Monday, November 28, 2011

Video game of the week: Armor Battle for Intellivision

It seems everywhere you turn nowadays there is a military video game. You get to blow up armies. You get to blow up terrorists. You get to blow up ... heck, most times you get to blow up dark near anything. But in the early days of home video gaming, there were not a lot of options if you wanted to play a military game.

Most games were pretty simplistic back then, at least by today's standards, and military games were no exception. In 1977 Atari came out with the game Combat for its 2600 console, and it proved quite popular, especially since it was one of the first nine cartridges released for the 2600. The game was somewhat fun, but the graphics were plain and block and the colors were boring. Then in 1979 Mattel released Armor Battle for its Intellivision home gaming system.

Armor Battle (Intellivision)Armor Battle has its drawbacks, but it did accomplish one big thing: It had fantastic graphics. Keep in mind I'm talking about 1979 here, so when I say fantastic graphics, I mean for the time period. Actually, I'd say the graphics for Armor Battle were ahead of its time for home systems by at least a year or two.

The graphics for this game actually looked like tanks, and the random backgrounds actually showed trees and buildings and roads. The colors were bright but not painful to the eye, and the sounds did their job.

One big problem right off the start was that Armor Battle was a two-player only game. That's right, you had to have a friend along if you wanted to play. No computer enemies here. For some reason the Intellivision folks thought two-player only games would be a big hit, so many of the console's early games are set up that way. How wrong they were.

As with several of the more complex Intellivision games, it took some getting used to the complicated controls. But once that was figured out, Armor Battle could be tons of fun to play. One of the unique features at the time was you could have your tank drop land mines.

Another great thing was that it took three hits to destroy your tank, so you could be a little daring because you didn't have to worry about getting wasted with that first shot. You could play one round, with your tank taking the mentioned three shots, or you could keep playing a whole game, which ended when either you or your enemy had been hit 50 times. The computer kept track of the scoring, and one game could last for a good long time, a half hour or so. Hey, a half hour of gaming was a long time in 1979.

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