In 1980, Mattel Electronics leapt headfirst into the burgeoning world of console gaming with its first console, the Intellivision. Big, bulky, and covered with gold tone and wood-grain accents, it was a picture of everything that symbolized the '80s. Touting better graphics and sound than the Atari 2600, Mattel fought tooth and nail against its biggest competitor until the market fell apart in 1984. Now, more than 20 years later, Crave has combined the best that the Intellivision had to offer into one package for those gamers with a retro itch to scratch.
Featuring more than 60 games that run the gamut from shooters, like Astrosmash, to sports and card games, chances are that if you remember playing a certain Intellivision game, it's probably included on this disc. From the simplicity of Frog Bog to the synthesized speech of B-17 Bomber to the intensity of Night Stalker, the best this console had to offer is available at your fingertips, in addition to a number of unreleased games that have never been played by the public. Furthermore, great lengths were taken to provide interesting details about each and every game, right on down to production notes on the game's development, original artwork, and in some cases, unlockable television commercials. In short, if you were a diehard fan of the Intellivision, you'll definitely find plenty to enjoy here.
In many ways, Intellivision Lives! bears more than a striking resemblance to a similar compilation for the PlayStation 2, Activision Anthology. Intellivision Lives! not only sports a soundtrack that plays in the background, but also features a number of different video modes that serve more to complicate gameplay than anything else. While Activision's offering featured a fully licensed soundtrack of hits from the 1980s, this game features a batch of corny songs about the Intellivision that are made to sound like they were from the '80s. Activision Anthology's menu system resembled the bedroom of a teenager during the '80s, whereas Intellivision Lives! puts you in the middle of a pizza parlor. The similarities are more than obvious, but they do a terrific job of creating a mood. Interesting additions to the disc include interviews with the original developers of many of the games who share their experiences while programming games for the Intellivision.
Similarities to another product aside, this Intellivision compilation accurately re-creates the experience of playing older games. Graphics and sound have been reproduced faithfully--and these are arguably the most important aspects of successfully re-creating the experiences of older games. The one area where the game has some trouble is when it comes to replicating the Intellivision's strange controller. In lieu of a joystick, the Intellivision opted for a circular disc, which represented somewhat of a precursor to the directional pad of today. While other consoles of the period had one or two buttons, the Intellivision had a 12-button keypad. Included in each and every game was a plastic overlay that fit directly on top of the keypad, thus providing a clear indication as to which buttons were used in the game. By and large, most games used one or two buttons, but some of the more complicated games used every single one of them.
In most cases, the games in Intellivision Lives! are simple enough to pick up and play. Issues that involve complicated control schemes can be remedied by pressing the Z and B buttons, or by using the C stick, which brings up a virtual keypad onscreen that is superimposed directly on top of the game. While games that are really only playable with the keypad are few and far between, the process of bringing up the keypad, selecting a button with the directional pad, and then pressing another button is a convoluted process that, thankfully, isn't a necessity for every game. Another notable point that affects many of the sports games and unreleased titles included on the disc is that two controllers are required for play. Without a second controller, you're unable to even start the game. Since the Intellivision came with two controllers that were wired directly to the system, it wasn't an issue on the original hardware. However, if you're looking to play sports games, make sure you've got two controllers.
Silly music and controller headaches aside, Intellivision Lives! does a fine job of compiling a huge number of games into one package and presenting them in an easy-to-pick-up manner. While the Intellivision definitely wasn't as popular as the Atari 2600, those who owned one or played one at a friend's house will definitely enjoy being able to play those games again. If you've played Activision Anthology, you might smirk from the sheer number of similarities the two compilations have in common. Although the collection may be a rip-off in some aspects, any gamer looking to relive the days of when gaming began will definitely enjoy Intellivision Lives!