Retrotopia Store | FAQ & Tech Support | Site Index


1983 Mattel Electronics Releases


On these pages:


Technically speaking, several of the titles described on the Game Network pages were also 1983 releases; the games described on these pages are the ones that did not carry a "Network" designation.

Mattel originally stressed the wide variety of games available for Intellivision, but by 1983 it was clear that the market was primarily asking for arcade-type games. Work on educational and strategy games was quietly discontinued or pushed off onto the Entertainment Computer System.

Also, the emphasis of advertising shifted from the system to the individual games themselves. The George Plimpton commercials comparing Intellivision to Atari were replaced by ads for individual games available for multiple systems (in Marketing's term, "for all flavors").

The packaging reflected these two changes. The Intellivision game networks were dropped, as was the "M Network" designation for the Atari 2600 and computer versions. And whereas M Network games had used different artwork and, usually, a different title on their packaging than their Intellivision counterparts, by the end of 1983 nearly identical versions of the packaging were used for the Intellivision, Atari 2600, IBM PC and Apple releases of the games.

The first of the games on this page to actually make it to market was BurgerTime. For the first time, the box didn't use artwork by the illustrator who had done all of the previous Intellivision packages; instead, it featured the artwork from the arcade machine. Subsequent releases used a variety of art styles on their boxes.

Despite the title "1983 Releases," several unreleased games are included on these pages. They are listed here if a Mattel Electronics catalog or press release announced them as a 1983 release or, in the case of unannounced titles, 1983 would have been the most likely year of release.

Games completed but never released are marked UNRELEASED; games canceled before completion are marked UNFINISHED.


Design/Program: Rick Sinatra

Control the sails and rudder to move a small sailboat around a lake.

Rick Sinatra came from the Design & Development Department, where he programmed Geography Challenge for the Keyboard Component, to create this simulation of navigating a small sailboat.

What neither Rick nor anyone in Marketing could agree on, however, was game play. The best Marketing could come up with was for the waters to be shark-infested, making capsizing more interesting. Rick, a proponent of nonviolent video games, was not enthusiastic about that idea.

With no one able to come up with a strong vision for the game, work on Sailing was discontinued. Rick returned to Design & Development where he worked on the Entertainment Computer System (ECS), ultimately programming Melody Blaster for the ECS Music Synthesizer.

Air Strike

Produced by APh Technology Consultants for Mattel Electronics
Play this game on Intellivision Lives! for Windows & Mac!

You're piloting a biplane through enemy territory. Drop bombs on factories and ammunition depots. Engage enemy planes in dogfights to the death!

Due to the popularity (especially with APh and Mattel programmers) of the Biplanes game in the Triple Action cartridge, APh proposed this one-player version. A prototype was shown to Mattel with scrolling mountain terrain and targets that could be bombed. The plane graphics, sound effects and flight control were lifted directly from Biplanes. (Enemy planes, which would have presented an artificial intelligence-programming challenge, were not included in the prototype but promised for the finished game.)

Marketing (not as crazy about Biplanes as the programmers) chose not to release the game and it went unfinished.

FUN FACT: A nice touch is that the second you lose control and smash into the side of a mountain, another biplane flies on-screen, cheerfully circling the crash site, trailing a banner displaying your score.

Hypnotic Lights

Design/Program: Steve Roney
Play this game on Intellivision Lives! for Windows & Mac!

A puzzle game -- move rows and columns of squares to line up matching colors.

While experimenting with Intellivision graphics, someone in the Design & Development department came up with a kaleidoscopic effect using sequenced GRAM. VP of Applications Software Gabriel Baum liked the effect, dubbed Hypnotic Lights, and asked programmer Steve Roney (Space Spartans) to work it into a game.

Steve's reaction was pretty much: yeah, right, what game? Marketing had a suggestion: something sort of kind of like a Rubik's Cube. That's what Steve sort of kind of gave them. But while Steve continued to tinker with it when not working on higher priority games (including B-17 Bomber, Aquarius Utopia and Space Shuttle), Hypnotic Lights was never elevated to "official" status.

Off the Wall

Design: Don Daglow
Program: Michelle Mock, Judy Mason

Delay the evil, green monsters from scaling the walls of your building as long as possible, allowing the maximum number of people inside to escape through the roof hatch to the waiting rescue helicopter.

Don Daglow (Utopia) came up with the idea for this humorous arcade-type game in November 1981. By that time he had been promoted to Director; he had no time to do it himself and all of his programmers were on other projects, so the idea was put on hold.

Midway through 1982, Michelle Mock was hired and assigned to Off the Wall. She was less than enthusiastic; a Dungeons & Dragons addict, she wanted to design a fantasy role-playing game. She spent most of her time working on a proposal with fellow D&D fanatics Dan Bass (Loco-Motion) and Bill Goodrich (Quest) for a Keyboard Component-based series of cassettes that would let you use characters you created in a variety of adventures, each to be sold separately at a store near you. (New ideas for the Keyboard Component were not a high priority at this point so the proposal went nowhere.)

When forced back to work on Off the Wall, she developed an introduction screen that put explanatory text on the pages of an open book -- suspiciously more appropriate for a D&D-type game than for what she had been assigned.

When the Keyboard Component was killed late in 1982 in favor of the Entertainment Computer System (ECS), Don suggested that Off the Wall might make a good ECS game. Michelle balked at the idea; the Keyboard Component had gone nowhere, and she suspected that the ECS would suffer a similar fate. She wanted no part of developing a game for what she felt was a dead-end system.

At that point, Don suggested that Michelle might be happier in a different department; she transferred soon thereafter to Design & Development. Apparently, she wasn't happier; she left Mattel a short time later.

