17th Apr2017

‘Atari Flashback Classics Vol.1 & 2’ Review (PS4)

by Phil Wheat


Retro gaming is huge right now. Huge. And it’s only getting bigger… From the like of fan favourites multiplatform consoles like Retron 5 and fab handhelds like the Supaboy S; to the NES Mini/Classic, an official re-release of Nintendo’s classic console – which only brought retro gaming further into the mainstream (as the constant sold out status will atest), it seems if games are retro, they’re hot property. Which is where AT Games’ Atari Flashback Classics come in.

AT Games have taken their retro console the Atari Flashback, now in it’s seventh incarnation, and moved the experience to current-gen consoles; and their success depends entirely on your enjoyment of the old-school – and in the case of 2600 games, basic – games of yesteryear… Entirely…

You see, as many people who buy these two titles will discover, Atari 2600 games are something of an aquired taste. The kind of acquired taste that will REALLY limited the buying audience for these titles… It’s hard to imagine today that gamers truly enjoyed playing the original Atari’s line-up. Even compared to the arcade games of the time these are primitive but compared to today’s game? Well on that basis, it turns out a LOT of the 2600 titles are literally umplayable! Gone are the days of “using your imagination” to get past shoddy graphics – today we’re spoonfed everything in glossy high-definition. Which means the blocky pixels of the almost 100 Atari 2600 titles here could be considered something of a culture shock. Unless of course if you lived through that era like I did..!

So where does that leave Atari Flashback Classics?

Those that love Atari games will no doubt already have a Flashback console, or [shock, horror] have emulated all the games available on both volumes of Atari Flashback Classics. Which, honestly, leaves only the original Atari arcade titles found on these two discs are the real selling points – and what selling points!

The 18 original arcade titles (spread across two discs) are some real, honest to goodness, CLASSIC games of the early 80s, including:

Volume 1:

  • Asteroids
  • Asteroids Deluxe
  • Crystal Castles
  • Gravitar
  • Major Havoc
  • Missile Command
  • Red Baron
  • Sprint
  • Super Breakout

Volume 2:

  • Black Widow
  • Centipede
  • Liberator
  • Lunar Lander
  • Millipede
  • Pong
  • Space Duel
  • Tempest
  • Warlords

Surprisingly, even today there’s still a LOT of play value in these titles. Even more surprising is that I found two games – Major Havoc and Crystal Castles – I had actually never played the arcade renditions of before, in the first volume of Atari Flashback Classics! And one of which, Major Havoc, turned out to be a superb and more importantly FUN, arcade game that mixed platforming, Pac Man style “puzzles”, with shoot ’em up action – all wrapped in some old-school vector graphics. And to spout and old cliche – the gameplay easily overcame the sparse graphics… The same which cannot be said of the 2600 titles.

Packed with 50 games across two volumes, Atari Flashback Classics features HD remastered editions of all the games (though remastering Atari 2600 games would, at first, seem futile). Both volumes also include online play with achievements, global leaderboards, social features and more – though, if you’re like me, these functions are completely extraneous to the games within.

In the end, whether you buy these new editions (after all, Atari compliations seem to hit each and every generation of console) depends on whether you think there is any value in buying 18 retro arcade games, 9 per disc, rather than 100 Atari games – as there’s not much replay value in the 2600 games included.

Atari Flashback Classics Vols. 1 and 2 are out now on PS4 and Xbox One.

NB: If you’re thinking of picking these up, Smyths may the best place to buy, with both games available for just £18.99 each. Which is probably still too much to pay for these if I’m honest…


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