Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Carry a compendium of Atari history in your pocket with Atari Greatest Hits: Volume 1. A selection of Atari’s arcade games, several Atari 2600 games, and a few rare unreleased games offer a nice schooling of the earlier years of gaming. Arcade games like Centipede and Missile Command, along with a few things packed in an Extras feature, are the highlight of this package. Most of the Atari 2600 games included won’t hold your attention for long, other than when played with someone else using single-card or multi-card multiplayer. Atari Greatest Hits: Volume 1 is a decent collection for retro gaming enthusiasts to take with them anywhere, as well as for the uninitiated wanting a lesson in simple game mechanics.
Atari Greatest Hits: Volume 1 review
Atari has compiled years of faithfully converted Atari arcade cabinet games and Atari 2600 game cartridges in one tiny Nintendo DS cartridge. Included are nine Atari arcade cabinet games: Asteroids, Battlezone, Centipede, Gravitar, Lunar Lander, Missile Command, Pong, Space Duel and Tempest. This set of arcade games are among the highlights of this package. Centipede was my favorite, which allows for a vertical (left or right handed) orientation and even an on-screen trackball controller on the touch screen. Sounds and sights nearly bring back the smell of the arcades.
Most of the arcade games played great. One game in particular didn’t feel like it worked out well in the translation to the portable. In Lunar Lander, at its most zoomed out view, it was difficult to see which orientation the lander was positioned. The screen does zoom in once the player nears the surface, but the blotchy pixel conversion proves to be an eye strainer, even on the DSi XL. From the arcade bunch, I enjoyed Centipede, Battlezone, Missile Command and Tempest on the DS.
The Atari 2600 game collection includes 41 games, which are also subdivided into the following genres: Action, Adventure, Arcade at home, Gambling, Mind games, Racing, Space and Sports. See the complete list of Atari 2600 games included here on atari.com. A few notable classics include Adventure, Haunted House, the Swordquest games, Air Sea Battle, and Dodge ‘Em. For the most part, many of the Atari 2600 games won’t grab your attention, although they may offer a bit of entertainment using the multiplayer (single card or multi-card) feature with another DS gamer. Don’t try to go through all these games at once. The colors and bleep-bloops may induce a headache. I remember owning many of these cartridges back in the day, but trying them now back to back after all these years made me queasy. The touch screen display features all those retro switches from the Atari console, including a black and white switch option for TV type! Neat little additions, but the quantity of Atari 2600 games don’t necessarily amount for a quality experience.
A couple of rare Atari prototype games are included. One of them is a prototype version of the arcade game Battlezone, titled Army Battlezone. Presented here by Atari for the first time, it was commissioned by the US Army as a trainer for Bradley Fighting Vehicle gunners. The controls are pretty challenging to master, but it’s definitely rewarding once you land a hit. Another prototype, this one from the Atari 2600, is Tempest Prototype. It is an unreleased version based on the arcade game. The blocky pixelated look shows why this game couldn’t stand up against its arcade counterpart, probably why it was never released. With arcade Tempest in this package, I doubt that you would punish yourself to play Tempest Prototype.
The Extra features is the other main highlight, besides the Atari arcade games, in Atari Greatest Hits: Volume 1. A Trivia game tests players on Atari knowledge with a series of 20 random questions. The quicker the player answers, the higher the score. Answers are not revealed if you select the incorrect answer. The player’s high score can be shared for bragging rights on the Atari.com website. It’s a little cumbersome to have to write down the cryptic code to use the feature, but it is a neat addition which I obsessed with for a while (see if GamingBits is on the high score list!). Also included in the Extras feature is a gallery of Arcade cabinet art and Atari 2600 manuals. The original Atari 2600 console manual is included as well (remember the days of the VHF switch box?). Much of the game artwork serves as a reminder when box covers embellished the game’s actual pixel and blocky presentations. It was definitely fun taking a trip down old gaming memories and those too young to have experienced it can get a taste of what gaming was like in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
Atari Greatest Hits: Volume 1‘s best offerings include a handful of the arcade titles, a select few of the Atari 2600 games and the Extras features. The menu and graphic presentation have that retro feel and Atari fonts. I recommend Atari Greatest Hits: Volume 1 for retro gaming enthusiasts and gamers interested in a bit of history and want to research of simple, yet challenging, gameplay mechanics.
Thanks to Atari for making this review possible!