All I Want to Do Is Play My Intellivision Flashback
Screenshot of Crown of Kings (a.k.a. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons)
This is a cautionary tale about an online review that led me astray.
Back in September, my cousin and I were talking about old video games, so on and so on, and I ended up buying all of the games on the Activision and Atari apps, and then adding in the Midway Arcade app since they had Joust. It wasn’t a bad purchase at all — I’ve played them a lot — but most of the games I really missed weren’t offered as part of the in-game purchase.
The games I wanted were on the Intellivision Flashback, but I was nervous to buy it because of a review I read online. It was long and detailed, which is probably why I fixated on it. Though now reading it again after playing with the machine (oh, yes, the machine will enter my house… spoilers!), I can see that if I knew the reviewer personally, I probably would have decided that we purchase gaming machines for very different reasons and what matters to him/her will not be what matters to me. More on what does matter to me in a moment.
So I wrote that GeekDad post, and the head of Intellivision wrote me. We got into a conversation about the apps and the machine, and they offered to send me a console to test out myself. The next day, I got word that it was on its way.
Somewhere along the way, it went from being a “yeah, that would make a fun blog post” to “my childhood is on a plane, flying toward me, and I am tracking it across states.” I got very jittery about it, like I was about to see an old camp friend after a long winter. I sat there with the postal tracking system open on my computer, hitting refresh several times each hour.
I watched videos of other people playing Intellivision games on YouTube, like I was looking at old photo albums, wondering if things would still be the same when my friend got here.
Uh… my machine friend. Like… my Intellivision Flashback friend.
It will surprise exactly zero readers to learn that I cried playing it. The sounds… and the colours… and the click click click of counting my arrows in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (which is now called Crown of Kings) and the song in Snafu… all of it. I felt like I was eight again. I felt like myself again.
Do you know what I mean? That moment when you magically access some deeply buried muscle memory, and it combines with the sounds and sights from your childhood. Suddenly you are eight years old again and sitting on the floor (criss-cross applesauce), the only one awake on a Saturday morning.
But it’s even better now because the twins are in love with it, too, and they want to play with me all the time. All those years when I couldn’t find anyone to play Utopia with me, and now I have two best friends living under my roof who say things like, “Let’s not go to bed. Let’s stay up all night playing video games.” Okay! Let’s do it!
By which I mean I tucked them in and then went back downstairs to play by myself for a few hours. Mama needs to get better at Brickout, let’s just say.
So this is the thing about that review: I don’t see the same things at all. The quality of the video and sound? It looks perfectly good to me. Maybe it’s his/her television, because the games look and sound as I remember them. Granted, I’m not a purist, and I don’t have an old system to do a side-by-side comparison. But everything so far has played as I remember it.
But what my review would say, and I am planning to write a review to counter that one, is that if you want to feel like you felt playing your old Intellivision games, then you should get the Flashback.
It’s sort of like that old Maya Angelou quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I will forget how the games sounded or how the games looked, but I will never forget how the games made me feel, and these games still make me feel that way.
So I’m really grateful that they made this machine and let me try it out. You can peruse the game list on the Intellvision Lives! site as well as get the overlays and old manuals. You can read more about the Flashback system over on GeekDad where I wrote about it a few weeks ago. But moreover, better than a review, you can ask me any questions you have since I’m holding the product and happy to test anything out for anyone else.
And if you don’t have any questions, then at least share your favourite game list so I can see where we match up. Mine: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (Crown of Kings) will always and forever be number one. In no particular order after that: Astrosmash, Space Armada, Horse Racing, Utopia, Snafu, Pitfall, and Brickout. On the Atari, my favourites were Adventure and E.T.