Jeremy's Reviews Blog

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Atari Anthology (Draft)

Atari Anthology

The Atari 2600 was my 2nd video gaming system. My first was a pong machine, which had a couple other games built into it. But I really wanted an Atari, and threw temper-tantrums until my grandmother gave me the money to buy a 2600.

Anyway, fast forward 25 years or so. Yikes.

A lot of the old retro-game packs are somewhat poorly done. You only get a handful of games (like the Namco museums) or the emulation is poorly done or

Loading time is almost non-existant. Right away, you're presented with a fairly slick looking "galaxy" of stars, each of which is an Atari game.

There are 18 Arcade games. All of them can be played with the cabinet view on or off, and many have the option to be played with background art on or off. Off will be the choice in most cases, unless you have a really big TV. Controls can be tweaked for most games, and you can often pick the number of lives and difficulty level.

Some of these are my all time favorites. Red Baron. Battlezone. Space Duel (really). Lunar Lander

Red Baron is a very early 3D Flight Simulator with 3D wireframe graphics. It's fairly easy, but still pretty fun.

Battlezone is awfully hard. I keep dying. There's an option here to "Enhance" colors, which greatly improves things.

Lunar Lander - I used to play this game a lot. Still pretty fun, but I'm not entirely sure how to play it on the higher settings. There's no instruction manual or blow up of the sides of the case, so I can't read what the higher difficulty settings are.

Warlords - I was a big fan of the 2600 version, but the arcade game is very hard and very short. I could almost never get past the first stage in the arcade, and I still can't.

Asteroids and Asteroids Deluxe are fun, if not terribly deep. Space Duel is a somewhat deeper Asteroids, there's a variety of things to shoot and some variation on your ship choice.

Tempest is well, Tempest. Good game. There's also the choice of "Tempest Tubes", which is apparently an additional set of maps to play on.

Centipede/Milipede - Basically a standard shooter. I really hate this game(s), but for some reason, still used to play it in the arcade. But man, I still hate them.

Some of the games I had never played before. Some are pretty bad (like Black Widow, which seems to be an Robotron clone with spiders), but one, Liberator, is like a reverse Missile Command. It sort of plays like Missile Command, except you are attacking planets. Lots of fun, and surprisingly good graphics.

Gravitar I remember playing at an arcade on a trip to someplace, but frankly, I have no idea how to play it. Very odd game.

Frankly, the Arcade Games alone are probably worth the money.

There are a whopping 67 Atari 2600 games. Many classic carts are missing, because they are based on other people's properties (ET, Raiders of the Lost Ark) or arcade conversions from other companies (Space Invaders). (That is probably why we will never see a commerical Colecovision anthology, as most of its games were licensed arcade ports).

One of the odd things about Atari games is that they often had huge amounts of variations on the cart. They would always put a little chart on the back of the manual so you would know what number is what game/variation. That could have been problematic, since while this has the manuals, they are on the disc. But while flipping through the game number, it gives you a text description of what the game is or how it varies. Very very slick and very nice.

The games are grouped into general categories: Arcade at home (conversions of Atari arcade games), Action, Adventure, Mind Games, Racing, Space Games, Sports. Some games have aged okay, many have aged poorly.

Probably the Arcade at home games have done the best. Warlords is still a lot of fun. So is Asteroids. Video Pinball is also a lot of fun, although it's very easy. I can basically play it until I turn the power off.

The Adventure category consists of Adventure, Haunted House, and the 3 Swordquest games. Frankly, the 3 Swordquest games were bad then, and they are just as awful now. Adventure is still pretty neat. Haunted House is okay, but not great. I remember getting my mom to drive all over town for it when I was a kid, then being very disappointed with it when I actually played it. (I'm 33 and she still kids me about this from time to time). But it's not that bad a game, just didn't live up to the hype.

The mind games sort of hold up well. Not graphically, but checkers is still checkers. And chess is still chess. I can't beat any computer at chess, so the 2600 is a good opponent for me.

The sports games probably fared the worse. It actually doesn't have some of the early 2600 sports games, but "Super" versions, which apparently came out in the late 80s, when I was no longer into the 2600. These could actually almost pass for really really ugly NES games, amazingly enough.

The space games hold up fairly well. It feature Stellar Track, one of my all time favorites. It's essentially a 2600 version of "Star Trek", which was the first computer game I played. Basically you have a star ship and have to hunt down so many enemy ships in so many moves. More a strategy game than anything else.

Also Starship and Star Raiders which have a similar theme, but are action based. Space War was one of the first carts I got as a kid, and I used to have lots of fun just tooling around in the spaceship. Still kinda fun.

There's a decent amount of bonus material. Pretty much the manuals and boxes for every cartridge. Most of the arcade machines get photos and additional material, like flyers. Also some video interviews of Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari.

Probably the only real trouble with this collection are the controls for the paddle games, and the inability to add additional coins to the arcade games.

While you do get a variety of methods for the paddles, they are just hard to do on a Xbox controller. And I think they missed the most obvious method, of somehow using the triggers (which are analog) to emulate it. At any rate, this makes most paddle based games very hard to play. Breakout and Superbreakout, Circus Atari, etc. Warlords does okay, which is the main thing for me.

Some of the arcade games would allow you to continue to pump in quarters and continue to play. Lunar Lander most notably, but some of the others. For the life of me, I cannot figure out if this is possible. I don't think so.

It also apparently doesn't keep high scores if you don't have Xbox Live (and 95% of Xbox owners don't). That's a big downer, too.

Still, whatever problems there are are drowned in sheer quantity of what you get, so it's worth a 10 out of 10. If you even remotely liked old Atari games, this is a must buy.

There are a few games missing, like Midnight Magic and Kangaroo and the original Basketball and the arcade version of Video Pinball. Hopefully enough to warrant a sequel. Hopefully they'll license a few games from other companies, too. And maybe the 5200/7800 versions of games as well.