Mattel Intellivision


The Mattel Intellivision. When it came out I really tried to like it, I really did. I mean, what was not to like, 16 bit processor, small multi-capable controllers, a speech module and it was frickin’ Mattel! But, as with life, expectations didn’t live up to reality.

The graphics turned out to be only marginally better then the 2600 (even though the system was much more expensive) and in some cases, worse. The sound was only OK and the highly hyped speech module was rarely used. And those controllers, oh boy. IGN ranked the Intellivision controllers as the 4th worst of all game systems.

On paper, the controllers were a good idea. The controllers were light and easy to hold. The addition of the keypad  and the four side buttons (only three were differentiated)  added a lot more capability. And in theory, the directional disk (a.k.a. joystick) was a good idea, in theory. in reality, not so much.

There were so many things wrong with the directional disk. First, it just felt wrong.  You need to grab onto something and force it into submission when playing computer games. The D-disk felt more like, ‘oh, joysticks are soooo barbaric. Let’s just use our finger to play games, this is so much more civilized.’ Bah.Mongo need joystick.

As for play-ability, the disk would spin as you pressed on it. I’m sure this was by design but it tended to mess with the accuracy as it tended to drift. Example: Say that you were playing a Centipede type game and you wanted to quickly move from left to right, well, as you slide your finger across the disk it tended to spin upward which would have the effect of your player also shifting upward and, possibly, into an oncoming spider.

Another issue with the disk was that it just hurt to use long term. Pressing down on the disk for any length of time tended to make the end of your finger ache, Ouch! Didn’t any of these game system makers ever test their designs for long term use?

Now a word about the keypad. I did like the addition of the keypad. The keypad wasn’t used all that much but when it was used it did add to the game play. I remember playing baseball on the Intellivision and the buttons were assigned to the players in the field. You just had to look down at the overlay and pick the player you wanted to catch the infield fly, nice. Now the bad. This really corresponds to all the game systems with overlays. The overlays tended to wear out quickly. Not too many games and you  had holes in the overlay down to the buttons. This looked bad and impeded functionality.  Also, the overlays tended to got lost, a lot. Which kinda sucked.

About controller reliability; from what I have found, not very high. This was especially and issue with the early Mattel models that didn’t have detachable controllers. The Sears Super Arcade, Tandyvision and the model II did have detachable controllers which helped the issue.

Well, that’s it for this weeks system. Next week I’ll talk about the Colecovision and it’s better than Intellivision but still flawed controllers.