Sometimes it’s impossible to be objective about an issue. For instance, I was young enough when I saw the Ewok movies, that they are ingrained in my mind as a beloved part of my childhood. It doesn’t matter that the writing and acting are sketchy, or that the ewoks look like sentient shag carpet. I still enjoy the films.
Something similar happens when I discuss He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. I lose all capacity for rational analysis. Growing up, I watched the cartoon, collected the action figures, and had the comic books. I recited the phrase, “By the power of Grayskull…I have the power!” the way some people recite The Lord’s Prayer. Obviously plot holes were no deterrent (for instance, I’ve frequently heard people ask, “Why couldn’t Prince Adam’s friends and family recognize him when he changed into He-Man? All he did was take off his clothes and put on fuzzy underwear!” To which I can only reply, “Believe in magic you muggle.”) So, there’s no way that I can provide an objective analysis of the 1983 Intellivision game Masters of the Universe: The Power of He-Man.
The first He-Man action figure had debuted in 1982, with the animated series debuting in the Fall of 1983. By that time, the toys were already a hit and Intellivision was hard at work creating a video game version. The game was programmed by Rick Koenig, who had worked previously on the game Motocross, and Ray Kaestner, who worked on BurgerTime.
Masters of the Universe: The Power of He-Man consisted of two distinct segments. The first found He-Man inside his Wind Raider. This portion was designed by Koenig. Fireballs flew through the air toward your Wind Raider, requiring you to dodge or shoot them out of the sky. Skeletor ran on the ground beneath you, and you could drop bombs on him as you flew. The screen scrolled from left to right, and the Wind Raider could face forward or backward to fire. Your Wind Raider had a limited amount of fuel. If it ran out or you got hit by a fireball, you lost a life. Lose five lives and the chase was over.
The second segment was designed by Ray Kaestner and found He-Man on foot, running in pursuit of Skeletor. The chase took him from the mountains, into the woods, and finally inside Castle Grayskull. Lightning-balls, power bolts and magic swords all attack as you move across the screen. You could dodge or block them with your shield. The game required you to catch Skeletor three times (once in each setting) and you had a limited amount of time to do it. Take too long, and Skeletor cast a cyclone spell that carried He-Man away. Once you caught him, the two of you would engage in a sword battle, which would end with Skeletor running away.
Once you finished the battle on the ground, He-Man hopped back into the Wind Raider and the whole process started over at the next highest difficulty level. You gained points for a number of accomplishments, such as making it across the screen without raising your shield, shooting down fireballs in the Wind Raider, making Skeletor fall into a crater (by dropping a bomb in front of him), and capturing a magic sword. You also gained points each time you caught Skeletor on foot. Every 100,000 points gained earned He-Man another life.
While the game itself wasn’t exactly groundbreaking, it was notable in that both the Intellivision and Atari versions were the first to feature the names of the design team on the cartridge. A sequel was planned, but was never completed.
So, what’s the final verdict on the game? Was it a great game? Was it even a good game? Like I said, I’m the wrong person to ask. It involves He-Man, which means it earns my seal of approval. The only thing that would have made it better was if the game included Orko…
This always seemed like a clever little game for its time, and I like that they even used the cartoon’s theme music. I’d love to know what the sequel might have brought, had it ever been completed.