At first glance, Intellivision Lives! seems to be nothing more than an excellent collection of eminently playable classic games for the Intellivision console. However, it also serves as an interesting look back at both the history of the console and its distributor Mattel, and the highly competitive electronic gaming industry in the '80s in general, as well as a personal glimpse into the lives of the people behind Intellivision and its games.
The game's CD itself comes packed with 75 playable Intellivision games, including, with the exception of the Dungeons & Dragons games (since the rights to TSR's role-playing license has since changed hands), every title ever released for the Intellivision and some that weren't.
After installing, you navigate the CD by means of a kitschy set of menus with a decor that comes right out of Disney's infamously unpopular film TRON. Images of randomly placed single-color vector grids floating in black space, along with appropriately cheesy "space age" background music, frame scanned art from the original game boxes, manuals, and catalogs to create an atmosphere that is at once campy and reverent. Every single entry for each game comes complete with instructions and back-of-the-box company descriptions taken verbatim from the original packaging. The manuals contain "fun" and obscure facts about each game's development history.
Included on the CD is a wealth of historical information on the Intellivision: its hardware, its developers, and its corporate arm, Mattel Electronics. There's a brief but fairly comprehensive scroll-through timeline feature on the history of Mattel Electronics; specifically, its beginnings as a handheld-electronic-games manufacturer, its evolution into the distributor of Intellivision in 1980, and the eventual shutdown of the Intellivision project in 1984. Poking around the CD, one can also find the technical specs on each of the Intellivision hardware systems, hardware add-ons like the Intellivoice speech unit, and the musical Intellivision keyboard component, as well as the obligatory video clip of '80s prop comic Gallagher hollering at an Intellivision master unit before smashing it with his trademark oversized mallet. The collection also features a full index of personal profiles of various programmers and Mattel Electronics executives, which come complete with biographical information, anecdotes, photographs, and a handful of movie files. These bios fulfill the superficial task of being a showcase of the more-popular haircuts of the time but serve the deeper purpose of letting the programmers and Mattel employees of yore share their experiences.
Of course, the most pressing issue is the games; specifically, how well they've held up over the years. Since they were all released well over a decade ago, there is nothing in the way of Internet or LAN multiplayer support, and there is no need to worry about whether or not your graphics or sound cards are up to snuff. However, the games themselves, for all their blocky graphics, have aged well and have maintained a certain charm. For the most part, the games are extremely colorful and provide stark color contrasts (the turquoise stick-figure space hunter of Space Hawk shooting grass-green coils from his nebula gun against the simple black backdrop of outer space comes to mind) that have a very clean, if simple, look to them. The sounds, while not exactly ultramodern 3D audio, exhibit the same clean-cut quality as the graphics; they're loud and they're clear. The sounds are always adequate at the very least and are at times utterly astounding. On hearing the rendition of Wagner's Flight of the Valkyries after winning a game of checkers, I was just as amazed as I was over a decade ago when I played it on my own Intellivision and won my very first game against the seemingly invincible CPU.
The CD features 75 different playable games, all of which are completely stable and will work equally well on a low-end PC or a PIII 450. There's a tremendous amount of variety among these games, but as a consequence, some of the more simplistic ones (like those of the Children's Learning Network) will provide little to no substantial incentive to play for long. Fortunately, many of the other games provide excellent entertainment value, including the timeless board games like ABPA Backgammon, the surprisingly deep strategy games like Utopia, and the endless-loop arcade-style games like Astrosmash.
Overall, Intellivision Lives! is a well-balanced package that contains a great deal of history, personality, and a whole lot of classic games. If you have any sort of interest in the classic gaming consoles of the '70s and '80s, it's an excellent value for money and well worth the purchase.