When Judy Mason was hired in November 1982, she briefly picked up Off the Wall, although there really wasn't much to pick up. She was quickly reassigned to King of the Mountain, a design idea Marketing was more enthusiastic about. No further work was done on Off the Wall.

Air Battle

Produced by APh Technology Consultants for Mattel Electronics

CATALOG DESCRIPTION (of M Network Atari 2600 game AIR RAIDERS)
As the pilot of your bomber, your mission is to blast the enemy out of the sky. Zero in on enemy planes, bank right or left, climb and dive. It's a hit! But be sure to keep track of your fuel and ammo, you may have to land to refuel. (One player.)

Air Raiders was the first game of the M Network Atari 2600 cartridges not based on an Intellivision title. It was a good game, so talk started about doing an Intellivision version to be called Air Battle. (Policy at this point was that the Intellivision and M Network versions of a game were to be released under different names.) There was also talk about doing it as an Intellivision III game. Marketing ultimately decided against doing any Intellivision version, apparently fearful that the game was too close to B-17 Bomber and might cut into the sales of the high-priority Intellivoice cartridge.

There is no evidence that any work on an Intellivision version actually began.

Grid Shock

Design/Program/Graphics/Sound Effects: Andy Sells
Play this game on Intellivision Lives! for Windows & Mac!

An arcade game. Carom your shots against the moving wall to fill in the pattern on the back grid.

This original game by Andy Sells looked great; it had a strong 3-D effect as the moving wall swept back and forth across the screen. But while Andy wanted to continue developing the game, management wanted to take advantage of his musical talents. (Shortly before coming to Mattel, his award-winning song "You Love Love [More Than You Love Me]" was recorded by the English group Buck's Fizz. Ask for it by name.)

Andy was continually assigned to work on music and sound effects for other games, including Shark! Shark! and TRON Solar Sailer. He also co-developed the Intellivision sound development tool, Mr. Sound. Whenever he had a chance he returned to Grid Shock, but the game was never elevated to official status.

While the game never made it onto the Intellivision release schedule, it was demonstrated as part of the Intellivision III product line. This was bogus; when the Intellivision III wasn't ready to be shown at the June 1983 Consumer Electronics Show, regular Intellivision screens with particularly nice graphics were passed off as examples of the forthcoming system. Grid Shock was one of these; color packaging was even printed up for it.

After C.E.S., Andy never had a chance to return to the game. His boss, Manager Russ Haft, left Mattel for Atari; Andy was tapped to take his place. A short time later, Andy, too, left for Atari and Grid Shock was abandoned.

Thin Ice

Developed and scheduled to be released by Mattel Electronics, this game was ultimately released by INTV Corp. Credits and production history can be found on the INTV page, here.

Buzz Bombers

Design/Program: Mike Breen
Graphics: Monique Lujan-Bakerink, Peggi Decarli
Sound/Music: Bill Goodrich
Instructions posted here | Overlay posted here
Play this game on Intellivision Lives! for Windows & Mac!

You're out to extinguish an angry swarm of honey bees armed with only a spray can of bee repellent. As the bees buzz ever closer, you hit them with a blast of spray to turn them into pieces of honeycomb. The more honeycombs, the more points you score. Don't get stung.

Marketing was trying to get as many games as possible that were similar to known arcade hits, so when retailers said "Atari has Pac-Man," they could say "We have Lock 'n' Chase," or "Atari has Asteroids," "We have Astrosmash and Space Hawk." Buzz Bombers was put into production as Intellivision's answer to Centipede.

FUN FACT: Marketing had a version of the game prototyped with a RAID can and tried to sell SC Johnson, makers of Raid bug-spray, on a tie-in deal a la Kool-Aid Man . They gave it, according to a memo by Director Don Daglow, a "cool reception."

FUN FACT: The classic tune "Flight of the Bumblebee" is used in the cartridge, but it almost wasn't; the crack Legal Department couldn't track down whether the melody was in the public domain or not. Bill Goodrich (Quest) pointed out that the composer, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, had died in 1908, but Legal still wasn't convinced. Eventually, though, they gave it the green light.

FUN FACT: Buzz Bombers is a one-player game only, a fact that wasn't properly communicated to the Visual Design (packaging) department. Tens of thousands of copies were packed before someone realized the back of the box said "1 or 2 can play." They had to cross it out. Every copy. By hand.

(This was just after Josh Denham "resigned" as President of Mattel Electronics. As part of his resignation deal, he was given an office at Mattel from which he could continue to conduct business [i.e., look for work]. The joke going around was that as another part of the deal, he was in there with a Marks-A-Lot crossing out "1 or 2 can play" on Buzz Bomber boxes.)

Mission X

Based on the Data East arcade game
Program: John Tomlinson
Graphics: Karen Nugent, Mark Buczek
Sound Effects: Andy Sells
Instructions posted here.

You're flying a top secret bombing raid over enemy territory. Your mission: To wipe out the enemy battleships, tanks, artillery guns and bridges that come into view as you sweep over the country. Watch out for enemy flak and gunfire! Touch down and go at it again. Fly during the day, or attempt a dangerous night mission.

An M Network Atari 2600 version was announced but never completed. APh Technology Consultants started a VIC20 version without authorization, but were informed by VP Gabriel Baum that (a) Mattel hadn't decided to do VIC20 releases and (b) if they did, Mission X would not be included.

EASTER EGG: Press 6 on the right hand controller, 9 on the left and hit RESET to bring up programmer John Tomlinson's name on the title screen.



©Intellivision Productions, Inc.