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Atari TV-Game 10 Classics
By Bones (Ed T. Toton III)
March 26, 2003
(Review unit not supplied; purchased for use)

DESCRIPTION

Many people have fond memories of the old Atari 2600 and the games of that era. The late 70's and early 80's brought about the beginning of the home game-system, the earliest pioneers of the console gaming genre. Previously, video games were played only in video arcades, or with a simple "Pong" machine on your TV at home. There were other game systems available, but the Atari 2600 (originally called the Atari VCS, released in October 1977) was the one that is remembered as launching the console-gaming craze that persists to this day.

Games have changed a lot since then, of course. In today's gaming market, available titles have grown in complexity, realism, graphics, and sound. Instead of individual programmer authors, games are created by large teams of developers. Game development itself has grown into a large industry with software available in many genres and on several platforms at any given time. One could argue that it's easy to reach video-game overload, wiht so many games to choose from with ever increasing complexity and realism.

It's no surprise then that there is a current, more subtle trend in the gaming community to regain some of the older, simpler fun. Retro-gaming is becoming very popular in some circles, and some of the vintage games are making a resurgance in the gaming community. Some of the Atari, Namco, Activision, and Coleco classics are becoming available again on the computer and some console and handheld platforms as classic re-releases.

Along this vein, Jakks Pacific has released the Atari TV 10 Classics joystick game. It has the look and feel of an actual Atari 2600 vintage joystick, but in this case the entire game system is built into the joystick itself. It's a one-piece unit, containing ten classic Atari games, running on batteries, and connecting with only an A/V cable to your television set.

Costing only about $20 to $25, and kept simple for ease of use and portability, this device is marketed to nostalgic adults who either wish to play these games again themselves, or expose their children to the same games they remember so fondly.

Atari Classic Joystick OBSERVATIONS

At first glance, this game system is exactly what it claims to be: A vintage Atari 2600 joystick, with ten classic games. Hooking it up for use is easy, with only two AV plugs that many TV's now have front-accessible sockets for these days. After plugging it into the TV, and installing batteries, just turn the switch to "ON" and you're ready to play.

The games appear to be faithfully translated to the new hardware, and completely true to the originals, presumably using the original ROM software. The ten games included are: Adventure, Asteroids, Breakout, Centipede, Circus Atari, Gravitar, Missile Command, Pong, Real Sports Volleyball, and Yar's Revenge.

Functionally, the game system appears to be prefectly implemented, but the selection of games is open to criticism. I've read comments on one or two online sites, and have spoken to friends and peers, and the general conensus is that the game selection could be improved. The inclusion of Adventure, Asteroids, Centipede, Missile Command, and Yar's Revenge alone make this game device well worth the money alone, but we feel the exclusion of Pac Man and especially Space Invaders was a major oversight. Breakout, though popular in it's day, was originally intended for the paddle-control, and not a joystick. While playable with a joystick, its more awkward and difficult to play without the intended controller. Circus Atari and Pong also suffer from this, and also have the added issue of not being as popular in their day. Pong was certainly a popular game, and was the one that sparked the entire home-gaming industry, but I don't think it's one of the more well remembered cartridges from the Atari 2600 line. Real Sports Volleyball, though reasonably well implemented, also was not one of the more popular titles in it's day. We feel that it's unfortunate that some of the better and more memorable games were not included, in favor of less memorable titles.

Some other features that the game system could have benefitted from include a cartridge slot for additional modules (which today could be made very small, and pack a large quantity of games on each one), and a port for connecting two joysticks together for multiplayer action, which would facilitate including the game Combat. We acknowledge however that such features would increase the complexity of the design, and necessitate a higher price tag.

Overall, we're very pleased with the results, and feel that this classic game system may reach a wide audience with sufficient advertising. Personally, I discovered it quite by accident, and couldn't resist the opportunity to play with it and review it here. We feel that many of you will agree, and will have a great deal of fun playing some of your old favorites from over twenty years ago.

Features/Specifications:

  • Runs on 4 AA batteries
  • Connects to TV using yellow/white AV cables
  • Contains 10 classic Atari 2600 games

Pros:

  • Simple and easy to connect
  • Battery power allows for portability
  • Has some very memorable games
  • Is true to the original Atari joystick design
  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • No cartridge system, non-upgradable.
  • Some games included were designed for paddle control
  • Lacks some of the other well-remembered classics in favour of less-memorable games
  • Relies on batteries alone, does not support AC adapter.

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