#47 Utopia

Posted: 19th August 2012 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , ,

172nd played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: Intellivision
Year of Release: 1982
Developer: Mattel
Publisher: Mattel

The Intellivision is one of those consoles that is forgotten, from the ages of Atari, Amiga and ZX Spectrum. Back when everyone was creating consoles, Mattel jumped in as well and created the Intellivision. In a historical context this game was produced the same year of the infamous E.T. game which was a contributing factor to the 1983 video games crash. Makes you wonder what more Mattel could have done in gaming if that hadn’t happened.

I can’t say too much about whetHer it was good or not – not having much experience with it – but it feels telling that there’s only one Intellivision game on the list. While others may fall under the ‘various’ banner, it seems like it has few good exclusives, and looking at the graphics of some ports, I’m not entirely surprised.

To remove this game from our sorting lists and as we felt like trying this apparently underwhelming machine, we decided to give Utopia a try now.

Our Thoughts

Playing this game probably led to the greatest disconnect I’ve ever felt between the games we’re now used to and those of the past. On the first trial run, I started by building a school… thinking it was a windmill. Only after finding a manual online did we get far enough to understand what was going on. Even then it was a bit of a struggle since every now and then your crops would just disappear and we had to dig into that manual again to work out why.

The game gets about as strategic as you’d expect of a game of its time and for a console of limited resources, really, but it has some nice additions. First, it’s worth saying that the game supports multiplayer, and really is just that – the single player ‘mode’ is really just played by ignoring the stuff happening on the second island. In essence this game banked on the fact that you had a mate to play with otherwise the experience is fairly one dimensional. Very few games make that mistake of not having a decent single-player mode. In the end it was probably one of the things that undid Utopia since there is only so long that you will spend trying to one-up yourself.

The basic goal is to develop an island, keep the (invisible) islanders happy to prevent rebels from showing up and (in multiplayer) score better than the other player. You do this by building things that help you grow and defend yourself – factories, forts, hospitals and schools – while also gathering resources, which partially give you gold to build more stuff. The latter is done by harvesting crops and fishing. You also need to avoid and defend against pirates and can use those same ships to destory your opponents fishing boats. There’s a few more interesting aspects to this – crops last longer if they’re in the path of rain and hurricanes can wreck your island.

So it looks pretty crap – part of the items on the map require you to first know what they are – and the sound effects are, sorry, mostly just beeps. It was a nice touch when you heard the rain on the crops as the cloud crossed them, but despite a few nice touches, it takes time to get used to.

When you do, however, you end up with a fun game. Sure, not as deep as any simulations you see these days, while still taking quite a bit of time to figure out what you need to do. An interesting diversion – one of those games that would be brilliant to have on your iPhone for a longer train journey. With variable turns and turn lengths, it works – play as long or as short as you want.

Final Thoughts

Is it a great game? Sorry, not any more if you ask me. It’s no Civilization or SimCity, but these days it’s a neat diversion, which is all you need sometimes. Then again there are plenty of freemium games like CivWorld that scratch this itch… so to brutally honest why bother.

  1. […] we’ve been critical of old games in the past, mostly because they were, well, old, and Utopia is certainly on that list. The thing is… it’s just not good anymore. It’s not […]