We were excited about the new disc entitled "A Collection of Classic Games from the Intellivision", released by Activision for the Playstation platform. The emulation was done by Michael Livesay (a classic games programmer in younger days), who has programmed some great emulators in the past (like the Atari 2600 Emulator for Windows released as part of the Activision Action Packs). Having grown up playing Baseball, Football and Auto Racing on the Intellivision system, it was an emulator that excited us.
Unfortunately, this emulator just does not cut it. We wanted to play games like we played the classics - open up the box, pop in the cart, and go - but we could not do that here. The loading times were far too long for this sort of program, and the controllers on the Playstation just are not fit to be use for this emulation. The worst here is Baseball, formerly known as Major League Baseball (I guess all of the licenses Mattel had for the initial releases of these games have long since expired). On the Intellivision, it was a near perfect game of Baseball, despite the quirkiness of thing like a hit to right-field being an out. What made it great was the control of the players - being able to choose which fielder to throw to, hitting the cutoff man, turning the double play, etc. Simply put, none of this can be done reliably with the PSX controller; choosing an outfielder requires one to remember button combinations, and completely lacks the intuitive feel of the original game. I loved this game because it was easy and enjoyable to play; I dislike the emulation because it brings you close enough to remember the great gameplay, but leaves you far enough to be annoyed.
Part of the nostalgia of an emulator is being taken back in time and in feeling that you really are playing the game in all itís original glory. Because the sound engine functions poorly, and the controllers are awkward at best, the Baseball game, one of our favorites on the INTV console, was a total disappointment. While there is an option to bring up an onscreen control pad which looks like the INTV pad, only one player can do so at a time, and it is incredibly clunky. I was also surprised that Activision chose to only release the first versions of the sports games, ignoring the updated INTV Corp. revisions of these games, which gave the Baseball game things like pop-ups and speedbursts, as well as the important ability of giving the user the option to play a one player game. Given all the room on the disc, and the fact that INTV Corp. titles are included here (Hover Force, Super Spike Volleyball and Stadium Mud Buggies), it would appear that the decision not to include these games was intentional, one of many shortcomings of this project.
We tried playing a game of Hockey, and the result was much the same. We were unable to find a way to choose which player we wished to control, and the instruction booklet was less than helpful with the following as the only instructions for Hockey: "Score the most points possible" . . . and you thought the Pong instructions were short! While we suffered through two periods, we ended up with sore thumbs (yep, thatís familiar), and a feeling that Intellivision games were certainly best played on the original console.
There are games that work well here - Astrosmash and Space Armada being the two standouts, but the Intellivision console was known for its sports games, which are simply unplayable with a PSX controller.
One also wonders about how the developers chose what games to include on this disc. Although all games are first party titles, the inclusion of some, such as Checkers and Chess, is questionable, as is the exclusion of others, such as the Dungeons and Dragons games and any of the Intellivoice games, or Tower of Doom.
If you are an Intellivision collector, and must own all things relating to this system, then buy this. If you are simply looking to remember the games, a better bet is Intellivision Lives, a PC/Mac hybrid that includes twice the games as this does, and through the use of a keyboard, does a better, although not good, job of handling the controller emulation.
This is a fine lesson that part of the game is the controller - what would Centipede or Missile Command without a track ball, Kaboom without a paddle, or House of the Dead without a light gun?
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