The intellivision was an excellent early console system with some very good games that are still very playable today; games like Night Stalker, Shark Shark, Tron Deadly Discs, Astrosmash, Hockey, Lock’n'Chase come to mind; these games are the best versions on any consoles and “unique” titles/adaptions. The Intellivision also suffered from a large glut of truly appauling titles too which contributed to the video game crash in ’83, with so many bad games being produced on this system and the Atari 2600 especially. Let’s forget and forgive though, as mentioned, there are some outstanding titles on this console that stood the test of time.
The controller was very bad even in its day, the whole controller used acetate sheets for the contacts, and membrane keypad. The d-pad was innovative, especially as it moved in 16 directions, however after some use, the printed conductive material on the acetates wore out a bit and it was often hard to get the controller to repond to the directions you pressed for your character; also, it was a bit “hit and miss” with the d-pad, not just because of 16 directions but also the material getting worn from use on the acetate too. Even in the day when we knew no better, it wasn’t an easy controller to use, the membrane pads needed some pressing (especially the shoulder buttons) and was awkward to use.
I have spent many hours working out the matrix on the controller and built a replacement keypad with tactile switches as below; and a smaller section for 4 way D-pad and the shoulder buttons (one for top shoulder buttons and one for bottom ones). The reality of the 4 directions in real gameplay terms is that any games used 4 direction play anyway (eg maze games), and the games that used multiple angles for the d-pad (eg Tron Deadly Discs) are perfectly fine with 4 directions, you quickly get used to it. Also, if the contacts were made into a proper d-pad, and the keypad used as is, and the result re-housed, you would have a far better controller replacement for the original console, and still use the original overlays!
I’m going to add further modding sections to this, including running off battery power, etc, for the moment however:
(only two shoulder button tacts in pic, there are four since pic taken)!
Here’s a video showing how to get proper diagonals on the Intellivision pad:
Very useful Intellivision links
Sites with overlays for the controller and also instruction manual scans