Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cover to Cover: Imagic Catalog 1982 (pp. 1-3)

Reader response to this "Cover to Cover" series has been positive, so I've rummaged around in my vintage ephemera to come up with another old catalog we can page through for sheer nostalgia's sake.  It's the 1982 Imagic catalog of cartridges for the Mattel Intellivision and Atari 2600 consoles!

Imagic was a major third-party publisher during the pre-NES videogame era, but unlike its competitor Activision, the company did not survive the mid-80s industry crash; in fact, Activision picked up the rights to the Imagic back catalog and continued to distribute its more popular titles for several years. Imagic also adhered to a high quality standard, and was the first third-party publisher to develop for Mattel's Intellivision console.  Imagic produced a number of memorable big-budget television ads, and utilized a unique style of mixed-media box art, combining photographic elements with paintings -- several examples appear on the cover:

(A historical aside:  The Demon Attack box art, shown at bottom, used a couple of dime-store plastic dinosaurs, spray-painted silver with model airplane wings glued onto their backs, for a striking but inexpensive image.  I know this only because, if memory serves, Electronic Fun with Computers & Games magazine tracked down a couple of the unmodified toys, back in the day.)

As we open the fold-out catalog/brochure to pages 2 and 3, we find ourselves looking at Imagic's Intellivision lineup.  The copy invokes the company's "Created by Experts for Experts" tagline, and promises Superb graphics, sensational sounds, and action that never lets up.  Which, by the standards of the day, Imagic arguably delivered.

Swords & Serpents was a game that the Atari 2600 just could not have handled -- Mattel's 16-bit (yep! ... though memory was still a severe limitation) console had a true background layer and sprites that made this overhead-perspective dungeon crawl feasible.  It even supported a second player, handling a wizard character while player one handled the brave knight.  Of course, there was no save game capability, or password function, so one had to tackle this game's large map in one sitting.  And the dragon appears only at the end of the game, so the screenshot used here (and in most of the advertising) is kind of a major spoiler.

Demon Attack for the Intellivision was an enhanced version of Rob Fulop's legendary Atari 2600 cartridge -- while it was not as colorful, and the enemies seriously lacked variety in comparison, it did establish visually that we are fighting demons... in space!... and added a mothership battle patterned after the one in the arcade game Phoenix.  This might be the first "boss battle" ever seen in a home video game, but don't quote me on that.  Of course, when we've defeated the mothership to "destroy the demons once and for all," we just return to the first level where some new, more difficult demons have just arrived from out of town.

Tomorrow, we'll continue our new journey forward, into the past!

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