re-releases:

1. SEGA AGES: Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis)
2. ACA NeoGeo: The Last Blade 2
3. Collection of Mana (for Final Fantasy Adventure)
4. SEGA AGES: Lightening Force: Quest for the Darkstar
5. ACA NeoGeo: Blazing Star
6. SEGA AGES: Virtua Racing
7. Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap
8. ACA NeoGeo: Aero Fighters 2
9. SEGA AGES: Phantasy Star
10. Johnny Turbo’s Arcade – Gate of Doom & Johnny Turbo’s Arcade – Wizard Fire
11. Wild Guns Reloaded

And many more!

Nokia N-Gage

1. Pathway to Glory
2. System Rush
3. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater

Honorable Mentions: The games probably worth playing are mostly games I don’t have — Civilization, Rifts, Pathway to Glory 2, and such. Of the other games I have, I guess Super Monkey Ball is vaguely of note.

Philips CD-i

1. Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon
2. Link: The Faces of Evil
3. Laser Lords
4. Accelerator
5. Inca
6. Lucky Luke

Honorable Mentions: Jigsaw, Defender of the Crown, Lords of the Rising Sun, Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace; non-games or edutainment: A National Parks Tour, Treasures of the Smithsonian, Time-Life Presents 35mm Photography, Mother Goose: Hidden Pictures, Richard Scarry’s Busiest Neighborhood Disc Ever, etc…

PlayStation 3

1. Wipeout HD
2. 3D Dot Game Heroes
3. Dragon’s Crown
4. Thexder Neo
5. R-Type Dimensions
6. MotorStorm: Apocalypse
7. Trails of Cold Steel
8. MotorStorm
9. Disgaea 3
10. After Burner Climax

Honorable Mentions: MotorStorm: Pacific Rift, Deception IV: Blood Ties, Nitroplus Blasterz, Battle Princess of Arcadias, Mamorukun Curse!, Resogun, Warhawk, Under Night In-Birth EXE:Late, Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, Aegis of Earth, Mugen Souls Z, Lair, Tales of Xilia, Demon’s Souls, White Knight Chronicles II, Sports Champions; PS Minis: Trailblazer, Fortix, Echoes. There are many more JRPGs on this system I haven’t played that are potentially worthy of note as well, though quite a few are also on PC now.

PlayStation Vita

1. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
2. TxK
3. Wipeout 2048
4. Summon Night 6: Lost Borders
5. Ys: Memories of Celceta
6. BlazBlue: ChronoPhantasma Extend
7. Grand Kingdom
8. ClaDun: This Is Sengoku
9. Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky
10. Utuwarerumono: Mask of Deception

Honorable Mentions: Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy, Utuwarerumono: Mask of Truth, Senran Kagura: Estival Versus, Soul Sacrifice, Ragnarok Odyssey, Persona 4 Golden, Touhou Double Focus, StarDrone Extreme.

Tiger R-Zone

1. Batman & Robin

I only have one game for this system, still, so it is simultaneously its best and worst game! (I’m sure it’s not the worst though, this game’s got a little more to it than some R-Zone games seem to.)

Wii U

The top five on this system are so amazing they vault it high on the list of best systems ever (plus, for most but not me, Zelda: Breath of the Wild).

1. Super Mario Maker
2. Super Mario 3D World
3. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
4. Splatoon
5. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
6. Xenoblade Chronicles X
7. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
8. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
9. Sonic: Lost World
10. RUSH

Honorable Mentions: Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars (a fantastic game now crippled by its online level trading being shut down), DuckTales Remastered, Rayman Legends, Art of Balance, DUngeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara, Mario Kart 8, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Star Fox Guard, Hyrule Warriors, Skylanders Swap Force, Skylanders Giants, Axiom Verge, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse (also on 3DS).

Xbox One

1. Rare Replay
2. Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions
3. Tempest 4000
4. Samurai Shodown (2019)
5. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
6. Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition
7. Goat Simulator
8. Dead or Alive 5: Last Round
9. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate
10. Cuphead

Honorable Mentions: Sunset Overdrive, Forza Horizon 3, For Honor, Destiny, Destiny 2, Dead or Alive 6, Inside, Moto Racer 4, ReCore, ONRUSH, TrackMania Turbo, Race the Sun, Crimson Dragon, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (also on Switch, PC).

Nintendo 3DS (Updated List)

I will really, really miss dedicated handhelds, the Switch is not the same at all compared to this amazing system!

1. Fire Emblem Awakening
2. Etrian Odyssey Nexus
3. Picross 3D Round 2
4. Fire Emblem Fates
5. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
6. Super Mario Maker for 3DS
7. WarioWare Gold
8. Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan
9. Picross e [series]
10. Ever Oasis
11. Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition
12. SubaraCity
13. Kid Icarus Uprising
14. Color Zen
15. Metroid: Samus Returns
16. Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask
17. Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth

Honorable Mentions: Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, Mario & Luigi: Tipping Stars, SEGA 3D Classics: OutRun, Parascientific Escape: Cruise on the Distant Seas, Crashmo, Chicken Wiggle, BoxBoy! and its sequels, more Sega 3D Classics titles (Super Hang-On, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Space Harrier, Streets of Rage 2, etc…), Luxor, The Legend of Legacy, Mario Kart 7, Tetris Axis, 7th Dragon: Code VFD, Paper Mario Sticker Star, Super Mario 3D Land, Sonic Lost World, Hyrule Warriors Legends, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, Mutant Mudds, and lots more.

Posted in 3DO, Articles, Atari Jaguar, Classic Games, Colecovision, Intellivision, Modern Games, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, Nokia N-Gage, Philips CD-i, PlayStation 3, PS Vita, Tiger R-Zone, Wii U | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Console Opinion Summaries For My Systems – Introduction, Table of Contents, and the First and Second Generations

Yes, it’s something new again and not what I was talking about. Well, I think this is more interesting than discussing a bunch of sports games and such. I will get to that, but first, this is something I’ve been thinking about here and there for a long time but never made. Yes, it is like a Game Opinion Summaries list, but for all the consoles I own. I’ve got a fairly sizable collection now!

When it comes to computers I will discuss them in brief, but I cannot cover the breadth of the PC’s history and library here, so I won’t try. I chose “Console Opinion Summaries” for a reason; I love PC gaming a whole lot, but that would be a topic beyond the scope of this article. Suffice to say, the PC is the best gaming platform and always has been my favorite. Comparing that to consoles, which each have a limited life, is not entirely fair. I could compare each operating system or such, but instead I’ll just mention the PC very briefly and mostly focus on the consoles I own in this list, and the one classic computer I have as well since I exclusively use it for games.

This article is a work in progress. For now only the first party, the Atari 2600 summary, is complete, but this article will eventually also cover all of the second generation platforms I have. Future articles will cover the later generations. If it’s not done soon I probably will post another article saying when I finish this one.


Table of Contents For This Series

 

Please note: for the dates listed below, the first date is the system’s first release year anywhere in the world. The second date in parenthesis, if present, is the release year in North America, where I live if it is different from the first year.

An addon is a platform which attaches to a previously released console, increasing its hardware abilities. If a system is an addon I note that below. Addons are currently listed with the generation that their base platform released in, though I could see changing this at some point in the future; it is debatable.

First Generation
(none)

Second Generation
Atari 2600, 2600 1977
Odyssey2/Videopac, O2 1978
Texas Instruments TI-99/4 & TI-99/4A 1979 (1981 for the TI99/4A model; the original, rarer, TI99 model released in ’79.)
Mattel Intellivision, INTV 1979 test market, 1980 wide release
Game & Watch 1980
PC 1981

Third Generation
Colecovision, CVIS 1982
Atari 5200, 5200 1982
NES 1983 (1985)
Atari 7800, 7800 1984 (1986)
[Macintosh, Mac (Mac Only) 1984]
Master System, SMS 1985 (1986)

Fourth Generation
TurboGrafx-16, TG16 1987 (1989)
TurboGrafx-CD, TCD 1988 (1989) (TurboGrafx-16 addon)
Genesis, Gen 1988 (1989)
Game Boy, GB 1989
Phillips CD-i, CDI 1990
Game Gear, GG 1990 (1991)
Super NES, SNES 1990 (1991)
Sega CD, SCD 1991 (1992) (Sega Genesis addon)
Sega 32X, 32X 1994 (Sega Genesis addon)
Sega 32X CD, 32XCD 1994

Fifth Generation
Atari Jaguar, JAG 1993
3DO 1993
PlayStation, PSX, PS1 1994 (1995)
Saturn, SS 1994 (1995)
R-Zone 1995
Virtual Boy, VB 1995
Atari Jaguar CD, JCD 1995 (Atari Jaguar addon)
Nintendo 64 1996
Game Boy Color 1998
Neo Geo Pocket & Neo Geo Pocket Color 1998 (1999 for the Neo Geo Pocket Color model that I have)
Nintendo 64DD, N64DD 1999

Sixth Generation
Dreamcast, DC 1998 (1999)
PlayStation 2, PS2 2000
Xbox 2001
Game Boy Advance, GBA 2001
GameCube, GCN 2001

Seventh Generation
N-Gage, NNG 2003
Nintendo DS, NDS 2004
Xbox 360 2005
PSP 2004 (2005)
Wii 2006
PlayStation 3 2006
[Nintendo DSi, NDSi – DD (DSiWare) 2008]

Eighth Generation
Nintendo 3DS + 3DS DD (eShop) Combined Total 2011
PlayStation Vita 2011 (2012)
Wii U 2012
Xbox One, XONE 2013
Nintendo Switch, NS 2017 (provisional placement in 8th gen)

So, here is the section in this article.

Table of Contents for this Article

 

First Generation
(none)

Second Generation
Atari 2600, 2600 1977
Odyssey2/Videopac, O2 1978
Texas Instruments TI-99/4 & TI-99/4A 1979 (1981 for the TI99/4A model; the original, rarer, TI99 model released in ’79.)
Mattel Intellivision, INTV 1979 test market, 1980 wide release
Game & Watch 1980
IBM PC 1981

First Generation

 

The first generation of game consoles started in 1972 with the release of the Magnavox Odyssey, and consisted of the Odyssey 1, designed by engineer Ralph Baer, and later on numerous home Pong systems and Pong clones from many manufacturers, based on Atari’s breakout hit arcade game Pong. I have seen a few home Pongs for sale in stores, but have never used one myself; I was born in the early 1980s, but my first gaming experiences were in arcades and on the PC and NES, not first or second generation consoles. Perhaps oddly, growing up I did not know anyone with any console older than a NES, so while I knew of Pong and the second generation consoles, I had not used them myself until the ’00s.  So while I have read about these systems I’ve never used one so it will not have a large section here.  Determining the origins of electronic gaming is a quite interesting endeavor, look it up.  But while there is history in this article, retelling game history isn’t my focus here, covering platforms I actually have experienced is, so I will move on.  Someday I probably will get some home Pongs, it might be neat to have.

Second Generation

 

Continuing from the above, when I did go back in the ’00s to try Atari games, first in emulated re-releases and then more recently when I started collecting the actual consoles, I found them interesting. At their best, second generation games are simple and repetitive but fun experiences. These are not games I often play for hours, but that’s fine; having very fun games you can play for a few minutes before moving on to something else has a place too, without question. When these games start getting more complex I think they often struggle, but the simpler games dominate and many of them are good.

The second generation started in 1976. At first sales were slow, but they picked up in 1980 after the release of Space Invaders. 1982 and 1983 particularly saw a massive growth of software and hardware, as the industry boomed both in arcades and at home. It was not sustainable, however, and the American console and arcade industries crashed in the famous Video Game Crash of 1984. Computer gaming grew during this period, but while growing, computer sales were far lower than console sales had been; many people simply stopped playing games for some years. The crash had multiple causes, including that there was no licensing system for console games yet so third party game publishers did not pay first party console owners anything and that quality control got very low in 1982-1983, causing a massive glut of very similar, and often low quality, games. Perhaps some people were tiring of the kinds of games available as well, and others moved over to computers, as the Commodore 64, particularly, released in 1983 and was a big hit in the mid ’80s selling millions of systems. At this point many manufacturers thought that computer-console hybrids were the future, and almost everyone tried making them. Most failed.

During the crash most hardware and software publishers folded, and most consoles went out of production, but after it, as home console gaming recovered in 1986, several of the more popular pre-crash consoles came back. This gave the Atari 2600 new life, particularly, and the Intellivision as well. Overall, this is an interesting era in gaming. A lot of people today ignore everything before the NES, deeming the games too simple to be worth their time, but I don’t agree at all; sure, as I said, yes, pre-crash games are simple, but they are often great fun! Seeing the origins of the industry are interesting as well, as people tried things, not knowing if they would work or not, because there was no textbook for how to make a console or a game; you just had to make things and see if it worked. It can be fascinating stuff.

Here, I should put a note — while most online lists consider the new consoles of 1982 to be part of the second generation, as per my ariticle on this site years ago I disagree, and I’m sticking to that. So, the Atari 5200 and Colecovision, despite being pre-crash systems, will be covered in the third generation article. The Intellivision is really an in-between system, but as it released closer to the Atari 2600 than it did the Colecovision — the Intellivision test market was two years after the Atari 2600 and two and a half before the Colecovision — I’m leaving that in the second gen. It’s kind of a judgment call but I think it makes sense.

Despite that, many consoles released in the second generation. I have the most popular ones, including three consoles and one, kind of two, computer platforms. I have written articles on this site before covering games from all of these platforms except for the Game & Watch, but now I’ll discuss them again. focusing on the systems in general this time instead of the specific games.

Atari 2600from Atari, released 1977; discontinued 1992; final game release 1990 (1992 in Europe). 30 million sold, not including modern clone systems. I purchased one in 2013.

History: The Atari 2600 was the first hit video game console. It was not the first console with interchangeable game cartridges with ROM chips on them, that was the Fairchild Channel F, but it brought the game console into American homes in a way that would not happen again until the NES. In the US the Atari 2600 outsold all other consoles before the NES by at least ten to one, so they dominated the industry. As I said earlier, its first years were slower. There were no third-party games at all in the ’70s, in fact; the first third party, Activision, was founded in 1980 by some disaffected former Atari employees. The boom years of ’82 and ’83 provide a large percentage of the overall Atari 2600 library, before the crash, again partially because of that massive software boom, dropped support to zero in 1985 before its rebirth the next year. The late-era 2600 games often are pretty interesting, and provide some of the system’s better titles. The system continued to sell, too, so many are not hard to find. Atari finally stopped making games for the 2600 in 1990, and that was its last year of support here in the US. A couple of final third party games released in Europe in 1992, and at the beginning of that same year Atari officially discontinued the platform. It is still an extremely influential system that any gamer should try.

Aesthetics and Design: The original Atari 2600 has an iconic look, with a ridged, fake woodgrain top and the cartridge at an angle at the back, label facing away from you. In fact, the cartridge ports face away from you as well, and controller cables are extremely short in these pre-crash consoles so you will need the system very close to where you are sitting. The backwards cartridges are unfortunate, many of these games have nice artwork on the carts you can’t look at while playing. Additionally, the 2600 has switches on the console itself you will need to use during play, to select which game mode you want to play, to start and restart games, set the difficulty, and more. You cannot pause a game in progress, though; that would be a later innovation. These early consoles were intended to sit on the floor, but if, like most collectors today, you don’t want to do that you will either need a setup which allows you to sit close to the system, as I kind of have, or will need to take it out when using it. This is an inconvenient issue with all of these consoles and it is worth mentioning. My solution is to have a small multi-shelf unit near the chairs in the room for the consoles that need to be close to the seats, and that works for me. Anyway, the Atari 2600 looks okay and the look is definitely memorable, but I’ve always thought it looks kind of bland. Of the pre-crash consoles this is definitely not one of the better looking ones in my book. It’s far from the worst, but is average looking at best. I know some people love this design, but I’m just not a big fan. The controllers have a stiff joystick which barely moves and one button. They are okay once you get used to how little that stick moves, but like many people I would recommend using a Sega Genesis controller instead — they are fully compatible with the 2600 and I like the feel much more. In addition to its regular controller the 2600 has several alternate controllers, among which I have the paddle controllers, driving controller, keypad, and kids’ controller. The paddle controllers are the most important, as they are fantastic and many of the games that require them are among the system’s best.

Game Library: As befitting it success, of the pre-crash consoles the Atari 2600 has by far the most games. With hundreds of games releasing during its 14-year active life in the US and numerous homebrew games from fans releasing in the decades since, the Atari 2600 has by far the largest and, by most metrics, best library of the pre-crash consoles. I like the 2600 and its games, but despite its massive numerical advantage this system is not my favorite second-gen console. Still, it is a quite good one.   The system’s shooters are particularly good, but racing games and maze games also stand out. Those were some of the top genres of the time and the 2600 has great games in all of them. And again those games for the paddle controllers are really cool, the paddles are great. I love the driving controller too, it’s a real shame that only one game was made for it.  Atari 2600 collecting is mostly very cheap, and the games are often fun so it’s rewarding.  Even if the games aren’t great, seeing how the 2600 handled much more powerful arcade games can be fascinating.  I covered some Atari 2600 games once, in a Game Opinion Summaries list some years ago that is on this site, and will do an update at some point hopefully not too far off where I cover the many more games I have gotten since.

Odyssey 2 / Videopac, O2 from Magnavox, later Phillips-Magnavox, or Phillips in Europe. Released 1978, discontinued 1983, final game release that same year, though Europe did get a followup system that lasted into 1984. In the last few decades homebrew developers have brought this system back to life. 2 million sold. I purchased an O2 in 2012.

History: The strange and fascinating Odyssey 2 released in

Aesthetics and Design:

Game Library:

Texas Instruments TI-99/4 & TI-99/4A from Texas Instruments. The first model, the TI 99/4, released in 1979, and the second, the TI 99/4A that I have, released in 1981; discontinued 1983, though homebrew developers have kept it alive. Sales – unclear? The TI99/4A did sell far better than the first model though, TI99/4 systems are uncommon. I got one in 2014.

History: Texas Instruments invented the integrated circuit that makes complex electronic devices like game consoles possible. Over the decades, they have been extremely successful as a chipmaker, but on the consumer side their only lasting success has been their line of graphing calculators. Their one attempt at a consumer home computer was this one, the TI 99/4 and TI 99/4A line which lasted from 1979 to 1984. Never particularly successful, the system was discontinued during the video game crash because, primarily, Commodore’s Vic-20 computer beat the TI99/4A on everything – price, features, and software. TI tried to match Commodore’s rock-bottom pricing, but all that led to was money losses, until TI cut its losses and got out.

The system’s graphics and audio chips are extremely influential, however. The audio chip in the TI99/4A would be used in many consoles over the decades, including the Colecovision, Sega SG-1000, Sega Master System, and more. The Colecovision and SG-1000 uses the same TI video chip from the TI99 as well, and the Master System and Sega Genesis use chips which are backwards compatible with it. None of those systems use TI’s CPU that is the core of the TI99, but in terms of its graphical and aural look, the TI99 has a style very reminiscent of the Colecovision, with sprites on drawn backgrounds. It’s a quite different look from the all-pixel style of Atari systems of the time. The graphics have aged reasonably well, though that audio chip’s never been great. The few games with speech synthesizer support, if you have that addon as I do, are much better though; that speech in Parsec and Alpiner and such is pretty cool.

In terms of software, the TI stands out among computers of its day in that TI mostly focused on cartridge-based software, and not tape or floppy disk. This is good for durability, because TI99 programs often still work, since a lot of them are on carts. Just try that with your old tapes for other computers! TI locked down the cart port though, so until it was cracked in much more recent years, only first-party software released on cart. This resulted in the TI99 having far less software than most computers, which isn’t great; that makes this computer feel like more of a console, in that first party software dominates in a way rare on computers. The TI99 does have tape and floppy disk addons and most third-party software is for those, but a lot of people never bought either. The tape drive is common enough, but the large floppy disk addon box is not.

Aesthetics and Design: The TI99/4 and 4A have three different models. First, the TI99/4, available for the first two yeras of the system’s life, sold poorly and is rare. I’ve never seen one, and they don’t appear too often online on auction either. The improved 4A model from ’81 sold much better, and are common and easy enough to find. This model comes in two revisions. The first is black and silver, with a cool silver metal look that has aged very well. The second is beige, very similar to the first in most ways but just plastic and not metal, and thanks to the color change looking more like most any ’80s or ’90s computer. Cartridges plug in flat on the right side of the system, which works well. There is also a side addon port, for the speech synthesizer addon, connection to the homebrew addons or the expansion box for floppy drives, and such. The tape drive plugs into a different port on the box. Annoyingly, none of the ports are labeled, so you’ll just need to remember which one is the controller port and such. Also, try to find a system with the original, magnetic key-combination things that go above the keyboard, you need these to remember what to press to do things games will tell you like “press Redo to try again” or such. There is no “Redo” key, you need to press the right button combination. That’s fine once you have one though, and I like that they are magnetic. On the whole the TI99 looks pretty nice.

Unfortunately, in terms of durability and control the TI99 fares much worse. Indeed, these systems have all kinds of problems. Their keyboards are infamous for failing, and since they are built in to the system this is difficult to fix. The graphics and RAM chips also often fail, and replacing RAM chips is definitely not easy either. The official gamepads are no good either, so get an adapter to use Atari controllers instead. Yes, even though the system has a 9-pin port for controllers on it you can’t just plug a 2600 controller in, you need an adapter. Games can all be played on the keyboard too, but there the often-stiff controls on TI99 games are probably even worse. For various reasons, some of them the computers’ fault and some of them my own, I have gone through three of these systems, and while my current one mostly works perfectly, it probably has a video chip issue so I’m stuck with having to use only RF output, which is not ideal. So for me at least reliability is questionable.

Game Library: As far as that software goes, for games TI published a mixture of ports of some titles from other platforms and original titles, some of which are heavily inspired by popular arcade games and others are original, along with a lot of educational software and computer programs for writing and such. I find TI’s software library quality mixed; this system is fine, but I don’t love it, as I said in my Game Opinion Summaries list for the system several years ago. I have a few more games for the system now, but my general opinion is similar. The TI99 has some fans, though, and there is a small homebrew community for the system to this day. It has flashcarts, homebrew addons to give it more RAM, recent homebrew releases, and more. That adds a lot to this system that the original library doesn’t have. As for non-gaming applications, most of those from computers this old are probably only of historical interest, nobody is going to be seriously using TI99 Home Financial Decisions today. The many educational games can be amusing, however. Early Learning Fun’s amusing stuff. Hangman is alright too, provided that you have a working keyboard. But on the whole, while the TI99 is interesting and historically important for being the origin of those graphic and sound chips Coleco and then Sega would use for years, I find the controls stiff and hard to use and the games often flawed.

Mattel Intellivision, INTVfrom Mattel. Test marketed in 1979, released nationally in 1980. 3 million sold. I got one in 2019.

History: The toy company Mattel released a console to compete with the Atari. The Intellivision released in test markets in late 1979, then in 1980 it released nationwide. The Intellivision was the second-best selling pre-crash videogame console, though with only 10% of the Atari 2600’s sales this is not as big of a deal as it may sound. Mattel gave up on gaming at the end of 1983 thanks to the videogame crash, but a group of former employees bought the rights to the system and re-released it in 1985 in Europe and 1986 in the US. This re-release brought new games out for the system until ’89, when it finally faded out. This makes the Intellivision the second-longest-lasting console of its generation, after the 2600, not including modern homebrew of course.

Sort of like the Odyssey 2 above, Mattel mostly made their own software, with a largely original game library supplemented with a few Data East ports and some third-party software. The quality of these games is argued about, but regardless the system has a reasonably good-sized library, and has homebrew support today as well.

The Intellivision is technically a 16-bit console, and while I am counting it as second generation, it really shows that this console released both two years after the Atari 2600, and two and a half years before the Colecovision — it is in between in power for sure. Against the Atari, Intellivision clearly has better graphics, a point they marketed fairly heavily particularly for its sports games. Despite its only moderate success, the Intellivision had a significant impact on the industry, and after its release most controllers for new systems were clearly Intellivision-inspired until the Famicom/NES changed the industry. Like most people I find the controller horribly uncomfortable and have never liked side action buttons, but people clearly saw something in it becuase seriously almost every console in ’82 and ’83 had controllers very much like this one.

Aesthetics and Design: There are four models of Intellivisions, the first one, the Sears model, the smaller and much more ’80s looking second model, and the Intv System III, the ’86 model, which is like the first model but in a different color. I have the Sears Super Video Arcade, and while I may have serious questions about the Intellivision software library, as I said in my recent Game Opinion Summaries list for the system, I love the look of this system! Indeed, the Super Video Arcade is probably one of the best-looking consoles I own. The flat top of the system looks cool, the buttons are great, and the lines of the system are both classic and still nice looking. Of all the system with ridged surfaces on them this is probably my favorite. The system is surprisingly heavy, but that is because it has an internal power supply, and not a brick like other consoles. This makes it easy to plug in, it’s just a regular plug.

