Catalog #1:

ColecoVision Game Cartridges Catalog from 1982

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  • The cover and the back cover. Bonus! Donkey Kong cartridge included. This was the pack-in game for the Colecovision. It was a GREAT translation of the coin op, too, even if it is more common than dirt.

  • With typical hype, the catalog proclaims that "The heart of the technological breakthrought [that is the Colecovision] is the _Colecovision controller_. It provides more precise control of game play than any other system, with the 8 direction joystick for full field movent, the push-button keyboard and 2 indepenent fire/action buttons for exciting interactive game play." Among classic gamers the matter is still up for debate as to which system had exatly the *worst* controllers, but the Coleco standard controller is traditionally a strong contender for the title. It is marked by an awkard nub of a handle, guaranteed to cause hand fatigue and difficult to reach buttons. The featured keypad component was barely ever used in games, normally only to select the number of players and game difficulty. The keypad was important for Coleco because it kept them current with the intellivision, which introduced the numeric keypad. Unlike Coleco however, the Intellivision actually made use of the keypad.

    Coleco also beat microsoft in introducing the concept of 'plug'n'play'. "because of another technological breakthrough--an expansion module interface--a "window on the future" that gives Colecovision unique add-on capability. So as new technology develops, it can be plugged into the system. In other words, we've made *obsolescence obsolete*." Another nice concept (and one which we still hear) which has never been achieved. It does sound nice tho', doesn't it? Just the sort of concept guaranteed to sell a reluctant parent on the system. "Ma, we'll never need to get another one!." Ya right.

    (expansion module #1) Coleco specifically hypes the fact that you can upgrade your system while keeping your old carts. (parents take note.)

    (promised computer expansion) This is the computer later-known-as-ADAM. Coleco did deliver on their promise of a high-powered home computer at a reasonable price. But the system itself was plagued with a variety of problems that would have sunk Coleco if not for their other big hit of the eighties, the Cabbage Patch Kids.

    Donkey Kong earns almost a page to itself here, even though it was the pack in, but it is well-deserved space. Donkey Kong was an arcade phenomenon second only to Pac Man and it was the popularity of this game, and the high quality of the Colecovision port that was responsible more than any other factor for the large quantity of Colecovisions sold. It truly deserves the title, 'first home arcade game worthy of the title.'

  • Donkey Kong, Space Fury, Venture, Side Trak.

    Donkey Kong: Another page for Donkey Kong, this time with screen shot and picture of the arcade machine. Note: for all screen shots listed in this catalog Coleco did *not* use actual screen shots, but mock-ups of some sort. However, for games that were actually released the screenshots are quite close to the actual game, thus avoiding the traditional problem of hyping games with screen shots that dont resemble the actual game at all. Here, the screen shot accurately reflects the one change that coleco made to the original arcade game on this board, they had to chop one level of girders to get the game to fit on a normal TV screen (and widen each level.) In the arcade, Donkey Kong was on the top LEFT of the screen. As we said above, Donkey Kong was the game that *made* Coleco and so even though it is the pack in, it is prominently featured in the catalog. (Packins were normally relegated to the back, squeezed into a half page in catalogs. I mean, why advertise a game that you know that all your customers already had?)

    Space Fury: Coleco had a snowball's chance in hell of liscensing another mega-hit of the time, Asteroids. Why? It was an atari game, so here is Coleco's second-best offering, Space Fury. Space Fury was vector game, like Asteroids and it features similar game play (and a color display.) The coleco version also featured the cool Alien head of the original arcade game ("Ahh, another creature for my entertainment...") Unfortunately, like many other vector -> raster conversions then and since, something is lost in the game play..

