Note to Enthusiasts: Intellivision Homebrew Development is Finally on the Rise

Bill Loguidice's picture

Same Game & Robots from IntelligentvisionFor a system line that sold over three (3) million consoles from 1980 - 1990, Mattel's (later INTV's) Intellivision has been woefully lacking in new homebrew developments compared even to some competing hardware platforms that were around for and sold less. Nevertheless, since the days of 4-TRIS (2000, Joe Zbiciak) and Chad Schell's Intellicart (a now exceedingly rare multi-cart; a version 3 is presently in development and will go by the same branding as the Atari versions: Cuttle Cart), both interest and development in and for the system line has been improving. This new year looks to be among the best yet.

IntellivisionWorld, which I believe is a Website of Italian origin, but with a very usable US clone site, is an excellent resource for those interested in the latest Intellivision news and resources. They host a variety of interesting downloadable documents and information that is particularly valuable to the would-be homebrewer, including releasing two new PDF's yesterday to help ease an interested party into coding for the Intellivision. Also of note on the site is the "Official" Intellivision Rarity & Price Guide, which, while a bit rough in spots, is nevertheless an invaluable, regularly updated PDF with all prior and forthcoming Intellivision games and prototypes, including those in the "exciting new homebrew category".

What is always of interest to the collector or system enthusiast in regards to new homebrew developments is how well new games take advantage of obscure bits of their hardware setups. For systems like the Atari VCS 2600, this might mean supporting the driving controller, which was actually only supported by one game from Atari (Indy 500, with which it was bundled), or supporting the nifty new-ish homebrew high score saver/speech synthesizer add-on combo. On the Intellivision, this of course means supporting the Intellivoice, and, to a lesser degree, the extra features of the Enhanced Computer System (ECS) add-on (specifically the extra memory and three extra sound channels). According to their system guide, amazing ports of Amiga classics Defender of the Crown and Rick Dangerous, as well as a greatly enhanced version of "Moon Patrol" called Space Patrol are set to be released at some point. While Intellivision homebrew development has to this point not really reached the level of top or even mid-tier "in its prime" programming levels (NOTE: I believe the gauge of maturity of a homebrew scene is meeting or exceeding those original quality levels), these games certainly look to change that, with some even supporting those all-important add-ons as an option.

Finally, we come to Intelligentvision Games, which is one of the few active publishers of Intellivision homebrews, currently holding the rights to four games, with only a few still left in stock. I know I ordered Same Game & Robots, which, while a bit uninspired and technically lacking, nevertheless intrigued me for its strong support of the Intellivoice, on top of its nifty box, manual and overlays, the latter being something that was actually minimally (and cheaply when) produced for games in the Intellivision's post Mattel Electronics years (roughly 1985 - 1990).

Hopefully this will somewhat inspire people to check out the current world of Intellivision (don't forget the superb "Blue Sky Rangers" Website, who are now the Intellivision copyright holders and are responsible for producing several collections for modern systems and some TV game products (they may even release a few unreleased prototypes on cartridge too, so watch for it), as well as tell a wonderful history). I know I had a particularly good time with writing the Intellivision entry in my upcoming and soon-to-be-finished book (co-author Matt Barton). I think it's one of my better re-tellings and my enthusiasm for the brand and technology comes across well.

Let us know your Intellivision impressions, stories and thoughts!