Do know that you will need access to the right side of the console, though — carts plug in on the side, in order to keep that flat-top look, and you’ll need to hold the console firmly while pressing carts in or else they won’t insert far enough for the system to read them. This is where top-loading cart ports are more convenient, but oh well. Oh, like the Atari you do need to be near the system thanks to the very short controller cords. The 1 and 3 have hardwired controllers, too. With the Sears and the Intellivision II you could use controller extension cables, since they use 9-pin ports, but it would look a lot uglier without the controllers on the top.

Oh, and as for that controller, again, it is impressively uncomfortable. The plastic edge around the control ring is painful; the side buttons are tiny and feel bad; and it has awful ergonomics. However, I will at least say that at least for me both controllers work perfectly, which is more than I can say for the later Colecovision or Atari 5200. This system has no alternate controllers of note either, because most of the systems have hardwired pads.

Game Library: The Intellivision has a decent-sized game library with a fair amount of third-party software and quite a few games from Mattel and the later Intellivision group. However, a lot of the games run very slowly, as their tools limited games to 20fps, and even somewhat as not-framerate-concious as me definitely notices it. Intellivision games can run well, as a few games show, but most struggle. And thanks to that controller, the controls are oftne not great either. The controller has a lot of buttons on it, so games are able to be much more complex than they are on the one-button Atari and games make use of that. However, while back then this was a selling point, looking back I think that simpler works better most of the time for games from this era so I don’t think it makes the games here better. I do like some Intellivision games though, and the system is maybe worth owning if you like games from this era since the system and its games are very cheap. There are re-release collections of Intellivision games, but because of the nature of the controller they many won’t play quite right, and some games are still exclusive.  If you do get one, the Sears Super Video Arcade is the best model for sure.

Game & Watchfrom Nintendo. The first Game & Watch released in 1980, and they released until 1991. 43.4 million of them were sold.  The on  ihave we got back around 1990 or so, probably.

Including this in this list is a bit questionable, because teh Game & Watch is not a game console. Instead, it is a line of stand-alone handheld LCD games. Each one plays only one game. For no good reason, I count my one Game & Watch that I got as a kid in my games list, but don’t have the other few handheld LCD games I still have listed here, including my Micro Games of America Pac-Man, which is pretty good, and a broken “Football” game I got in Europe in the early ’90s but still have. The other handheld LCD game I remember getting was Tiger Electronics’ Baseball.

Anyway, Game & Watch systems are small rectangular LCD handheld games. In addition to playing only one game each, they do not have fully programmable screens, but instead like all systems of this they can only light up parts of the screen. It works, but means the games are simple. Many handheld games like this, including most Tiger titles, were infamously bad, but Game & Watches are fairly high quality and both work well and look good. As the name suggests, each one has a clock on it as well. You cannot turn off a G&W while the batteries are in the system, though; it stays on to keep the clock going all the time. So probably don’t leave batteries in them when not using them.

After selling very well for years, the Game & Watch was discontinued in 1991 in favor of the Game Boy. Other handheld LCD games, such as those from Tiger, would continue selling through the mid ’90s, but faded out after that in favor of handheld consoles. I think the G&Ws work well, but much prefer the more dynamic control and gameplay of handheld games and have rarely gone back to my one G&W, 1981’s Octopus. It is a very simple game in the way of most games from the day and can be fun, but is too repetitious to be as good as better home console games of the time.

PCoriginally from IBM, and now by many companies running Microsoft operating systems and Intel x86-compatible CPUs, and first made in 1981. They are ubiquitous worldwide.  Our family first got a PC in early 1992.

The IBM PC first released in 1981, a computer platform from the largest tech company both then and now, IBM, running on Microsoft DOS and with Intel x86 architecture. IBM may not be as prominent now as they once were, but still are the largest in terms of number of employees, at least. The IBM PC started out as a business machine, the cheaper and smaller desktop companion for your company or school’s IBM mainframe computer. In the decades since, the PC has become separated from IBM, and instead is defined by the combination of Microsoft operating systems and Intel CPUs, the OS and CPU vendors IBM chose back in 1981. Initially in few homes, the IBM PC became the leading computer platform in the US by the mid ’80s and was the leading computer gaming platform as well by the later ’80s. In Europe and Japan it took much longer for the PC to be the winning computer gaming platform, but in the US, once the Commodore 64 faded, the PC fairly handily won out. Once 16-color EGA graphics and Adlib sound cards released in the mid to later ’80s, PC games could start to compete visually as well; before that, 4-color CGA with one-tone beeper PC Speaker audio was pretty limiting. Some kinds of games work great with those limitations, but many others do not. By the early ’90s, it was clear — the PC was the most powerful home gaming platform in terms of visuals and not only games. The release of the first 3d accelerators a few years later cemented that even further. The PC has a history and back catalog unmatched in the industry.

The PC isn’t just the first gaming platform I had at home, it is, as we got a 20Mhz 386 PC in early 1992. As I said at the top, the PC is unquestionably my pick for the best gaming platform ever. There is one caveat to this, though: backwards compatibility on PCs can be difficult. While it is a single platform, it is a platform which has changed over time, and older games and software may not easily work on a newer machine. The PC has changed over the years, and native backwards compatibility on the PC, with Windows 10 as the current operating system, goes back about to the mid ’90s — Windows 9x games or newer may work, while DOS and Windows 3.1 or earlier games do not without emulation. However, those emulators, most notably DOSBox, are easy to find, so playing DOS games on a modern PC is easy. Windows 3.1 games can be tricky, depending on how well they run in a Windows 3.1 install in DOSBox on your machine, but are quite doable. Where the major problem lies is in Windows 9x games — games for Windows 95, 98, and Millenium, along with some Windows XP games, from the mid ’90s to mid ’00s. These games are new enough to use things like DirectX or graphics card drivers which change over time, so some games break as drivers update over the years, depending on which parts of the older driver they rely on. Sometimes fan patches fix these issues, but other times they do not. Additionally, modern 64-bit versions of Windows cannot run 16-bit applications, which means Windows 3.1 software, or 16-bit Windows 9x software, cannot run. This can be quite frustrating at times; there are ways around it, including DOSBox or other emulator installs or a Virtual Machine if you can get one running well, but none are as good as just running those games natively on a 16-bit or 32-bit operating system.

That is all to say, while the PC has the most amazing library ever, one computer will almost certainly not run every game. Yes, the one real negative about the PC is its greatest strength, that long back catalog. Instead, a modern PC will run any modern game, and most games from the last fifteen years, plus games that work correctly in DOSBox and/or have had a modern re-release. That is more than enough for most gamers, but for someone like me, this means you are sure to need multiple computers. At minimum, one older, DOS or Windows 9x-based machine is a necessity, and I have one. There are some games that do not run well in either machine, but at least between my PCs I can run most games… though there are those frustrating ones I just never can manage to get running correctly on any machine, such as Recoil. Bah. Oh well.

What makes this worse is that computers and drivers will continue to change, so the current incompatibilities are surely a rolling issue; at some point lots more games will break. I hope emulation or virtual machine authors can fix those issues, though it will get more and more difficult over time, as we deal with trying to make mostly-online games working again. Many games will surely be impossible to play in the future, which is sad. The classics will always be playable though, so there’s one plus for classic games over a lot of the modern ones! Unfortunately I like both modern and classic games though, so… oh well. Anyway, regardless of these issues the PC is the best for sure.

 

Second Generation Consoles Ranking: 1. Odyssey 2; 2. Atari 2600; 3. Intellivision; 4. Game & Watch. If we also include the TI 99/4A it would go third or fourth. The PC would of course go in first overall, but if we look only at PC software available in the early to mid ’80s I am not sure; I have played few PC games that old. I can say I love 1984’s Castle Adventure, though.

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Opinion List: Comparing the 3DO, Jaguar, and 32X Game Libraries

I have had a lot going on recently so I have not gotten nearly as far with that Genesis Game Opinion Summaries update list as I’d like, though I do have the list of titles I’ll be covering together.  But not enough is done to post, so for this month’s last-minute update I guess I will post this dumb little opinion list.  This started out as a silly little timewaster I made for fun a few months ago, after some discussion of these platforms on a retro-gaming Discord I post on.  Now I have expanded that list into a full article.

Three Failed Video Game Platforms of 1993-1994: Which Is Best?

Note: For the purposes of this list, the Jaguar and Sega 32X also include not only the cartridge games for those platforms, but also all Jaguar CD and 32X CD games.

Below, I will list my opinions on where all three of these platforms compare in each design or game genre category.  Number one is the best, two is in the middle, and three is last.  How big the gap is between them in each genre or category varies widely from category to category, it depends.

Table of Contents

Summary List Comparisons
Hardware Comparisons
Game Genre Comparisons
Overall
Detailed Comparisons
Hardware Comparisons
Game Genre Comparisons
My Top 10 Favorite Games, Overall and On Each Platform
Conclusion


Summary List Comparisons

Hardware Comparisons

Hardware Power – 1. 3DO 2. Jag 3. 32X
Controller – 1. 32X 2. 3DO 3. Jag
System Design: 1. 3DO 2. Jag 3. 32X

Game Genre Comparisons

Racing – 1. 32X 2. 3DO 3. Jag (all three are great, it’s a matter of opinion)
Fighting (2d) – 1. 3DO 2. 32X 3. Jag
Fighting (3d) – 1. 32X 2. Jag 3. 3DO (maybe, 2nd and 3rd are close — Ballz 3D vs Fight for Life)
Vehicular Combat (Flat Plane) – 1. 3DO 2. Jag 3. 32X (though it is very close between first and second and could go either way)
FPS – 1. 3DO 2. Jag 3. 32X (probably, though JagDoom may be best overall)
Flight Combat – 1. 3DO 2. 32X 3. Jag (probably; all are great here and any could win)
Simulation – Vehicle (land or air based) (lots of overlap here with the flight combat and vehicular combat genres) – 1. 3DO 2. Jag 3. 32X
Rail Shooter / Into the Screen Shooter – 1. Jag 2. 32X 3. 3DO
Light Gun / Light Gun Style Shooter – 1. 3DO 2. Jag 3. 32X
Shmup / Shmuplike / Run & Gun – 1. Jag 2. 32X 3. 3DO
Platformer (3d) – 1. 32X (none on Jag or 3DO)
Platformer (2d/2.5d) – 1. 3DO? 2. Jag? 3. 32X? (This one is very close and could go any way. For exclusives only the list would be different, too – first Jag, second 32X, distant third 3DO.)
Strategy / Simulation (Building) – 1. 3DO 2. Jag 3. 32X
Puzzle – 1. 3DO 2. Jag (32X has none)
Adventure / FMV – 1. 3DO 2. Jag 3. 32X
Action-Adventure / Survival Horror 1. 3DO 2. Jag (32X has none)
RPG / Action-RPG – 1. 3DO 2. Jag (32X has none)
Sports / Card / Board – 1. 3DO 2. 32X 3. Jag (maybe; the Jag has my favorite overall game in this genre and maybe should be second)

Overall

3DO: 1st: 15 2nd: 2 3rd: 3 – 52 pts (3-1st 2-2nd 1-3rd)
Jaguar: 1st: 2 2nd: 12 3rd: 7 – 37 pts
32X: 1st: 4 2nd: 5 3rd: 9 – 31 pts

Overall, comparing these consoles this way the 3DO is the best no question, followed by the Jaguar and then probably the 32X. The 3DO is the winner no matter how you define the genres, but it’s close enough between the Jaguar and 32X that depending on how you redefine those genres either one could finish in second.

Detailed Comparisons

And now I will go in detail comparing each genre on the list above.  Note: Italics note games that are either console-exclusive or true exclusive; that is, games that are either only released on the platform in question, or are on computer and this console and not other consoles.  I will consider games exclusive if they have a substantial amount of exclusive content over other versions of the game, such as Virtua Racing does.  There is not an Overall category in this section because the Overall section above speaks for itself.

Hardware

Hardware Power – This is a tricky one, as these three systems use very different design philosophies.  Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the weaknesses are significant enough to help explain some of the reasons why all three of these platforms failed in the market. Going chronologically, the Jaguar released first, in fall ’93.  The first real 5th-gen console, the Jaguar was powerful for this time with 26 Mhz CPU and graphics chips, but it is quite bad at textured polygons and has numerous hardware bugs that make programming for it very difficult indeed and limit some of its power.   Getting the most out of the Jaguar is still hard, even all these decades later.  It is able to do pretty good 2d graphics as seen in Rayman, but the tough programming and design issues makes this hard sometimes; see bad performance of the Jag version of Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure, for example. Next, the 3DO is perhaps not as powerful on paper, as it has only one, 12.5Mhz CPU.  Indeed, games like Doom or Wolfenstein 3D show how the Jag can run 3d games at higher framerates and with more graphical detail as well; even a much more optimized 3DO Doom would probably not have been able to match the Jaguar version.  The 3DO also requires developers program in C, instead of machine code; it was the first console to do this, and it was controversial at the time as it probably limits power.  However, the 3DO has none of the hardware bugs or issues that the Jaguar does, so it was much easier to program for.  Making 3d games was hard at the time and you see that on the 3DO, but it is a better-balanced, less broken design able to do some nice things when programmed for well.  It is better at FMV and polygonal 3d than it is 2d — 3DO 2d usually seems to run at only 30fps, as Gex shows — but still, it’s a good design for the time.  As for the 32X, it released a year after the other two, and in some ways is the most powerful, but also is, like the Jaguar, something of a huge pain to program for.  In the 32X’s case, this is because Sega decided to use a dual-core, 23Mhz CPU, at a time when nobody had any idea how to program for two CPUs.  Just like the Saturn after it, most games surely do not make good use of both CPUs; it was just too early for that.  It is hard to program for as well, as its odd design is kind of tricky — the Genesis and 32X are each working simultaneously, and the two video images are combined in output to make what appears to be a single image… but it is actually two entirely separate images being combined.  Games often have a 32X main image and sprites and Genesis menu bars and background, or vice versa.  The 32X alone is not designed to do things such as 60fps 2d, so most games have issues.  Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure, for example,  has a 60fps Genesis background, with 30fps 32X sprites on top.  I may not notice much as I’m not framerate-concious much at all, but people who notice those things will really dislike this.  The 32X’s maximum capabilities are impressive, but the limitations of the CPUs and dual-system design hold it back.  So, I decided that the least broken design here, the 3DO, is best; it may be slower but games can actually get the most out of the system, and games which push it look great — see Blade Force for example.  Second, the Jag is busted but powerful when programmed for by a skilled team; see Skyhammer.  The 32X is similarly hard to program for, though perhaps easier than Jaguar, but I’m putting it in third because its best games and techdemos don’t match up to what I’ve seen from the best of the Jaguar — Skyhammer probably beats that infamous Zyrinx 32X techdemo video, for example.  I’m not a programmer though, so I could be convinced to change my mind on this category.

Controller – The 32X uses the Genesis controller.  All games work with regular 3-button Genesis controllers, but many 32X games support the 6-button controller for additional functions.  I definitely recommend the 6 button pad for the 32X, a lot of games do support it.  The official Sega 6 button Genesis controller is my favorite non-analog controller ever, so I gave the win here to the 32X.  It’s a fantastic and very comfortable controller.  In second, the 3DO has a very Genesis-inspired controller, with three face buttons along with two SNES-like shoulder buttons.  It is not quite as comfortable as a Genesis pad, but is a good controller regardless which fits well in the hand and works well.  For some games you do wish there was a sixth action button, though.  The 3DO does have the best assortment of alternate controllers, too — there is a light gun (the GameGun), a 3DO mouse, analog joystick (the CH Flightsick Pro for 3DO), and 6-button digital controllers in several designs, including from Capcom and others, for alternate controllers that give better controls in various kinds of games.  I have the mouse, joystick, and a few 6-button pads, and they are great options in supported titles.  The analog joystick really improves those flight games!  In last, the Jaguar controller is a lot more comfortable than I had ever given it credit for before finally buying a Jag earlier this year.  It may look huge and awful, but for those of us who like larger controllers like I often do the Jaguar controller is actually comfortable and feels good.  However, the decision to have a 12-button keypad, with only three action buttons and no shoulder buttons at all, is questionable.  While there are a few games which make good use of the keypad to allow things that would be a pain to do with any other controller, most of the time it just makes for awkward gameplay, as you have to reach down to the keypad for some important functions.  There s an expensive 6-button controller with shoulder buttons, but that just duplicates five of the keypad buttons onto the five added buttons, so how useful it is depends on how games mapped the keypad.  You will need to use that keypad, and it only sometimes works well.  Also, the Jaguar is one of the only 5th-gen consoles which has absolutely no analog control options released during its life.  There is now a homebrew mouse adapter with one or two things that support it, but for the most part Jaguar games are digital-pad-only, which is a real problem in 3d titles.  32X games are also mostly digital-only, but that is a last-gen addon so it is more excusable there than it is in this next-gen console.  The 3DO doesn’t have analog stick on its controller either, but the mouse, joystick, and lightgun controller options fill in there.  This is what decides it for me in the 3DO’s favor over the Jaguar, that the 3DO has analog controllers while the Jaguar does not; otherwise, between the two base controllers, it’s close enough that I could go either way.  But a lot of Jaguar games are screaming for analog controls that they system doesn’t have.  This was the case with a whole lot of games on all consoles at the time, until the N64 changed things, but it is an issue even so.

System Design – I like the look of the FZ-1 3DO.  It looks like a VCR or other similar pieces of ’90s home electronics, and it’s a classy look that is extremely dated in a nice way.  If the NES was designed to look like an ’80s VCR, the FZ-1 3DO is a ’90s VCR, a bit like the one we had back then but with discs.  I have not seen the FZ-10 in person, but it looks like a fine console design.  It is nothing amazing, but okay.  On the other hand, the 3DO saves to a battery soldered to the board, which is bad; those batteries will die and need replacing.  The disc drive and tray are also high failure points.  The Goldstar’s not as nice, but it still looks alright.  As for the Jaguar, it is a good looking system with some nice lines, but the absence of a cartridge flap, and the exposed board ports on the back and front, look cheap.  The cartridges look nice, but don’t stack all that well because of their curved design and don’t have end labels unless you add them, unfortunately.  As for the 32X, it has great Sega design, but its odd, mushroom-like look is an issue.  The Jaguar CD drive similarly blobs up on top of the Jaguar, but as much as it is maligned for looking like a toilet seat and being absurdly failure-prone, at least the Jag looks like it was designed for that CD drive to sit on top of it, so the two fit together well; the CD kind of completes the look of the Jaguar.  The Genesis clearly was not designed for a top addon, so the 32X is this ugly blob on top of your Genesis.  As for saving, Jaguar games save to EEPROM chips on the carts.  These chips hold very little data, but are great and their write limits should last a long time.  32X games save to batteries or EEPROM or FRAM chips on the carts. The 32X is probably the most durable of these three systems, with the lowest failure rate by far.  Still, overall, the 3DO looks the best.  You’ll need to replace that battery sometime and may have laser issues, but it’s a mostly good design.  The Jaguar is in second, with better design than it usually gets credit for.  And as much as I love the Genesis, the 32X lags behind in last.  The Sega CD and Genesis look good together, but adding the mushroom on top kind of messes up the look.  32Xes are much more likely to work in the future than the other two systems are, though.

Genres

Please note, this is not a comprehensive list of all games on all three consoles.  I’m only mentioning some highlight titles.

Racing32XVirtua Racing Deluxe, Motocross Championship, BC Racers; 3DOThe Need for Speed, Road Rash, Autobahn Tokio, Wacky Races 2: In Space, kind of Off-World Interceptor (it’s mostly a shooter), Driving School, MegaRace, F1 GP, Crash ‘n Burn, BC Racers; JagSuper Burnout, Power Drive Rally, Club Drive, Checkered Flag, Supercross 3D, Val d’Isere Skiing and Snowboarding. All three platforms have some great games here, but I gave the win to the 32X because Virtua Racing Deluxe is an outstanding game that I love, and the 32X version is in some ways the best version of the game. This is definitely an opinion case, it’s easy to see why some people would prefer the 3DO for NfS and Road Rash particularly, or the Jag for Super Burnout particularly, but I like VR Deluxe enough to put it on top.  Really all three of these systems are winners in this genre.

Fighting (2d)JagUltra Vortek, Kasumi Ninja, Primal Rage; 32X – Mortal Kombat 2, Brutal: Above the Claw, Cosmic Carnage, Supreme Warrior, Primal Rage; 3DO – Samurai Shodown, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Ultraman Powered, The Eye of Typhoon, Sailor Moon S, Shadow: War of Succession, Yuu Yuu Hakusho, Way of the Warrior. For a non-MK fan like me, SamSho and SSFIIT make this a very easy win for the 3DO.  The anime fighters on 3DO are amusing games as well.  For second place, real MK2 is a whole lot better than the mostly poor MK knockoffs on 3DO and Jaguar, so the 32X finishes second. Of the 3DO and Jag’s MK knockoff games Ultra Vortek is the best one, but that’s not saying all that much. Oh, worst game here is actually tough — do you go with the unbelievably horrible, barely playable atrocity that is Shadow: War of Succession — a game that should score under a 1 out of 10 on any scale — or the incredibly awful wreck of a game that is Supreme Warrior, which is also horrendous? As much as I greatly dislike Supreme Warrior it’s at least amusing to look at, so Shadow is worst overall I think.  Kasumi Ninja is also a pretty awful game, but it’s not on the level of those two atrocities.

Fighting (3d) JagFight for Life; 3DOBallz 3D: The Director’s Cut; 32X – Virtua Fighter, kind of WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game. Here we have a very good version of a very popular classic — Virtua Fighter — and … two awful messes that very few people like, FfL and Ballz. I’ve never liked VF1 all that much, but it is a good game and the 32X has a great version. So the 32X has one of the biggest wins on the list, but who is second? Here I chose Fight for Life over Ballz, in part because FfL is a VF clone while Ballz is a slightly enhanced last-gen port, but you could go either way there, and maybe Ballz is better. Oh, and Wrestlemania the Arcade Game kind of counts since it plays like a fighting game with 3d movement, not a wrestling game. You have regular health bars and everything.

Shmup / Shmuplike / Run & GunJagTrevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy, Raiden, Defender 2000, Protector SE (PD), Total Carnage, Rebooteroids (PD); 32XZaxxon’s Motherbase 2000, Kolibri; 3DOCaptain Quazar. The 3DO has a lot of shooting games, but they’re all top-down free-roaming stuff or 3d into-the-screen games, not regular topdown or side-view shmups, arena shooters, or run & guns, which is why those genres are all combined into one here; these systems just don’t have many. So, the Jaguar, with a true classic in Raiden and a few other okay games, wins this, with the 32X in second with a good game in Motherbase. Though, since the two 32X games are exclusives while while Raiden is on many platforms and is not best on Jaguar, for exclusives you could give this to the 32X — it’s much better than the Jag-exclusive Trevor McFur or Defender 2000 by what I’ve seen of those games. If you include homebrew releases, Protector SE and Rebooteroids on Jag also look good. As for Captain Quazar, it’s an okay game.

Platformer (2D/2.5D)3DO – Gex, Phoenix 3 (the first half of the game), Johnny Bazookatone, Soccer Kid, Flashback, Out of this World; Jaguar – Rayman, Hyper Force, Soccer Kid, Zool 2, Flashback, Bubsy in: Fractured Fairy Tales, Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure; 32X – Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure, Blackthorne, Spider-Man: Web of Fire, Knuckles Chaotix, Tempo. Rayman is probably the best overall game here, but as I said this is a tough one because for me personally none of these three systems have a platformer I really love. Rayman is good but too hard; I’ve never really liked the cinematic, high-animation style of game seen in Flashback, Out of this World, and Blackthorne, but of those three I like Blackthorne the best and while it is a port the 32X version does have an exclusive graphical overhaul and level; Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure is good, but both of these versions are quite flawed (it’s best on PC); Tempo, Soccer Kid, and Gex are decent to good games, but are slow-paced and kind of average; and the others, Bubsy Jag, Hyper Force, Zool 2, Spiderman, Phoenix 3, Johnny Bazookatone… average at best. Oh, and Knuckles Chaotix is interesting but very flawed and isn’t above average in my book either, not in its main game. I love platformers, but these three could go in any order really and be valid…

Platformer (3D) – The bonus levels in Knuckles Chaotix on 32X are the only thing here on any of these formats so it’s an automatic win for the 32X. They’re really good for the time!

RPG / Action-RPG – As the only one of these platforms with any amount of Japanese gaem support, the 3DO has an advantage here — the top Western RPG studios were almost exclusively PC game developers at this point, while in Japan RPGs were mostly a console genre.  So, the 3DO has some JRPGs.  It has a few Western ones as well, most notably a pair of pretty good first-person dungeon crawlers.  3DO Lucienne’s Quest, AD&D: Slayer (FPS-RPG), AD&D: Deathkeep (FPS-RPG), and a few Japanese-language games; JagTowers II (FPS-RPG). 32X none. This one’s a very clear win for the 3DO. AD&D Slayer’s better than Towers II alone, never mind the rest of it…

Adventure / FMV is a very clear 3DO win. All three systems have some adventure games, and some are on several of these systems, but the 3DO has the most by far.  Quite a few adventure games were ported to 3DO, particularly ones with FMV video in them; it was a good platform for this kind of game and the adventure genre is probably one of the strongest on the 3DO. If the Jaguar CD had done better and lasted longer this could have been competitive because Jag CD visuals do seem to regularly beat the 3DO in FMV, but it has so few games that it doesn’t. The handful of games on both platforms may all be better on Jaguar, perhaps, but even if they were, they can’t outweigh the pile of good stuff on 3DO.  Some games, such as Myst and Dragon’s Lair are on both 3DO and Jaguar.  Additionally, the 3DO also has games such as Psychic Detective, Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller, Dragon Lore, Putt-Putt Joins the Parade, and more.  As for the 32X, there aren’t really any in its cartridge game library, but all six 32X CD games are ports of Sega CD FMV games.  They aren’t really adventure games though, and most are quite awful.  The two from Sega, Fahrenheit and Surgical Strike, are the best of the six, but they’re still not great.  Only Fahrenheit is even kind of an adventure game, too; Surgical Strike is a FMV shooter.  So, in adventure games the 3DO wins easily, the Jaguar finishes second with a small but sometimes quality library, and the 32X trails well behind.

