Let’s check in with that console that really should have had a longer lifespan, the Intellivision. The main things that caused an early demise for this system are of course the Video Game Crash of 1983 and those god-awful controllers. Things were more powerful under the hood than many people realized, and later games released by INTV in the late 80s reflect this. Had the “bit bragging” of the ’90s console wars been going on during the Intellivision’s heyday, Mattel might have claimed this system to be the first 16 bit system, as the CPU’s registers are 16 bit. By the method most people call it however, The Intellivision is a 10 bit console. Yeah, I’d never heard of a 10 bit instruction set either before or since the Intellivision, but there it is.
I found five racing games for this console. “Turbo“, a port of Sega’s arcade game, does not function properly for me under emulation. No matter what OS or emulator I try, I can’t seem to steer the damn car in that game, so I won’t bother review it. I don’t think I’m missing out on much because it’s been called the worst game made for the Intellivision. There’s also a game called “Moto-Cross” that was published by Mattel. That game won’t even start for me. So on with the games I can play.
Racing Cars (1981)
This game can be found on a 3-in-1 game cartridge called “Triple Action”. I guess the games were so good that Mattel decided to bundle them together to make sure that consumers wouldn’t miss out on a single minute of the super-hot vehicular action. Did I say good? I meant the other one. You know, the not good one.
When you start up the machine with the cartridge loaded, you have to choose the game…
…and then the difficulty. There are two difficulty settings – 1 or 2.
This game can be played by one or two players. There is no setting for this. If player two is present, they can pick up a controller and start racing too. If not, it doesn’t matter to the game. The object is to make it to 100 points. There is a timer at the top center of the screen, so if you’re playing alone you can play this game as a beat-your-time kind of game.
Here we see the results of a crash. The crashed car sprites look like those comedy and tragedy drama masks.
This signifies the very deep and profound meaning and universal truth that this racing game conveys. Are we all not yellow sedans racing among other sedans along the 10 bit highway of life? Is there not a Player 2 that sometimes races along side us, but who sometimes is absent?
Nah, I’m just kidding. There’s no meaning in this game.
This is just about the only time I can ever recall seeing the other cars on the track in any racing game crash into each other. Every other racer I’ve seen has better AI for its cars. This is a little disturbing if I think about it too much.
“Racing Cars” isn’t really an appropriate title for this game. I think “Steady Swerving Sedans” would be better. My god, is this game slow. I think they chose the right graphic for the vehicles in this game, because they’re definitely not built for speed. They’re more like those land boats that were popular in the late 70s.
Yeah… that’s nimble and lithe on these streets I tells ya. The most challenging part of this game is actually dodging the other cars that you’re constantly trying to pass. The computer AI isn’t much to speak of, so the cars move around more or less randomly. Some of them just stay on the same spot vertically while you pass, and some of them swerve from left to right constantly. It’s these fuckers who hit the other cars on the road and cause accidents, and you know who does that in real life. That’s right, drunk drivers. This game could also be called “Drunk Driver Simulator ’81“.
Making it to the finish line isn’t anything special. You can’t see any finish line, the score just rolls over to 100, the cars disappear, the sounds cut out, and the words “Game Over” appear on the screen.
Ah, sweet victory.
I’ll peg the replay value of this game at about 0. Every aspect of this game has been done better somewhere else.
Auto Racing (1979)
One of the release titles, I’d assume. This is another top-down racer, and there are actually two versions of the game. When it was first released, left and right on the control disc (or controller or joystick, whatever you want to call it) would steer the car left or right no matter which way the car was oriented on the screen. I don’t find steering this way in games to be a problem at all. This is how my review copy works, and I played it just fine. Mattel did receive some complaints about the control system, so they changed things up and made it so that whichever way you want to steer the car onscreen, that’s the way you move the control disc.
I’m fine with either method. But I can definitely see how the first method can trip people up. It can be disorienting if you think too much about how you’re moving the joystick right to move left and vice versa depending on how your car is facing. This is one of the pitfalls of top-down racing games, and it’s just another reason why third-person racers are so much better in my opinion.
It’s a shame they couldn’t get that 70s woodgrain look on the screen too.
There are different courses to choose from, and you use the Intellivision’s phone-like controller to
phone home select one.
You can also select different cars to match your skill level. It’s at this point that you can make the game either single or two player. Starting now will be single player, and selecting another car will set things up for Player 2.
I have to admit that since I’m playing this game on an emulator, I really couldn’t test out all of this game’s functionality. I couldn’t start the game in two player mode, so I don’t know exactly how that is handled.
Here is the top down view of the track and your racing car. Check out the shadow under your car! That’s some damn high-res eye candy for 1979, I’ll tell you. This game is unique among all the games I’ve played in that acceleration is automatic. Your car will automatically zoom right to its top speed. The action buttons will apply the brake, which you will need when you turn around those corners.
You can see why the Intellivision impressed people compared to the Atari 2600. Check out the slightly less blocky appearance of that car!
The sounds in this game are pretty damn good, all things considered. There’s even a simulated screeching tire sound when you hit the brakes.
Taking one of those hairpin turns.
Didn’t I pass that exact same building on another part of this course?
