Developed by Digital Eclipse and published by Atari, the Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration is a collection which will excite older gamers as well as provide an interesting history lesson for the younger games who could still find some joy in the classics. This package has been delivered as more of an experience and a lesson rather than just a collection of Atari Games.
They have taken a unique approach which gives me a feeling of a classic DVD menu. They have given you 5 different stories regarding the timeline of Atari. Each one is jam-packed full of history, images video footage of the games, video footage from previous employees and of course the game themselves.
That’s not to say if you are not much for storytelling then you can jump straight into the game library and see what is on offer and play any of them at your own will. There are many classics to enjoy like Asteroids, Missile Command, Combat, Millipede, the Sword Quest series, Yars Revenge and even Pong. But I feel in doing so you are missing the point of what this game is trying to do. It can be used as an educational aid to help explain to the younger generations how we went from a game like Pong to the graphical masterpieces we see in the current era.
This collection has games from all the different Atari machines. From the Atari 2600 or 5200 and even the 7800. It also has some from the Atari 800 and some of its newer hardware the Lynx and Jaguar. There are a few games that have been reimagined with spruced-up graphics. They have also included games as they were from the arcade cabinets which really took me back to when I played the Asteroids cabinet at the local cab office waiting for a taxi many years ago.
If anyone below 30 wanted to pick this up and just play some of the Atari classics that their parents or even grandparents loved they wouldn’t last very long as the younger generations have been spoiled with the current quality of gaming. You have to understand the limitations that developers had with the current hardware and the fact they brought the arcade hardware to households whereas now a household without a home console seems more of a rarity.
So personally I think the game works if you look at it as an interactive movie. There is a lot of history to explore and if you play through the timeline as the game encourages you to do so then there is enjoyment to be had and an understanding of the intentions that went into these games as a lot of them require patience and imagination. For example, the game Adventure with no context is confusing as you are just an exploring square. But if you read the history and videos that come along with the game you will understand what they were trying to do and the hype it had back in its day. More importantly, every game in the collection comes with the original instruction manual which is a nice touch. But I also cannot stress how important it is for some of the games as there are no tutorials here.
The games have been emulated wonderfully and have given you some extra options to try and improve the experience. You can choose to expand the screen size to fit your TV better and or you can choose a border which puts the game art behind the game you are playing which is pretty cool. You also have a feature which older games would have prayed for at the time and that’s a save state feature. There is only 1 save state per game but you only really need 1 and for some games, it’s very nice to have. You also have the option to remap the controls should you choose to but with most games only having a few buttons I never really felt the need to do this.
I do have a few minor gripes with this as there were some odd decisions. The first is making the start button the reset button for all the games. On numerous occasions, I wanted to save the game or just come out of one of the games only to end up resetting the game which was quite annoying at times. It’s the View button which I normally refer to as the back button which is used to bring up the menu. In my opinion, I would have them the other way. The other is the game variation menu which is slightly too hidden for my liking. Before you launch a game there is a game variation option which can be used to set how you play the game. It’s what changes the game from being 1 or 2 players or increasing difficulty. However, if you don’t set this before you launch the game you can’t easily change it after. For some reason, they didn’t add an option to change this in the game menu screen. You can change this mid-game by pressing the bumper buttons but on most occasions, I didn’t know what this was changing as the wording was not too clear.
Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration is a different type of game not seen in a long time as it’s partly educational and partly feels like you are watching a documentary. There are a lot of classics in this package and also a lot of meh games which you will gloss over. This will interest the older games who experienced some of this history and the keen gamers who will enjoy the experience that Atari have put on here.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox Series S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.