Action-Adventure / Survival Horror – This genre could be combined with  the above one, but I decided to separate it.  As opposed to the above games, these have combat beyond the ‘hit the button at the right time’ QTE gameplay of a Dragon’s Lair or Space Ace.  The 3DO is the first console with survival horror games as we know them today, so it is noteworthy for this.   3DOAlone in the Dark, Alone in the Dark 2, Doctor Hauzer, Robinson’s Requiem; Jag – Robinson’s Requiem, Highlander: Last of the McLeods; 32X – None. I’m no AitD fan, but this is a clear win for the 3DO.  The Jaguar is second by default; that Highlander game gets mostly bad reviews but it is something, which is more than the 32X has.  There are some PD Jaguar adventure and action-adventure games as well.

Strategy / Simulation (Building) is similar; all three have at least one, and there are a few good ones on Jaguar, but the 3DO‘s a clear winner. The great classic Star Control II, my favorite 3DO game, is the standout here, and one of the best games on the 3DO as well.  I don’t need to list these out for each platform, it is no contest at all.  The Jaguar does have some interesting strategy and simulation games, including Attack of the Mutant Penguins, Baldies, and some games released on both 3DO and Jaguar Cannon Fodder if you count it as one (it isn’t really), Syndicate (another semi-strategy title), and Theme Park, but Star Control II is better than any of those games, and the 3DO has plenty more besides, such as Guardian War, Panzer General, Theatre Wars, The Tower (SimTower), DinoPark Tycoon, The Horde, The Perfect GeneralKonpeki no Kantai, and more.  Some of these are Japanese-only, but still it’s a decent library.  The 32X has very little in this genre other than a Japan-only port of Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV, so it finishes well behind in last.  So, 3DO first, Jaguar second, 32X last.

Rail / into the screen shooter (with a movable character) – These are into-the-screen 3d shooting games where you control some kind of ship or character that you can move around.  JagTempest 2000, Zero Five, Blue Lightning; 3DO – Pyramid Intruder, Burning Soldier, Total Eclipse, Off-World Interceptor (racing/shooter), Novastorm, Microcosm, Sewer Shark (kind of), Rebel Assault (partially); 32X – Space Harrier, After Burner Complete. All three have good to awesome stuff here but Tempest 2000 is an all-time great and the best game on any of these three consoles so the Jag wins the category. The 3DO has the most games but I don’t love any of them, so it finishes third; 32X Space Harrier is amazing! A bunch of those 3DO games try to be like a Space Harrier, but they’re so much worse…

Light Gun / Light Gun Style Shooter  These are games where you can’t move a character or ship around, but instead just control a cursor on a railed path, shooting at things as they appear.  They may or may not support actual light guns.  JaguarMissile Command 3D; 3DOSpace Pirates (lightgun), Mad Dog McCree (lightgun), Mad Dog II: The Lost Gold (lightgun), Corpse Killer (lightgun), Who Shot Johnny Rock? (lightgun), The Last Bounty Hunter (lightgun), Crime Patrol (lightgun), Drug Wars (lightgun), Starblade (some consider this a rail shooter, but it’s really a no-gun lightgun game.); 32X – Corpse Killer (lightgun), Surgical Strike (kind of). The 3DO has a pretty obvious win here, with an actual light gun and a bunch of games for it.  I’ve never liked Mad Dog McCree at all, but the no-gun shooter Starblade is fun and some of those American Laser Games titles are cheesy fun even if their gameplay isn’t the best.  Choosing second place is harder, though.  Corpse Killer is an awful game with horrible controls.  It supports light guns, but still plays terribly even with one!  I know, I have tried.  Surgical Strike’s a lot better, but it is also an FMV game, so the controls are frustrating and environments repeat constantly. I haven’t played Missile Command 3D, but it wins anyway because I’d probably like it more than Surgical Strike.

Vehicular Combat (flat plane) – These are vehicular combat games where you do not have any form of real height control.  So, you’re in a tank, hover-tank, or such.  You may be able to jump, but can’t fly up or down.  These games include: on JaguarHover Strike and its improved CD release Hover Strike: Unconquered Lands, Aircars, I-War, Iron Soldier (this is also kind of a vehicle sim), Iron Soldier 2 (also kind of a vehicle sim); on 32x T-Mek, Metal Head; on 3DO Stellar 7: Draxon’s Revenge, BattleSport, Shockwave and its expansion Shockwave: Operation Jumpgate, Shockwave 2: Beyond the Gate, Quarantine, maybe Return Fire (overhead, not first/third person) and its expansion Return Fire: Maps o’Death. Return Fire is a great game and probably pushes the 3DO over the Jaguar, though it’s very close — the Iron Soldier games on Jag are also quite good. Aircars, I-War, and Hover Strike on Jag and the Shockwave series on 3DO are somewhat similar games and I’ll call them about even, though I do have a fondness for Hover Strike: Unconquered Lands and I-War that I don’t for Shockwave, so I’d probably lean Jag here.  On the other hand, I do also quite like BattleSport, so it is close.  As for the 32X, I like both of its games in this genre as well, but the games on the other two systems outshine them so it is in third for sure.  This is another genre where all three platforms do well, the 3DO and Jaguar particularly.  I guess I’ll stick with the 3DO being in first for now, but I could switch them sometime, the Jaguar has some games here I really like.

FPS3DO – Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Defcon 5, Immercenary, Iron Angel of the Apocalypse, Iron Angel of the Apocalypse: the Return, PO’ed, Escape from Monster Manor, Killing Time, Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angels, Cyberdillo, Creature Shock (kind of, and partially; it’s also a rail shooter). 32X – Doom. Jag – Doom, Alien vs, Predator, Wolfenstein 3D. JagDoom is the best overall game here but the sheer number of 3DO FPSes puts it in first overall I’d say; some of those games are also quite solid. One great game can win a category if it’s THAT amazing, but there are a lot of ways to play Doom and the combination of flawed but interestingly weird games like Space Hulk, PO’ed, Immercenary, and Cyberdillo and good simpler shooters like Killing Time give the edge to 3DO, I think. AvP also is pretty interesting and Jag fans could give this to the Jag on a “quality over quantity” argument, but for now I lean 3DO. And the 3DO does have Doom, it’s just got a very low framerate. I find it fun anyway… Oh, and the 3DO also has two fps-rpg games and the Jag has one, though I’ll count those as RPGs I guess. The 3DO ones are great, I think — see the RPG genre.

Flight Combat (often slightly simmish) – 3DOStarfighter (also kind of a sim), Blade Force (a little simmish), maybe Super Wing Commander and Wing Commander 3 though they are also vehicle sims; 32xStar Wars Arcade, Shadow Squadron (almost a simmish game, but… not quite I think), Darxide, Star Trek Starfleet Academy Starship Bridge Simulator (simple combat with some sim elements); Jag – (note: all of these are also kind of vehicle sims) Skyhammer, Battlesphere + Battlesphere Gold (both PD), Cybermorph, Battlemorph. All three systems have some great games in this genre so it’s hard to decide objectively, personal opinion will probably decide it.  Even that’s hard though, I really like Starfighter and Shadow Squadron, and surely would like Battlemorph.  Star Trek, Blade Force, Star Wars Arcade, Skyhammer, and Cybermorph are good fun games too, with some issues.  I said 3DO first, 32X second, and Jag third, but you could make a case for these three going in any order depending on which games you like the most.  And while Cybermorph really is a good game, Battlemorph is better, and Skyhammer is a very impressive game for the Jaguar, my longtime love for Shadow Squadron and Starfighter put those systems above the Jag, I think.  And between 32X and 3DO, the other 32X games do some impressive things but they don’t match up to Wing Commander; I may never have been a fan of that series, but I can admit to their quality.

Vehicle Sim3DO Flying Nightmares, VR Stalker, Scramble Cobra, and the Wing Commander games, Blade Force, and Starfighter if you count them here; Jaguar has no exclusively vehicle-sim games, but does have the Iron Soldier games, Battlesphere, Skyhammer, and Cybermorph/Battlemorph if you count them here instead of where I put them earlier. 32x has none unless you count Shadow Squadron, which I likely wouldn’t, and Star Trek Starfleet Academy Starship Bridge Simulator, which … maybe. The 3DO is the only one with legit vehicle sims so it wins this by default. If you include all of the other games I just listed it’s a lot closer because all three have some great a-bit-simmish space or futuristic vehicular combat games, but the 3DO still probably wins if you include all the games I just listed. Shadow Squadron is one of the best games on that list but isn’t amazing enough to beat all of the other games listed, so the 32X is probably in last, though not by much. Those Jaguar games are also pretty good, Iron Soldier especially, and I haven’t played Battlemorph or Battlesphere so I can’t judge it entirely. As for 3DO, I like Blade Force, but find it super hard; Starfighter’s great but the controls are odd; and I’ve never been a Wing Commander fan, but they are good certainly. So uh, personal opinion might lean towards the Jag? I’ll need Battlemorph, Battlesphere is multiplayer-focused and insanely expensive. For now, for the sci-fi games portion of this genre, I put 3DO on top because of how much I like Starfighter. Of course, it also wins because it’s the only one with actual sims. Not good sims going by reviews, but sims.  I’ve never cared for fighter jet sim games though, so I can’t imagine liking them much myself.  Still, it has them.

Sports / Card / Board – With its very influential versions of FIFA International Soccer and John Madden Football, I think the 3DO has to win this category. There are other football and soccer games on all three platforms, but those two are the most important by far. The Jaguar has two football and two soccer games, including a solid version of International Sensible Soccer, but they look quite dated compared to those two, with much more 4th-gen-like visuals. The 32X has a version of FIFA and it’s good, but the 3DO one is better. Also, Olympic Soccer on the 3DO’s a decent game as well. In golf games the 3DO also has a huge lead — the Jag has none, and the 32X one okay one, while the 3DO has quite a few, a full eight in fact, most exclusive. The 3DO has the most other sports games too, such as boxing, FMV “how to ski / how to play tennis” tutorial discs, an okay summer olympics game, and more.  They’re mostly exclusive or console exclusive, too. For wrestling the 32X does have two WWF games though, while the 3DO and Jag have nothing. I don’t like wrestling, but WWF: The Arcade Game is alright.  For baseball, the 32X has two Genesis-style overhead baseball games, while the 3DO has two Japan-only more 3d baseball games (one by EA, oddly enough; why not make a US version too?) and a hitting trainer. As I don’t like Genesis World Series or RBI Baseball, even though I haven’t played the 3DO ones yet I’ll give the 3DO the edge here.  The EA one, Pro Yakyuu Virtual Stadium, looks good, and was EA’s first attempt at 5th-gen baseball in the Triple Play style; the other one, Pro Stadium, looks worse. For hockey though, the 3DO and 32X have nothing, while the Jaguar has one average effort in Brett Hull Hockey (aka Jaguar Hockey) so the Jag wins hockey. As for basketball, NBA Jam T.E. is on the 32X and Jag and is one of the best sports games ever made. The Jaguar has a couple of other much less good basketball games as well, in White Men Can’t Jump and Barkley: Shut Up and Jam (unreleased but leaked), but forget those.  There are two 3DO basketball games, Slam’ n Jam ’95 and Jammit, but they’ve got nothing on Jam, though Slam n Jam’s 3d perspective is kind of cool for the time. So this is a category where the sports game I’d most want to play, Jam, is on the two losing platforms but not the winning one… oh well, I love Jam TE but it is on lots of systems and I don’t love it so much I’d put the 32X or Jag over the whole, much larger 3DO sports library just because of it. Maybe they should win though, because the 32X and Jaguar versions of Jam T.E. are often mentioned as maybe the best versions of the game. The Jag version of Jam is a port of the 32X one with slightly better visuals.  As for card and board games, it should be no surprise that the 3DO dominates, as it does in this category in general, with multiple chess, mahjong, and shogi titles.  So, the 3DO wins here.  As for second place though, in part because baseball is my favorite sport and the Jag has no baseball games while the 32X at least has some, the 32X takes second.

Puzzle / Trivia – The 3DO has a quite clear win here. There are a few good puzzle games on Jaguar, such as Zoop, Vid Grid, and such, and more from homebrew developers, but the 3DO has more and better, including the all-time classic Bust-A-Move. That alone makes this an easy call; I do like Zoop, and the Jaguar has the only console version of Zoop that actually saves your high scores, but BAM’s one of the greats. The 3DO is also the only one with trivia quizshow games, such as Zhadnost: The Peoples’ Party and Twisted: The Game Show.  It has Lemmings, Shanghai: Triple Thread, Gridders, Trip’d, The Incredible Machine, and more, as well.  Several of those are good version sof all-time classic puzzle games. The 32X doesn’t really have anything in these genres, they’re all just on Genesis.

 

My Top 10 Favorite Games, Overall and On Each Platform

Now, I posted a list some years back of my favorite games by platform.  It’s getting a bit old though, and does not include the 3DO or Jaguar, so here are some little updated lists just for these three platforms.

3DO

1. Star Control II
2. Starfighter
3. Samurai Shodown
4. Return Fire & Maps o’Death
5. AD&D: Slayer
6. BattleSport
7. Super Street Fighter II Turbo
8. The Incredible Machine
9. BladeForce
10. Shockwave 2: Beyond the Gate

Honorable Mentions: Doom, Road & Track Presents: The Need for Speed, Wing Commander 3: Heart of the Tiger, Shanghai: Triple Threat, Gex, AD&D: Deathkeep

Jaguar

1. Tempest 2000
2. Super Burnout
3. Iron Soldier
4. Zoop
5. Hover Strike: Unconquered Lands
6. Rayman
7. I-War
8. Cybermorph
9. Val d’Isere Skiing and Snowboarding
10. Club Drive

Honorable Mentions: It’s not a game, but the Jaguar CD VLM is amazing!  Like, really amazing.  Also Battlemorph would probably be in 5th or so if I’d ever played it, but sadly I have not.

32X

1. Virtua Racing Deluxe
2. Space Harrier
3. Shadow Squadron
4. After Burner
5. Zaxxon’s Motherbase 2000
6. Star Wars Arcade
7. Metal Head
8. Star Trek Starfleet Academy Starship Bridge Simulator
9. Virtua Fighter
10. Tempo

Honorable Mentions: T-MEK, Blackthorne, Mortal Kombat II, Knuckles Chaotix (for those cool 3d bonus stages)

Overall – 3DO, Jag, and 32X

1. Tempest 2000 (Jag)
2. Virtua Racing Deluxe (32X)
3. Space Harrier (32X)
4. Star Control II (3DO)
5. Starfighter (3DO)
6. Shadow Squadron (32X)
7. Super Burnout (Jag)
8. Samurai Shodown (3DO)
9. Return Fire (3DO)
10. AD&D: Slayer (3DO)

Honorable Mentions: Iron Soldier (Jag), Zoop (Jag)

All of these 12 titles mentioned in Overall are B+ or better grade titles in my opinion, from the A+ all-time great Tempest 2000 on down to the B+-grade honorable mention titles.

Conclusion

 

In conclusion, this little exercise may not have proven much, but hopefully it does show that the 3DO had a nicely broad game library, with interesting games in a wide variety of genres.  Some of those games are good and others are not, but many of them are well worth playing, particularly if you like games from the era or are interested in mid ’90s experimental titles which try new things older consoles could not do. Overall, Tempest 2000 on the Jaguar is the best game here, and it is one of my favorite games of all time.  It is an exceptional classic, and I am thrilled  to finally own the original version.  The Jaguar is a very charming console too, with a mostly exclusive library of very odd games, for both good and ill.  Jaguar-era Atari gave games extremely small budgets and the system had nearly nonexistent third-party support, so seeing how much teams could accomplish on clearly far too little money is pretty interesting stuff.  Sometimes the results were good and other times quite the opposite, but that’s part of its charm, oddly enough.  The Jaguar’s ongoing, strong homebrew development community is another reason to be interested in the system — of these three systems, it has the most homebrew software by far. The Jaguar is an expensive endeavor to collect for, but I’m glad to finally be doing that.  Some Jaguar and 3DO games are very bad, but even that kind of thing can be pretty interesting, I think; just how unbelievably unplayable Shadow: War of Succession is, for example, must be played to be believed!  As for the 32X, the thing is an interesting system indeed.  On the one hand, Sega never should have released it.  The 32X proved to be a major mistake, helping to totally ruin Sega’s reputation among gamers.  You simply cannot abandon a platform that quickly after releasing it and expect there to be no consequences for that!  It’s sad, because some really cool 32X games were casualties of its very early demise such as the impressive-looking X-Men, but the quick death and major reputational damage shows that Sega’s best move would to have been to never release the thing.  However, it does exist, somewhat unfortunately, and… yes, if you like Sega and the Genesis absolutely get one!  The 32X library may be tiny, but among those few games are some fantastic classics.  Any Genesis owner will love some of the games on the 32X, and its best titles stand with the best on the Genesis.  The 32X is a lot cheaper to buy and collect for than the 3DO or Jaguar are, too, and the hardware is more reliable and less likely to fail in the future.  It may have the overall weakest game library of these three platforms, and it absolutely does lag behind both overall, but it’s still a weird and interesting platform I like.

Overall, I can see why most people never bothered with all three of these consoles, and why many collectors will pass on all three of them.  Try some games on one sometime, though; sure, many are rough by modern standards, but others still hold up well, and seeing the progress of the industry in that time of extremely rapid change is fascinating.  Tech this century has not changed anywhere near as rapidly as it did in the ’90s.  So yeah, get a 3DO.  And consider a Jaguar too, if you can afford it.

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Update

Sorry for the lack of any new articles, but some things happened.

First, I was planning on continuing the Guild Wars Game Opinion Summaries series for a while longer, but after the rape and allegation about Guild Wars music composer Jeremy Soule, I decided to put that off for a while.  He denies the allegations, but they sound quite credible. I will get back to my Guild Wars screenshots series — the soundtrack is only one component to that incredible game — but I think I’ll wait a bit longer before doing so.  I wish that they could remove that soundtrack and replace it with something  not written by someone evidently a total creep, but that’s not going to happen unfortunately I am sure.  Separating art from artist is sometimes difficult, and this is one of those times; Soule has never been one of my favorite game composers, but he did good work in a lot of prominent soundtracks.  It’s really too bad he seems to have abused that power.  This allegation is from after he completed work on Guild Wars 1’s soundtrack, but it’s still really bad, particularly in the context of other slightly less awful but also bad allegations that have surfaced about him.

So with that off the table for now, I tried to come up with something else but don’t have anything anywhere near postable yet.  I think I will do another Game Opinion Summaries list or update, probably a Genesis update covering all the games I’ve gotten since I finished the Genesis list.  I thought this was a good idea since the Genesis Mini is just about to release, so why not cover that fantastic console a bit more?  The other Game Opinion Summaries lists that I plan to do are a Colecovision one, following up my past Atari, Odyssey 2, and Intellivision lists with one for the other pre-crash console I have, and a TurboGrafx/PC Engine HuCards list.  I will do the Colecovision list this year, perhaps soon, and the TG16 one perhaps early next year, since that’s when the TurboGrafx Mini releases so why not?

As for what games I am playing other than classics, it’s mostly still random handheld puzzle games, Mario Maker 2 and They are Billions, which I got back into after its final release.  I have covered both of those games and they are what they are, extremely addictive games I love… or love to hate, depending.  Both can be quite hard and frustrating, in their own ways.  Mario Maker 2 is one of the best games ever, with an endless supply of Mario levels on all skill and competency levels, from extremely easy and basic to impossibly difficult.  My skill is probably somewhere in the middle, so I can’t handle the ones which require the super high-end skills but greatly enjoy the game anyway.  It’s perfect for anyone who likes Mario gameplay!  I still have not finished any levels in Mario Maker 2, but if I do I’ll write a post about it.  As for They are Billions, I love the strategy, but find the randomness very frustrating.  I’ve beaten several maps and am at the desert one now, which is quite hard.  I like the additional things they added to the game over the course of its time in Early Access, and it is a bit easier than it was when I first played it, but it’s still a very difficult game.  When you finally complete a map and survive that final wave it’s an amazing feeling, though!

So that’s the state of the site right now.  I’ll get something finished for posting this month.

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Guild Wars Memories and Screenshots, Part 13: April 2007 – November 2008

In early 2007, I got a new computer.  While my old one was a 1.5Ghz Pentium 4 with 384MB of RAM, a 32MB GeForce2 GTS graphics card, and Windows Millenium (which I still love! But anyway.), the new one was a Core 2 Duo E6600 with a brand new 320MB GeForce 8800 graphics card,  the new OS Windows Vista (which I also like a lot), and lots of RAM.  It was a huge upgrade, and I’d end up having the computer, with a few upgrades, for ten years.

When I got it, I remember thinking that maybe now I’d play PC games more again, like I used to.  By this point I already noticed that I was playing them less than I had before, in favor of classic console games mostly.  Well… that didn’t change.  The computer was a lot better than the old one in many ways, but I mostly kept playing older console games, only playing games on the PC here and there.  I started playing more modern games again in maybe 2016 and would say that now I play a mixture of older and newer games, but that’s well in the future here.

So, when the new PC arrived, I made sure to try out Guild Wars, still one of my favorite PC games, and I immediately noticed how much better the game looked!  These screenshots are the same exact game as before, it’s just running on a better computer actually able to get the most out of the game.  The difference is dramatic and looks great, and it ran at a stable 60fps almost all of the time too!  Despite this I still played a lot less of the game than I had in the previous few years, but the repetitive nature of the almost entirely clicking-a-skillbar gameplay had kind of gotten old so I wanted a break.  Still, enjoy the nicer-looking screenshots.  This article has 45 screenshots in four parts, ten from for April ’07, four from the August ’07 Guild Wars Eye of the North Sneak Peak event, 11 from November ’07, and 20 from January to October ’08.

Please note, the first images here are from April and then it skips to August because that’s what my screenshots do, they go from February to April to August.  From this point on long gaps like this between screenshot batches will be normal.

Additionally, with these larger, higher-resolution screenshots, please remember to click, or center-click, on the images to open full-size versions of the images, instead of the small thumbnails.

A. April 2007:  Heroes

In the world of Guild Wars, while the game was still fairly recent, 2007 was the last year with new paid content released.  Ten months after Factions, Guild Wars: Eye of the North released in August 2007.  Unlike Factions and Nightfall from 2006, which are technically stand-alone and do not require owning Prophecies, you can only play EotN after finishing one of the previous three campaigns.  The campaign is set in new parts of the Prophecies area of the continent, but you don’t need to own Prophecies, any of them will do.  Before EotN released, though, GW went quite some time with few updates.   Arena.net was having some problems deciding what they wanted to do next — did they want to make another full stand-alone campaign, an add-on, or what?  How will it work?  One campaign in progress got cancelled before Eye of the North was finally approved.  The resulting game was fantastic, but for paid content that was it for the game.  I’ve always been disappointed that the game was abandoned so quickly for a successful game of this kind, it deserved so much better!

So, while Factions had been followed with Nightfall only six months later, most of a year went by between Nightfall and Eye of the North.  I did not capitalize, however, and continued barely touching Nightfall.  It’s a good campaign and I like a lot of things about it, but somehow I kept stopping for long periods of time, sometimes because it was hard and I was playing it all solo and sometimes because, while great, I just didn’t enjoy the campaign quite as much as Prophecies or Factions.  Still, having FINALLY finished it much more recently, Nightfall is a fantastic campaign I should have played a lot more of earlier.  I didn’t, oh well.

Now, Nightfall released in the previous article, but I did not discuss the following issue that I have mentioned here and there at length then, so I will now.  Nightfall, beyond having a large and quite difficult new campaign, added one other major new feature to Guild Wars, which I have mentioned here and there and is both essential and unfortunate: Heroes.  Heroes are AI allies that you have much greater control over than the Henchmen that were the only thing available previously.  Where Henchies each have a specific build you cannot change, Heroes are fully customizable.  Indeed, you set Heroes’ skillbars up yourself, working from the skills you have unlocked on your account.  You can also buy skills for Heroes only, if you want some more skills for classes you don’t really play.  The AI won’t necessarily be as effective with some skills and builds as a human would, so reading up online about what kind of Hero builds work better is very useful, and Heroes are much better if they are in classes you have played extensively with other characters, but even so the ability to fully set your AI companions’ skillbars was fantastic.

