On the one hand, Checkers for the Intellivision looks conformity straight in the eye and says, “You know what? There’s absolutely no reason why I should do what you do. I can do my own thing, pursue my own dreams and follow my own heart, and there’s just nothing wrong with that.”
On the other hand, Checkers for the Intellivision looks sexism straight in the eye and says, “Right on.”
Checkers for the Intellivision brings the fast-paced catch-as-catch-can action of the home game home to your video console. It offers (according to the instruction booklet) five modes of play, though those modes mainly comprise various combinations of “one or two players?” and “high or low difficulty?”. The game board is represented by a swank square that only takes up about one sixth of the screen, filling the rest of your screen with this yellow color that makes you feel like you’re playing in a field of dead sunflowers.
The checkers themselves deviate from the norm of the board games, choosing a stylish blue/white motif instead of the typical red/black. No doubt, this is to show off the stunning array of colors at the disposal of your Intellivision. A little black bar is placed atop your piece if ever you are kinged, as though the game is trying to censor your king’s private parts.
Checkers offers nothing in the way of background music. The only time you’ll hear any sort of tune is if you win the game, when a 16-bit version of what Dan’s Classical Music Page tells me is “Ride of the Valkyries” is played. (Incidentally, if you lose, the game farts at you. I’m not making this up.) Some may find the silence unnerving, but I think it adds drama to the game. Plus, you can always just supply your own soundtrack, which would no doubt be better than anything the Intellivision can handle.
Though, there is a spot of sound playing when the computer is deciding its next move. This spot of sound isn’t necessary at the beginning of the game, when the CPU requires little thinking-time, but it shows up and grows in length as the game progresses and gets more complicated. The best way I can think of to describe this sound is that it reminds me of a Match Game contestant who’s just spun the giant wheel and is hoping to go one-on-one with Betty White. Oh yeah.
This rendition of checkers follows the obnoxious rule of “if you can jump a piece, you will jump a piece” that I’ve never witnessed in any real-life game of checkers, but I suppose might actually exist. There’s no way to turn off this rule, so you’re stuck with it until the end of time.
Checkers for the Intellivision assumes that all of the checker pieces are men. When it’s your turn to go, it says, “SELECT MAN TO MOVE,” indicating that no female could possibly be a checker piece. There are two ways this can be taken:
1) In a Good Way. Women are above being checker pieces; leave that mess to the men.
2) In a Bad Way. How dare the game say that no women could never be a checker piece! How insulting.
As you can see, Checkers for the Intellivision could stir up a great amount of controversy in mixed settings.
As absurd as it sounds, the controls for Checkers are far too complex. There’s one button to select your “MAN,” which is separate from the button to move your “MAN.” There is no reason this has to be. There are only two actions in the game, and they don’t occur at the same time; it’d be much more convenient to just set both of these actions to the same button, so players don’t have to hunt around the Intellivision’s telephone-inspired controller to figure out which button actually does something, instead of producing the generic “YOU SCREWED UP” buzz that most Intellivision games play when you press the wrong button. If you can do it in one button, do it in one button.
If Checkers is too complicated for you, don’t panic! With nearly every move you can ask the computer what move would be the most beneficial. This essentially means that, if you really wanted to, you could take yourself out of the game completely and just have the computer play for you against the computer. I’m surprised Mattel didn’t advertise this as a separate mode.
It’s just occurred to me that I haven’t actually said whether the game is any fun or not. Well, it is. It’s about as fun as Checkers can be, at any rate. The only reason to play this instead of an actual game of Checkers, though, is if you don’t have anyone to play with you in real life…making the two-player mode pretty useless, unless you just don’t own a Checkers board. After unlocking both endings (“Ride of the Valkyries” and *pppppfffffttttt*) you’ll have seen most of what Checkers for the Intellivision has to offer, but that’s no reason to never play again. If you like Checkers, you’ll like this game. That’s about all there is to it.