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1983 Releases




Based on the Konami arcade game
Program: Daniel Bass
Track layouts: Dan Bass, Mark Buchignani
Graphics: Dan Bass, Joe Ferreira
Music/Sound Effects: Andy Sells
Instructions posted here.

An exciting version of the popular Loco-Motion arcade game. You're the engineer deftly guiding your train through scrambled track. You must put the right tracks together to help the train continue safely on its way to pick up passengers. And, you must avoid the crazy train! Non-stop fun as you race to beat the time schedule.

With Atari having most of the good arcade games sewn up, Mattel had to compete with other video game manufacturers for whatever was left over. Upon seeing the Konami arcade game Loco-Motion (one was moved into the Applications Software department in Summer 1982), the programmers and Marketing felt this was a great game for an Intellivision conversion -- it was fun, unique, and "doable" with our technology.

Marketing shelled out big cash to beat out some other bidders for the rights and Ray Kaestner was chosen to do the conversion. Ray was set to take two weeks of vacation in August, so he was scheduled to begin work on Loco-Motion upon his return.

But Dan Bass, who was working on the ECS game Wall Street at the time, became addicted to the Loco-Motion arcade machine and decided he had to do the Intellivision version. Not knowing that Ray had already been picked for the job, Dan set out to get it. In about a week, he secretly put together a demo of the game mechanism, then presented it to management.

Based on the quality of the demo, Dan was pulled off of Wall Street and given the higher-priority Loco-Motion. Ray Kaestner returned from vacation to find that he was off the game. VP Gabriel Baum and Director Don Daglow (Utopia) apologized to Ray and gave him a consolation prize: the job of converting the arcade game BurgerTime.

Everyone was excited about Loco-Motion and Marketing was prepared for a big advertising campaign. Then, just as Loco-Motion was going to ROM manufacturing (a three-month process), Activision released an Intellivision game called Happy Trails.

As far as most people at Konami and Mattel were concerned, Happy Trails was a blatant rip-off of Loco-Motion, actionably so. The programmers and Marketing personnel happily anticipated a lawsuit that would shut Activision down. But no lawsuit was ever filed. Why not?

A Mattel lawyer claimed the problem was that Konami and Mattel couldn't agree on who should file (and pay) for the suit. Mattel felt that since Konami owned the game, Konami should sue. Konami's position, according to the lawyer, was that essentially Mattel was the damaged party (Konami got a huge guaranteed royalty whether the game sold or not); it was Mattel's responsibility to sue.

So no one sued, and Activision got credit for their "originality" in the overwhelmingly good reviews Happy Trails received. Marketing dropped plans for the big push on Loco-Motion, and got rid of the large number of ROMs that had been ordered by discount pricing the cartridge.

An M Network Atari 2600 version was in development but never released.

Thunder Castle

Developed and scheduled to be released by Mattel Electronics, this game was ultimately released by INTV Corporation. Credits and production history can be found on the INTV page, here.

Adventures of TRON

Produced by APh Technology Consultants for Mattel Electronics
Based on the movie TRON by Walt Disney Productions

CATALOG DESCRIPTION (for the M Network Atari 2600 version)
Outwit a complex master control program that sends out recognizers, grid bugs and cannon firing tanks in an attempt to destroy you! It'll take strategy, quick reflexes and a cool head to survive. Based on the movie TRON by Walt Disney Productions. (One player.)

APh did this conversion of their original M Network Atari 2600 game without the prior knowledge of Mattel management. Mattel paid for it ($27,000) but ultimately chose not to release it because of the weak performance of the movie TRON.

FUN FACT: The graphics for the game itself are rather pedestrian, being a faithful copy of the Atari 2600 version, but the title screen is terrific. Using routines developed for the Intellivision III Exec, the screen has a background of cycling colored bands that radiate from the center at hypnotically high-speed.


Based on the Data East arcade game
Program: Ray Kaestner
Graphics: Karen Nugent
Music/Sound Effects: Bill Goodrich
Instructions posted here.

As the burger chef, you're out to build delicious hamburgers. As you run through the colorful maze assembling the ingredients, nothing can stop you. Except menacing hot dogs and pickles that are out to ruin the meal! Bury them under beef patties, lettuce and buns. Or, knock them out with pepper. Build four burgers and you're on to the next level.