The other major addition ANet made with Nightfall is giving players greater control of AI movements.  Nightffall added some new buttons to the minimap which you can direct your AI allies with.  Four buttons appear during gameplay when you’re in a mission or explorable area with AI allies.  The first three AI allies can be individually controlled, and the rest of your AI allies can be all moved together with a fourth button.  Where before they would just follow you around and could not be controlled beyond that, STRONGLY disadvantaging them versus human allies and encouraging the random-player-groups gameplay that I loved so much in the PvE (humans vs. AIs) part of the game, with these two additions that quickly started to break down.  To be fair, the sheer volume of content that had been added to the game, and people like me starting to play the game less, didn’t help either; where before everyone was playing the same campaign, now there were three and people were scattered through all three, without as many people in each of them.  As the years progressed, having AI allies became essential, as finding player groups for any number of PvE tasks rapidly became nearly impossible where it used to be easy, pre-Nightfall.  I still very much miss this element of the game, it was one of the things I loved about Guild Wars and Nightfall took it away.  My dislike of this is an important part of why I didn’t play much Nightfall for a long time.  However, how playable would Guild Wars be now without these additions?  A lot of the game would be even more impossible solo!

So, on the one hand, I greatly miss the Guild Wars of 2004-2006, where mostly randomly collected player groups did missions, quests, and explored together.  But on the other hand, Heroes and, perhaps even more, being able to give your AI allies direct ‘move here’ orders are essential things in a game with a lower and more spread-out playerbase.  You would never be able to always find human allies in every mission of this game at any time even if they had never added these things, so they are good.

It’s just a shame they had to add them, because it probably did more harm to the game than good — people really noticed how much better AI allies had become, and looking for player groups dropped off dramatically in very short order. Even when the playerbase was still high, while it was certainly still possible to find player groups sometimes, a whole lot of people who previously would have looked for players to group with moved over to Heroes instead because they’re almost as good and are always available.  It’s a very understandable choice that I would eventually do as well, because it makes the PvE game playable at any time, but as a result the game lost a lot of the sense of community that it had before.  Where in 2004 I had preferred Guild Wars over World of Warcraft in part because GW emphasizes grouping with other players you aren’t in a guild with much more, by ’07 that differential had surely gotten closer.  But, again, these changes also made the PvE game possible to play today in a way it would not be otherwise.  Late-game Guild Wars PvE is crushingly difficult as it is, without Heroes it’d be too hard to bear!  These changes really go both ways.  So, for both good and ill, the addition of Heroes is quite possibly the biggest change Guild Wars would have in its life so far.

Even if I was not playing a lot of Guild Wars anymore like I had been in 2004-2006, however, it was still a game I went back to with at least some regularity.  Including my estimates for beta playtime, in early ’07, as I say in this conversation with some random person, I was at maybe 900 hours played since the first beta.  I would only add a couple hundred hours to that over the next ten years.

Yup, I’m still playing more Factions than Nightfall.

Hey, it’s Nightfall! I’ve finally finished the first post-starter-island mission and gotten onto Kourna proper.

The Sunspear Sanctuary is kind of your base of operations during the campaign.

Kamadan, meanwhile, is the campaigns’ main city for interaction with other players. It has since become Guild Wars’ main social hub and trading place.

The random arenas.  And yup, this weird water-surface bug still works. Everything looks so much better now though, it’s all smooth and great looking!

In battle in the Random Arena.

… That didn’t end well. Too bad, but it’s almost always fun anyway.

I always like to go back to seared Ascalon every once in a while, it’s the first area I saw in this game and still is probably my favorite.


B. August 22-24, 2007 – Guild Wars: Eye of the North Sneak Peek Weekend (Beta Event)

A week before the game released, Arena.net held a very late promotional access weekend event, allowing anyone who owned a Guild Wars campaign to try out the beginning of the soon-upcoming new expansion.  I may not have played the game much in months, but was back for this event, I wanted to see how this new campaign would turn out.  I only have four screenshots from the event, but from the dates on the files they do show that I was once again here for a Guild Wars “beta”.  I don’t think I missed any public test events for the first Guild Wars.

My first impression of EotN was that I was impressed.  The first area is a beautiful snowy forest, like the South Shiverpeaks but more detailed and better looking.  It’s a pretty stunning looking area and one of the best in the game.  And in terms of gameplay, by starting from max level, EotN allowed for harder, more focused play.  I liked what I saw in the beta and wanted to play more.  And indeed, EotN would end up having a fantastic campaign loaded with interesting features and challenges.

Both in the beta and in the final game, you start EotN with a mission through a pretty great looking cave, fleeing from a threatening invasion…

Time is running out, will I make it?

And here we have maybe the first screenshot to really, really show off how much better the graphics are in Guild Wars in my ’07 PC than my ’01 one. From the anti-aliasing to the shiny lighting effects, this looks fantastic!  Indeed, the visuals in this shot still hold up extremely, extremely well.  Guild Wars’ graphics are some of the best ever.

The moon in the sky over this snowy mountainscape looks pretty nice too. I like this shot quite a bit.

 

C. November ’07 – Gameplay After the Guild Wars: Eye of the North Release

I believe I bought Eye of the North shortly after its release, digitally, but did not take any screenshots for a while.  So, this next screenshot batch is from November, when I took 11.  Many are quite similar, but I’m going to post all of them anyway.

Eye of the North is a great campaign, but it is quite different from past Guild Wars releases in important ways.  The difficulty is higher, as ANet cut back on lower-level content and started moving towards adding more high-level options to the game; the new skills and abilities are fewer and more focused, with far less of the bloated overlap of the skillsets that the two 2006 releases have; ANet started experimenting with having things go on in the world as you explored, something they would do a great deal more of in Guild Wars 2; missions do not have dedicated outposts before them like they used to, so you gather in towns for them; and more.  The previously mentioned uncertainty about what ANet should do with Guild Wars shows in the game, as they tried many new things in each of the four retail Guild Wars releases, but somehow they all work well together despite that, and perhaps in part because of it — the unique touches to each of the four campaigns keep them all interesting and worth revisiting!

As far as the story goes, there will be some very minor spoilers here, so I will block out this paragraph for anyone who wants none. Highlight the text to read it. EotN, as an expansion pack, was the first thing which actually continued the plot after the end of Prophecies, instead of telling other stories set elsewhere.  So, the plot returns to the issue of the Charr, among other things.  The game introduces several new friendly races, too, including the techie little Asura and the giant, warlike Norns.  You still can only play as a human, but the new races add some variety and both fit in the setting pretty well.  The expansions’ attempt to show different factions in the Charr and create a friendly, less evil Charr faction kind of works too, though even the “better” ones are still quite violent… though of course, so are humans.  That kind of equivocation would be the direction Guild Wars 2 would go in, but thanks to the way Guild Wars began, with the Searing, I don’t want to forgive the Charr.  On a related note, that GW:EN brings back the character Gwen is a clever touch, naming-wise.  Gwen’s position on the Charr’s a good one.  Anyway though, ignoring what they would do in GW2, EotN’s story is well-done, following up on the first game in some interesting ways.

I remember enjoying EotN and steadily playing through it, but looking back, I would not finish the campaign until late June 2009, almost two years after its release.  I don’t seem to have any screenshots from then, sadly — the screenshots I have from ’09, which I will start posting next time, do not show any of the ending parts of EotN — but did post about it online, so I know the date.  The basic structure of this game is that it has a main campaign of moderate to high-ish difficulty to go through, and optional side dungeons if you want some intensely challenging dungeons designed for human groups.  With AI companions most of the dungeons are too difficult for me and I did not have many people to play with anymore by this point, so unfortunately, though adding dungeons to the game was a fantastic idea, I still have not gone through most of them.

The new ice caves might look even better than the ones from Prophecies, which is definitely saying something.

Unfortunately, it’s not all shiny ice, there are monsters to deal with as well, in the dirt…

What, is this cave also a mine? Those are some oddly evenly-broken formations…

That little tree would probably look better with the camera a little farther away… but this was a ‘lots of first person shots’ set, so instead I got maybe too close for it to look ideal. Oh well. Anyway, we’re running through the wilderness, on the way to our next destination. As always.

At this point in the earlier parts of the EotN campaign, you compete in a tournament, facing off against a series of opponents, many of whom are familiar to people who have played the other campaigns. Here is Warmaster Tydus of Ascalon, a story character.

And LIttle Thom, from Kryta. He’s a henchman.

Melonni, a Hero from Nightfall.

Kisai, from Factions. She was a Henchman, but only in the starter island.

Sure you will…

This guy is from Ascalon as well… heh.

And last, of the ones I took screenshots of anyway, Cynn, one of the main story and henchman characters. Cynn’s “I want to kill as many Charr as possible” probably goes too far, but is not too far off base given what they did to Ascalon… Charr are the enemy!

D. 2008, January to October

These 20 images are all of the screenshots I took in the year of 2008.  Yeah, it’s not very many for a whole year; I may not have had many from ’07, but this is even lower.  Still, I was playing the game here and there, mostly focusing on slowly working my way through Eye of the North.  I may have been only sporadically playing the game, but was making slow progress through EotN, and was definitely enjoying it along the way.  This game has some fantastic looking areas, as this image set shows!  And the better computer better shows off just how good the game looks, too.

Yes, character models can take a while to load sometimes even on a better PC.

This place is creepy, look at the size of those cobwebs up on the ceiling… great sense of atmosphere!

Meanwhile, however, what the party, of me and Heroes as usual now, is doing is fighting some monsters.

I often use only two melee characters in my party, so Zenmai here has a tough job…

What an interesting, and ominous, building this is! What is that, spike-filled openings in the roof revealing a burning sky? With all of its dungeons, EotN very much makes up for previous Guild Wars campaigns having quite limited numbers of indoor areas, that’s for sure.

I know Guild Wars architecture is often hugely oversized, presumably to work well in a game, but this fireplace is kind of ridiculous if you think about it…

This hazy cave has a nice sense of atmosphere.

What is going on here, something is opening…

I don’t remember what this is at all, but it’s very cool looking!

And now it’s traveling up towards the flames above…

The amount of flowing lava here reminds me a bit of the Fire Islands, but this is somewhere else for sure. It’s also somewhere impressively dangerous-looking, though.

I know I say it all the time, but this game has truly spectacular art design. This scene here is yet another example of that.  The dark cave contrasts with the bright lava, surrounded with those tooth-like rocks…

Yes, it’s more dungeon traversal in EotN. These places are often really tough, particularly solo with heroes. I never have beaten most of them.

And unsurprisingly, given the firey theme, we see that this area is populated with Charr.

Hey, I didn’t turn the interface off!  It looks like things are going reasonably, my death penalty isn’t too high.  Warband of Brothers is one of the dungeons, and a quest, in EotN. You’re helping your Charr allies defeat some of the really evil Charr. Not that many of them are really all that good…

The way everything is on fire may make for neat scenery here, but the Charr’s addiction for burning things is horrible, as the Searing showed!

Same scene, interface off.

This area is pretty dark, I hope we’re getting out of the cave soon…

And indeed, I did! For a nice change of pace, here’s a bright, reflective ice cave.

Ah, it’s a mission. EotN’s missions were consistently very well designed and fun.

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My Thoughts on E3 2019 – Well, Nintendo Had a Good Show!

So, E3 was six weeks ago, and I’m finally getting around to posting something about what I thought. This will be a bit article than the ones I wrote for the last few years, but I do have some things to say. I put off posting something earlier because it wasn’t as exciting a show as other recent years.

As usual, I watched a lot of E3 coverage, focusing on watching the press conferences before the show floor opened, Nintendo’s Treehouse streams during the show, and Giant Bomb’s night shows each night.  I won’t have too much to say about that last one though, they were entertaining but not too newsworthy here I think, apart from a few things from the Xbox head Phil Spencer interview.

Here are my main thoughts on this E3.

So it’s E3 time again, and the game industry is excited!

… Well, they’re excited to tell you to come back in a year and a half, because Nintendo excepted, that is the main takeaway I took from E3 2019: come back in late 2020, when the next generation Sony and Microsoft consoles release. Before then? Well, there are a few games here and there, but it’s clear that a lot of developers have moved on to next-generation development.

Sunday: Microsoft and Bethesda

My main takeaway from Microsoft and Bethesda’s shows is that they showed games, but are focusing more, internally, on their next-gen projects.

On the positive side, Microsoft showed the most PC games that they have shown at their E3 show in a long time, for PC gaming it was Microsoft’s best show in years! The announcements include a new title in the classic Microsoft Flight Simulator series; a modern remake of Age of Empires II, Microsoft’s best real-time strategy game; that all of the Halo games are coming to PC; and an announcement beforehand that FINALLY Win32 executables will be allowed on the Windows Store. That last one is big, it means that the Microsoft Store is not, anymore, exclusively a walled garden for locked-down software, separate from the regular PC ecosystem. That’s fantastic news. So, this was a pretty good show for the PC from Microsoft. That was the main positive from Microsoft this year, though; on the console side, I was disappointed.

One reason for that disappointment is that some rumored projects, like a new Fable game, were not announced. A bigger deal, though, is how little gameplay Microsoft showed. At both the Microsoft and Bethesda conferences particularly, finding actual footage of actual gameplay seemed to be in short supply! I mean, pre-rendered CGI trailers look nice, but they aren’t gameplay. Why are they spending so much time on CG, and so little on gameplay? Even games that are supposed to release this year, like MS’s big holiday title Gears of War 5, showed very little gameplay. I’d much rather see gameplay than CGI, sorry. I kept hoping for Gears 5 to have some actual gameplay shown; I’m no Gears fan, but it’s always interesting to see where the big series are going. But no, it was all CG. CG is not gameplay, Microsoft. I don’t really care much how nice a CG trailer you can make, I want to see the actual games. There was gameplay of some indie titles and such, and a few others, but not enough.

One other project that was finally shown is the new Battletoads game. It looks like it could be fun, but has very basic Flash animation-style graphics, which aren’t too impressive. I’ve never liked Flash graphics as much as more detailed styles. Still, it could be alright, we’ll see.

Beyond that, Microsoft did hint at their next console. Details were scarce, but Microsoft announced more details about their next upcoming console, including that it will indeed release in late 2020, and that it seems like there will only be one model, down from the two models they were talking about a year ago. As for the details of its system power and such, though, Microsoft and Sony are in a high-stakes game right now, both not quite willing to announce their system’s specs so that the other one can’t boost their hardware power and one-up them, so we’ll have to wait. There is still some time until the releases, so that’s fine. Microsoft at least beats Sony so far for sure, Sony didn’t show up for E3 at all this year after all! I may greatly dislike Sony, but seeing one of the big three hardware makers skip E3 entirely really says that the show is declining. I hope the people running E3 can think of ways to improve the situation, I still think E3 is important.

On to Bethesda. First, they tried to apologize for the very unpopular game they released last year, Fallout 76. It’s good they mentioned it I guess, as opposed to just pretending that nothing was wrong as some publishers would. Bethesda is not exactly one of my preferred publishers, and as usual they didn’t show much I care much about; their main focus was on their Doom 2 remake, called Doom Eternal. I’m sure Doom Eternal will be a great game, but while it seems good the last one didn’t keep me interested for all that long, so I’m not planning on getting the sequel anytime soon.

And then… ughhh, well, and then… they announced… a Commander Keen cellphone game. I am, of course, a big fan of the Keen series; they’re fantastic platformers which I loved in the early ’90s and still think are great, great games, which are still some of my favorite platformers ever. It’s been frustrating to see id and then Bethesda do nothing with it for so long. So on one level, seeing this announcement was cool. The trailer for the game is amusing, with some dumb and some amusing comedy. The art style is simple, in that modern animation way, but works, and the characters and creatures and such are recognizable — Yorps are in this game as you would hope, and more. They’ve added a twin sister character in addition to the original Keen, too, which is a nice addition. Apogee and id games rarely had playable female characters in the ’90s, so it’s good to see them doing better now. It’s sad that this is coming back as a mobile game, though. Too bad. I like the trailer as a trailer, but not as a game. So yeah, it was nice to see but also awful to see, because seriously, Commander Keen returns… as a cellphone game?? Argh!

Monday: Ubisoft, Square-Enix, and Limited Run

There was a lot less to watch on Monday than usual, as Microsoft moved to Sunday and EA and Sony didn’t have conferences at all, as E3 shrinks. So, this left only two major conferences that day. Ubisoft and Square-Enix had stuff to show, but neither one particularly excited me. Ubisoft has some great and interesting games, but for me at least they didn’t show them this year. They focused strongly this year on their modern-military shooters and such, including The Division 2 and various other Tom Clancy games, not games I play much of. Ubisoft makes games I like, but they got less attention this year. The new Gods & Heroes game looks potentially cool, though it was just yet ANOTHER prerendered trailer with no gameplay, first. It looks quite Assassin’s Creed inspired, but hopefully will be more fun than those games — I have always wanted to like the AC games due to their interesting settings, but the gameplay has never held my interest. We’ll see with this not-AC title. Additionally, it is amusing that the original Wii lives another year thanks to Just Dance 2020, which was announced for the current systems and the Wii. Sadly the Wii U isn’t getting it, so I guess that great console is dead now, as far as retail games go. Limited Run’s release of Axiom Vergea few months ago seems to be the last Wii U release on a disc… ugh. But more on that soon. As for Ubisoft, otherwise it was a pretty forgettable show for them. Oh well. Hopefully we see games I am more interested in like Beyond Good & Evil 2, Skull & Bones, TrackMania, Rayman, Rabbids, and such in the future. Maybe they will even make a Rayman 4 someday… that would be amazing, Rayman 2 is still one of the best platformers ever made.

Square-Enix had a solid show. I don’t have too much to say about it, though; most of their games are remakes and remasters, with only a few really new games shown. And their two big games aren’t ones that interest me all that much, Marvel’s Avengers and the FFVII remake. They have done some recent remakes and re-releases that are pretty cool, like the enhanced ports of Final Fantasy XII, but the VII remake isn’t interesting me too much; the gameplay looks okay but not really like something I’d really want to stick with, and the story has infamously been spoiled to everyone on the internet for a long time. It will be a bit interesting to see if they change anything, though. As for the Avengers game, I don’t know, it looks fine I guess. I’m no superhero fan though, but I see the trailer has gotten a very mixed reception. I’m not sure how much of it was gameplay either, versus CG.

Limited Run had a little video presentation Monday as well, and I watched it. I am not a Limited Run fan, though; if you want to be a real publisher make enough copies of your games to satisfy demand! The show was partially amusing and partially groan-inducingly bad, but what it really did is once again remind me of why I do not like their business model. I mean, it’s fantastic that there are physical copies of these games being made, don’t get me wrong. And some of these games would have no chance of selling enough copies to justify a full retail run. Others, however, would… but then they get stuck with Limited Run’s minuscule-printrun nonsense anyway. It’s sad stuff. This whole ‘we’ll make a few copies, sometimes of good games and sometimes of bad ones, and get collectors to buy them up immediately regardless of quality just to have the full set’ business model is obnoxious, and bad when it sticks some actual good games’ physical releases behind these rare Limited Run releases. For one example of that, see what is apparently going to be the final disc release for the Wii U, since Just Dance 2019 was not announced for the system, Axiom Verge for Wii U. I’d like to own that since it is the best version of the game, but not “how you get a Limited Run game” like, so oh well.

So uh, yeah, I hope Nintendo’s show is good, since unlike the rest of the industry they probably aren’t prepping for an all-new console next year…

Tuesday: Nintendo’s Show Begins

Nintendo always has its show last, Tuesday at 9am Pacific, or noon here. And it didn’t take long before it was clear that Nintendo won E3 again. I know I’ve almost always said that, but it was an easy runaway win this time, not close at all. With a sizable lineup of mostly good-looking games releasing this year, including many from the next few months, Nintendo had a lot to show and they did well with it. Nintendo has the advantage of supporting a current platform instead of moving towards a new one that will not be out for some time and it showed. There is really only one disappointment from Nintendo, that once again nothing was seen of Metroid. We know Metroid Prime 3 was recently rebooted with Retro making the game, but what about the rumored Metroid Prime Trilogy port that Retro supposedly made? I guess if it is real Nintendo doesn’t want to release it this year. That’s too bad. Otherwise, though, this was a great show with some nice surprises. Perhaps foremost among the surprises, we finally got — and saw released on the same day as its announcement, digitally at least — a translated, English-language version of the SNES classic Seiken Densetsu 3! It’s called “Trials of Mana” now, so I guess that’s now SD3’s official English name. It’s expensive at $40 for a digital collection of Final Fantasy Adventure, Secret of Mana, and Trials of Mana, but… probably worth it anyway. Square also announced a full 3d remake of Trials of Mana, coming to Switch, PC, and PS4 next year. It looks a lot more ambitious than the apparently-poor 3d remake of Secret of Mana, which would be nice.

Also, Nintendo closed the conference by announcing that a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is in development. That’s cool I guess, though it’s definitely not really my kind of game. The trailer teases us once again with Zelda having a significant role, but they’ve done this too many times now for me to believe it. No, probably either she gets kidnapped right after that cutscene and you have to rescue her, or she’ll follow you around as your AI companion. Playable Zelda? “But then what would Link do?” … I hope I’m wrong this time, but sadly probably won’t be…

Other than that, Link’s Awakening’s remake was also shown at length, as expected. And… well, it has great graphics with its unique ‘toy’ artstyle, but in terms of gameplay and design it’s clear that it’s a very, VERY faithful remake of the original. It looks like everything is in the exact same places it was before, so someone like me who has played the original many times probably won’t get too much out of this apart from seeing the redone graphics. Link’s Awakening is one of my favorite games ever, so it’s fantastic that it will be getting more attention again, but I kind of would like to see something a bit more new than this is looking like it will be, I guess. For new content, beyond the removal of screen transitions and freer movement, Nintendo has only shown one thing: the photo hut from DX has been removed, and the photo collection element as well presumable, and a new customizable dungeon has been added there. Here you can use rooms from dungeons you’ve beaten, placing them into a dungeon to form your own custom dungeons. It’s a pretty cool idea that might be fun to play around with for a while, though it’s limited to just placing whole rooms, you aren’t designing anything more detailed than that so this is not a Legend of Zelda Maker. And other than that, it looks like LA again. Again, LA is one of my favorite games, but I love the original, it doesn’t need this remake for me to love the game! I will play this eventually, but the original black and white release will probably always be my favorite.

They showed a lot of other games as well. First, Daemon x Machina appeared again. This mech shooting action game that had a demo a few months ago; the demo wasn’t amazing, but was fun and I am kind of looking forward to this game. No More Heroes III was announced as well. I don’t care at all, I STRONGLY dislike some elements of what I have seen of the story of this franchise and don’t think I would like the gameplay either. Other games shown include Mario & Sonic at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, bringing back this long-running franchise after an olympics off; Pokemon Sword and Shield, which is sure to be the year’s big hit but isn’t something I care about; Mario Maker 2, which released a few weeks ago and as my last article shows is my Game of the Year for sure, despite some faults; Animal Crossing showed, though it has been delayed to 2020 and is a series I’ve never played or really wanted to play, but I do like that this time the female villager is getting the main focus in the trailers and gameplay and not the male one; Astral Chain, which sure looks like a Platinum action game, which is praise for some but not for me, I’ve never liked that kind of game much at all; and more. However, of course, F-Zero was not present, because that amazing series never will come back. Truly unfortunate. It needs to!

I watched a lot of the Nintendo Treehouse streams during E3, and they showed lots of footage of all these games and more. The Switch port of Dragon Quest XI looks to be the definitive version of that game for example. I might get it sometime. It was a good, fun show from Nintendo, packed with games and stuff to look forward to. Their World Championships stream on Saturday, before E3 began, was quite entertaining too. I particularly liked the Mario Maker 2 portion of that show, watching speedrunners compete to complete new Mario Maker levels as fast as possible was great, I would definitely watch competitions like that again.

Conclusion

Overall, Nintendo had a good show loaded wtih good games. Animal Crossing’s delay to next year leaves only Pokemon and the Link’s Awakening remakes to be the big holiday titles for the Switch this Christmas, but Pokemon is big enough that that should be fine for most. For me their big game is out already, Mario Maker 2.

As for everyone else, there were a few bright spots here and there, with some interesting indie games I mostly didn’t mention here and the promise of some great upcoming projects, but it is clear that a lot of developer attention is focusing on the still mmore than one year away PlayStation 5 and next Xbox. That’s okay, game development takes a long time, but it leaves somewhat sparse lineups of major titles on those platforms in the interim. Fortunately a lot of top modern games have very good replay value and Nintendo’s releasing games at a good pace, though, so things are fine for now. The industry will need to figure out what to do with E3, though — shows like this, with so many major publishers saying nothing, are not as exciting or important as the shows of years past. At what point does it collapse, with publishers tired of spending so much money for reduced returns? Or alternately, does it become another convention like a PAX, instead of the more industry-focused event that it was? That is a likely outcome, but we will have to see.

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First Impressions: Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch) – The 2019 Game of the Year is here!

First, one little site update — I just noticed that my Ever Oasis First Impressions article was missing from the Table of Contents page, so that error is now fixed!  For anyone who missed out on that great 3DS title pick it up, it’s very very good.  But anyway, on to the article.

