Intellivision vs. ColecoVision Parts I and II: BurgerTime and Gambling

Bill Loguidice's picture

Author and Photography Credit: Bill Loguidice
Editing: Christina Loguidice
Online Layout: Buck Feris
Notes: Portions of this article's text were previously produced by the author for and appeared in various incarnations of his personal Website. All photographs were taken directly of the actual products in the author's private collection. In the instances of screen shots, these are photos from the specific game running on the actual hardware, displayed on a television.
Special Thanks: Matt Barton

Mattel Intellivision vs. Coleco ColecoVision
Part I: BurgerTime (Data East © 1982, Mattel © 1982, Coleco © 1983)
Part II: Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack (Mattel © 1978), Ken Uston Blackjack/Poker (Coleco © 1982)

Original review materials for Intellivision vs. ColecoVision, Parts I and II: BurgerTime and Gambling

Part I
Picture yourself as a chef who for years has beaten the eggs, chopped the pickles, and boiled the hot dogs. Nothing strange there. Now imagine all that food finally getting sick and tired of this kind of treatment and coming after you in an attempt to exact their revenge. This is the strange premise behind Data East's arcade legend, "BurgerTime", which has been a favorite for home system translation since its original arcade release in 1982.

These same eggs, pickles, and hot dogs chase you around a playing field that consists of a series of platforms and ladders typical of the era. You go up and down these ladders in an attempt to drop the pieces of hamburgers (as if a McDonald's "Big Mac" was taken apart) stacked on separate levels.

The loose parts of a particular burger are stacked in such a way that when you drop a bun or other piece down a level, it falls on the one below it. This is accomplished by walking (!) on each piece until the burger has been completed. The level is over when all the burgers have been finished and the next, harder stage begins. If you are caught by any of the food, you lose a life, and your quest to make burgers continues from where you left off until you run out of chefs.

You are given several options for self defense and gaining points besides completing the hamburgers. If a food happens to be walking behind you on a piece of burger that you are walking on (i.e., about to drop to the next platform), it not only falls the one level that the food normally would, but the added weight causes both to drop down additional levels, not only eliminating the enemy food, but making your stacking job easier. In addition, if any food gets caught under a falling piece of burger, it is eliminated as well. You have to hurry though, because it doesn't take long for them to come back.

Your greatest weapon and one that should be used as a last resort, is the pepper. When thrown at the food, it causes them to sneeze and freezes them in place for a short time. Use this weapon wisely though, as you only have a small supply, and the bonus objects, like French fries, that periodically pop up to replenish your supply, are difficult to reach most of the time.

Title screen of Intellivision BurgerTime on televisionThe Intellivision version starts out with a nice animated opening screen, giving a small glimpse of what the gameplay is like (this type of opening screen was typical of Mattel's later creations, dubbed "Super-graphics", like "Bump 'n' Jump", and "The Power of He-Man", which really only took advantage of clever programming techniques). Like most Intellivision games, you have a choice of four levels (1-3 on the keypad and 4 on the disc) and number of players. Once this is decided, another animated sequence of the food getting close to catching the chef is shown. Every time you lose a life, this animated sequence shows the food getting ever closer, until, at the exhaustion of your lives, they catch the chef and 'Game Over' appears.

The theme song and sound effects are enjoyable and true to the original, taking full advantage of the Intellivision's average sound capabilities. While the graphics aren't very detailed, everything is easily identifiable and the colors are pleasant. There are indicators for everything needed, including game level and this session's high score, which are easy to find and uncluttered. The programming is also quite solid, especially considering all the little tricks involved, like the animations and lack of graphics flicker, which is always a bonus in these early games.

Play screen of Intellivision BurgerTime on televisionThere are a few minor complaints, however. One is that you need split-second response time and the disc controllers that Mattel decided to make their standard, are ill-suited to this type of game. Second, while each playfield changes slightly as play advances, you're still stuck with the basic top bun, burger, lettuce, and bottom bun combination-the arcade version has many more varied components.

These points are minor, though, and subject to personal preference (you may not notice any control problems for instance). In no way do they stop this game from being a classic and one of the must-haves that really take advantage of this system. Highly recommended - (4 1/2 out of 5)

The first thing I noticed about the ColecoVision version was that it lacked the little animated sequences that the Intellivision has. There is no real excuse for an omission such as this, except for the fact that designers seem to take different routes to interpreting a game on the hardware they are working on and there's only so much room to place things (especially back then).

While the Intellivision version lacked burger variety, this has cheeseburgers, tomatoes, etc., and makes the game have a slightly longer play life; you'll want to make it to the next level to see what they'll think of next to make the burger from.

The playfield is also smaller and more compact, with a lot of black in the background, making the highly detailed graphics show up better, with plenty of nicely placed indicators. Although the Coleco system has better sound hardware and adds background music, the sound effects are remarkably similar to the Intellivision version, probably more due to good programming on the Mattel side than any deficiency on Coleco's part.

One of the notable Intellivision perks of the later era, as mentioned, was the addition of more incidental animations and screens, which "BurgerTime" incorporated. One of the perks for the Coleco system was the inclusion of a nifty pause feature, which this game mysteriously lacks. In a hectic game of this type, this would have certainly put a little more in favor of this version. Also, for two player games, it would be nice to have each player be able to select their skill levels separately (games like "Subroc" incorporated this nice feature). It feels and acts very much like one of their earlier games, except for the improved graphics.

