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Intellivision Greatest Hits 20th Anniversary Edition Review
game: Intellivision Greatest Hits 20th Anniversary Edition
four star
posted by: Shawn Rider
publisher: Broderbund
date posted: 09:10 AM Sat Aug 30th, 2003
last revision: 03:16 PM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

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Intellivision was a milestone in game devlopment. The only system to go head to head with the Atari 2600, Intellivision was to Atari what Beta was to VHS, except more popular. The addition of voice technology, and a controller that supported more complex control schemes than we see in many PC games today, combined to make the Intellivision a masterwork of technical achievement. The console sold over 3 million units between 1979 and 1984 (although it takes until 1989 for the system and new games to fully wither away), making it a major player in the heyday of home consoles. The Intellivision met and dealt with Atari\'s 2600, ColecoVision, and, in the end, the NES. And although the system is long gone from store shelves and children\'s playrooms, the games and the story of Intellivision live on.

A famous group of Intellivision developers, the Blue Sky Rangers, obtained the rights to Intellivision\'s games back in the mid-1990s. Since then they\'ve done their best to insure the continuation of Intellivision\'s history. They have set up a great website at IntellivisionLives.com, and they have released several collections of classic Intellivision games. The most recent release is the 20th Anniversary Edition of Intellivision Greatest Hits. This collection is available in two sizes, small and large. The small version comes in a jewel case and sports 10 classic titles. The large version comes in a proper PC game box and features 25 games. We\'re taking a look at the deluxe version here.

Intellivision fans will want to know up front which games are featured in the collection. So here\'s the complete list: Astrosmash, Star Strike, Space Armada, Space Spartans, Night Stalker, Buzz Bombers, Thin Ice, Vectron, SNAFU, Pinball, Shark! Shark!, World Championship Baseball, Super Pro Football, Super Pro Basketball, Stadium Mud Buggies, Super Pro Golf, Las Vegas Poker and Blackjack, Reversi, Backgammon, Thunder Castle, Tower of Doom, Sub Hunt, Hover Force, B-17 Bomber, and Utopia. Of course, these 25 games are bound to contain many but not all of your old faves ? there were some 125 titles released for the Intellivision, so there are plenty more to seek out beyond this collection.

The collection runs on either a Mac or PC, and does not require much in the way of system resources. It is basically constructed out of a Flash-based interface and Intellivision emulator, and it works about the same way as (although generally much better than) other game system emulators you might download such as MAME. The emulated game ROMs are well done and as true as can be to the original game. Everything from graphics to sounds are reproduced faithfully.

Of course, an Intellivision emulator can never be as great as a real Intellivision if only for one reason: The controller. The Intellivision controller was a classic of game controller design. While other companies have copied the Atari joystick and the NES game pad, nobody has duplicated the Intellivision controller. These controllers used a full number pad and a disc-based shuttle, similar to the circular controller on the Apple iPod. Gamers would insert plasticized cards over the numeric keypad in order to see the controls for the game. In this way, each Intellivision game controller card taught you how to play the game (how sweet would that be, in this age of pausing to look at control setups or thumbing through manual pages to locate a diagram?). These controller cards would eventually get torn up pretty good by hours and hours of thumbs pounding on them, but by that time you usually had the controls memorized and it was no problem. But these controllers were incredibly charismatic, and it was this human computer interface that helped endear the Intellivision to so many fans.

Having listed the one real shortcoming of this collection, we can move on to some of the perks. The disc features historical documentation that is wonderful. We get to revisit elements from other classic Intellivision games, such as material from their voice activated games. We also get to see commercials for the games that are generally hilarious to watch. I never get tired of seeing George Plimpton from Masterpiece Theater diss Atari so thoroughly.

Overall, we\'ve got a good bit of gaming history contained in a tidy package. Do you really need Intellivision Greatest Hits? The answer to that question lies in your own soul. Does the Intellivision running man hold the same iconic power, representing the human in the game, the ultimate avatar, as it does for so many gamers? Do you love all things retro and classic? Are you a retro gamer? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then, yeah, you do need this collection. But even if not, you\'ll never really understand gaming until you have played at least these 25 games.