Ultimately, this game isn’t much more fun than the average top-down racer. The control is rather interesting, and I bet the enjoyment level would increase in two player mode. I made a few laps in this game and didn’t see an end to it, so I decided to crash into some bushes. I think you get to do this as many times as you want though, like so many other racing games from this era.
“Auto Racing” is way more fun than “Racing Cars”. I can sort of see how the latter was only released to fill space on a 3-in-1 cartridge. This game can stand on its own, even if it is ultimately forgettable in the long run.
Bump ‘n’ Jump (1983)
You have to play this game! Oh dear god, the sheer levels of fun, joy, exuberance, and fun!
This is a classic, and an all-time favourite to many. So you might have actually played some version of “Bump ‘n’ Jump” before. The arcade original spawned versions for the Atari 2600, the Intellivision, the ColecoVision, the Commodore 64 and the NES. I’m willing to bet that there were other versions and knock-offs for other systems out there too.
You get to see that familiar Intellivision font, of course.
And then you’re off racing in a top-down view. Your car is the red one with the little checkered pattern on the hood. All of the other cars in the race are up to no good, and they’re constantly trying to bump into you. They want to send you careening into the sides of the tracks or into other obstacles that will make you crash. You only get five cars, so you must avoid crashing.
Note the number at the top right of the screen. That is your speed. Once you get above 100mph, you can jump. Pressing the button makes your car jump. Don’t ask me what kind of mechanical contrivance makes a racing car jump about 30 feet high into the air and land safely and continue driving at top speed on the road.
Bumping into other vehicles will send them away from you, but be careful, because some of them are a lot heavier than your car. If you bump into a heavier vehicle, it will be your car that goes for an uncontrolled slide somewhere on that road. If you are close enough to the sides of the road though, and you can bump another car into the sides, you will smash that car up and get points for it.
And speaking of this road, who the hell decided to have dozens of vehicles race along a broken road anyway?! The road suddenly ends… a lot. You will need to jump over water frequently, and there are places where the road constricts as well. These are spots where you will need to use your jump too. That black rounded square near the top center of the screen has a flashing exclamation mark. It appears along with a beeping sound to alert you to an upcoming hazard that must be jumped.
The jumping animation looks great too. It really looks like your car is leaping into the air, front first up, and front first down. It’s probably one of the nicest graphical displays I’ve seen in a game on the Intellivision.
You can also land onto cars to smash them. That’s how I got those sweet 300 points.
Some of the vehicles are trucks that will dump garbage in your path. This doesn’t happen in level one, but it’s something that needs to be avoided too after that.
You’re best strategy with the tanks is to stay away from them… unless you can land on them coming out of a jump.
Here comes another jump, unless I can get over to the left in time…
…missed the jump.
Here I came out of the jump on a very narrow bridge on the water. The end of the bridge doesn’t leave much room to go right, and I didn’t jump in time.
Another jump ahead… which is good because I’m stuck between a very aggressive pirate car and a tank.
I miscalculated my landing and ended up in the water.
Here I wasn’t careful and got bumped into the side.
And here I missed the jump again… and that was my last car.
And I’m going to play this game again right now!
Okay, I played it some more and realized I forgot to mention some stuff. The first thing I forgot to mention is that you race through the changing seasons.
You also get a summary of how you did after each level.
Level 1 is Winter in this version, and it’s pretty straightforward.
Spring has some green and some more colour on the sides just off the track.
And you can also see that garbage being dumped on the road by those damn blue trucks. You can see the tank rolling over it now. The opposing cars aren’t affected by it, but you crash and burn if you hit it, so watch out.
Another level down. I know that there are 32 levels in the Commodore 64 version. I wonder if the Intellivision version has that many too. At four levels per year, that would be eight solid years of demolition racing. That’s quite a career.
Summer is more lusciously green.
With green upon green. I guess the red flowers have given way to green ones or something. This is still a pretty cool feature, and keeps things interesting considering the limited graphics hardware.
Each level gets a little harder than the last.
Some of the obstacles here don’t get the exclamation mark warning. You really need to pay attention, and you need to play through the levels more than once to know when you have to avoid hitting cars at all costs. You see, when cars bump you backward, they decrease your speed. If your speed is decreased below 100mph, you can’t jump. There are places – like in the above level – where you need to make consecutive jumps. And if cars are bumping into you, decreasing your speed… you won’t make it.
Now that’s the mark of a good game. Such simple elements that blend together so well as to produce an experience with depth that requires practice and a little strategy.
Of all the versions of “Bump ‘n’ Jump” I’ve played, I like this one the best. I can’t comment on the arcade version because I’ve never played it. I’ve played the Commodore 64 version way more because I had it when I was a kid. The graphics are a little better, but it has a different look and feel. It’s called “Burnin’ Rubber” for some reason, by the way. The ColecoVision version is a joke. The Nintendo version is just bad. The Atari 2600 version is a noble effort, but it can’t possibly come close to this one.
I don’t just recommend this game, I fucking order you to get this. If you’ve got an Intellivision console, then hunt down this cartridge ASAP. Or try an emulator, like the awesome Nostalgia. I guarantee that within seconds of playing this game, you will have a big dopey grin on your face, and you will be engrossed in the wicked fun demolition race on your screen. And isn’t that what racing video games are all about?