Yes, I know I haven’t yet done a post on this years’ E3 last month.  I should write at least something, but… for now, how about something even more recent: a First Impressions article on this month’s biggest release, Super Mario Maker 12 for the Nintendo Switch.

Super Mario Maker (Wii U / 3DS) was Exceptional!

Super Mario Maker on the Wii U was amazingly fun to play levels in, make levels in, and watch people make or play levels in on the internet. I didn’t have a Wii U when the first game released because I was foolish and didn’t get one until very late, but had a lot of fun watching videos online of people playing it, then I played a fair amount on 3DS once that version released, and on Wii U after I got one.  I only published one Mario Maker 1 level on the Wii U, though, and it was just a few months ago so almost no one played it, Mario Maker 1 activity is well down.  I’ll probably remake it (with some changes) on the Switch, and make new levels too I hope, but for anyone interested, here’s the level code, presuming it’s still there: 64C7-0000-03DC-1903  The game is the best game on the Wii U and probably the best of the generation.  That’s no easy statement, since Splatoon is also exceptional and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, while not really my thing, is also very very good, but Mario Maker comes out on top, I think.

As for that 3DS version, while the missing features — no online level trading, no way to type in codes to follow creators or play specific levels, and such — are crippling, the long single player campaign made up for it and made it a great purchase.  It’s also a very funway to play random 100 Mario Challenge levels.


The Positives

But now, the sequel is out! As I said in the title, I’m pretty confident that this will be my game of the year. I certainly can’t think of anything that will challenge it for that; Link’s Awakening is sure to be amazing but isn’t a new game, and nothing else I can think of is really in contention.

When discussing the first game above, I said that the three things I love about it are playing levels, making levels, and watching people play the game online in videos.  And while it’s early, I’m already having fun with all three of those things in this fantastic sequel! Well, I haven’t made levels yet though I will, but playing and watching are both fantastic. And i will make levels, particularly once I get a good stylus for my Switch. For playing levels, Mario Maker 2 is like the first game but better. It has almost everything from the first game, but with more visual themes for the four game styles from the first game, a full new game style I will discuss in a later paragraph, and a whole bunch of new things added to the four main styles from the last game.  The biggest addition is sloped surfaces, aka slopes, and they are a really nice inclusion.  There are also new enemies, several new powerups in various modes, on/off switches which enable and disable blocks, snake blocks which follow a programmable track, the Angry Sun, and more. The new visual themes are also great, there are a full ten now! It’s pretty awesome stuff. As a Game Boy fan, I particularly like the inclusion of the Mario Land 1 Superball powerup, which turns your character grey, plays Mario Land 1-1 music, and gives you the Superball just as it was there, a bouncy ball which picks up items. This items’ use in Mario Maker is pretty obvious and great. The other new powerups are a hammer you can destroy some blocks with and giant pixel Mario. 

Other new additions include some theme-specific ones — the new Forest visual theme has water and land, just like it did in Mario World, and you can program how the water raises and lowers.  You can do the same for lava in the Castle theme as well.  Of course there is new music for the new themes in games which previously did not have those themes, just like the new music from MM1 such as SMB1 Airship music, and it’s great stuff.  One other very interesting addition is Night mode.  When you go into Night mode, each level theme changes dramatically — the forest’s water turns to poison, another goes into super-low-gravity mode like the Moon level in Mario Land 2, and more.  These allow for some fascinating changes to the regular Mario Maker formula.  The list of additions is substantial and fantastic. Super Mario Maker 2 is amazing, and Nintendo says that two MILLION levels have already been uploaded, which is pretty amazing. No Mario Maker 1 levels are playable in this version, but there are so many levels that that isn’t an issue.  Creators are picking up right where they left off in the first game, and it’s great.

One other major new addition is that you can now make requirements that you’ll need to complete in order to finish a stage.  In levels with a finishing requirement, you will NEED to do that thing to finish; if you get to the end of the stage without it, the goal will just be a black outline, you won’t be able to complete the stage until or unless you do that thing.  These rules include things such as ‘you must kill all enemies of type X’ to ‘you must get all the red keys’, and more.  They make levels a lot harder, and so far I’m not sure what I think of them; they do require you to play levels quite differently, but it’s not something that I’ve ever seen in a 2d Mario game before, and I like being able to finish a level when you manage to get to the end.  And given how many people are making extremely difficult levels in Mario Maker, these just allow people to make even HARDER insane ultra-difficult stages, which is sure to frustrate many.  Still, it’s an overall positive as an inclusion since it allows for some potentially cool stuff in levels that don’t abuse it.

The game adds one major new gameplay mode, based on a 2.5d take on the Wii U classic Mario 3D World.  It is kind of ironic that the major new theme is from a game not available on the Switch, but 3D World’s gameplay fits well in 2d in a way that an open-levels 3d game like Mario Odyssey would not, so the choice makes sense.  This new level style is great and has many unique elements which only exist in 3D World mode.  These include clear pipes you can travel through within areas, the cat suit, grille areas you can grab on to,  cannon things that shoot into the screen, blocks which alternate between two sets (red and blue disappearing blocks, that is), giant question mark blocks which make a row of blocks appear out of them, you now have a butt stomp attack, and a bunch more.  The cat suit is particularly worth mentioning, as they are not just kind of cute, they give you more moves and really open up movement, as the cat suited characters can freely climb walls, do a diagonal pounce attack when in the air, and more.  It’s just as great as it was in 3D World.  Level themes are 3D World-inspired as well, with very different looks from the others in the game.  3D World style is awesome and I am really liking how levels set there play, they are a refreshing change from the standard gameplay of the rest of the styles.  3D World style is one of the best things about Mario Maker 2 so far.  A lot of stuff from the other four modes is missing, but the new stuff more than makes up for it. When creating you can’t transfer from the main four styles (the same ones from the first game) to the new 3D World one, it resets your stage, but they’re very different so that’s fine.  Mario 3D World really was an amazing game, I like it just as much or more than Mario Odyssey.  Nintendo still really should make a Switch port of the game, way too many people missed it because of how sadly poorly the Wii U sold!  Many of the Wii U games that have not been ported to Switch make sense, but this is the biggest one that does not.

One other new change adds more playable characters throughout all modes apart for Story mode.  This time you can play as not only Mario online and in level creation, but also Luigi, Toad, or Toadette. This is a great addition.  It’s too bad that Toadette is now Nintendo’s female character in Mario games and not the Princess or Rosalina as they had before, but it’s better than having no actual female characters as was the case in the first one, even if it does continue Nintendo’s strange, and somewhat inexplicable, love for Toads — also see the 3DS and Wii U Paper Mario games for a lot more of that. Anyway, you choose which character you want in the pause menu, so it’s not set by level creators. 

Additionally, on a more neutral node, in the first game all new levels went into the 100 Marios mode, where you had 100 lives to try to beat 15 levels (or 6 levels, in Super Expert difficulty). Well, 100 Marios mode has been replaced with an endless mode, where you have only a few lives and see how far you can get. With only 5 lives at the start instead of 100, getting far is a lot harder this time; yes, you can get extra lives in levels, but it’s tough. I also miss the goal of trying to finish 15 levels and beat the game; instead you now just play until you lose. There are online leaderboards, but still I don’t know that it’s an improvement.   On the other hand though, story-wise there is a major improvement here — Mario Maker 1 presented the usual sexist trash of “Bowser kidnapped the princesses, beat these levels to rescue her” at the beginning of each 100 Marios run.  This time, though, it is an endless mode, and story-wise it just says ‘Mario is going on a journey’,and off he  sets.  Oddly, this animation is the same no matter which of the four characters you’re playing as, but they will appear ingame.  Gameplay-wise the endless mode is not as fun as 100 Marios mode because you start with a sparse five lives so getting much of anywhere is extremely difficult on the higher settings and also because they changed the algorythm so unplayed levels never appear in endless mode, but more on that later; storyline-wise, Mario Maker 2 is a great improvement over the original as it thankfully ditches the sexist “rescue the princess again” plot of that game.  It does make it pretty confusing about why the Princess isn’t playable in this game though, only Toadette.  I don’t understand Nintendo’s love for Toads.  Oh well.

There is also a multiplayer mode, though I’ve heard very bad things about the online play’s quality. I haven’t tried it for myself yet though, and it’s online only — oddly, unlike NSMBU, this game doesn’t have four player co-op on a single system, so far at least.  At least there is a multiplayer mode though, the first one didn’t have anything, so it’s great to see the addition.   Also there is a new local two player creation mode option, but it requires Joycons for some bizarre reason. I mean, the game supports the pro controller in creation and regular play, it’s what I use to play the game with single player! Why require both players in the two player creation mode to use joycons? Nintendo does very strange, poorly thought through things sometimes… but again, that they added multiplayer at all is good, it wasn’t in the first game.

The game has a single player story mode as well, and it’s pretty well done. It has about as many levels as the one in the 3DS game, but has a lot higher production values this time, with a world map, stuff to collect, choice about what order you play the levels in, and more. And some amusing conversations are here too, like the ones with Mary O. and Yamamura the pigeon in that game. Yamamura does return in this game in the tutorial mode, check it out if you need help learning how to play and create levels.  But in Story mode, you play as Mario, rebuilding the Princess’s castle after Undo Dog accidentally undid it. Each level has a different challenge to overcome, and introduces you to a new element of the design. It’s pretty good, though it’s not what I play Mario Maker for, really; the weird, always mixed in quality fanmade levels are.  I also find it a little odd how you have a little bit of 3d control in the hub world, making me want to use the analog stick, but then all levels are of course on a flat plane as all Mario Maker levels are.  Why does the hub have that depth, it’s kind of strange.  I know some platformers do have 3d hubs with 2.5d levels, and it can work great, but it’s better when both are intended to be controlled with the same thing; that’s not the case here, you really want a d-pad in levels.  This is pretty minor though, and Story mode’s great fun.  It’s not the same in challenge and length as a NSMB game campaign, but there’s more than enough here to keep you playing for a good while, and hopefully learning about good Mario stage design as well.  That tutorial mode has lots more on that line available for anyone who wants it.

Negatives

So the game is mostly amazing, but it does have a few issues. First, some little touches from the first game, like the skinny Mario and the weird sounds Mario sometimes made while falling into pits are gone. The mostly Nintendo-focused Youtube channel GameXplain did a great video explaining a bunch of the more significant things removed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-Y3vvHvKCk.  Some of these things are minor, but others I do miss.  One other important thing removed, with one exception, are the numerous costumes that Mario used to be able to wear in the first game which made you appear to be numerous other characters.  These only existed in the Super Mario Bros. 1 graphical style, but allowed for a huge variety of character looks to play the game, and for themed levels with the character to match the design of the stage.  It was too bad that they were only in the SMB1 style, but still were pretty cool, and they added more costumes over time.  That’s all gone here; you can only play as the four characters and nothing else, and you can’t theme a stage for one of the four characters because the player chooses who they are, not the level creator.  That’s good — otherwise a lot of levels would surely require everyone to be Mario — but it is worth mentioning.  Oh, that one old costume that returns?  It’s the giant pixel Mario, which is now a new powerup you can get.  It’s a nice addition.  It’s too bad that the costumes are gone, but I don’t mind all that much because the restriction to only being able to use them in Mario 1 was quite limiting anyway, they either needed to be in all of the modes or none this time, and they chose none.  Oh well.

Additionally, creation is a lot worse than it was before because in my opinion, capacative touch screens are awful compared to reactive for serious gaming purpose. I’ve been saying this for years, but still believe it, and this shows it very clearly! Fingers are horrible for precise touch, so you can’t do much of use with just your hands. So, you’ll need a capacitive stylus that works with the system and allows for precision, which is an additional expense and will have trouble matching the precision of a reactive stylus if they even CAN do that — those awful mushy tips are the worst for precision to say the least!  With a good capacitive stylus you can get close to Mario Maker 1’s level of control, but I doubt it’ll ever match it because of the precision limitations of capacitive touch methods.  And since the Switch doesn’t come with a stylus or have a place to store a stylus in the system, it’s not nearly as convenient to use either.  This is a pretty big limitation.  Alternately, you will need to learn the button controls, which I haven’t tried much yet but won’t be as good as direct touch control is.  Nintendo put some effort into making button controls that work, with circular item-selection menus which make choosing what you want to place fairly easy, but it’s no match for the speed and precision of a stylus.  Considering that creation is half of the game, this is a pretty big problem.  The millions of posted stages show that people are overcoming these limitations, but it is a downgrade.

Nintendo’s awful online services are also a problem.  Friend codes are a thing in this game, and you can’t bring your Switch friends list, if you have one, into the game; oh no, that would actually make sense, and Nintendo isn’t about making sense when it comes to online anything. So no, you’ve got to trade friends codes outside of the game, and add them manually in Mario Maker. Alternately, if you have a level code you can follow creators that way, but still, they make it a lot harder than it should be. That’s to be expected from Nintendo, but still, it’s annoying.  Every player makes a Mario Maker character for online level trading this time too, and unlike Mario Maker 1, this time everyone needs a unique username.  Unfortunately, Nintendo has a ten character limit on their usernames, so almost anything reasonably legible was taken immediately. For a game requiring everyone to have a unique username and a large playerbase, you need more than a paltry ten characters for names.    There are also horrible lag problems in the simultaneous 4-player multiplayer online mode that are not fixed yet.  You can’t save or view replays of good runs within the game, either.  Times, yes; replays, no.  And Nintendo Online is a paid service?

And last, I’ve referenced this earlier, but in the new endless mode that replaced 100 Marios mode, unplayed levels will never appear this time! Now only levels with a like will. Instead, new levels ONLY go into the New Levels tab in the single-level selection option, so the only ways to get your level played and liked, so it appears in the endless queue, is either to know people who will play your level, beg people online to play your level like everyone else, or hope people play it in the new levels queue, that’s it. I’m sure they were trying to fix the “lots of terrible levels in the 100 Marios mode” problem the first one had sometimes, but this isn’t good either. Also it can take several days for levels to even get into the queue, at the moment… not great. This issue does seem to be getting better, but the basic design of how new levels are handled is not good. I’ve seen the idea of a new levels mode, like the endless mode, but just for new, unplayed/unfinished stages, and that’s a good idea, I think.  Having Endless mode start you with only five lives was a mistake as well I think, it’s not nearly enough to get very far.  The challenge of seeing whether you could beat 15 stages (or 6 stages, in Super Expert mode) with 100 lives is gone; now I’m lucky to get even a few stages in on Hard.  As a result of all this I’ve been playing a lot more single levels from the level browser, often ones from the New (unplayed) Levels tab, instead of lots of 100 Marios mode like I did in the last game.  It works well so I don’t mind too much, but it probably is a downgrade overall.

Conclusion


Overall, though, despite some issues, Super Mario Maker 2 is absolutely amazing.  I’ve been playing a lot of this game, and for playing levels, it’s everything the first game was but better thanks to all the new stuff!  What is here is pretty amazing,  and there’s a lot here.  It is fantastic that Mario Maker is back and on a more popular system this time, because while the Switch is a lot less perfect for this game than the Wii U was, it’s still fantastic stuff and an all-time great.  Mario Maker is one of Nintendo’s best ideas ever and it’s really great that it’s now on the Switch.  If I had to choose which of the two games is better overall, right now, I might lean towards the first one because creation is so much better in ways this game can’t match, but it’s close, and that says a lot given the limitations of the capacitive screen.  It’s really a case of which is better, better play thanks to all the added options in Mario Maker 2, or better creation thanks to the better screen of Mario Maker 1?  Different people will have different opinions there. 

Really though, the best answer is ‘they’re both amazing!’.  This is an exceptional, must-play game which anyone with a Switch should definitely buy.  And it will just get better with time, too, as updates are coming, such as one that will add the ability to play against friends online.  I hope to see a second new graphics mode get added eventually as well, in the conspicuously empty space next to 3D World’s; either one of the Game Boy games’ styles or Super Mario Bros. 2 would be perfect additions to this game!  They have already added the Superball, so how about the rest of Super Mario Land’s gameplay as a theme, Nintendo? That would be pretty awesome.  Regardless, though, this is a game that I, and a lot of other people, will surely be playing on and off for years.  It’s outstanding and provides endless hours of incredible fun, and aggravating frustration, as you play the near-endless variety of levels people have created.  Seeing what people can create in this game, with its familiar mechanics juxtaposed with levels that may be good and well balanced, or absurdly easy, or absurdly hard to the point of near-impossibility for most, or anything in between, is fascinating and one of the most interesting things in gaming.

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Mattel Intellivision – Game Opinion Summaries / First Impressions, Part 2

Finally, part two of this two-part series is complete!  There are 24 summaries this time, which added to the 19 (really 17) from the first list, completes my Intellivision Game Opinion Summaries list so far.

Before I begin though, I got two new games, one from the part of the alphabet covered last time, and also got an IntelliVoice speech synthesizer addon, so I will begin with the two IntelliVoice game summaries from part one redone because I can play the games now, then the new game, and then the second half of the summaries.  The IntelliVoice is a nice unit because it outputs the speech through your TV, not from a speaker on the box like some synthesizers then did such as the Odyssey 2 one, and can do multiple different voices, which is a nice touch in the games.  Unfortunately, only four games plus one Intellivision Computer Module game support it at all, which is disappointing.  Why didn’t any of the later titles optionally support the IntelliVoice, with voices added here and there if you have one, like a bunch of O2 games do with the O2 The Voice?  But no, games either require it or don’t support it at all, unfortunately.  So, it’s a $20 addon for four games, which isn’t great but is probably worth it for the low cost.

Table of Contents

B-17 Bomber
Bomb Squad
Frogger
Microsurgeon
Mission X
Motocross (aka Moto-Cross)
Night Stalker
Pinball (1983)
Safecracker
Sea Battle
Sharp Shot
Skiing (Tele-Games ver. of US Ski Team Skiing)
Snafu
Space Armada
Space Battle
Space Hawk
Space Spartans
Star Strike
Tennis
Triple Action
Tron: Deadly Discs
Vectron
Venture
Zaxxon

The Summaries

 


B-17 Bomber – One player, IntelliVoice addon required. B-17 Bomber is a flight simulator, a fairly impressive thing for an early ’80s game. In probably the first attempt at a “realistic” flight simulator on a console, you control a B-17 bomber during World War II. Your mission is to choose a target in occupied Europe, fly to your destination, bomb the site, and return alive. This will be pretty hard, though! With many different jobs to control all at once, including four gunners, pilot, navigator, and bomber, challenging enemies which can very easily permanently knock out your gun turrets, tricky bombing, and limited fuel, finishing even a short-range run in this game is tough indeed. This is yet another game that’s extremely impressive for the time, but may be hard to go back to today.

To start, you choose a target on a map. There are different kinds of targets, including airfields, factories, and more. Closer targets will be easier to deal with, ones deeper into Europe harder, of course. Then, you set the acceleration up and then switch to the pilot’s seat and take off. The whole map is rendered in 3d, impressively. The framerate is very low of course, but that’s to be expected, this game is a fully 3d flight game, on the Intellivision! The manual is invaluable here, by the way, you need it to know what to do. I don’t have an overlay for this game, but fortunately do have a manual. Once you reach Europe, enemy fighters will come at you, and a voice sample will tell you which direction they’re coming from. It’s quite useful. Then, you switch to that gun, and will need to try to shoot them down before they hit your turrets, which you have one of on each side of the plane. Finally, a pre-crash flight combat game where the turret-style flight combat actually makes sense! I found hitting the enemy fighters frustratingly hard, though, and you have no margin for error: if you miss the enemy fighters will shoot your turret in notime, and if a turret gets hit even once that’s it, you lose it for the rest of the run. That’s maybe too harsh, but oh well. You’ll need to navigate by looking at the map every so often, there aren’t on-screen indicators telling you where to go to get to your target, by the way. Once you get there, you can switch to bombing view, and try to drop bombs with the right timing so you hit the target. Bombing is not too hard, but you only have a short window over the target. Then, you’ll need to try to turn around and fly back, though good luck with that, in my tries I didn’t have even close to enough fuel to get back.

With practice you’ll get better, of course, but while this is a pretty cool game for the time, with complex gameplay and the IntelliVoice for very helpful voice samples in different voices for enemy warnings, various stations, and more, the core gameplay is simple and challenging. The turret-shooting sequences are more frustrating than fun, I think. Still, if you have the hardware and a manual take a look, B-17 Bomber’s interesting. Hard and dated, but interesting for sure. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Bomb Squad – One player, IntelliVoice required. Another one of the four games requiring the IntelliVoice speech synthesizer, this one is a bomb-defusing puzzle game where you follow voice commands as you try to defuse each bomb. In this somewhat imposingly difficult game, you’ve got a lot to do to defuse the bomb. First you choose a difficulty, with three speeds and up to three numbers to find available. Even on the slowest speed and only needing one number, though, at first this game is tough! I’m sure that it gets easier with experience, but good memorization skills will be required to be good at this game. Once you choose the difficulty, a grid of numbers appears, with each number broken up into an 8×4 grid of spaces, fitting with the number of LEDs used to display the numbers. You then choose a space that you want to know the status of, hit the correct button, and you go into a puzzle.

Next, you’ll see a screen with a lot of wires and circuitry on it, and some objects on the board that you can interact with. Then the Intellivoice will tell you the order you need to replace or remove some of those pieces in. You’ll need to memorize this order and what you need to do in each one; you can press a button to have it repeat the instructions, but this uses time, of course. Having a voice tell you this is a great use of the voice unit, it works very well. Next, you use your tools to remove those chips and replace them with what’s needed. Accessed with face buttons, you’ve got cutting scissors, grabber pliers, a soldering iron, and a fire extinguisher. First you cut out the object you’re removing. Voice instructions will helpfully tell you to move up, left, right, and such, to get your object correctly centered to make the cut. Again, that is great use of the voice unit here; this game wouldn’t work well without it. Next you switch to the pliers, grab the chip, take it out, and drop it off the field on the right. Now, you interact with side buttons, and while most Intellivision games duplicate the buttons on the left and right sides of the controller for left or right handed players, this game doesn’t do that; grab is on the left and drop on the right. It’s a bit odd, but the game is slow-paced enough that I guess it works. Before you drop it make note of the shape and color of the object, though, because when replacing, you need to replace each part with one that matches its color or shape. Next, put the right part in, solder in the wires connecting it to the board — don’t forget this step! — and then move on to the next part that needs dealing with. Once all parts on a board are fixed, you hit a number button to return to the main screen, and choose another space. It’s a slow process. You can move the cursor faster by holding the upper button, but still this is a slow-paced and very memorization-heavy game.

All this time, a timer is counting down. On the slowest setting you have a half hour. Once you think that you know the number code, or are almost out of time and have to try anyway, you can try to guess the code to disarm the bomb. If you get the code right, you win and save the day, but if you’re wrong the bomb goes off and blows up the city. There’s a little animation to end the game showing those results. Overall, Bomb Squad is a pretty interesting and experimental puzzle game, but I don’t find it very fun, so far anyway; the ticking timer makes the game very tense, and I find it hard to keep everything memorized. I’ve watched a video of a good player playing the hardest mode of this game well, and it’s quite impressive but I doubt I ever could be that good. The gameplay is all rote memorization and repetition, too. You go through the same steps with every part, slowly removing and replacing it, and it gets repetitive. Bomb Squad is very interesting and is definitely worth a look, but some will like the gameplay loop more than others and I’m not sure that I will play this game a lot more. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Frogger – One player. Frogger is one of the more popular arcade games of the early ’80s. In this simple but quite fun game, you play as a frog, trying to get across a road and dangerous river to the safe ground on the other side. You move left and right, dodging cars and trying to not fall in the water in your quest to get all of the frogs across the road. Originally by Konami, the early home ports of Frogger were made by Parker Bros., this version included. Parker Bros. released many more games on Atari 2600 and 5200 than Intellivision, but did have six Intellivision releases, including this one. And very much like the Atari 5200 version, this game is a tale of contrasts. In particular, the contrast between the reasonably nice-looking representation of this arcade classic on the one hand, and the frustratingly poor, imprecise controls on the other. The graphics here are probably closer to the Atari 2600 version than the 5200, but still, they look good. However, the circle pad, like the Atari 5200 joystick, is kind of awful for arcade games like this that demand precision! Sure, most of the time I make the move I intended to make in this game, but I’m sure to accidentally make a wrong move sometimes, and the controller is more at fault than me, I think. Getting into the far-left top spot is particularly difficult in this version, it seems, more so than it probably should be. Frogger is a great game and this is mostly a good version of the game, with nice graphics and accurate audio, but the barely serviceable to bad controls really bring it down. Overall Frogger for Intellivision is not recommended because of the controls. Stick to versions on platforms with accurate digital controls.  Frogger is an arcade port of a game that has been released on dozens of platforms over the years, most with controls better than you’ll find here.