    Side Trak: Our first vaporware selection. Side Trak is an arcade game so obscure that I'm not 100% sure what the game play was. From the description and the screen shot, it appears that the game was a cross between Pac-man and the atari game Dodge'em (also an arcade game i believe, called merely 'Dodge'. One thing you should notice as we go through these games is the high number of Pac-man clones on the Coleco, but no Pac-man (it was never released.) Why? The answer is two-fold: First, no $$$ for the liscence. Atari got the namco liscence for pac man and promptly released their disappointing version. Eventually, they did release games for coleco via Atarisolf, such as Defender and Centipede, but the crash hit before Pac Man was completed or released. All of this is a major shame of course because the Coleco was a system that was superbly suited to do Pac-Man style games. (I can think of 3 without trying.) The coleco could display 32 sprites simultaneously(an unheard-of number at the time), but it was crippled when it came to scrolling (all of atari's machines had this built in). So coleco was by-design a system suited to play games that featured single-screen play with a large number of sprites (i.e. Pac Man)

    Venture: A great game that was released. Whether by accident or design this is a game that was good competition for atari's Adventure game. Adventure-style games were in their very infancy at this time, but it was a market that took off (see atari's E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Haunted House, and the Swordquest series, all of which were designed to draw on the popularity of the original Adventure.) Venture was more arcadey than atari-style adventures, emphasizing manual dexterity over careful thinking, but it was a better game than any of the atari releases except the original Adventure.

  • Mouse Trap, Spectar, Rip Cord, Lady Bug.

    Mouse Trap: Pac-Man clone #2. Mouse Trap has several innovations over the original Pac man, including a changing maze and player control of when to use power ups. This game also used overlays and was one of the rare coleco games that actually made use of the keypad in gameplay.

    Spectar: Vaporware #2. Pac-mannish clone #3. Again, this was a rare enough arcade game that I am not acquainted with the mechanics of game play, but it appears clear enough.

    Rip Cord: Another vaporware title that is obscure even in the arcade form. Notice that a majority of Coleco's arcade titles are from Exidy, a smaller player in the field than Atari and Midway, but one with lots of titles just waiting to be ported..

    Lady Bug: This game was released and is one of the most common of the Pac Man clones on Coleco. It also features several advances over the original Pac Man, but my favorite is the cute lady-bug nymph who appears on the arcade machine. You can barely see her here on the marquee of the machine, but she was prominently featured on the cover of the game instructions, although from the screen shot, you can also see that she appears nowhere in the game.

  • Cosmic Avenger, Zaxxon, Carnival, Turbo.

    Cosmic Avenger: This was coleco's offering in another important genre, the side scrolling shooter. The most famous classic example of this type of game was Konami's Scramble. For whatever reason, Coleco couldn't get the Konami liscence (which eventually ended up in Parker Brothers hands who released their other games including Frogger, Super Cobra, and ---) and so coleco customers got Cosmic Avenger by Universal. On paper, and in a static screen shot CA is an awesome game. Fly over hostile territory, shoot flying baddies and drop bombs on ground-based foes. However, the game was severly hampered by the Coleco's lack of built in scrolling and the resulting game play is quite choppy.

    Zaxxon: This was another early Colecovision tour-de-force. This 3/4 view scrolling shooter was a minor hit in the arcade. It was mainly remarkable for the use of real 3-d in gameplay. You *had* to use the altimeter in order to manuever your fighter correctly. (look on the left margin of the screen shot.) The Coleco version managed to capture the arcade game accurately, although there were *some* changes, but it was good enough to make this game the second most common coleco title nowadays. Here, however, the screen shot is not entirely accurate (as much as other released titles are). Perhaps this is an indication that the title had not been finished at the time of the catalog -or- it could be a case of faking a screen shot to give the impression of a better game. It's hard to judge.

    Coleco also released this (and many other games) for other platforms including Atari 2600 and Intellivision. Why mention it here? Well, this is one title that leads many classic gamers to claim that coleco purposely released inferior versions of their games on other platforms, since the INTV and 2600 versions of Zaxxon were both completely aweful and bore *no* resemblance to the original. Some think that Donkey Kong is the definitive coleco stinker, but I beg to differ-- Donkey Kong is at least recognizable as such on other platforms, not so with Zaxxon..

    Carnival: Another released game. A simple target shooting game, possibly comperable to Atari's very early hit, Air-Sea battle. Whatever the interest, it remains one of the most common titles for the Coleco, even if the concept seems dated.

    Turbo: This game was the pack-in with expansion module #2, the driving controller. It is a good conversion of an early-eighties driving hit. What is more remarkable here is, of course, the driving controller (see page 30) which was the first home release of an arcade style controller, including a realistic steering wheel and accelerator pedal. This is Coleco 'bringing home the arcade' at its best.

  • Head to Head Baseball/Football, Skiing, Horse Racing.

