Overlays

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Mattel Electronics
  Action
  Arcade
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  1983
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INTV Corporation
Imagic
Activision
Coleco
Parker Brothers
Atarisoft
Dextell, Ltd.
Interphase
Sega
Test
Demo
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  2600 Connection
  Blah Blah Woof Woof
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Intellivision, Inc.
Sears
Digiplay
CBS Electronics

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INTV Corporation
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Overlays
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Mattel Electronics
INTV Corporation
Imagic
Activision
Coleco
Dextell, Ltd.
Interphase
Intellivision, Inc.

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When Mattel introduced the Intellivision system to the market, their advertising campaign heavily pushed the more complex and mature nature of the system. After all, it wasn't just a video game console - the Intellivision Master Component was the basis of a Powerful Home Computer System!

As any self-respecting Intellivision fan knows, one of the most distinguishing features of the Intellivision console was its unique hand controller. Despite being reviled by many (inexplicably so, to me), the 12-button numeric keypad offered a much richer input mechanism than a joystick with one fire button. Because many Intellivision games had more complex gameplay needs, and made full use of the keypad, Mattel provided customized game overlays for each game to offer 'context help' to the gamer, as well as augment the experience of each game. For a listing of the known overlay variants (excluding custom overlays) follow this link.

When Imagic and Activision released their first Intellivision games, they kept the practice of producing game overlays. After that, things got dicey. Coleco followed the practices they used on their own system - which was to only make an overlay if it was crucial to gameplay. Thus, only one Coleco game was released with overlays - Mouse Trap. Interphase and Dextell, Ltd. only released two games each, and they included overlays.

By the time other third-party vendors released their games, it seems that the cost of producing the overlays was deemed an undesirable expense, and eschewed by Atarisoft, Parker Brothers and Sega. When INTV Corporation began producing new titles, things were running on a shoestring from the onset, and overlays were a luxury that could not be afforded.

Interestingly, Intellivision, Inc. seemingly continued to produce overlays for the games that were repackaged Mattel product–even going so far as to remove copyright information or redesigning the overlay to reduce costs. INTV Corp. only used or produced overlays for one game that had been finished, but not released, by Mattel–World Championship Baseball.

In the early 2000s, one Intellivision fan stepped up to produce what is now a highly sought after set of overlays–The Orphan Overlays. Psycho Stormtrooper ultimately produced three sets of overlays, the latter two being revisions, updates, and additions to the first set. These were the overlays for all the games that never had any before, and the craftsmanship that went into them is impressive. Psycho Stormtrooper went on to help the Intelligentvision effort in the early days, and his work lives on! If you visit the Intellivision Lives store, you can purchase many of these overlays in the Supplemental Overlay Pack for the Intellivision Flashback. Some overlays from the Orphan Overlay Set are included with the flashback unit itself as well.

In the tables linked to below, you will notice that there are listings for overlay revisions that have never been found, and only rumored to exist. These are are indicated with question marks. The existence of such versions is posited based on the fact that later versions do exist. It may be that some "original" revisions were never actually released to the world, as the revision occurred before any cartridges containing the overlays were shipped. Who knows?