Microsurgeon – One player. Microsurgeon is a fascinating, but extremely slow-paced, early twinstick shooter from Imagic. Yes, this is a twin-stick shooter! This game has a very interesting concept: you control a miniscule robotic drone, and fly around inside a human body to destroy ailments. You can choose different patients, which all look identical but vary in difficulty, as the number of illnesses increases with each difficulty level. Oddly, you do not continue to fix multiple patients in each game; instead, once a patient is saved or dies that’s it, the game ends. You will need to start a new game with a different patient to challenge the harder levels. It works. The controls are done pretty well, though they take some getting used to. You use two controllers, and move with one disc while shooting with the other. Buttons on one of the pads switch between your three different weapons… that is, I mean medicines, that you can shoot. You need to select the correct type of medicine for each different ailment. Which one to use for each illness is listed in the manual. Another button lists the health status of all body parts on screen, so you know where to go, presuming you know where in the body each of those parts is that is.

This game may seem like a lot at first, but Microsurgeon is actually a somewhat simple game once you get used to it. Using your little drone, you move around the body, going to the damaged organs and fixing them by shooting the bad cells with the correct kinds of medicines until the organ is healed. While you do this, the body will try to destroy the intruder by sending white blood cells and such at you; try not to kill too many of those, if you can. Microsurgeon is an interesting game, but you move excruciatingly slowly. You move more quickly in blood vessels or other passages, and very slowly if going through organ walls and the like, but either way you move very slow. This helps keep the tension up, and makes games last a reasonable amount of time, which is important for a game where the whole body only takes a couple of screens, but can make it feel boring, as you slowly edge around towards those damaged organs so you can shoot the bad things in them. This game has a great idea and it is good, and is definitely innovative for the time, but the slow pacing keeps it from staying fun, I think. Microsurgeon was only also released on one other platform, the TI 99/4A computer. That version is better, with higher-res graphics and on-screen patient status and minimap displays, but the core gameplay is the same.


Mission X – This is another port of a Data East arcade game, along with Burger Time and Lock ‘n Chase. For some reason Data East was the only arcade company Mattel got rights to at the time, I wonder why; I guess Atari and Coleco locked down all the other big ones? Anyway, this game is a vertical scrolling shmup, but it has a height component, you can fly up and down… which naturally makes hitting flying enemies in front of you nearly impossible, since judging height is not going to happen. Fortunately, most targets are on the ground; you spend most of this game bombing Xevious-style, at a target in front of your ship which moves forward or back depending on your altitude. It’s neat to see a scrolling shmup from ’82, but this game gets old fast. The height component is a real issue too, one which makes this game much harder to deal with than regular shmups, when you’re fighting planes and not only ground targets.

That most of the targets are on the ground isn’t the greatest either though, as you need to be very precise to hit them with your bombs, making hitting them frustratingly difficult. I never have really liked this style of bombing in shmups, either here, in Xevious, or elsewhere; the close, and unchangeably set, forward distance you can bomb at is no fun! This game tries to deal with that by letting you bomb closer when you’re at lower altitude and farther forwards when you’re at higher altitude, and that does work, but you still need to be very precise to hit your often small little targets. And while it’s helpful for bombing, again the height component makes fighting those initially few airborne foes very hard to hit as there is no indicator of when you are lined up with them, so this kind of design has issues either way. Anyway, though, Mission X is an okay game, but with sometimes frustrating gameplay and almost no variety, it has some issues. I like shmups, but these very early scrolling shooters often aren’t my thing; I don’t love most Atari 2600 scrolling shooters either, Vanguard and such. Mission X is an interesting and perhaps influential game for the time, but ultimately is average, I think. Arcade port.  This is the only home console port of the game I know of, as unlike many other Data East games Mission X hasn’t been re-released on newer formats.   The only other version I can find mention of is a homebrew Atari ST port made in the early ’90s.  So if you have an Intellivision, pick this up.


Motocross (aka Moto-Cross) – One or two player simultaneous. Motocross is a slightly newer overhead racing game than Auto Racing. And like Auto Racing, the controls are a bit tricky. Motocross takes what Auto Racing did and makes a more complex experience out of it, with rolling hilly terrain, an AI opponent to race against if you want, and a track editor. The game also has both car-relative or camera-relative control options, so anyone should find one they prefer. Whether it’s better than Auto Racing or not is a matter of opinion, though, because this is another game which may have tried to do too much for its hardware, as the framerate is excruciatingly low, and figuring out the terrain undulations can be pretty difficult at this resolution! Additionally, the method this game uses to make both bikes visible is problematic. In this game, there is no split screen. Instead, both bikers are on a single screen together, and if one person gets too far ahead they stop, and will not be able to move forwards again until the other person has caught up a bit. This can lead to incredibly annoying games of tug-of-war, as the person behind tries to catch up, gets a little forwards, then instantly is pushed back thanks to the person in first now being able to move again, leading to both stopping and starting repeatedly unless the one ahead slows down to let the other person catch up… which means you might get passed, of course, since you can’t take a real lead. When this happens it’s not much fun. I have played newer racing games that use a similar method to this, such as Moto Roader on the Turbografx, and it’s frustrating there as well, though it is not quite as bad as this; that game doesn’t have the stop-start issue. Micro Machines’ solution, with a points system, is a far better one.

Despite the issues, though, I do appreciate the AI opponent option. The AI tries to stick to a good line so they are a reasonable challenge, and having someone to race against adds quite a bit to this game over Auto Racing, even with the issue I outlined above. I have always much preferred racing against opponents, rather than pure time-trials. But with its extremely low framerate, choppy gameplay, simple track-layout design that struggles to hold your interest through the relatively long laps of each race, and sometimes annoying way leads are handled, Motocross is at best only slightly better than Auto Racing. I’m not constantly going off the track in this game like I do in Auto Racing so the controls feel better, and again I like racing against someone, but while it’s an interesting early take on motorcycle racing which does things I haven’t seen in any other pre-crash racing games, Motocross is a bit below average. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Night Stalker – One player. Night Stalker is a slow-paced single screen topdown shooter. This game plays a bit like a slower-paced and deliberate, and slightly stealthy, take on Berzerk or Wizard of Wor, except sort of like in some other games like Turtles, before you can fire you need to get ammo by picking up gun powerups. Yes, you start out with none, and they will randomly spawn around the maze as you go. You play as a little guy in the classic Intellivision style, and move around a single-screen maze, collecting ammo and shooting bats, spiders, and robots. The graphics are nicely drawn, with creepy enemies and an environment made of black walls and a blue background, with some nice touches like a large spider-web in one corner. There is only one screen, unfortunately, though; multiple screens would have been nice. The gameplay is good, but extremely repetitive. This may be a maze game, but unlike Pac-Man and most other games in the genre, not only is the game endless like most such games, but there aren’t even discreet levels. Instead, you just go around the screen, collecting ammo and shooting things, as the game slowly gets tougher as more and harder enemies appear, until you die too many times and get Game Over.

So, your little guy will explore the one-screen maze, get gun powerups, shoot enemies, and repeat. You get points for killing enemies, and that is the only way to score here; there are no pickups that get you points, unlike most maze games, but like Berzerk, this is a pure shooter. Your movement speed is somewhat slow, so you will need to think ahead to avoid the shots the robot will shoot at you, giving this game a different feel from Wizard of Wor or Berzerk. The challenge level is fairly well-balanced, as it starts easy but gets hard as you go, but the very simple gameplay and lack of any alternate screens makes this game very repetitive. Sure, it has nice creepy graphics and okay to good gameplay, but the gameplay loop doesn’t have enough to it, I think. I’m not a big fan of Berzerk either, it’s just a bit too simplistic and makes me wish that there was a point to your quest beyond just playing until you lose, but at least there the maze changed on each screen. Here it’s always the same, and having to go pick up ammo all the time is both bad and good; it does add complexity, but running out of ammo can be frustrating. Overall Night Stalker is a fairly highly-regarded game on the Intellivision, but I don’t think I will be going back very often; it’s too repetitive and just killing things for points until you die isn’t enough of a purpose to keep me playing this long-term. Still, it is good, if you don’t mind the slow pace. There is also an Atari 2600 version of the game, under the title Dark Cavern. It’s not quite the same as the Intellivision game, with worse graphics and less complex enemies and such, so while it’s an okay, average game, the Intellivision version is a bit better. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Pinball (1983) – One player. I had pretty low expectations for this game because the other pinball games I have played on consoles from the ’70s are pretty bad, particularly in their physics, but Pinball surprised me. Going far beyond pinball games on the 2600 or Odyssey 2, not only does this game have multiple screens and some solidly good table design, but for the time the ball physics are actually decent. And yes, there are even multiple different screens in the table, instead of just one! The table here even kind of looks like a pinball table, too, except stretched horizontally of course. The graphics aren’t amazing, but looks alright, and having multiple screens is a big advantage over other pinball console games of the time. The game controls well, with the expected controls with a flipper on each side and tilt buttons, and is reasonably fun to play. Figuring out the scoring options, how to get to the second screen, and such are fun and will keep you coming back for a while. Pinball is a pretty limited game from a modern pinball game standpoint, but for the pre-crash era it is probably the best pinball console game I have played. The game usually is not as cheap as a lot of Intellivision games are, but it’s a pretty good game and released later in the system’s initial run, so perhaps not as many copies sold as did for earlier games. Pinball for Intellivision is well worth playing if you like pinball, to see a console pinball game that does about as much as one could in this era. That isn’t saying all that much, pinball physics were not properly possible yet and this holds this game back for sure, but it’s something. Do try Pinball if you can. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Safecracker – One player. Safecracker is an interesting, but strange, Intellivision-exclusive Imagic game where you play as a spy, breaking into safes all over a city. This pretty good-looking game has two elements, driving and safecracking. You start the game with 7, 8, or 9, for Easy, Medium, or Hard. Once you begin, first you drive around the city, going to a building the game directs you to. The directions are obtuse, as the game has a colored border that changes colors based on which direction you need to go at each intersection, so you’d better have that manual to know which color means which direction. This is definitely confusing until you get used to it, and after more than a few games I still can’t; even after looking up the manual online, the whole colors-for-directions thing is very confusing, and figuring out which buildings you’re actually going to is quite annoyingly difficult. At first you’re looking for Embassies, which have diamond-shaped windows. You need to pull over by the diamond windows, stop, and hit Enter to go in and try to take on the safe. It’s easy to miss the buildings and wander around lost, though; these directions are hard to follow and don’t make much sense.

Additionally, the turning controls are odd — you don’t turn with the circle, but by holding the lower button and then hitting left or right on the circle to turn. You cycle between directions as you tap left or right while holding the button, or turn around by hitting down while hitting the button. This is also confusing and poorly thought through. Using the circle on its own moves you around in the lane, to avoid oncoming civilian traffic or the police. The controls work, awkwardly, but could be better. The graphics are nice, though, and the large city scrolls well, better than in Auto Racing or Motocross I would say. It’s a little jerky and there are only a handful of buildings that repeat, but it looks great. You’re just driving at first, but as you progress, the police will try to stop your car. You can shoot back at them to get them out of your way. I only wish this nice graphics engine was running a driving game that’s fun to play… oh well.

If you manage to find your next target building and stop at it, your spy will enter, and you’re faced with the other part of the game: the titular safe-cracking. Here, you need to figure out what number will open the safe, giving you its contents. You hit one side button to quickly make numbers scroll by, and when it passes the target number it’ll beep. Get close and then get to the number by increasing the count by one with the other button, and you’ll unlock the safe. There is a tight time limit, so this can be tricky. If you want, there is a TNT button (on the overlay, it’s 4 I think) that will destroy regular safes, giving you the contents but alerting the police and not giving you a Treasury number. Either way, you return to your car and follow the directions to drive to your hideout in town, where you see your score and such. You then move on to the next target building, using the same process, but with more numbers to guess and police to avoid. Your goal is to get four numbers from other safes that unlock the safe in the Treasury building in the city. Crack that safe and the game probably ends. I haven’t gotten anywhere remotely near that far though, sadly. Safecracker has a good concept and engine, but the bad driving controls and very confusing directions make this a game to probably avoid, unfortunately, unless you have a lot of patience for this kind of thing.


Sea Battle – Two players required. This is a sadly two-player-only naval strategy game. It looks pretty interesting and is way above anything like this on Atari, so it’s really unfortunate that they didn’t make any AI for the game. The game plays on a single screen, and two players, each with a fleet, move ships around in an effort to defeat the other player’s fleet and take their base. The map is well-drawn and looks good. This game is a strategy game much more so than it is action, so it takes some learning to figure out how to play, but if you have someone to play against and know how, it looks like it could be fun. Unfortunately, I won’t have many opportunities to play this one because it’s multiplayer only. Oh well… This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Sharp Shot – Two player simultaneous (or one player with no opponent). This very simple minigame collection looks like it was for kids based on the box, and it’s pretty simplistic — it’s a one-button game where you just need to hit the button at the right time to do something. There are four minigames on the cart. One minigame is football passing. You control the quarterback, and hit the button at the right moment to throw the ball straight ahead to an open player. In the next one, you shoot enemies in space when they fly through your target sight. Hit the button with the right timing. In the third, you are an archer, and shoot enemies with arrows. You move back and forth automatically, and have to shoot with the right timing to hit the enemies. And in the last minigame, you are a ship, shooting enemy ships with torpedoes as they move into your path. The game has okay, average graphics for the console and the four minigames give it some variety, but they are all extremely, extremely simplistic one-button affairs. If you hit the button at the right times you get points, if you don’t you won’t. It gets boring in minutes. This is meant as a two player only game, so the two players compete to see who got a better score, so there isn’t any AI opponent. You can play solo though, if you record your best scores on paper or such. Either way it’s not that good really; Sharp Shot had an idea, but is too simple and boring to be any good. It may be amusing for a couple of minutes, but even back then I’m sure you can find much better kids’ games than this. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Skiing (Tele-Games ver. of US Ski Team Skiing) – One or two player alternating. Skiing is another game which shows Mattel’s focus on making the Intellivision the home for more realistic and complex games, when compared to the Atari 2600. So, where skiing games for Atari or the Odyssey 2 are very simple ski-straight-down affairs where you just move left and right to stay in the gates, Intellivision Skiing has much trickier controls and much improved graphics. Does that make for better gameplay, though? Well, maybe, or maybe not. First, like those games, there is no AI opponent here; either you take turns with another human, or you’re only competing against yourself to see what best times you can get in each of the several ski racing modes available. The game does have those more realistic controls, though, and while that makes it different, it also means that turning is a lot harder than in those other skiing games. You’ll need to turn hard and accurately to make the turns, and will slow down to a crawl if you don’t turn correctly. You can jump and slow down with the side buttons, and will need to do both at the right times, but correctly angling your skiier with the disc is the most important challenge. You will need to memorize each course in order to do well at all, as you do need to have some sense of where the gates are to be able to make them in good time.

The game is okay, but this is another game where the disc controller makes for tougher controls than you’d have on a d-pad, as it’s just not precise at all. You need to be exactly lined up with the gates in order to make them and not have to stop and lose all your speed, but turn just a little too much and oops, you stopped anyway. Once you get used to it the game plays okay, but where Activision’s Skiing for Atari 2600 is a very simple but fun little game, the slightly more simmish style here has probably aged worse; it’s not actually realistic, it’s just enough so to be a lot less fun until you put more time into it. The game looks alright though, with nicely drawn trees and such. In gameplay, however, this is another average game for this system. Seeing a slightly more realistic take on skiing from 1980 is interesting, but the controls can be frustrating and the pace slow. The game does have speed options, but it always feels a little slow due to the turning. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Snafu – One or two player simultaneous. Snafu is Mattel’s take on the classic game Snake, except in multiplayer, against human and/or computer opposition. The game has a bunch of diffent modes, and is somewhat impressive. In fact, this game is my favorite Intellivision game that I’ve played so far. So, being a Snake-inspired multiplayer game, Snafu is a lot like Surround on Atari 2600 — think Tron’s Light Cycles, but before that, and with up to four players on screen instead of Surround’s two. Yes, four. You can compete against three AIs at a time too, and indeed that is the default, which is pretty awesome. No “multiplayer only” disappointment here! There is also a two human and two AI mode, for multiplayer play. As in the games that inspired it, in Snafu each player controls a moving dot which represents a vehicle, and which leaves a trail behind it. Everyone is always moving, and if a vehicle runs into any players’ trails, or another player, they are destroyed and their trails are removed from the board. So, as players lose the board opens up, though whether the remaining players can capitalize on that depends on their situation.

The core gameplay here is always the same, try to be the last one alive, but Snafu has many variations on that basic theme present that you can play. The modes include simpler ones with only the regular four-direction movement of most games in this genre, and some with eight-direction movement, which is a lot to get used to in a snake game; I’ve never used eight-direction movement in a snake or lightcycle game before, I don’t think! But it’s here, and it’s pretty interesting. There are also variations for how many obstacles are on the screen from the start, from none to quite a few. Once you select a mode, you select how many wins it will take to get an overall winner. Then, you play that mode, with each player, or computer, getting a point for each win until one reaches the target number. With that the game is over and that competitor wins. There is sadly no championship or anything, only single games that end once a player wins after which you select a new mode to play, but still, for a game this early Snafu is pretty feature-rich; that kind of thing became more common later on.

The game controls fairly well, and the Intellivision disc gives you good control of your direction, but eight directions in this genre is more than I’ve seen before and it is hard to get used to at first. It is probably advisable to stick to the more traditional four-direction modes at first to get used to the game. They are also a lot of fun, and play like you’d expect. Then, after a while, try the weirder stuff like 8-direction mode. You can pass through a diagonal trail if you’re heading on the right diagonal angle to it, so this adds a lot of strategy to the game. I like Snake and Tron lightcycle games quite a bit, and this is a very good one, with features I haven’t seen elsewhere and some good competitive gameplay. Once you get used to the 8-direction movement on the disc, the additional movement options it opens up make for some fun and challenging gameplay, which allows you to escape from certain death… or run into even more walls, depending. The other gameplay options are interesting to play around with also, to have a simpler or more obstacle-filled screen for example. Snafu is a very good game, and it is definitely recommended. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Space Armada – One player. Space Armada is Mattel’s take on Space Invaders, one of the most popular games of the time. It’s not as good as Space Invaders, though — there are fewer aliens, very few modes, and a big programming problem here, unfortunately. The game plays well enough at first, just like Space Invaders: you move left and right, and shoot upwards with a button. However, perhaps due to the system’s low resolution, there may only be a few rows of aliens, but they start pretty close to you so it gets hard quickly. The game mixes things up as you go on with invisible enemies sometimes, too. You’ll need to kill all of the invisible enemies before they reach the bottom or you lose. You have a bunch of lives, but if an enemy reaches the bottom it’s an instant game over, as with Space Invaders. Space Armada is fun, but the difficulty balance is very poor, as the game gets almost impossibly hard very quickly — not too far into the game, the enemies start so low on the screen that it becomes effectively impossible to win. I’d recommend playing the versions of Space Invaders on the Atari 2600 or 5200 instead, the 2600 version’s graphics aren’t as good but the gameplay is much better and there are a lot more modes and options there. The enemies in Space Invaders don’t start as close to the ground as they do here, either. Space Armada is a very cheap game maybe worth having if you have the system and see it for a dollar like I did, but don’t expect much; it’s average to bad, due to the difficulty and somewhat broken design. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Space Battle – One or two player alternating. Space Battle is a first-person space shooting game with a simpler strategic component that separates it from other games like this on other platforms. The first-person space shooting game was a relatively popular one, and this is Mattel’s take on it. First, you choose a difficulty, from several available. This game has two screens, the map view and battles. On the map view, you are defending a starbase in the center of the screen that is under attack. You have three fleets of fighters to send at the enemies that approach from the edges of the screen, and your controller buttons will order fleets to head towards different enemy groups. The controls are a little tricky, but eventually kind of make sense. I had trouble at first figuring out how to get your fleets to go where I want, but the way it works is that some keypad buttons select the fleet you’re controlling, then other buttons change targets and tell them to head towards the currently-selected enemy. You can’t send fleets to specific points, unfortunately, only towards enemies. Once one of your fleets and an enemy one collide, a battle begins. You fight the battle yourself by hitting another keypad button; it isn’t automatic. Again, the controls are clumsy.

Once you do take command, you’ll find a fairly standard for the time first-person space shooting game. Like many Intellivision space games there is a nice starfield background, but the gameplay is familiar Atari-like stuff. As per usual for space combat games from the pre-crash era, this game may look like you’re in a space fighter, but really it’s just a target-shooting game, you don’t move your ship around. Instead, just move the cursor and fire when you think you will hit an enemy, as the enemy ships zoom around in front of you. It’s simple stuff, but works. While you fight, it is important to note, the rest of the game is still progressing, so other fleets will advance. You can return to the map screen at any time with the press of a key, and may need to if another fleet is getting close to the center and you need to try to stop them more than the one you are currently fighting. It’s a solid concept for the time and can be fun.

However, this is one of those 2nd-gen games that’s over in minutes. Either you’ll win and defeat all the enemy fleets, or lose and die, but either way there’s only one level then the game ends. Again the game does have multiple difficulty options to add some playtime, thankfully, but still this game is very short, and the default difficulty is very easy, I won in only a few tries. The higher settings are tougher, but still this is not a challenging game. Most 2nd-gen games that aren’t endless are like this, second gen games usually either never end or are absurdly short. Oh well; the industry was young and people didn’t know what would work yet, and making games in the tiny amounts of memory they were allowed is difficult. The strategy bit about aiming fleets around is interesting, though the controls are a bit confusing, and the shooting works fine, but it’s nothing special. Overall Space Battle can be fun, but is average. Also on Atari 2600 under the title Space Attack, though as usual the graphics are better and controls more complex here. The starfield background looks nice on this version, and it’s a better game on Intellivision. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Space Hawk – One player. Space Hawk is another game inspired by Asteroids, but unlike Astrosmash, this game takes its inspiration in gameplay and not just graphics. In Space Hawk, you’re a person in a space suit with a jetpack, and fly around in search for the Space Hawks. You can fly around endlessly in any direction, looking at the Intellivision-style starfield scrolling behind you, but don’t actually go anywhere, really; the Space Hawks will come at you regardless of which direction you go, so the movement element is just for avoiding their fire and such and not for exploring a level. You will be attacked by one Space Hawk at a time, and it will fly around, on and off the screen, shooting expanding shots that look a whole lot like rocks at you. Huh, I wonder where they got that idea from… heh. And like Asteroids you do have a momentum system, though here you can turn it off with the press of a keypad button, if you prefer the much simpler default game. It’s probably a better game with momentum on, as I found the game too simple otherwise. I’ve never loved Asteroids’ momentum system, but it is better than the alternative, as this shows.

Unfortunately, what this game also shows is that it’s hard to make a good Asteroids game, and they didn’t quite manage it here. The rocks that the Space Hawk is shooting get in the way between you and them, so you will need to choose between shooting the rocks and thus protecting yourself, or trying to fly around to get a shot a the Hawk itself. It’s a decent mechanic, but sadly you will only ever face one Space Hawk at a time. This makes for a very simplistic game which feels slow, and slow-paced, even in its highest speed setting. It does get harder as you survive longer, but you’re only ever fighting the same Space Hawks, shooting the same things at you, throughout. Once you shoot a Space Hawk enough to kill it, another one will come at you, in an endless loop until you eventually die. That may sound simple, but the game has tricky and somewhat original controls, for good and ill.  You aim your astronaut with the disc, thrust with one side button, and fire with the other button.  A keypad button uses hyperspace, Asteroids or Defender-style, to randomly warp out of danger, hopefully.  The controls work, but are slow.  I often wish I could use thrust and fire at the same time, but you really can’t, it’s one or the other it seems.  And having to aim with the disc while using side buttons for thrust feels awkward.  With very slow, one-enemy-at-a-time design, Space Hawk looked cool at first glance and I was looking forward to trying it, but I got tired of it very quickly and don’t find it very fun. This is another average-at-best Intellivision game with flawed, and somewhat slow, gameplay that is okay, but does not hold up to the better shooting games on other consoles. Space Hawk is not bad, but is not good either. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Space Spartans – One player. IntelliVoice Required. Space Spartans is essentially Mattel’s take on Star Raiders, or, also, a more complex version of Space Battle. As in Space Battle and Star Raiders, your goal here is to defend starbases on a single-screen map. When you begin a game you place three starbases, and choose a difficulty to start from in this endless game. In each level, you need to defeat all enemy fleets without losing your starbases. Like in Space Battle but with a grid, the enemy fleets will move around the map screen, heading towards your starbases. Using a keypad combination — the overlay is highly recommended here — you can warp, and once you warp onto a square with enemies in it, and then hit a button to switch to battle view, you’ll start that fight.

Battles work like all of the first-person space shooter battles I’ve seen on pre-crash systems, so again just like Space Battle this is a target-shooting game. Unlike Star Raiders on the 5200, you can’t actually fly anywhere within each sector, either; once warped in, instead you just sit there, rotating around and firing at the enemies coming at you. Controlling your aim is slow and somewhat frustrating in this game, though; I started to get used to it with time, but faster, more precise controls would do wonders here, aiming accurately is harder than it should be. Oddly, in this game the cursor stands for your ship, because if enemy shots hit the cursor you take damage. Some other games do this, but it is a little strange; I’d expect shots in the center of the screen or such to hit me, but no, the cursor sight is their target. I find this game pretty hard. Where some other space shooting games of the time are easy enough to hit enemies in, this one’s a lot tougher; the enemies move quickly, and zoom into and out of the screen as they go. You will learn their patterns with time, but this game is a lot harder than Space Battle, that’s for sure! That’s a good thing overall though, a harder and more complex game like that was a good idea. Also like Space Battle though, the rest of the game is progressing while you’re in a battle, so you may want to warp to a different sector before defeating the enemies in one sector in order to protect a more threatened starbase. Enemy fleets will regenerate over time though, so battles can drag on if you’re not good enough at hitting the enemies, as they respawn as fast as you hit them.

