Atari 50: Modern Atari is doing a fine job with its past catalogue, despite the foolishness surrounding blockchain technology.
The fact that Atari is not Atari and has not been since the mid-1980s is not a secret. To say that it sometimes appeared to be run into the ground as this magnificent name was passed from pillar to post over the ensuing decades would be an understatement.
However, the current owners appear to know and appreciate what they have, at least in terms of the game library and the significance of Atari in the history of video games. For the most recent example of this, have a look at Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration, a meticulously compiled and presented compilation of seminal games from Atari’s catalogue that helps to place them in their historical perspective.
Even allowing for the fact that I am a huge nerd when it comes to video game history and Atari, this still goes above and above. The archive is organised around “interactive timelines” that include informational content about the games, including historical information, images from the present, archival film, and even fresh interviews with some of the key players.
You can jump into Atari 50, play for a little, and then exit back to your previous position in time. It’s ideal in this case because there are over a hundred games available, and most people will simply want to try them out for a few minutes to get a feel for them. The quality of the interface design is excellent.
#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
This is not to suggest that there is nothing of value here; Jeff Minter‘s Tempest 2000, a pioneering shoot ’em up for the Atari Jaguar that is still terrific today, stands out. The inclusion of titles for Atari’s final true console, the Jaguar, and its short-lived portable, the Lynx, is the first time, to my knowledge, that either catalogue has been revisited.
This is more like a virtual museum tour than anything else in the gaming world. Atari, however, has an interesting background. To hear these early employees reflect on their accomplishments and the motivations that drove them to take those steps is fascinating, and the firm may have done more than any other to establish the gaming market in the United States.
Atari 50 features six brand-new games, bringing a touch of the future to the table. Developer Digital Eclipse is following up on an old favourite with Swordquest: Airworld and Atari are giving their “survival horror” title Haunted Houses a 3D voxel makeover.
VCTR-SCTR combines other vector graphics shooters like Asteroids, Tempest, and so on, while Quadratank is a multiplayer sequel to the original Tank. To wit, Neo Breakout combines elements of both Breakout and Pong, and Yars’ Revenge Reimagined gives one of Atari’s masterpieces a fresh coat of paint.
VCTR-SCTR in action!
A new Vector arcade title by #Atari, #Digital #Eclipse, and #Small #Change #Arcade. Part of Atari's 50th Anniversary https://t.co/L1WecERITy playing at #California #Extreme #2022!@CAExtremeOrg @Atari @DigitalEclipse #VCTRSCTR #VECTOR #ARCADE #CAX pic.twitter.com/3Mv9RNfIEI
— Chris Vectrexer (@Vectrexer) July 31, 2022
Because they consistently provided us with reasons to be sceptical, I have developed a critical attitude toward Atari’s numerous incarnations. It has been quite some time since this company has made any impact on its field; at times it has felt like a zombie that exists just to sell t-shirts.
The Atari 50th won’t be enough to change that by itself. It’s a small gesture, but it shows that the people in charge of the Atari brand want the name to live up to its legacy and signify something again. Just so you know, these are (mainly) ancient games, and you will get what you put into them, no matter how wonderful they are presented.
Atari 50 is a treasure chest of well-preserved diamonds that, if you meet them halfway, some can still really sparkle. This is the place to start if you want to learn about the company’s history and the beginning of the home video game boom.