Friday 18 November 2022

Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration Review (Switch)

Atari are certainly trying to make an impact with their 50th anniversary celebrations. First, we had the WarioWare like Atari Mania and now they have released this collection of a significant portion of the companies back catalogue spanning the decades.

Right from the off you can tell care and attention has been put into this. There is an absolute ton of materials captured here. Flyers, adverts, videos, specifications, interviews. On and on it goes spanning game after game and decade after decade. It’s handy then that you can view everything in a sort of virtual timeline.

Broken in five sections, you can trace along the history of Atari and play the games that pop up as well as reading all the supporting materials. It helps make the wealth of information manageable to get through while also looking incredibly cool. Of course, if you want to dive straight into the games there’s the option to just have them listed by console.

The list of games and consoles is exhaustive, starting with Arcade games and the 2600, it runs all the way through to the ill-fated and underrated Jaguar and takes in the 5200, 7800, 800 and Lynx along the way. When it comes to the game selection though, despite there being so many titles here, there are still some disappointing omissions. This is most likely due to licensing but even then, away from Star Wars, Aliens and E.T there’s still some games which have appeared recently elsewhere that don’t make the list.

Most of the key arcade games are here so if you know what you are getting from Missile Command, Asteroids and Centipede you won’t be disappointed. The selection of arcade games is extensive and there’s even a completed prototype in Akka Arrh to try out. Many of the console games included are repeated versions of these games through the years so it’s nice to be able to trace them back to the source and see how they have been converted.

The 2600 will be a struggle for a lot of modern gamers to go back to as it’s very basic but you’ll certainly not be wanting for titles. The key games such as Adventure, Sword Quest and the massively impressive Solaris are here but some key prototypes such as Aqua Adventure are not, which is strange as it’s on the Atari Evercade cart. The 5200 fares better, but only has fives games included. Millipede, Missile Command and Super Breakout are games that appear multiple times across the collection but Bounty Bob Strikes Back and Star Raiders are a welcome addition.

The 7800 has seven games included but in terms of iconic non-arcade games the two key ones are here. Ninja Golf, a weird cross between golf and Kung Fu, and Dark Chambers, a sort of gauntlet clone, are both excellent and well worth spending some time with. Again, there’s a strange omission in the protype of Dessert Falcon. Five 800 games round off the numbered Atari machine offerings with a couple of fun platformers and more arcade conversions.

Sadly, the iconic Lynx is the most badly served of the machines on the collection. Much of the back catalogue is owned by a third party which means the systems best games such as Chips Challenge and Blue Lightning are nowhere to be seen. Instead, we get a disappointing five games of which only Scrapyard Dog and the dual cart of Asteroids and Missile Command really stand out. Hopefully something could be sorted out with regards to this in future with some kind of DLC. If not, then get yourself an Evercade and dive into the two carts dedicated to the system on there.

Interestingly, someone has finally got the Jaguar emulator running properly and nine games are included here. Sadly, a lot of the systems best games where licensed FPS’ such as Alien Vs. Predator and Doom so don’t appear here. Fear not though because amid the mediocrity are two excellent games. Missile Command 3D is a great update on the classic formula and will cost you a small fortune to find the original. Tempest 2000 is one of the best games ever and there is an argument to be made that it’s worth buying the collection based on its inclusion alone. The trippy, psychedelic shooter is a work of genius from the mind of Jeff Minter and an update that eclipses the original arcade game in every single way. It’s utterly brilliant and an essential experience for everyone.

Along with the retro goodness there are also six reimagined versions of the games included. These aren’t the recent separate releases but seemingly exclusives to this collection. There’s a 3D version of Haunted House that works quite well and an update to Super Breakout. The long lost fourth game in the Swordquest series is also here along with a four-player tank game and a super neon version of Yars’ Revenge. VCTR-SCTR rounds out the games and is a fun mix of vector graphics-based games such as Tempest, Lunar Lander and Asteroids.

Overall, Atari 50 is a remarkable collection. There are some omissions, but it seems like everything that could be included has been and the fact the extra mile has been walked to get the Jaguar games up and running shows it’s a project that has been taken seriously. The museum content is excellent and the whole things acts as an interactive guide to one of gaming’s most iconic companies. There’s always going to be something missing for someone, but Tempest 2000 is here and that should be enough to make even the most disappointed of gamers happy.

Overall 8/10

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