Returning from vacation in August 1982 thinking he was going to start the Loco-Motion conversion, Ray Kaestner discovered he was going to do the BurgerTime conversion, instead. Scheduled to get married in December, Ray was determined to finish the job within three months so he wouldn't have to worry about deadlines and debugging during wedding preparations.

Three months was a tight schedule; Ray did it in two, a record for an Intellivision game in the Hawthorne office. The extra month gave him a chance to tinker with the timing of the game to get it just the way he wanted. (He didn't escape the game on his wedding day, though -- the groomsmen were playing it while waiting for the ceremony to begin.)

Data East did not have wide distribution for their arcade games, which had hurt when the Intellivision version of Lock 'N' Chase came out -- the name wasn't exactly a household word. But BurgerTime was so good that arcade giant Bally Midway licensed it and got the game into every arcade in America. Mattel had lucked out; it finally had the license to a hit game.

Marketing ordered BurgerTime ported to every system possible (to "all flavors"). M Network Atari 2600, IBM PC and handheld versions were released. Apple and Aquarius versions were also developed. A Commodore translation was ordered but never started. A Colecovision version, done at the Mattel Electronics French programming division, was eventually purchased and released by Coleco. (A later version for the original Nintendo system was unrelated to Mattel Electronics.)

BurgerTime was the first Intellivision cartridge not released as part of a game "network," although the box color, burgundy, matching that of Vectron, indicates that it was originally intended to be part of the Arcade Network. BurgerTime was initially released in the same style boxes of the game networks -- the covers opened like a book. Later copies of BurgerTime were sold in the cheaper, slightly shorter, end-opening boxes used for all subsequent cartridge releases.

The popularity of BurgerTime was such that a sequel, PizzaTime, was ordered by Marketing. (Mattel Electronics was closed before programming could begin.) A different sequel, Diner, was released by INTV Corporation.

FUN FACT: Many people ask why one of the bad guys in BurgerTime is an egg. The arcade game was developed in Japan where many fast-food restaurants give the popular option of adding a fried egg to your burger.

FUN FACT: The television commercial for BurgerTime was the first non-Plimpton ad to focus on one game. In it, two teenagers drive up to a burger stand in which the chef is being chased around the kitchen by giant hot dogs. One of the hot dogs (an actor in a foam-rubber costume with only his red-painted face showing) slams the drive-up window while sneering into the camera "We are CLOSED now!" These prophetic words were repeated many times by the programmers as they packed up their personal belongings a few months later.

FUN FACT: BurgerTime benefited from the demise of the Aquarius Home Computer System. Mattel Electronics had bought considerable television time and magazine space to advertise Aquarius during fall and winter 1983. When the Aquarius was quickly killed by Mattel, the rest of the reserved advertising was switched mostly to commercials for BurgerTime.

Winter Olympics

AKA: XIV Winter Olympics
Design/Program: Chris Markle

Mattel Electronics paid millions of dollars to produce the official videogame of the 1984 Winter Olympics. Chris Markle was assigned to the project. He started sketching up ideas for a toboggan run and ski jump, but Chris left Mattel before any programming began.

This was a case where the ball was definitely dropped. After Chris left, no one else was assigned to the game. With millions of dollars invested, no one seemed to notice or care that no Winter Olympics cartridge was actually being developed.

Well, someone did notice, finally, but by that time it was too late to develop an original game. In its place, a multi-game album cartridge of previously-released Sports Network titles was rushed into production (Go For the Gold), and the lead character in Duncan's Thin Ice was changed to the 1984 Winter Olympic mascot, Voochko the Wolf. Mattel Electronics was closed before either cartridge could be released.

Rocky and Bullwinkle

Characters used under license of P.A.T. Ward, Inc.
Program: Minh Chau Tran
Music/Sound effects: David Warhol

Rocky and Bullwinkle must stop the evil Boris and Natasha from robbing a train full of priceless valuables. While Boris uses "Upsidasium" to float the valuables up to Natasha's waiting helicopter, Rocky must fly around and intercept them. When Rocky catches the valuables, he gives them to Bullwinkle for safe keeping.

Minh Chau Tran (Pinball) did this conversion of the M Network Atari 2600 Rocky and Bullwinkle game in just over a month.

Both versions were killed shortly after the management turnover of July 1983.



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