Intellivision Amico is still promising nostalgic blasts from the past with new coats of pixelated paint…but it’s going to be next year before it arrives.
The face of the retro video game market has changed quite a bit. The mid-to-late 1990s saw publishers taking advantage of the fact that home console hardware had finally reached a point where it could faithfully emulate early 1980s arcade games without breaking too much of a sweat, to the early 2000s glut of “updated” classic games (some of which seemed only tangentially connected to the original properties), and then the current glut of replica arcade cabinets both large (i.e. 1UP Arcade’s offerings) and small (Basic Fun’s battery-powered minicades and the even smaller World’s Tiniest Arcades). There have been attempts to haul the classic console experience onto modern hardware, too, but of late there’s been more emphasis on “updating” original brands, with wildly varying results.
Intellivision’s Amico console seems to be the most promising of the current round of attempts to reinvent classic console brands. (The Atari VCS – a console promised for several years but not yet delivered – has yet to even show off gameplay demos or anything more than renders of what the hardware might look like, but continues taking pre-orders and trading on the name of one of classic gaming’s most venerated hardware platforms.)
Intellivision Entertainment’s Tommy Tallarico took to YouTube on August 5th with a new electronic press kit that not only showed off Amico’s hardware and game play, but also provided answers to many a question. The big question – answered up front – was whether or not Amico would land on the announced launch date of October 10th, 2020. The answer, sadly, is: no. Due largely to the COVID-19 outbreak affecting meetings and check-ins with developers, hardware vendors, and other parties essential to getting Amico hardware into production and getting games to a state of readiness. The new launch date pushes the boat out six months to April 15, 2021, with an added promise that “founders” who pre-ordered their Amico consoles may have their machines slightly earlier.
Also announced were the retail partners where the Amico will be available for pre-order closer to its launch date: Gamestop, Amazon, and Walmart.com. (The mention of Walmart’s dot-com presence seemed to be very specific; it doesn’t sound like Amico will be available in Walmart’s brick-and-mortar locations.) Canadian pre-orders will be taken at Electronics Boutique, Best Buy, and Amazon, and European pre-orders will be taken at Amazon as well.
With the Intellivision brand to draw from, it’s hardly a surprise that Amico will be drawing from its predecessor’s software library. Modernized remakes of Astrosmash, Skiing, Shark! Shark!!, Bomb Squad, Night Stalker, and Cloudy Mountain (known in its original Intelllivision incarnation as AD&D Cloudy Mountain) are already well into development; Skiing and Astrosmash will be included as pack-in titles, while Cloudy Mountain will be available at launch. Another game, Battle Tanks, will be a combination of Armor Battle and the tank game that was a part of the original Intellivision Triple Action cartridge. Intellivision Major League Baseball has been announced, but is still in the very early stages of development, with no game play footage shown.
But what about a certain other licensed franchise closely associated with the original Intellivision? Tallarico confirmed that discussions are ongoing with Disney about updating Tron Deadly Discs. (No mention was made of Tron Solar Sailer or Tron Maze-A-Tron.) A partnership with Mattel – whose short-lived electronics division was the birthplace of the original Intellivision – was also announced, with a Hot Wheels title in development. Also in the works are video game versions of the board games Telestrations, Blank Slate, and Incan Gold; a line of licensed Sesame Street games for kids is also in the pipeline.
Tallarico also confirmed that the original versions of the Intellivision games from the late ’70s and early ’80s will eventually be available as downloads in an online store, but probably not until the Amico has been available for a year; the focus when the Amico launches will be on the new games developed specifically for this platform. (With the touchscreen controller echoing the design of the original 1979 Intellivision controllers, at the very least it seems likely that Amico will offer the best control scheme possible for playing original Intellivision games on new hardware.) Those controllers, by the way, each feature a built-in microphone, speaker, and a force feedback rumbler. The microphone is apparently a key element of the new version of Bomb Squad.
Surprisingly, since Atari is still pushing the Atari VCS as a direct competitor to Amico, at least two classic Atari titles are being brought to Amico in much-modernized form, Breakout and Missile Command, the latter featuring multiplayer in both co-op and vs. flavors. A new, modernized version of the arcade classic Moon Patrol will also be ready at launch, complete with the arcade game’s catchy original music (given a little bit of an update here and there). Also getting a comeback exclusive to the Amico will be Earthworm Jim.
Other games of which demo footage was shown included Finnegan Fox (a 2-D platformer), Evel Knievel (a 2-D motorcycle stunt game, including not just Knievel’s motorcycles of choice but also the infamous rocket-powered X-2 Sky Cycle), Space Strike (a game seeming to combine elements of Star Castle, Asteroids, and Warlords), Nitro Derby (a multiplayer racing game along the lines of Super Sprint), Rigid Force Redux Enhanced (an R-Type-style side-shooter), Liar’s Dice, Intellivision Spades, and another one of the pack-in games, Intellivision Cornhole.
The game software itself will range from 300 megabytes to 1 gigabyte in size; Amico’s built-in 32 gigs of storage should be able to hold anywhere from 30 to 50 games without breaking a sweat. (Not enough space? Fear not, there’ll be a microSD expansion slot to allow for additional storage to be added.) Tallarico said that plans for physical media will be revealed in the months ahead.
With other entrants in the current “release a new console under a legacy brand name” race having done little more than release renders, Amico seems to be in the lead. Actual game play footage has been shown, as well as footage of working hardware. (And, full disclosure, I myself have pre-ordered that hardware – a decision made primarily because both hardware and software have been shown to us in an advanced state of development.)
Will Amico, in fact, land on its new target date, and will it earn that connection to the Intellivision name? Stay tuned – but the glimpses of software already in the works seem promising.