Play screen of ColecoVision BurgerTime on televisionSpeaking of graphics, you will notice flicker. Because of the high detail of the graphics and the number of moving objects on the screen, the hardware is being taxed, resulting in this annoying circumstance, mostly when the moving objects appear on the same plane. The Coleco coders could have taken a cue from the Mattel programmers and gone for less detail, perhaps, but the call was theirs to make.

While it may sound as if I dislike the Coleco version, this is far from the truth. It's a solid game that in being compared to a version of the game which is a classic on what is technically an inferior system, becomes nothing more than slightly above average. The play mechanics are still there, and it's still loads of fun, but except for the graphics, you really don't get the feeling of it taking advantage of special features like it should. Good (3 out of 5 stars)

Intellivision BurgerTime
Advantages - Solid graphics and sound, nice intermission animation, and a faithful arcade translation.
Disadvantages - Lack of graphic detail and variety, and poor control using the disc.
Overall - Highly Recommended (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

ColecoVision BurgerTime
Advantages - Highly detailed graphics and faithful to the arcade look.
Disadvantages - Lacks the perks (like intermission animation) of other versions and the graphics tend to flicker a lot. Also, the music might actually use too much of the Coleco's excellent sound chip, resulting in occasionally "crowded" in-game sound.
Overall - Good (3 out of 5 stars)

Part II
There have been certain forms of entertainment that have been popular on game systems from the beginning. One of these is gambling, where much of the excitement of the casino is recreated without the threat of losing any real money. In the casinos and videogames alike, card games like blackjack and the various forms of poker usually top the list of favorites.

"Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack" on the Intellivision is definitely what you call old, with a copyright date of 1978, but you would never know it when playing. It remains to this day one of the most fun and full-featured games of its kind on almost any system.

Play screen of Intellivision Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack on televisionThe program handles up to two players at once and contains four different card games: Blackjack, 5-card stud, 7-card stud and 5-card draw. All of these provide every feature you can think of, except Blackjack, which allows you to double-down, but does not let you split a hand when you are dealt pairs. Splitting is not always allowed anyway, so this might not be considered a major fault.

The game centers around an animated dealer who is surprisingly personable and suitably shifty-eyed. While he plays only a decent game, he's still fun to have around because of the various faces he makes (an interesting facial ex pression to watch for is when he gets angry at the players for "calling" too much or not betting enough in a given hand). The graphics are pleasant and suitable, with everything easily identifiable - though the coloring is a bit on the yellow side - and the sound effects are adequate. You have a choice of any game at the end of every hand and your money gets carried over to each game. There is even a dealer's choice (random) button on the keypad overlay if you can't decide which to play next.

The inclusion of a 5-card draw game is an unusual one because most programmers on these early systems shied away from it (probably due to difficulty in incorporating certain features). This is done quite well, even though I wish you were able to take back your discards in case you made a mistake. Once you toss it, it's gone forever; in real life, this option is unnecessary, but here I feel it's needed (this is only a game after all).

If you like cards, this is a must have. It's lots of fun, visually appealing and has plenty of game choice to hold your interest; including the often excluded 5-card draw. Highly Recommended (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

The only ColecoVision casino game, "Ken Uston Blackjack/Poker", is just as solid as the Intellivision game, though not as varied. You are offered only two types of games to play, blackjack and 5-card stud, but it plays them to the hilt.

Up to four can play, but it's difficult to keep your cards hidden from even just one extra player. There is still a lot of multiplayer fun to be had though.

Once play begins you are stuck with what game you chose—there's no carrying your winnings over from poker or blackjack. It's treated as if they're stand-alone games, right down to resetting the system when wanting to play the other.

In blackjack - which does include hand splitting on pairs - gameplay progresses pretty much as you would expect. Extra features include "hints" from Ken Uston, which pretty much means telling you when to split, double-down, take a hit or stand. These are generally easy enough for anyone to figure out on their own, but this gives the game some much needed personality and can act as a decent tutor.

Play screen of ColecoVision Ken Uston Blackjack/Poker on television5-card stud also plays just like you think it would, but unlike the Intellivision version, there is no 'drop' button programmed for a controller button. Instead, the dealer asks you - DROP? - just before every bet. Needless to say, this gets quite annoying and shortens the poker game's play life a lot.

The overall graphics are solid, if unremarkable, and the sounds are quite good, if annoying at times. The animated dealer is well done, but slightly stiff looking, even though he bursts forth with a smile or half-frown when appropriate.

If you don't mind the fact that it only contains the two card games, you'll be pleased that it plays them well and comes fully featured. The four player option is welcome, if clumsy, and the graphics and sound are good. It's not without its problems though, and you might do better with another game on a different system. Good (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Intellivison Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack
Advantages - Four different games to choose from, including 5-card draw. It's also fun to play for many reasons and would be welcome on any early system. An Intellivision classic.
Disadvantages - It's a little too yellow graphics-wise, but this in no way interferes with gameplay. Also, blackjack should include hand splitting and the discard option in 5-card draw shouldn't be so final (though it is in real life).
Overall - Highly Recommended (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

ColecoVision Ken Uston Blackjack/Poker
Advantages - Up to four players at once and plays its games well. The graphics are solid.
Disadvantages - Only has two card games. The poker game is in need of a 'drop' button, instead of the dealer asking you (annoyingly) prior to every bet. The sound, while good, becomes repetitive.
Overall - Good (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

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