I Am in Love With the Intellivision Flashback

Crown of Kings
screenshot from Crown of Kings

A few weeks ago, I wrote about playing old video games on the iPad. What I really wanted was my old Intellivision back, but I mentioned in the post that I was scared to purchase the Intellivision Flashback from Amazon or Toys R Us because I had read that it was hit-or-miss. Intellivision offered to let me try one out rather than wonder if I was passing up exactly what I was searching for.

This is where I eat my words: I was such a damn fool to doubt you, Intellivision Flashback.

First of all, set up couldn’t have been easier. Open the box, plug it in, and you’re ready to play. Admittedly, I don’t have my old Intellivision anymore, so I can’t tell if there are any differences between the old machine and this one (beyond the cartridges), but frankly, any differences that exist aren’t keeping me from accessing why I missed these games. The controllers work as I remember them. The games look and sound as I remember them.

But the important part to me? I feel like my old self as I play them.

There is something not only enjoyable but also a little bit emotional about introducing my kids to my favorite games from childhood. I may have gotten a little choked up when my son beat me in our first game of Utopia. And I can spend hours on Astrosmash, hypnotically breaking apart asteroids.

The machine comes with 60 games pre-loaded. With the exception of Pitfall, which I have on the iPad, every other game I owned is in the machine. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons has been renamed Crown of Kings, and Treasure of Tarmin is called Minotaur. There’s a good balance of sports, adventure, space, and miscellaneous games like horse racing, an old favorite.

The console comes with a few controller overlays. The rest can either be printed out from the site and laminated, or purchased online. But the reality is that I don’t really need them. A smaller version of every overlay is printed in the accompanying booklet, and for most games, I’m able to glance down to see any special buttons and play the game overlay-free. I plan to print them out when I have time, but not having them hasn’t stopped me from playing any of the games.

So that’s the console itself, and all of that is really important, logistical information. But none of the reviews I read got to the heart of why I would love this machine. I feel like I’m eight years old again. I exploded with pride when I got across the map to the Cloudy Mountain in Crown of Kings and called the whole family down to watch the final dragon snuff out my three lives. I’m choosing to focus on the fact that I got across the whole map, and not the final moments of my brave adventurer’s life.

Did I mention that I crossed the whole map? How is that for muscle memory?

I am flooded with memories of playing my siblings at Snafu or Blackjack (that is how I learned how to play cards!) or Baseball. Even though I have zero interest in playing golf in real life, I was so excited to reopen that game and choose my club. I felt my whole body tense playing Space Armada like it did as a kid when the aliens were getting closer and closer to the ground.

And… there are so few times in life when you can “go home,” when you can re-access a time period and feel like you did the first time you encountered the games. That’s how I feel playing the Intellivision Flashback. I feel like I get to go back to my childhood home.

And to make it authentic, I’ve been sitting cross-legged on the floor.

I rarely feel this effusive about a product, but if I was excited a few weeks ago playing retro games on the iPad, it is nothing to how I feel holding an actual controller in my hand.

Thank you, Intellivision, for giving me a chance to eat my words, and for bringing back my childhood.

The nice thing about a blog post vs. an online review is that you can ask someone who is holding the product all of your questions. So ask away. What do you want to know about the Intellivision Flashback?

Melissa Ford writes women's fiction, but she does it while wearing a Superman shirt. A geek to the core, she is also the author of the award-winning site, Stirrup Queens which the Wall Street Journal named one of the top ten motherhood blogs. You can find her in all sorts of places around the web including Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, Google+, and Amazon. She completed her MFA at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She lives outside of Washington, D.C. with her writer husband, Joshua, and their twins.