Last month, Intellivision Entertainment introduced the world to the Intellivision Amico, a new console which aims to revive the family and community aspects of gaming. While Tommy Tallarico, President of Intellivision, says that the system will not be built around nostalgia for the original Intellivision system, that doesn’t mean that they’re neglecting the old classics. In their October press release, Tallarico and company listed a number of classic Intellivision titles which will be re-imagined for the Amico. Fortunately for Intellivision fans everywhere, Night Stalker is one of the titles the Amico will feature. While we don’t know exactly what this new version of the title will look like, we can pay a visit to the original.
Released in 1982, Night Stalker was designed by Steve Montero. It was the only game to feature Montero as lead programmer. Curiously, the game owes one of its most notable features to a twelve-year-old boy, but we’ll come back to that in a bit.
You play as a man trapped in a maze. Enemies like spiders, bats, and robots lurk throughout, threatening your safety. When the game starts, you are located in a bunker set in the middle of the screen. While in the bunker, enemies cannot damage you (until you’ve gained 50,000 points, after which robots can destroy it). A gun appears at a random location in the maze, which you must retrieve to fight off the baddies. Killing enemies gains you points, but your gun only contains six bullets. Use them all, and you have to locate a new gun elsewhere in the maze.
You begin the game with six lives. Only robots can kill you, but the bats and spiders are still a nuisance. Getting bit by a spider temporarily paralyzes your character, as does getting bit by a bat. New spiders spawn from a spider web located in the corner of the screen. Bats re-spawn as well, but only for a time. Once you’ve gained 5,000 points, the bats cease to re-spawn and are replaced by robots. The game only had one level, and game play continued until you ran out of lives. However, earning 10,000 points would earn extra lives.
Another unique aspect of Night Stalker was its soundtrack, or to be more accurate, its lack of soundtrack. Instead of music, the game featured the steady pulse of the player’s heartbeat as he ran through the maze.
So, back to the 12-year-old. How did he change the game? It seems that the Intellivision team allowed the boy to play test the game. He outperformed all of the employees who tested it, and the team realized that the game’s difficulty needed to be increased. Originally, the spiders could drop webs throughout the maze. The webs slowed your character down. This feature was removed, and the Invisible Robot was added. The Invisible Robot is an enemy that appears once you’ve reached 80,000 points. You cannot see it move through the maze, and you are only alerted to its presence and location by the bullets it fires.
Originally a single player game, it will be interesting to see how Tallarico and the folks at Intellivision Entertainment reimagine the game, given that their desire is bring back a more communal style of gaming. However, given the success of Tallarico’s other ventures (like the innovative and popular Video Games Live concerts) it’s sure to be entertaining.