Masters of the Universe (Intellivision) Review

Due to the nature of the brain, it’s practically impossible, at least for me, to determine what my earliest memory is. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it though, and I’ve got it narrowed down to three hazy candidates:

  • grabbing onto the pull chord of the garage door while it was opening (and the subsequent panic of realizing that I couldn’t get down)…
  • picking a large buger (which reminded me of one of the soggy pieces of celery from a Cambell’s soup) and proceeding to paste it on Bones, the family dog…
  • or having my mom angry at me (for unremembered crimes), and not letting me play the Intellivision. So I just sat there, watching my brother suck ass at Masters of the Universe.

I’m no psychologist, but I sort of think this latter memory, with it’s strong overtones of avarice and envy, is what caused me to grow up with an unhealthy drive to acquire and play games. It’s also possible that this trauma planted the seed for my future love of shoot-em-up games. With issues like this weighing heavily on my psyche, it should come as no surprise that playing Masters of the Universe for the first time in 15+ years was a highly emotional experience, almost a spiritual rebirth. What did come as a surprise, was the fact that, despite years of nostalgic veneration, the game is actually still pretty fun and playable. In fact, it’s actually more fun than I remember it being (my mom’s fatwā was short lived, and I played the game a substantial amount as a pup).

As it turns out, I never had a clue how to play it as a kid. I was a huge He-Man fan, and probably 50% of my time with the game was spent on the title screen, listening to the awesome digital rendition of He-Man’s rousing theme song. The other 50% was spent having my Wind Raider get knocked out of the sky by awkwardly-moving fireballs. You’re basically stuck in the dead center of the screen, while these fiery projectiles float toward you at various speeds and angles. Some can be destroyed with a single bullet, but most require several shots. Meanwhile, Skeletor is scurrying around below you, and you can drop bombs on him for bonus points. You can’t shoot while you’ve got a bomb dropping, so the game actually becomes very strategic, since you’re torn between bombing for points and shooting for survival. After a while you learn to discern which of the fireballs are going to pose a threat, and concentrate on harassing old Skullface when there are no man-killers on screen.

Other than the attract mode demo, I never once saw the other half of the gameplay package, which sees you on foot trying to rush Skeletor as he hurls tons of non lethal projectiles at you. Once you get to him, you’re treated to an brief sword fight, after which Skelly makes a B-line off screen. You repeat this epic confrontation three times, with the final of which taking place at Castle Greyskull itself, before finally hopping back on your Wind Raider to start the whole process again.

I really have to wonder what Skeletor was thinking on this one. Usually he comes up with some devious plot, or sends one of his henchmen to do his bidding, but here it’s like he just got frustrated and tried to bum rush Greyskull in a blind rage. You almost feel bad for the guy as you repeatedly bomb him. He’s so vulnerable down there. Why didn’t he at least take a vehicle? He’s got a garage full of awesome rides like the Roton, Bashasaurus, Land Shark, Battlebones, not to mention trusty Panthor. Oh well, I guess we all do some boneheaded things from time to time, and I suppose Skeletor’s motives have always been dubious to begin with.

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~ by Krooze L-Roy on December 19, 2008.

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