So much more than gaming…
The Atari Flashback Collection is about so much more than gaming. It represents a simpler time, serving as the perfect reminder of all that has changed in the last 40 years or so. Be it gaming, music, medicine, travel…the list goes on, The ‘Atari Classics’ showcases the progress that the human race has made in all aspects of life. It promotes the humble beginnings of the games industry in an almost museum-like fashion, providing both education and enjoyment in equal measure.
Deciding whether to take on the mammoth task of reviewing arguably one of the most influential gaming collections of all time required some thought. Who is best placed to review them? Is it someone who was living and breathing these classics back when they were fresh and inviting, or an outsider who is young enough to have missed these consoles altogether but old enough to understand why they are so important? Taking on the role of the latter, I sought to see if the Atari Flashback Classics can still offer up some gaming fun for those with no emotional attachment to them.
150 all-time favourites
With my extensive knowledge of Atari consoles extending only as far as Pong, I was overwhelmed with the number of games on offer in this classics collection. ‘150 all-time favourites, rare gems and unique homebrews’ make it on to the list, and each has earned its place on its own merit. Many gaming genres are present here and each can be traced back to the early principles set by games in this offering.
Whilst attempting to objectively review this collection, I chose to look at it from two different perspectives. I began by looking to find the games which I felt had the most replayability in this modern era. My second approach was to connect with the games that have inspired the household names that I myself have since grown up with.
Starting with modern replayability, the following were personal highlights for me:
- RealSports Boxing
I found these simplistic, addictive and fun either with friends or alone. The controls were responsive and the gameplay mechanics made it a joy to play. I could see the similarities between these games and those that I play now, save a few graphical enhancements of course!
Shaping the landscape
When considering the influential games that have helped to shape the landscape for the generations of gamers that followed, it very soon became apparent that there were too many to name drop here. The number of racing games available here is extensive and each has been built on the same foundations: keep the car in the centre of the screen and make everything else on screen the manipulatives. This way, the car looks like it’s moving from side to side when actually it is everything else that is moving around it. It is only when you see something in its simplest form do you gain a better understanding of what is happening in a more complex scenario, and comparing these game mechanics to that of F1 2018 indicate that much the same is occurring there too!
The same could be said for sports, shooters and adventure/puzzle games with the likes of Atari Football, Basketball and Golf representative of all that we use today. The same could be said for the likes of Space Duel and Atari Force Liberator, or Maze Invaders and Major Havoc. Each bared resemblances to the games we access today, and many a new developer could offer a well-placed nod to the games on this classic collection in thanks for the inspiration.
Am I the intended audience?
For all its sheer beauty and content-cramming, there was one aspect of the collection that I felt was lacking: instructions. Of course, the inclusion of the original game manuals for a wide selection of the games is outstanding, however this doesn’t lend itself to pick-up-and-play gaming. I often found myself unsure of what the game entailed or what buttons to use to get things moving. It almost felt like I was not the intended audience of the classic collection and that, if I was, I would already know what to do. This is the only drawback of a rather extensive and thought-provoking Switch release.
All for one and one for all. The Atari collection is something everybody should experience in some capacity, either as one to appreciate what once was, or what is now. Those that grew up with the Atari’s and Commodore’s could spend hours reliving their youth. For those who didn’t, I feel it offers a lot less game time. That being said, the sheer number of games on offer and their relevance to the modern-day greats that we all enjoy now make them accessible to all.