Atari 50 Review: Atari, and its exuberant founder Nolan Bushnell, was 1970s trailblazers who formed, established, and pious Granneered the video game industry. Brushing a near-century of mechanical coin-operated gaming aside and barging pinball into a dusty corner, Atari became the focal point of bars everywhere with Pong in 1972. It was the dawning of the digital age, and Bushnell and co. were here to make it fun.
Sometimes we’re in danger of forgetting these facts. The Japanese gaming revolution did so much to build on, perfect, and usurp Atari’s initial endeavours — and in such a gloriously innovative fashion — that we tend to focus our retro gaming goggles somewhere between the mid-’80s to late ’90s. It is, of course, generational.
For those who grew up with them, there’s still an affection for Clive Sinclair and the early PC gaming boom, the Spectrums, the Commodores, and the Amstrad; the CBS Colecovision, the Vectrex, and the Grandstand console. But 50 years on and it’s now Atari’s moment, and it wanted everyone to know.
As a result, Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration is a painstaking love letter to the organisation’s history and accomplishments. You’re greeted with a superb interface, beautifully designed and rendered, but never overblown. It captures the nostalgic whimsy of Atari’s halcyon days right down to the background music and rolling video wallpapers.
Whether you're a hard-core fan or never had the chance to play, this exclusive collection for Atari's 50th anniversary is one you don't want to miss…https://t.co/6RZFWfPvqk pic.twitter.com/Lm3TvKiIoS
— Atari (@atari) November 11, 2022
It loads high-resolution box art in a fraction of a second and launches straight into the documentary video, making it feel as though it had been waiting for you to watch it. Also, with the push of a button, you may play any of the over a hundred games available for the seven different Atari platforms (including the Arcade, 2600, Lynx, Jaguar, and everything in between).
With such a substantial amount of material, the lack of internet features like leaderboards is understandable but disappointing. You may easily navigate between different periods and different types of games thanks to the site’s clear design and bright colours. It’s a well-organized journey that zips across charts crammed with facts, graphics, quotes from developers, and tales.
Enjoyable reading includes developer interviews, arcade flyers, box art, old commercials, images, and other archival materials culled from the original hardware designers. Nolan Bushnell, decked up in a T-shirt advertising the Atari 50, makes an appearance to record a segment for the parade.
Taking a look at Atari 50 and contrasting it with other arcade games like Capcom’s Arcade Stadium games is fun. The latter features attractive, 3D-rendered extras that bring to mind a real arcade, but they lack the heartfelt authenticity on display here.
Let the trumpets sound and the fanfare commence because #Atari50 is out NOW! @DigitalEclipse put their all into developing this amazing anthology.
Join in on the 50th Anniversary Celebration by grabbing your copy now at: https://t.co/0J6W2DpVQD
— Atari (@atari) November 11, 2022
Since Digital Eclipse oversaw the compilation’s creation, the emulated versions of the games appear to be flawless, free of graphical hitches and frame rate drops. Nice arcade bezels for the 4:3 aspect ratio are available, as is a pliable but serviceable scanline filter, and you can even adjust the glow level of select games to replicate the effect of a burned-in tube on the original machine you played as a kid.
The presentation could use a few extra filters, perhaps something to emphasise the classic CRT flavour, but it’s serviceable otherwise. Certain masterpieces, such as Asteroids Deluxe, render the printed background sitting behind its flashing vector sprites with a simulated depth of field effect, giving the impression that you are staring into the screen.
It’s beautifully executed, and it shows how much care was put into the whole package. Instead of being a simple cash-in that just collects a bunch of old games and hopes for the best, Atari 50 is full of unnecessary drama about the company, its successes and failures, and the world it helped build. I, Robot, Food Fight, Yars’ Revenge, Tempest 2000, and countless others are all considered classics.
You’ll seldom encounter games like Firefox, one of the original Laserdisc-driven arcade games, only to be dismayed to learn that it’s an informational resource with no actual gameplay available. It’s disappointing enough that Jaguar doesn’t have Aliens vs.
Predator, but it’s even more disappointing that it doesn’t have Computer Space, the first arcade video game. The same may be said for E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, a terrible game with historical value due to its association with Atari.
#Atari50 "feels like a history lesson told in a way that’s completely native to video games. The biggest compliment I can give it is that I now want this for every retro collection." – @verge
— Digital Eclipse (@DigitalEclipse) November 11, 2022
We can’t kid ourselves that every single Atari game was a masterpiece. A designer on the Jaguar console himself has said that the majority of the games available for it suffer from poor production values. While some Lynx, Video Computer Systems, and Atari 2600 games fall short of expectations, and there is certain to be something missing that annoys someone (in our case, the Star Wars arcade game from 1983), there is so much to look at that the voyage itself is the reward.
Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration is out TODAY!
"[A]n achievement… so detailed and sprawling that it feels like a history lesson told in a way that’s completely native to video games… I now want this for every retro collection." — The Vergehttps://t.co/K5lHr5BKZY
— Chris Kohler says to buy Atari 50 on 11/11! (@kobunheat) November 11, 2022
And if that weren’t enough, there are also six brand-new games included, so it’s a superbly constructed package with abundant material. Even after 40 years, the original author of Swordquest was able to create a fourth instalment, Swordquest: Airworld, to join the other three games in the series.
Haunted Houses is a remake of the Atari 2600 classic, now set in a 3D voxel-built world and ready to reignite the survival-horror spark with new challenges; Neo Breakout is, you guessed it, an expanded, modernised version of Breakout with exciting new twists; Quadratank continues the tank series with a four-player battle royale; the confusingly titled VCTR-SCTR mashes up elements of Tempest, While not the same game as the recently released Years: Recharged, Yars’ Revenge: Enhanced breathes fresh life into the classic by adding a dazzling new graphical overlay that can be wiped away with a push of the shoulder button. Akka Arrh is a prototype for an unreleased arcade machine that features fake LEDs in the bezel.
Atari 50 Review Conclusion
Rather than “collection,” the title is “The Anniversary Celebration,” which is a perfect word change. Atari 50 is a fitting tribute to the firm that pioneered the industry thanks to its slick, quick, and perfectly-pitched interface and its wealth of well-crafted content. It’s true that its content will be more appealing to the parents and grandparents of current gamers, who were children during the heyday of the arcade industry in the 1970s and 1980s.
They will find great pleasure in remembering the simpler times when the same things used to cost only a few dollars. There are few games outside of the Lynx and Jaguar catalogues that are easy to pick up and play for the uninitiated, thus it may take some time for newcomers to appreciate the appeal of many of these games.
Yet, Atari 50 is so comprehensive and fascinating as a vintage gaming wormhole equivalent to exploring a virtual museum that it goes beyond its intended demographic. This trip down memory lane is a lot of fun for players who appreciate a challenge and for those who are interested in the history of video games and the discovery of the past.