THE TOTAL RECALL DUD OF THE MONTH
Back before Nintendo was making millions of billions of dollars with their mega popular home consoles like the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) they were only in the software business and in 1981 they had one of the biggest arcade hits of its day. So what is this game you ask? It was a simple little title called Donkey Kong and it was an excellent example of a gaming classic thanks to its challenging adventure aspects, simple yet very likable graphics, and charming sound effects. Donkey Kong was a fairly big hit for this then new video game company called Nintendo and they were ready to take it to the home market. Instead of doing a home console version of the game themselves, Nintendo would license Donkey Kong to popular toy company Coleco. Here is Nintendo's famous Donkey Kong made for the then powerful 16-bit Mattel Intellivision. Unfortunately, what should have been an awesome arcade translation would be wrapped in controversy instead.
The story of this odd game takes place in a city filled with dangerous high rise buildings and to make matters worse, some big age named Donkey Kong just stole Mario's beautiful girlfriend Pauline away and escapes up a giant skyscraper. Just like in the old black and white movie King Kong, Donkey Kong climbs up the building to escape from his enemies but unlike King Kong there are no airplanes or policemen to help you out here. Mario must try to rescue the captured girlfriend from the big ape all by himself but that nasty Donkey Kong will do anything he can to stop this angry plumber. The story isn't too inspiring and the Intellivision version doesn't include any of the intermissions from the arcade game but the idea was pretty good for the 1980's anyway.
The objective of Donkey Kong is simple, guide the Mario character up the screen to reach Pauline who is held prisoner at the top. You can then save Pauline by removing the 6 spikes of the second level structure (originally there were 8 in the arcade) and then the game just continues to repeat itself so you can still go for the high score at least. Although that sounds easy enough you have to watch out for the deadly obstacles like barrels and flaming shards that get in his way. All it takes is one hit and you're done for!
Going for that high score is not very fun however when you can't even move Mario that well. Let’s start out by talking about where this game really falls apart. The Intellivision controller disc that Mattel gives you isn't very responsive to being with especially for a intense action game like this but if that wasn't bad enough your 'jump' motion is much slower and more sluggish when compared with the smooth arcade game. Jumping is very important to the game play here and its no fun when you have to struggle to perform 'what should have been' a simple move.
That's not it for arcade changes unfortunately. Donkey Kong himself now looks like a brown blob instead of a menacing ape throwing barrels at you. Mario and Pauline don't fair much better either. Mario looks nothing the original character you know and love plus Pauline is a boring flat shade of the pink or blue and she doesn't even have any animations. The game still has some of basic beeps for sound effects but the fun little background music is now gone too. If you are expecting an arcade perfect translation here then you are in for a big disappointment.
Donkey Kong for the Mattel Intellivision is easily the worse conversion of this arcade classic that I ever played. If you think about it, the 16-bit Intellivision should have been able to this type of game no problem, but let's not kid ourselves here; it was clear that Coleco wasn't even trying. Coleco would soon release their own video game console (the Colecovision) in 1982 to compete head to head with the Atari 2600 and the Intellivision so guess what game they would launch with their personal system: Donkey Kong of course! What better way to sell your system then to have the superior version currently available, uh? Was this Intellivision game created to be intentionally inferior, that's hard to say? Maybe the programmer didn't know how to fully use the Intellivision technology or maybe the game had to be released by a certain deadline but any way you look at it, its clear that this title was so poorly done that it shouldn't have been released like this in the first place. Donkey Kong for the Intellivision looks horrible, it sounds awful, the game is a pain in the neck to control, and most importantly it isn't very fun to play. "I never thought I would ever say that about the legendary Donkey Kong!"