An intelligent answer to the 2600

Back in the golden era of gaming of the early 1980's, the video gaming world got rocked by another game machine besides the Atari 2600 Video Computer System. Mattel was and still is (although I don't think they done anything too good lately) a driving force in the toy and handheld game industry. It would seem only natural for them to try the console market like Atari did with their cash cow. Mattel cautiously tested their cartridge based console (the Intellivision of course) in 1979 because the whole video game industry was still pretty young in the day, but the feedback was fairly positive so the system would get a full release in the coming year. Gamers would soon learn back then that they have a choice when it comes to console gaming (because nobody was buying the Odyssey2 at that point).

So what's so special about this so called Intelligent Television anyway? The Mattel Intellivision had the world's first 16-bit CPU console (yes, even long before the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo) with an 800 KHz speed.... thingy. The only thing that the system didn't have was faster speed over the Atari 2600 which is surprising but the graphics were still much sharper and more detailed overall. Since the Intellivision featured far better graphics than the aging Atari 2600 hardware, Mattel wasn't afraid to show off their games compared to head rivals and smack around the competition at the same time. Mattel ran a very aggressive ad campaign to spark the first ever console wars. If anybody remembers Major League Baseball on the Intellivision, then they'll remember how much better it was then Atari's lame Home Run Baseball game and Mattel showed both games in their TV and print ads just to make a point. Because the sport games were so good and a bunch of other titles like Utopia and Shark Shark were getting a lot of good reviews, the Intellivision was able to gain some serious ground. The system became a solid hit for Mattel so it did sell very well for the first few years anyway.

Unfortunately for Mattel the system wasn't bulletproof. The high introduction price of $299.95 US for the Intellivision scared away a lot of people and the Atari 2600 was only somewhere around a mere two hundred bucks. Mattel also didn't quite have the political pull to acquirer the big and popular arcade licenses that everybody knew about. They were not able to get recent arcade hits like Space Invaders, Missile Command, or Ms. Pac Man like Atari did, so they didn't get any major mainstream attention. They did get some of those popular arcade titles like Pac Man and Centipede thanks to some turncoats at Atari soft but by then it was too little too late. I'm also not a particular fan of the awkward and non-removable game controllers which may have a cool 12 key pads but the side action buttons were a little tough to reach and the silver analog disc was horrible for action games. It didn't take long for my hands to cram up here. The problems didn't end there for Intellivision owners because they had to deal with a super bulky keyboard add on that wasn't a very big hit and who could forget (or better yet remember) Mattel's Aquarius Computer add on that was nick named” "Aquarius, a system for the '70s", even though it was released in the 80's.

There was also an sleeker, smaller, and some say sexier Intellivision II out there if anybody remembers it. Part II had a new white design, removable controllers, and better security to prevent unlicensed games from working on the unit like Coleco's super crappy Donkey Kong. Sadly, although the controllers were removable, they were still pretty hard on the hands. Mattel also had an Intellivision III in the works but by 1984 there was little point to release another game machine to a dead market (thanks to Atari and their many disasters). There was even an system called INTV System III game system out there, which was the Intellivision III under a different company. The intellivision was also one of few old game system's to survive the Great Market Crash of 1984 and it continued to sell until all the way to 1991 making it one of the longest running consoles of all time. Take that Sony!

There is also an Intellivision Voice adapter (the Intellivoice) out there that will let you play certain games with improved audio.
The 5 Intellivoice games:
B-17 Bomber
Bomb Squad
Space Spartans
Tron Solar Sailor
World Series Major League Baseball

Common Intellivision games (these games go for next to nothing on eBay): Looking for the Rare Intellivisions games? Look out for these games here: ebay
Armor Battle
Astro Smash
Auto Racing
Las Vegas Poker and Blackjack
Night Stalker
Star Strike
Big League Baseball
Body Slam Super Pro Wrestling
Congo Bongo
Dig Dug
Pac Man
Super Pro Volleyball
of Doom
World Series MLB

Bottomline: The Intellivision makes a good buy for collectors because of the impressive combination of all the vintage arcade titles and a nice selection of rare educational video games as well. Intellivision developers, the Blue Sky Rangers, did such a good job with their titles that they became pretty famous on the Internet. The system may be quite old but again it's still not as ancient as the Atari 2600 and some people may prefer this old school action compared to all the other junk out there. The only weaknesses with the Intellivision is those awkward and non-removable game pad which is hard to get a decent grip on. Also some gamer may not like the games either compared to the 2600 games because they can seem pretty slow as well and add a bad controller to the mix, it is not a good combination. Despite some problems the system still has a lot to offer to gamers of looking for a solid retro fix and it's hard to look stupid with something called the Intellivision, eh?

Mattel Intellivision overall rating: 67/100

Find the Intellivision on eBay here!

Rare scale: 1/10 you may get lucky at a garage sale but it sure isn't rare.