Interestingly, as you take damage you don’t just fill up a damage meter, but will lose systems on your ship.  The IntelliVoice will tell you what damage you’ve taken and what you are repairing.  Hits will eventually take out your targeting computer, warp drive, movement thrusters, and more, leaving you a motionless lump in space once all of them pile up. I don’t know that letting your ship movement get even WORSE was a good idea in a game that’s as hard to control from the beginning as this one is, but it does that. Oh well. If you do manage to warp to a starbase that isn’t under attack, though, you can fully heal all damage on the map screen. This requires keypad buttons, to select Repair and then the systems, followed by some time for the repairs, but is invaluable. So, protect those starbases! You’re done if they are all destroyed. If you blow up all enemy ships in a level, you’ll move on to a new, harder one, until eventually you lose. The game claims to be re-creating the Battle of Thermopylae in space, which makes absolutely no sense in any way other than that it’s an endless hopeless fight, but… okay. Oh, as for the voice component, it’s useful but not as central here as it is in B-17 Bomber or Bomb Squad. Voices will say things to you such as how many ships are left in enemy fleets, describe ship damage, and such, so it adds some nice flavor to the game, but this game would work without voice I’d think. Overall, Space Spartans is a fun game, but the frustrating controls really hold it back. Space Spartans is no competition for Solaris on the 2600, but it’s is an okay game. Get it if you have an IntelliVoice, but it’s probably only a bit above average overall. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Star Strike – One player. Star Strike is a simple, early rail shooter. More than just a little inspired by the original Star Wars movie, this game is essentially a game based around the Death Star trench run scene from that great classic. You fly a spaceship, flying down a trench on some artificial planet. The trench graphics are pretty cool and are this games’ main selling point. You need to bomb five ships before they take off, while avoiding fire from enemy fighters which look very much like TIE Fighters and which come up behind you and shoot at you. Separate buttons shoot and bomb. The game is extremely short and simple. Two enemy fighters come up from behind you, fire three or four times, and then zoom ahead. You can shoot them if you want more points, or let them go. Either way, pairs of fighters will keep coming at you. When an audio chime sounds, the next enemy ship is coming up, and you need to hit the bomb button… from the exact right altitude to hit it. There is no in-game indication of this, so you’ll just need to memorize how high off the ground you should be to hit it. At about the center of the screen you pretty much need to hit the bomb button right when the sound plays, which is before the port comes on screen, to hit. The timing is a lot tighter than that in the Atari Star Wars game.

As you go, your planet slowly comes into view on the top of the screen. Once it’s reached the center, if any of the ships are still alive and get past you once more it will take off and destroy your planet in the distance. That’s Game Over. If you do bomb them all, a short audio bit plays with a little animation and the game ends. So yes, this is another one of those very short 2nd-gen games that is over in minutes, either successfully or otherwise. The scoring system is simple too, the score slowly decreases over time and hitting enemy fighters increases it a bit. So, there is a maximum score. The game present some challenge, since you need to learn the height to be at when bombing, and there are five difficulty levels to make the game harder than the pretty easy default setting, but it’s a very simple game with no variety and only okay controls and gameplay. This game is average stuff; Atari’s take on it in the Star Wars arcade game, or the Parker Bros. home ports of that game on the 2600, 5200, and Colecovision, are better than this. That game has more variety, more stages than just one, and better controls and gameplay. Still, Mattel’s take on the Death Star trench run is okay enough to be worth playing a few times, before the repetition sets in. Also available on Atari 2600, with worse graphics there of course. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Tennis (for Intellivision) – Two Player Simultaneous. Two Players Required. This game is a good, but sadly two player only, take on tennis. Tennis has nice visuals with a side-view perspective, good controls, and a reasonably accurate take on Tennis for the time. Going far beyond Pong, in this game you’ll need to serve accurately and hit a button to hit the ball, it won’t automatically hit balls near your player. If you have two people who learn the game, I’m sure it would make for some exciting games, but the absence of a computer opponent means I’ll almost never be touching it, unfortunately. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Triple Action – One player (the racing game) and two player only (the tank and plane games). This three-in-one cart contains three small games, two two player only and one one player only. First, there’s another Combat knockoff, which like Armor Battle is two player only and plays a lot like Combat but once again not as good as the Atari original. The graphics are better than Combat, but it can’t match it in options, and it is still two player only. Next, there’s a pretty decent little vertically-scrolling straight-road racing game where you try to get as far as you can, scoring a point for each car you pass successfully. You move left or right to dodge oncoming cars on a two-lane road. This kind of game was popular and games like this appear on many formats, though the one I’ve played the most is probably Speedway! on Odyssey 2. I like that game more, but this is also fun. And last, there is a two player only biplane flight combat game, where you get a point for each time you shoot down the other plane or they crash. For some reason in the flying game, up on the disc makes you fly upwards and down flies you downwards, so the game doesn’t use flight controls unfortunately. I’m used to flying games having flight controls so this is confusing. You can shoot and change your speed, and have to be careful because stalling and crashing is very easy. This mode seems like it’d be fun with two people, for a few minutes here and there.

On the whole this cart is not great for one player, but the one single player game, the racing one, is kind of fun so it’s alright I guess if you get it for a really low price like I did. The other two also look decent, particularly the flying one, if you have two players. This feels like a game that should have been a pack-in with the system, but it wasn’t, and indeed it didn’t release until several years into the systems’ life. I’m not sure what the point of this was, then. There already was a Combat knockoff on the system, and the other two are pretty simple little games which are amusingly fun but hardly essential. This is another average Intellivision release. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Tron: Deadly Discs – One player. Tron Deadly Discs is one of three, yes three, Tron games that Mattel released on their console. This is the only one of the three I have, though I would like to get the other two. Tron: Solar Sailer, particularly, is interesting as it’s the fourth of the IntelliVoice games. As for Deadly Discs, though, it is inspired by the disc arena section from the film. You play as Tron, and defend free programs by defeating an endless succession of evil programs coming at you in this single-screen arena, or something like that. Or in gameplay terms, you move around the screen, which looks a bit like an arena, and try to hit the enemy programs with your disc while not taking too many hits from theirs. The concept of an action game based on the disc battle is a good one, but this game has some issues and is, unfortunately, kind of boring, particularly on lower difficulty settings. The character graphics are nice enough and the Recognizers that come on screen every so often look like they should, but I find the game boring.

The game does some interesting things for the time, though — it’s another early twin-stick game, as you move with the stick and fire with the keypad — but these controls are far from Robotron. Because, again, the Intellivision only supports one input from a controller at a time, you have to stop to fire, and then can only shoot one disc at a time, in eight directions, and have to wait quite a while for it to return to you. You can call back your disc, but Microsurgeon’s two-controller free firing feels better. Regardless though, this game is too slow to be fun for long. And not only that, but the disc will only hurt enemies on the way out, but always goes all the way to the other edge of the screen! So, after every shot, hit or miss, you’ve got to wait a long time for the disc to hit a wall or stop once you let go of the button and get all the way back to you before you can finally try to hit them again. Also, this is another Intellivision game which runs slowly. At least as far as I’ve gotten so far, everything about this game is a bit slow-moving. I’m sure it eventually gets hard, but aiming shots with the keypad is kind of frustrating because of how long you have to wait if you miss. The slow pace of the combat isn’t great. This game was also released on the Atari 2600. That version is similar but a bit worse, as shot aiming is better here and the Recognizer boss isn’t in that version. I have the 2600 version and thought it was pretty average, and unfortunately the improvements here don’t make it much better. That’s too bad, Tron is a great movie. Also released on Atari 2600.


Vectron – One or two player alternating. Vectron has a really cool name and look, but also has a reputation for inscrutably confusing controls and gameplay. And indeed, yes, well, the controls are very confusing. In this action-strategy game, you move an indicator left and right along a curving path through the screen with the lower side buttons on each side of the controller, and place things on squares you so highlight with a button on the keypad. Yes, you move the cursor with the side buttons, not the circle. Instead, pressing directions on the circle will fire in the direction you press from a cannon in the top center, to take out enemies. Your goal in the game is to build up a base and defend it, but it’s pretty hard to do and the controls are difficult. Even once I started to get a handle on them, having to press buttons on both sides is bad even by Intellivision controller standards; in most games you only need to use the buttons on one side of the controller and they are duplicated on both sides for left or right handed players, but not this one, you’ve got to use both sides, and quickly too. It’s not good.

Anyway, in Vectron, once again you move that cursor, which the game manual calls the “energy block”, building energy base sections, or orb things, in the four spaces within by shooting at the cursor and hitting it, while also shooting at enemies trying to destroy the buildings. One enemy type is invincible, so you need to shoot around it to hit the other ones trying to destroy your cursor. If you let too many base sections get destroyed or if too many enemies hit the cursor and you run out of energy, you lose a life, and three deaths and it’s Game Over. You’ll get Game Over quickly, because the game is very hard, and I often lose lives without knowing why. There aren’t any difficulty options, either, only the one too-hard one. The game seems to probably be endless, but I haven’t managed to beat a single level of the game yet so I doubt I’ll know. From what I read online, getting to level five or ten is quite an accomplishment, and I believe it. Vectron has a really cool look and interestingly original gameplay, and despite the weird controls and insane difficulty I still want to like this game. I probably will play it more, but it’s too flawed to be great, unfortunately; this is a decent game with issues. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Venture – One player. Venture is an arcade game from the early ’80s, originally by Exidy. The home console ports were made by Coleco, this one included. Coleco’s Intellivision games are often poor, but this is one of the better ones, as it contains all the content from the arcade and Colecovision versions of the game. Venture is a top-down action-adventure game, perhaps an early step towards action-adventure games like Zelda. You control a red smilie face with a bow, and go around finding treasures. Each of the three levels has an overworld screen, where you control a dot moving around between rooms while avoiding giant enemies, and four rooms, where you control the smilie face closer up, shooting at enemies before they can kill you and grabbing those treasures. Watch out though, touching a dead enemy will kill you, so stay away until after they finally dissolve fully! That’s a weird quirk in this game. The enemies dissolve one pixel at a time in this version, which is cool; on Colecovision they just have a ‘death’ sprite that vanishes after a while, so there is one way that this is the better version. The game plays well, though the controls feel a bit less precise here than on the 2600 or Colecovision because of the Intellivision circle, I find myself walking into walls or miss enemies sometimes because of the disc. I’m sure you get used to it eventually though.

This is a fun game for a while, as you go around each level, killing baddies and getting treasures. There are 36 treasures to collect, as between levels the game shows your treasures through the first three loops through the game. After that the game infinitely loops stage nine, which is kind of disappointing; it means you only see one of the three levels, over and over, if you’re good enough to finish the nine stages. Some classic games do things like that, but it is odd. On a related note, Venture controls well enough and plays great, but like with other games like Berzerk, it makes me wish for a goal beyond just points; I like this kind of game better when you can actually win. Unfortunately, that last level loops forever. So, Venture is fun but isn’t something I’ll be likely to play a lot of. Visually, Venture is simple looking but the look works well. It looks like the other versions, just with a bit of a visual downgrade compared to the Colecovision, as, as is expected.  It does still have music though, which is pretty cool.  It is very simple, but not many Intellivision games have background music.  I like that it contains all of the levels too, the Atari 2600 version doesn’t and Coleco usually just ported their 2600 games over to Intellivision for their games on this system. Fortunately they did better here. Arcade port, also on Colecovision and (with only two levels) on Atari 2600. The Colecovision version is best, but this is also good.


Zaxxon – One player. From Coleco, this game is a worse port of the bad Atari 2600 version of Zaxxon. Sega’s arcade version of Zaxxon was a big hit and helped popularize the isometric shooter. This Atari 2600/Intellivision version of the game isn’t isometric like the arcade game or its more accurate ports, but instead is a behind-the-ship rail shooter with poor graphics and worse gameplay. The perspective has some advantages, in theory, though. The behind-the-ship view should give you a much better ability to see where the other ships are so you can hit them more accurately, and indeed it does. It’s a lot easier to hit your target here than it is in regular Zaxxon. Unfortunately, it’s not much of an improvement and everything else about this version of the game is a lot worse than the original. The graphics are poor, with extremely blocky visuals straight out of the Atari 2600.

The gameplay is slow, even slower than the Atari version. The game is also extremely simplistic. Zaxxon is a simple game, but this one’s even simpler — you just fly through the bases, avoiding walls while shooting turret enemies on the ground, and then fly through space, shooting space fighters. Rinse and repeat once you get to the next base. The game seriously lacks challenge too, as enemies are easy to avoid or shoot. Coleco has a reputation for making shoddy Atari 2600 and Intellivision games that are far worse than their Colecovision games, and this one backs that up, that’s for sure. While the Intellivision may not be able to match Colecovision Zaxxon, I’m sure it can do a lot better than this boring, ugly, slow, not fun game. Skip this one. The original Zaxxon arcade game has been released on a great many platforms, but this particular behind-the-ship version is only on the Atari 2600 and Intellivision. They are both bad, but the 2600 version is probably slightly better thanks to it playing a little more quickly. Play almost any version of real Zaxxon instead of this.

 

And that is all the games I have so far.  Games I have seen for Intellivision but not purchased: Several more of the two player only sports games (Football, Basketball, Soccer), and two more Coleco games (Donkey Kong, Carnival).  I got everything at all interesting.

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Mattel Intellivision – Game Opinion Summaries / First Impressions, Part 1

I got this console a couple of months ago… and quickly decided I wanted to make a Game Opinion Summaries list for it, because why not?  I have not done a list like this yet for the Colecovision, which I got last year, or for Atari 2600 or 5200 games I’ve gotten since the lists I did years ago. I am thinking about writing all of those. Anyway, after some long delays, here it finally is, part one of this two-part series! In this article I cover 19 of the 40 games I have for the Intellivision. Yes, 19; game 20 is Microsurgeon, and I haven’t played it enough yet.

Table of Contents

 

Introduction and System Overview

The Mattel Intellivision released in 1979 as a test market product, then 1980 in full nationwide release in the US. This console was heavily marketed, and ended up selling three million systems, which is the second most of any console that generation. That’s less impressive as it sounds, as the Atari 2600 sold tens of millions of systems while the next top four — the Intellivision, Colecovision, Odyssey 2, and Atari 5200 — sold one to three million each, but it’s something. I’d never played an Intellivision before this year, however. I have known people who owned them though, and they never had much of anything positive to say about the system. I’ve heard that the controller is horrible, that the games aren’t as good as Atari games, and more. So, I went into this not expecting the best… and unfortunately it lives down to expectations. There are some things to like about the Intellivision, but my first impression is that it’s my least favorite of the five pre-crash consoles that I have, the ones listed in this paragraph. It’s probably better than most of the other, lesser-known platforms that generation, though, I just don’t have those.

Anyway, the Mattel Intellivision is an interesting system. It uses a 16-bit CPU, which was a first for the industry. However, while it’s got a wider bus, the CPU has a slow clock speed when compared to the 2600. Indeed, many 2600-to-Intellivision ports end up running more slowly on this system than they do on the Atari, which is not great for a newer system. Graphics are almost always improved, but game speed is not. What is the Intellivision good at, then? Well, graphics for one; the Intellivision can draw much more complex and detailed visuals than prior consoles. In terms of overall graphics, the system sits right where its release date suggests, a bit above the 2600 but well behind the newer Atari 5200 and Colecovision, which released 2 1/2 to three years after this system to effectively start a new console generation. I wasn’t expecting Colecovision-caliber graphics from this system, and it doesn’t have them, but games often have nicely detailed sprites and environments that you’d certainly never see on Atari 2600. Audio is decent as well, for the time. The standard audio is fairly typical stuff, but like the Odyssey 2, the Intellivision has a speech synthesizer addon. This addon is fairly cheap, but while I have three of the four games that support it, I don’t have one yet, unfortunately. Once I get one I will report on how the three games play, though I mention them below with little placeholder articles for now.

So, the Intellivision has some good and bad points in its graphics. In terms of controls, though, the system is infamously awful, and unfortunately I have to agree with the critics here. I may like the Atari 5200 controller, and I really do apart from a few things (durability, the side buttons), but this thing is awful! The Intellivision controller is terrible for several reasons, but the ergonomics are the biggest. The controller has two buttons on each side, a 12-key keypad set down behind little plastic dividers, and at the bottom a round disc that controls movement. The disc, which has a full 16 directions it can identify versus the average stick’s four or maybe eight with diagonals, was an important innovation that presaged the creation of the d-pad. It is also, however, horribly uncomfortable. Perhaps the biggest problem is this plastic ridge around the disc. It’s hard to not get your finger painfully rubbing against the hard edge of the ridge! The side buttons are uncomfortable to use as well, the idea of putting the main action buttons on the side of a controller was a bad one. I’ll never understand why Atari and Coleco both copied this controller, of all things, in their next consoles! This vertically-oriented controller with side fire buttons concept was not a good one, and all three of the resulting controllers show why that is. Of the three, though, this is the most painfully uncomfortable to hold and use, it’s not close. The controllers do look nice when set in the console, though. As with many consoles of the day, there are indentations in the console itself to store the controllers in, and when in there the flat top of the console has a pretty nice look to it.

Overlays – Overlays are something that I think the Intellivision did first. These plastic sheets go over the 12-button keypad part of the controller, and tell you what the buttons do. As with many other things about the controller, this questionable idea would go on to also appear in the Atari 5200 and Colecovision controllers, as well as the Atari Jaguar later on. The concept is good, and for some games these overlays are helpful. Games did not have large enough memory sizes yet to be able to have on-screen button indicators for everything like a modern game might, so having something physical, attached to the controller, is a good idea. Some of the overlays have nice artwork on them as well. I don’t have overlays for all of the games I have, not even close, but I do have some overlays and they’re helpful, because a lot of Intellivision games pretty much require them. However, if you don’t have the overlay, some games are pretty much unplayable unless you look one up online or buy one, because the buttons are not at all intuitive, they could be anywhere. Those other systems with overlays make far less use of them than the Intellivision. Indeed, most 5200 and Colecoivsion games either don’t come with an overlay, or they have one but it serves no purpose because all that’s on it is like ‘press numbers for difficulty or number of players’, and those are in consistent places on the number pads so you won’t need to always look at the overlay like you to on Intellivision. And on top of that, despite their overlays usually being less necessary, both of those systems have overlay storage built right into their cartridges, which is great. With the Intellivision you just need to try to not lose them, or only buy complete in box games and store them in the boxes. That’s inconvenient.

My biggest issue with overlays isn’t any of those things, though, it’s that the concept of having a keypad on a game controller didn’t prove to be a good one. A modern controller has a lot of buttons, but they are all in different places on the pad, so you can remember, through memorization and such, which are which. On a keypad, however, good luck with that! With 12 buttons so close together, that overlay is pretty much your only hope of knowing which button is which, a lot of the time. There’s a good reason why only two systems released since 1983 have had keypads on them, and both failed — the Jaguar and N-Gage. It just isn’t a very good idea. I can understand what they were going for, it gives you a bunch of buttons for settings and such, but the alternate directions the industry would go in later, towards on-screen menus instead of lots of buttons and controllers with buttons in more notably different places, is, I think, overall better than this. I have an N-Gage, and trying to play a game like Tomb Raider or Tony Hawk with 15 buttons all right next to eachother is FAR more difficult than it is on a Playstation controller! It’s kind of a nightmare really… the Intellivision isn’t as bad as that, because of how its keypad is used and because it supports only pressing one button at a time, but it is still an issue.

And of course, that’s not even getting into the ergonomics of the thing, which are poor. There’s no way to make a 12+ button keypad ergonomically friendly, I don’t think. So, overlays are an interesting idea and I like having them, and they definitely make playing games a lot easier than regular numbered buttons in these same games would — see Gateway to Apshai (Colecovision) for an example of that, they didn’t make an overlay for it so instead you need to reference the manual all the time to remember what each of the nine numbers does, it’s not great — but I do think that the keypad is one of several decisions, along with the vertically-oriented controller, painful ridge around the disc, total absence of ergonomics, and side-mounted, mushy fire buttons, that are why Intellivision are so disliked. That the Colecovision, and Atari 5200 controllers do many of the same things wrong is a lot of why their reputation is very nearly as bad.

And plus, since some models of Intellivision have hardwired controllers, they couldn’t even do something to give it a better controller, like the trackballs do for the 5200 and Colecovision. Oh well. I know there are stick-replacement options out there, and some modern controller options as well, but controller ports would have made that a lot easier. Oh well.

Beyond the very flat-topped controllers, to fit with its flat, sleek look, the Intellivision, uniquely, has its cartridge port on the side of the console. This is good for aesthetics, but bad for everyday use, because you need to press fairly hard to get a game to lock in to the system! I find that I need to hold the console with one hand on the left side while pressing the cart in on the right in order to insert a game, so don’t put this console somewhere where you don’t have access to both sides of the system, it won’t end up well. Of course, with how short Intellivision controllers are you won’t be putting it far from your chair, anyway. All the pre-crash consoles have very short controller cords, and this is no exception. Some models do have controller ports, though. The model 1 and 3 Intellivision have hard-wired controllers, while the Sears Super Video Arcade and model 2 have controller ports.  Sears Super Video Arcade controllers also have regular straight cords, while model 1 Intellivisions have a coiled cable like a phone does.  The straight wire gets you some more length, and when cords are this short you take anything you can get!  I have perhaps the best overall model of Intellivision according to some Atari Age threads I read, the Sears Super Video Arcade. It’s a nice looking console with controller ports, and I’m glad to have this one. It still works perfectly, even after almost forty years.  I may get controller extension cords for it at some point, if I want to move it farther away.

As far as its game library went, the Intellivision’s main life lasted from 1979 to 1983. Most of the games are from Mattel, and they are mostly original titles, not ports of arcade games. Atari had most of the best arcade games themselves, after all, and Mattel, like Magnavox, decided to mostly make their own games. Mattel did get one companies’ arcade game rights, though: Data East. This led to one of the system’s best games, and several others as well.  That’s it, though.  Coleco would take a different path.  Once they entered Coleco would be much more aggressive at getting arcade game rights, and between Coleco and Atari, Mattel and the others didn’t get many arcade ports. The quality of Mattel’s own games is uneven, too, as my summaries below will detail.  I found a lot of games for this system locally in a short time, but the game quality is iffy in too many cases.

And then, in late 1983, with the great videogame crash of ’83 destroying the console industry, Mattel gave up on videogames and discontinued the system. Others, including the Magnavox Odyssey 2, were also discontinued around the same time. However, some people at Mattel thought that the system had a future as a low-cost system, and bought the rights to the Intellivision sometime later. In 1985, the first two new games released in Europe. Those two games, plus some other new ones, released in the US as well in 1986, and the new Intv Corporation kept the system alive with new game releases until 1989. This is a fairly similar story to the Atari 2600, which was effectively discontinued in 1984, only to be resurrected in 1986, so it saw releases from 1977-1984 and 1986-1990 (’92 in Europe thanks to one or two late third-party releases there). However, at least around here, I regularly see some of those late Atari 2600 games. I have not seen any post-1983 Intellivision games locally yet, only these 40 games from ’83 or earlier, so clearly the Intellivision wasn’t as popular a post-crash console as the Atari. That makes sense, but it’s still interesting that it was brought back, and there are some good-looking games among those later releases that I would like to get eventually.

Overall though, my first impression of the Intellivision is that it’s okay. This system isn’t awful or anything, but I don’t really like it either. I can understand how people who played it as a kid would still like the system, but as someone who didn’t play any pre-crash console games until decades later, as I said earlier it probably does rank fifth of the five pre-crash systems I have. (For the record, based purely on ‘how much I like them’ and not their overall game library quality or such, right now that ranking would be: 1. Odyssey 2; 2. Atari 5200;3. Atari 2600; 4. Colecovision; 5. Intellivision.) The poor controller is definitely a part of that, though the games are also a part; they’re alright, but I haven’t found many I really love. Right now I don’t know if I have yet played an Intellivision game that I’d give an A rating to. Some of the games are good, though, certainly. That said, though, here are the first 20 Intellivision Game Opinion Summaries. The second 20 shouldn’t take as long as these did to finish.

My favorite Intellivision games so far

1. Snafu
2. BurgerTime
3. Demon Attack
4. Microsurgeon
5. Loco-Motion
6. Atlantis

I like these six more than the rest of the games I have for sure, so far.

 

The Summaries

Formatting: As usual for my Game Opinion Summary lists, the title is first.  Following that, in italics is the number of players, and any accessories supported or required.  Next is the summary.  At the end, again in italics, I list any other platforms the game has been released on as of this posting, as far as I know.