    Here we have an example of how Coleco was attempting to market itself against the intellivision. 3 of these games bear a marked resemblance to their intellivision counterparts (baseball, football and horse racing) and 1 of them, skiing, shows a marked improvement over any other game of the time. Intellivision was king of the sports game market in the heyday of classic gaming so its not suprising that the marketing gurus at Coleco felt the need to outdo it. The colecovision keypad is one example of this competition that we have already discussed. Additionally, each of the games is claimed superior to the intellivision original in the blurb. E.g. head to head baseball is supposed to feature fly balls, something missing in the Mattel original.

    Head to Head Baseball , as well as Head to Head Football, was named after Coleco's popular line of handheld games, and never released in a form anything like the one shown. The final title was 'Super Action Baseball', the new name emphasizing the game's use of Coleco's Super Action Controllers which were still far enough in the future to not even be mentioned in this catalog.

    Notice the unnatural resemblance to Mattel's Major league baseball in the screen shot here. The final game featured the first 3d, player's eye view of the game, at least for pitching and batting. Unfortunately, this innovation proved too much for the Coleco's Z80 processor and gameplay suffered from being slow and choppy.

    Skiing was never released. The screen shot promised a game the likes of which had never been seen before, at home or in the arcade--a first person point of view. Its a shame the game was never released, because if it had it probably would have been a major hit for Coleco. It is more likely however, that the game never existed in anywhere near finished form as it is pictured here. I already mentioned how the coleco choked on the 3d perspective of Super Action baseball, and skiing could not have done any better with the same hardware and even more intensive graphics. The picture does beat the tar out of anything released by Atari or Intellivision tho'.

    Horseracing was never released. This catalog entry *was* a deliberate rip off of another intellivsion title, called (suprisingly enough), horse racing. The fake screen shot here features more detailed graphics and larger sprites than the intellivision version. The blurb also promises more options in gameplay, including a stock of different horses and varying track conditions. This game never saw the light of day, and IMO, its no big loss.

  • Ken Uston BlackJack/Poker, Tunnels -n- Trolls, Smurf.

    Ken Uston's Poker and BlackJack: This game was released, but here is the worst example of 'gilding the lily' in the entire catalog. The hi-res graphics of the screen shot are nowhere to be found in the actual product. This is also, i believe, another case of Coleco attempting to 'beat' intellivision at its own game. The pack-in game for intellivision was las vegas blackjack and poker, the first card game that featured an animated dealer. Coleco ups the stakes here (pun intended) by introducing the character of Ken Uston, famous gambler of every sort. The blurb promises that Ken Uston himself will improve your game by offering advice and hints.

    Tunnels -n- Trolls: Another never-released game. This game at least made it to the drawing board because a demo of it emerged for the ADAM computer at some point. Unfortunately, the demo was unplayable. This is probably an even stronger entry into the adventure game category, and from the faked screen shot the game would have held a lot of interest for dungeons and dragons players. The manual promises game play for 1-4 players (how they would have accomplished that with only 2 controller ports is somewhat of a mystery to this writer, but the other claims are impressive enough: a variety of weapons, player classes and monsters.

    Chess Challenger: Pure, unadulterated vaporware. Probably intended competition for the intellivision game. It is likely that since board games translated to video game were poor sellers, that this title was never completed or even started...

    Smurf: Play and Learn: Vaporware. Another Coleco liscencing coup was the Smurfs, cartoon hit of the early eighties. This particular title was never released, although another educational cart, Smurf: Paint and Play was released. And the catalog makes absolutely no mention of the extremely common, Smurf: Rescue in Gargamel's Castle. These last two titles indicate that educational software was seen as a growing component of the video game/home computer market at this time. However, it was not until later than other third party software companies emerged that educational titles began to emerge for the Coleco.

  • Smurf : Rescue in Gargamel's Castle, Mr. Turtle.

    Mr. Turtle: Another educational vaporware title. Not to be confused with the later title, Telly Turtle, which was a simple logo interpreter for the coleoc.

  • Ads featuring the Atari 2600 module and Driving Controller.

    Full page pictures of the hardware expansion items discussed above... Gotta love this quote about the soon-to-be-released computer module, "Featured [in the personal computer module] is an advanced keyboard which offers a wide variety of functions and many varied uses." Sign me up for one, NOW...

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