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Intellivision Lives!

Score: 35%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Virtual Play Games
Developer: Intellivision
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Classic/Retro/ Themed/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

Question: What is the most efficient way to destroy your nostalgia? Answer: Relive it.

I have never been so baffled by a game that I don't even know how to articulate my thoughts. Intellivision Lives! is maddening at how much it twists your perception of an era of gaming that many hold dear. With a collection of over 60 Intellivision titles in a single cartridge, this is easily the most comprehensive Intellivision experience you can buy, but that doesn't really say much, does it? Although I am too young to remember a time when Intellivision was a "new" thing, I do recall owning a console when I was younger and I remember being somewhat underwhelmed, but I never remembered it being this bad.

Sure, the crude graphics are primitive by today's standards, but the blocky pixels were always meant to serve as a representation of your imagination, much like a Monopoly board piece. Unfortunately, my imagination grew with me and looking back on on these games 28 years later has not been kind. Basic shapes inhabit even simpler backgrounds with two-frame animations that force an appreciation for the current standards of videogames.

Although, Intellivision Lives!' primitive design isn't just limited to the visuals; the sharp cacophony of "bleeps" and "blips" will make your ears bleed as you try to decipher any sort of message from the raucous. What's worse is that many games were only programmed with a single audio track back then, so the sound effects and the music were occupying the same space so music frequently skips for a split second as a sound effect activates. It is grating and irritating after just a few minutes and it is still amazing how an entire generation of gamers was able to put up with such shoddy standards.


For those that don't recall, or are simply much too young to know what Intellivision was, it was a competing console in the early 1980's along with Atari and Colecovision. Crude graphics are an understatement by today's standards, but that was only because of the limitations of the hardware. Intellivision Lives! is a collection of over 60 games released (and a handful never released) for the system during its heyday compiled onto the Nintendo DS for today's generation of gamers. Before popular franchises blew up in arcades and home consoles, gamers at the time had to play games based on simple concepts like "Space Battle" or "Baseball." You can even play mutliplayer games over Wi-Fi and compete for high scores in classics like "Buzz Bombers" or "Auto Racing."

Suffice it to say, the idea that anyone with a DS would enjoy playing relics of the past is utterly absurd. Before the hate mail is sent off, I am not saying that people with DS can't appreciate where games have come from, but I am asking "why would they want to?" This exact compilation has been released three times before on PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Gamecube. In fact, many of the games listed in the compilation are now available as a part of Microsoft's Game Room on Xbox 360 and PC, and everything else is floating around the internet through various emulation projects.

Let me be fair. Maybe this collection isn't about the games, but rather the nostalgia that is associated with them, in which case, there should be a nice package wrapped around the entire collection. Maybe if the package included historical trivia, developer interviews, retro advertising, or any other piece of history to show the importance of these games, it would be worth it, right? Well, it doesn't do any of that. For every game available, a short summary is offered about the game's concept and a few sentences describing the rules. Regardless of the quality of these games, (some are simply dreadful) they at least deserve respect for paving the way for the future we all enjoy today. Intellivision Lives! is more content to throw a few dozen games in a box and call it a day than to take the time to make fans enjoy reliving their past with an icon of the industry.


Many of the games offered in Intellivision Lives! are arcade titles than revolve around earning high scores, which means difficulty scales up the longer you play. Perhaps the most frustratingly difficult act of defiance in gaming history is playing simple card games or board games. Take "Checkers" for instance; a simple game with simple rules is made nearly unplayable from faulty logic in the game's code. In real life, you can choose to play offensively or defensively during a game of Checkers. If you see a move that isn't in your best interest, you can choose to not take it if you have other options. In "Checkers" for the Intellivision, once a opportunity to take a Checker piece is available, you are not allowed any other move except to take the piece, even if that wasn't your plan. So the scale of these games runs the gamut from understandable easy to frustratingly unplayable.

Game Mechanics:

The hardest part of reviewing retro titles is understanding the context of the original games. In the case of Intellivision Lives!, that saying is doubly true. Not only was the Intellivision competing in an era of gaming history where memory constraints were measured in Kilobits, but it also had an unfortunate proprietary controller. Resembling an ordinary television remote, the corded Intellivision controller utilized a number pad, a silver directional dial, and plastic overlays that would correspond to specific controller inputs for each game.

The results of the brain-bending engineering of the DS controls means that the 9-digit Intellivision number pad is mapped onto the DS touch screen, while the dial controls are affixed to the D-pad. The problem is that not every game uses every button on the number pad, or worse, uses every button on the number pad which causes confusion and irritation as you constantly have to acclimate yourself to yet another broken control scheme. The constant back-and-forth of tapping on the touch screen and mashing the face buttons generally gets you nowhere except a "Game Over" screen.

While it is certainly acceptable for anyone to purchase Intellivision Lives! in order to relive their youth, the trade off for a few dollars is not worth it. Within five minutes, happy memories that you once had will be ruined by the realization that these games were simply bad. There is a reason games are not made like this anymore. While there are certainly a handful of gems in the 60+ collection, the staggering ratio of boring and stale games is unfortunate. Coupled with the reluctance to offer anything compelling to the overall experience, Intellivision Lives! as a collection just seems futile, especially on a system targeted at an increasingly attention deficit generation. As futile as the game may be, it is even more futile to write ten paragraphs on the matter when a simple "Don't bother" works just as well.

-HanChi, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Hanchey

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