ABPA Backgammon One or two players alternating. Backgammon is a typical Intellivision game in some ways. The Intellivision sold itself on being more complex than the Atari 2600, and indeed this game is more complex than Atari Backgammon. The graphics are better, game much more accurate to the boardgame it is a conversion of, and controls more complex as well thanks to the systems’ 12-key keypad. Getting used to the controls takes a little while, as it uses the keypad heavily, but this is a solid Backgammon game, if you actually want to play such a thing on an old console; I don’t really. On a positive note though, there is an AI opponent here, a somewhat uncommon thing for a boardgame console game from 1978! However, I’ve never cared much for backgammon as a board game. I have played it before, and it’s alright, but it has been a very long time since I last played the game, and while I don’t remember a lot of the rules, and doubt I’ll play it anytime soon either; far better games are available now. Backgammon has dice, so it has a random component not present in the timeless classic that is chess. Random elements in board games are common, and can work great, but I do think that the best games are probably less random. So, while this game definitely looks the part, with a clearly drawn backgammon board and dice, if I really wanted to play backgammon today I’m sure far better games are available on newer systems than this one. I don’t play old consoles for games like this, for the most part. But if you want a solid 2nd-gen backgammon game, well, here it is.  This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections under the title Backgammon.


Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Cartridge (aka AD&D Cloudy Mountain Adventure or Crown of Kings) – One player. This game has the D&D license, but it isn’t really an RPG. Instead, this is a maze exploration action-adventure game, building off of games like Adventure (Atari 2600), Hunt the Wumpus (TI-99/4A), and Quest for the Rings (Odyssey 2). Your goal here is to reach the Cloudy Mountain across the main world map and find the treasures within. You start on the let side of the screen, and at certain points enter dungeons. Each of these dungeons is a randomly laid out maze you will need to explore. Now, sort of like Hunt the Wumpus, your character here is an archer, so you’ll be shooting enemies from a distance if you want to stay alive. This is a much more action-heavy game than that one, though. You will see monsters as you explore, and need to decide how to deal with them. In each maze, you need to collect arrows, kill or run away from monsters, and look for both exits and key items that you will need to progress. You’ll want to avoid enemies some of the time because ammo is very limited, and you can’t just go pick up used arrows. This definitely serves to increase the tension as you explore. Unfortunately, I find the game quite frustrating, as these random mazes, while not huge, are just large enough to get lost in. You need to find those exits and key items, but wandering around, looking for things while often not being certain if I’ve been through this area five times already because it all looks pretty similar, isn’t much fun.

Now, some people like this kind of game design, and I recommend you play this game! I, however, don’t really. There is a run button for faster movement, and that’s great. Even, but still, this game aimed high for a game from 1982, and for the time is a quite advanced game despite not being what we would today call an RPG of any kind since there is no experience points system present, but I think I’d prefer something either simpler or more complex than this. AD&D is a good game, but while I probably do like it more than Adventure on the Atari 2600, I’d rather play Quest for the Rings or Hunt the Wumpus than this, their simplicity is a positive for games from this time. Still, AD&D is a solid evolution of the still-early action-adventure genre, as it headed towards better things. The Intellivision sold itself as a more complex console with better-looking and more complicated games than other consoles, and you see that here. That doesn’t make the game better, but still it is an interesting game worth playing. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections under the title ” Crown of Kings”.


Armor Battle – Two players simultaneous. Two Player Only Game.   The Intellivision does Combat! Yes, this is one of several Combat knockoffs on the Intellivision. Like Combat it, unfortunately, requires two players, so I haven’t really been able to play it. Most people agree it’s not as good as Combat, though. It’s got better graphics but apparently lesser gameplay, though I haven’t really played much Combat either so I can’t really compare. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Astrosmash – One or two player alternating. Astrosmash is a very simple single-screen shooting game that kind of crosses Astroids and Space Invaders, though without the greatness of either. This popular game is also on Atari 2600 and it’s very simple: move left and right and shoot the asteroids as they descend. That’s about it. Move left, move right, shoot as many rocks as you can. There are also a few ships to shoot, but it’s mostly falling rocks. This game was made for overlong play sessions, by second gen standards — you start with quite a few lives, and will not lose them easily for a long time. And on top of that, the game gives you extra lives so quickly that games will go on and on. You get lives faster than you lose them for probably at least a half hour or more. I find the game gets boring long before that, unfortunately; the core concept is solid and the game plays well enough, apart from the usual issues with how uncomfortable this controller is, but the difficulty balance and challenge are way off. The game looks alright, with some decently nice asteroids and an alright backdrop, but is very repetitive and simplistic. So, overall, this game is another average to below average Intellivision game. This system is definitely living down to its mostly not-great reputation, I think… too bad. There is something here, later in the game, but is it worth the tedium to get there? Also on Atari 2600 under the title Astroblast. That version is quite similar, apart from a graphical downgrade of course. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


AtlantisOne player. Atlantis is a Missile Command-inspired defense game from Imagic, a third party who released a lot of games on the Intellivision in 1982-1983. Taking control of gun turrets, you try to protect the city of Atlantis from an endless horde of enemy spacecraft. It’s a doomed effort of course, but try to survive as long as you can anyway! The Intellivision version of Atlantis has a reputation for being the best version of the game and one of the better games on this console, and after playing it I can see why. Now, in Missile Command, you control a cursor. In the original Atari version of this game, however, instead you just controlled three gun cannons which each shot across the screen at a different angle. On the Intellivision, however, Imagic went for a much more directly Missile Command-inspired game, as you move a cursor around the screen and fire from your two guns with the two buttons on each side of the controller.

So yes, it’s pretty much straight Missile Command, but with Atlantis graphics. And indeed, the game looks pretty good, with a detailed cityscape, a day and night cycle with a tougher challenge at night in the dark, and good enemy sprites. The game adds one signficant control feature that separates it from Issile Command, though: by hitting one of the keypad buttons, you can take off in a little plane usually kept docked in the center tower on the screen and, controlling it directly, shoot the enemies down, Defender style! This is a single-screen game, but flying the little ship around, shooting in both directions to take out the enemies, is pretty fun. Indeed, both the cursor and flying elements of this game are fun. The game does take a while to get challenging on the default setting so games are not short, however; yes, this is another game with difficulty balance that may not be ideal. However, it’s more than fun enough to be worth playing anyway, every once in a while at least. Atlantis is, like most games of the era, very repetitive and does not match Missile Command’s genius, but it is a good game for sure, and this is a great version. It may not be worth getting an Intellivision just for this game, but if you have one definitely get the game, it’s one of the best ones here. Also on Atari 2600 and Odyssey 2, though each version is quite different.


Auto RacingOne or two player simultaneous.  Single player is a time-trial only race. This is an overhead racing game. It has decently nice graphics with some nice looking roads and houses. It scrolls decently too, it’s not single screen. There are even a bunch of different tracks to race! They are all made up of a set of components, but still it is impressive. Graphically, it’s pretty good for the time — the Atari doesn’t have any top-down racing games that look anywhere near as good. However, gameplay is a problem. The controls are hard to get used to, it takes practice and perhaps also a look at the manual before you will figure out how to actually make the turns and not just go off the side at every corner. Looking at impressions people have of this game online, this seems to be a common complaint about this game: the controls are confusing and not that good. With some practice I did eventually manage to start making turns, but even then this is a slow-paced game with limited gameplay. The turns feel hard because of the bad handling, not because they really should be. Additionally, as with many Intellivision games, this one is mostly designed for two players — all you can do in this game is play a two player versus mode race, or play solo in a time-trial mode, that’s it. There isn’t an AI opponent car, unfortunately. For 1980 this is probably a good effort at a more realistic racing game, but the controls, with the Intellivision disc, are a problem. I didn’t find Auto Racing very fun, but it isn’t a bad game, just a flawed one. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


B-17 Bomber – One player, IntelliVoice addon required. B-17 Bomber is a flight simulator, a fairly impressive thing for an early ’80s game. With complex controls, where you can switch between different stations on your World War II bomber to change between shooting enemy planes, bombing, choosing where you’re going, and such, it’s an advanced game for the time. Unfortunately, it requires the IntelliVoice speech synthesizer addon. The game will run without it, but it has voice lines telling you vital info, so the game isn’t very playable without one, and I don’t have an IntelliVoice yet. However, even if I had one, I can’t see myself getting into this game much at all; it may be impressive for the time, but in retrospect this kind of game quickly becomes horribly dated, and I’m not a flight sim fan regardless. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Beauty & The Beast – One player. One of Imagic’s more popular Intellivision games, this game is Intellivision exclusive and not a port from another system. Imagic supported the Intellivision pretty well for a couple of years. However, I don’t like it nearly as much as I was hoping. The game looks nice, but the gameplay is lacking, I think. Anyway, Beauty & The Beast is one of the many games heavily inspired by Nintendo’s hit Donkey Kong. Thanks to Coleco the Intellivision version of Donkey Kong is no good, but this somewhat similar game is probably better. Unfortunately, I think it has problems as well. The game is no match for arcade Donkey Kong. My biggest problem with this game is its jumping controls. So, in the game, your goal is to get to the top of each screen. Each screen is a couple of floors tall, and you want to get to the top of each screen, which helps you climb the building to try to save the girl (the beauty) from the beast (an ape as expected). Unfortunately you’re facing an endless series of buildings here, so you can never really win. You can climb from one floor to the next by hitting Up on the circle when one of the windows on each floor is open. If you’re still climbing when the window closes, you’ll fall and die, so be careful. I don’t know why you can climb up when windows are open but not when they are closed, but that’s how it works here. Your movement controls feel fast, as you zip around the screen, trying to avoid obstacles and go up open windows. However, when you need to jump over something, as I said the controls are very stiff and bad. I really don’t like the jumping controls here, and they don’t feel good at all; when I have to jump I often die. The jumping here feels somewhat like it does in Dragonfire, except here it’s even more central to the game. The simplistic and repetitious gameplay is expected from this time, but that’s fine if a game is good. Sadly, only part of Beauty & The Beast is fun. I know this game has fans, but I’m not one, so far at least; I think that this game is below average, and I can only really recommend it for the graphics, which are admittedly pretty nice and detailed.


Bomb Squad – One player, IntelliVoice required. Another one of the four games requiring the IntelliVoice speech synthesizer, this one is a bomb-defusing puzzle game where you follow voice commands as you try to defuse each bomb by cutting the correct wires and installing the correct parts in places on the circuit. Naturally, without an IntelliVoice it’s quite impossible, though it looks very difficult on the higher difficulty settings even with one. The game has a good concept though, so when I get an IntelliVoice I’ll definitely want to give it a try. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Bowling (aka PBA Bowling) – One to four players alternating. One player is a solo game, no AI. Bowling is a pretty good bowling game for the early ’80s. Showing off all of those buttons that the Intellivision controller has, Bowling has more commands than the simplistic Atari 2600 Bowling game. You can move up and down, aim and curve your shot, and adjust power. You even can select your ball weight at the start, and that does affect the game. Visually, this is a fairly standard effort, with okay but not amazing visuals of the lane and pins. It’s an okay-looking game with a lot more depth than bowling on the 2600, so it fits in with the general ‘more complex games’ theme the Intellivision went for, and it does seem to be good. Of course there is no AI so if you’re playing by yourself it’s a solo affair, but oh well. Bowling plays well and is fun, so it is a good game. Once you get used to the controls it’s a simple little game, and much better bowling games are out there on newer systems, but this one’s fun enough to play once in a while. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


BurgerTimeOne player. BurgerTime was an arcade hit in the early ’80s. Mattel wasn’t able to get the rights to many popular arcade games, as Atari had the best ones and Coleco got the rights to most of the better remaining arcade games of note, but Mattel did get the rights to one arcade company’s arcade games, Data East. The somewhat strange single-screen platformer BurgerTime was probably their biggest hit, so it was ported to the Intellivision. This game is highly regarded on Intellivision, but I wasn’t sure how worth it this would be since I do have the even better NES version. Well, it was worth getting, because yes this is a pretty good version of this game. The somewhat slow Intellivision CPU isn’t known for being great at fast action games, but this somewhat unique platformer runs very well. For anyone who dosn’t know it, in BurgerTime you play as chef Peter Pepper, and try to make giant hamburgers before living ingredients get you! Yeah, it’s weird. So, you go around, dodging enemies on the maze of platforms, while trying to walk over all burger parts. When you walk over a part, it’ll fall down to the next floor below, dropping other parts below it if there is another one on the next level. Each burger has several parts to drop, including the top bun, lettuce, and burger. Once you make all burgers on a stage you go on to the next one. You also have pepper spray, which will temporarily stun an enemy. The only other way to defeat enemies is that when you drop a burger part, any enemies also standing on that part when you drop it will die. They respawn elsewhere on screen quickly, though, so you can’t get rid of enemies for good, you just need to learn to avoid them. BurgerTime is a fun and challenging game, and it’s easy to see why it was so successful. BurgerTime is, indeed, one of the best games I’ve played on Intellivision. There are better versions of the game so don’t get an Intellivision for this game, but if you have one, get it. Arcade port, also on the Atari 2600, NES, and many other platforms, though none are ports of this specific version.


Demon Attack One player. Demon Attack is another game from Imagic, and it’s one of their most popular games. This single-screen shmup sees you moving left and right on a screen, shooting up at enemies moving around above. It was inspired by the arcade game Phoenix which Atari had the rights to, enough so that Atari sued Imagic over this game and Imagic settled out of court, so they probably paid Atari something. I think that Demon Attack isn’t quite as great as the arcade or Atari 2600 versions of Phoenix, but it is also good and is on a lot more platforms. Demon Attack for the Intellivision has the same basic gameplay as the original Atari 2600 version of the game, but it has enhanced graphics and more gameplay, much like the TI 99/4A version but, by all accounts, better. Like that version, the game has two screens, one on a planet or moon where you do most of the shooting, and a boss stage in space against a giant ship. The planet is nicely detailed, so the background looks a lot better than the very simple Atari version.

The core gameplay is the same, though, apart from that added boss screen. Demon Attack plays well, as you move left and right and try to time your shots to hit the quickly-moving demons. It presents a good challenge, and there is nice variety as there are quite a few different types of demons on the regular screen. The boss stage mixes things up as well; here you need to hit a single point to destroy the giant demon ship, but hitting that point will be hard, as it’s protected by a moving shield and lots of small demons that are sent at you. This game is well paced and fun, and keeps you coming back. Of course the Intellivision circle disc thing makes playing the game a little harder than it should be, but you kind of get used to it eventually. I don’t know if it’s the best version of this game, but it is good. However, whenever I play this game, I can’t help but think that I’d rather be playing Phoenix, because that game is a bit better. Still, Demon Attack is a good game well worth playing on any format it was released for. Also on Atari 2600, Magnavox Odyssey 2, TI 99/4A, Atari 8-bit computers, PC, Commodore 64, and TRS-80 Color Computer. Each version is different, but this is one of the best.


DragonfireOne player.  Dragonfire is another Imagic game.  This one’s much less impressive, though, as it is pretty much just a straight, only graphically enhanced port of the Atari 2600 game of the same name.  Dragonfire is a good Atari game, though, so that could work well.  In this two-screen game, you first run across a bridge as a little guy, dodging fireballs as you go platformer-style, and then run around a large overhead-view space, collecting treasures while avoiding more fireballs that the dragon, now on screen, shoots at you.  It’s a fast-paced game, all about dodging and jumping and then avoiding and collecting, and it’s okay to good on the 2600.  Here, however, it feels worse.  The graphics are improved, as the drawbridge and castle towers on the sidescroller stage look nicer and the dragon and its treasures are drawn with more detail, but the difference isn’t enough to matter much.

Much more important are the controls, and they’re not good. Yes, the controls are a whole lot worse because you need to try to make these tricky, timing-sensitive jumps with the Intellivision disc! This controller is hard to deal with even in ideal circumstances, and this games’ jumping is, like Beauty & The Beast above, far from ideal. So, while I do find this game fun on the 2600 as the avoid-and-collect gameplay is somewhat addictive and fun, I’d recommend sticking to that version. It’s the same thing, but better. The Intellivision version is too hard thanks to its controller to be worth the hassle, and has no additions to counteract that, unlike the better Imagic Intellivision games. Also on Atari 2600, Colecovision, Commodore 64, Commodore VIC-20, Apple II, and TRS-80 Color Computer. The 2600 version is the original. This is nowhere near that level.


Frog Bog – One or two player simultaneous. Also known as Frogs and Flies on 2600, Frog Bog is one of Mattel’s more popular games, and Mattel did release it on Atari 2600 as well as Intellivision under the name Frogs and Flies. This is an extremely simple arcade-style game where you play as a frog, jumping between two lily pads to eat flies as they go by. You cannot move around on the ground; for some reason, these frogs can only move in the air, not on the ground. So, you press on the disc to jump in the direction you press. The disc gives you better control than the Atari 2600 version of the game. You can control your jump, so try to aim and time it so that you’re in the air while flies are passing by. While in the air, hit a side button to extend your tongue, hopefully catching flies in the process. That’s all there is to it. There is even an automatic tongue option, for somewhat easier play. You just jump back and forth, eating flies, for a while. As the game progresses time passes, from morning to afternoon to night, and once full night falls the game ends. So, Frog Bog games are time-limited and might last ten minutes at most. That’s good, though, because by the time a game ends I’m ready to play something else, there isn’t much to this one. Even so, the time progression is a nice touch you only infrequently saw at the time. The background graphics are pretty nice as well, with a detailed pond environment. The game also does have an AI opponent, so it’s not two player only, and there are two difficulty settings. On the default setting the AI is extremely easy, but the harder setting presents a slightly higher challenge. The AI really is a very weak opponent though, so if you want to lose this game much at all you’ll need to play it against another human. I like that they included a computer opponent, but I wish it was a bit tougher.

In comparison to the Atari 2600 version, the graphics are much more detailed on Intellivision, as expected. The Atari version looks okay for the console, but everything is a lot blockier. The core gameplay is identical, and the controls are good on Atari too — it compensates for the loss of a 16-direction stick by having you hold the stick to change your angle. This control scheme is simple and works well. It’s probably easier to control your frog on Atari than Intellivision as a result, so despite the better graphics in this version, Mattel might actually have made a better game on the competing console. On either platform, though, overall Frog Bog is an average game. It’s probably worth getting on one system or another because it is quite cheap and can be fun, particularly for two players, but don’t expect too much from this one. Also on Atari 2600 under the name Frogs and Flies. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Golf (Tele-Games ver. of PGA Golf) – One or two player alternating. One player is a solo game, no AI.  This golf game is a bit like Golf for the Atari 2600, but with a lot more simmish elements. Where the 2600 or Odyssey 2’s golf games are pretty much minigolf games by another name, Intellivision Golf plays more like the real thing, with different clubs to switch between, a more complex meter for hitting your ball, and such. The graphical look is similar to those games but a better, as just like them each hole is shown in a single-screen overhead view. The graphics are definitely better than those games, as trees are identifiable and there are angled greens and everything, but it’s still a single-screen game. The animating ball, which gets larger at the height of its flight, does look nice though. The more simmish controls make this game much more challenging than those golf games, however, and for someone like me who does not like golf, that’s not really a good thing. This is probably a better game objectively than Atari or O2 Golf, but I find myself getting bored extremely quickly here and would probably rather play either of those games. I much prefer mini-golf to regular golf, myself. Golf fans might want to try this game out though, as it’s quite possibly the first semi-realistic take on the sport. You will need to choose the correct club for each hit and such. It’s a challenging game for sure. There is only one 18-hole course here, as usual for the time, but each hole is unique. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack (Tele-Games ver.) – Two players only (Poker); One or two players (Blackjack). For some reason I do not understand, this card game was the pack-in title with the Intellivision for its first few years. It’s not a game I have much of any interest in playing, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that, so it’s a somewhat strange choice for a pack-in. The games are fairly complex for the time, with three different poker variants and blackjack all on the cart, playable in 1 or 2 player for blackjack and 2 player only for poker, but I don’t like this kind of game at all and don’t want to play enough of this to learn how to play it, so even though I do have a complete copy with its detailed instruction book I don’t know that I will ever play this again. It’s fine, and probably even impressive, for the genre for the time, but I do not know how to play or want to learn poker. Plus, poker here requires two players, so even if I did want to try, I can’t really. While I do know blackjack, and this is a totally acceptible blackjack game, it’s not that much better than similar games on the Atari 2600 or Odyssey 2, and today there are a great many far better ways to play electronic blackjack than here, not that I want to do that almost ever. Overall, for me at least, this has to be one of the weakest and least interesting pack-in games ever to come with a console. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.


Lock ‘n ChaseOne player. Most Intellivision games are exclusive to the console. However, Mattel did get the rights to one companies’ arcade games, Data East, and made several home ports of their games. The good Pac-Man clone Lock ‘n Chase is one of those games, so it is one of the few arcade to Intellivision conversions. Most of the others are also Data East games. In this game you are a thief, trying to steal as much as you can before the police catch you. So, Lock ‘n Chase is like Pac-Man, but with the new component of doors that you can close. At certain choke points in the maze, if you hit a button a door will close off that path for a set amount of time. You’ll need to strategically use this ability to try to get all of the dots in each stage. As usual on the Intellivision, the graphics are low resolution, so everything is near eachother, and keeping away from your enemies is hard. Like the original Pac-Man, the maze is always the same, but unlike that game the difficulty here is steep from the beginning! Indeed, getting far into Lock ‘n Chase will take practice, this game is tough. This is probably a good port of the arcade game, but while it is good enough, this game is no Pac-Man, and isn’t as good as games like K.C. Munchkin or Turtles on Odyssey 2 either. This is a quality game worth playing if you like maze games, but between the high difficulty, mediocre graphics, and sometimes tricky controls for using the locks, I doubt I’ll be playing a huge amount of it. Still, it is a decently good game I guess. Arcade port, also on the Atari 2600. The Atari version has much worse graphics as you would expect, but plays similarly. I like the later Game Boy sequel, also called Lock ‘n Chase, a lot more; that game is pretty good. I covered it in my Game Boy Game Opinion Summaries article.


Loco-MotionOne player. Loco-Motion is a puzzle game with gameplay inspired by sliding tile puzzles. The game screen is simple, a 5 by 5 grid of tiles with various train track layouts on them fills most of the screen, and curving loop pieces go off of the sides of the grid around the edges. You move pieces into the blank space in the grid, so you effectively move a black square around with reversed controls. On this grid, a single train car is always moving around. Your goal on each stage is to get it to go around all of the loops on the edges of the screen, beyond the bounds of the 5×5 grid you have control over. In order to do this, you need to move the tiles around so that the car goes around all of the edges. That’s not all, though, that alone would be far too simple! No, you also have a time limit. If you take too long to go around some loops, they will lock off and send an enemy train at you. This removes the loop from the stage without you getting points for it, while also adding a major obstacle to avoid, another train moving around the stage that you’ll need to keep away from the main one!

Yes, Loco-Motion has a simple concept, but it quickly gets very difficult. This game has a great concept and it’s mostly well executed; Loco-Motion is one of the best games I have for Intellivision. It does have some issues, however. First and foremost, the game is very slow paced. The train you’re leading around moves slowly, and the only speed-adjustment button isn’t very useful. You will spend a lot of time in this game waiting, as you watch the train slowly move along its route. Additionally, those reversed controls take getting used to. I get the idea, instead of moving the black square around you are moving the tiles into or out of it, but the game almost makes more sense if you hold your controller upside down, which is a little weird. I kind of wish they let you choose between regular and reversed control options. Still, despite the very slow gameplay, with challenging puzzles and a unique concept, Loco-Motion is a pretty good game and definitely is a game that any Intellivision owner should get. It’s one of the better Intellivision exclusives, the system does this kind of slower, more strategic game well.


Major League Baseball (1980) – Two Player Simultaneous. Two Players Required.  Major League Baseball is one of the early Intellivision games, and it is a title that Mattel advertised heavily as a part of their campaign to convince people to buy an Intellivision instead of an Atari. Like all baseball games at the time, it is a single-screen game which fits a downsized version of a baseball field onto one screen, and is two player only, there is no AI opponent. Later Intellivision baseball titles would add AI opponents, but this first one, which is by far the most common, doesn’t have one. That’s too bad, because as a result I won’t have many chances to play this game. I like baseball, but don’t have many opportunities for local multiplayer anymore. This is a simple game, but it has more depth than 2600 Baseball for sure. There are actually nine players on screen, for one. You can also switch which player you are controlling with the keypad, which is nice. Additionally, while pitching you can try to pick off runners. When fielding it can be hard to tell where a ball is going to land though, there is no ball shadow or arc, it just moves in a straight line until it stops somewhere, hopefully with your fielder nearby. There is a sound giving you a hint at when it’s stopping, but good luck. When pitching you pretty much can just aim it left or right, so batting isn’t anywhere near as hard as in a newer baseball game. You do have multiple pitches, but still batting isn’t too hard. Overall, I can’t really say much about what I think about this game because I haven’t played it much, but sure, for a 1979 release this is somewhat impressive. Looking back flaws like the absence of fly balls and single player are pretty significant, though. This isn’t a game I’ll play much but I am glad to have it. This game is on the Intellivision Flashback Special Edition unit and in Intellivision Lives! collections.

Part two will be next time, once I finish it.

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