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Atari, one the oldest and probably the best-known names in the business, the very name is synonymous with retro games. Although the name survives in the industry to this day, it’s forever changed. Long gone are its groundbreaking hardware glory days.
This system is about as retro as it gets, which is made abundantly clear from its games roster.
The Atari Flashback 4 console serves as an excellent reminder of this bygone golden age of home gaming, where just controlling the events on screen was novelty enough. These were wonderful times; there was a genuine frontier sprit without rules or boundaries.
Literally any game concept was viable, which gave birth to some truly unique and pioneering games. These early programmers were starting with a completely blank canvas, which is almost impossible to imagine now.
There were no preconceived notions of what games were and game genres hadn’t developed yet. The only limitations were imagination and the hardware of the time; with just 128 bytes or ram, and game carts limited to 4k, it’s a testament to the skills of these pioneers that anything resembling a game ever developed.
The 2 included joysticks, which can make or break a package of this type are, I’m delighted to report, excellent, they look and feel solid just like the classic joystick of yore and are now IR wireless which is a huge improvement.
The only slight drawbacks are that they now require batteries (which last ages) and you also need to be conscious of maintaining a line of sight between the IR emitter on the stick and the console – an errant finger can cost you a life if you get carried away. I love the classic design of these controllers and I proudly display these joysticks in my living space as trophies, which look great without the cumbersome lead.
This system is about as retro as it gets, which is made abundantly clear from its games roster. Graphics and sound are strikingly simple, even to a seasoned retro gamer like me, with music and tiles screens a very rare treat indeed. Some of the games suffer from our own preconceptions about what games should be nowadays and at times it can be difficult to figure of the objective of a particular game. This for me forms part of the fun, but I do wonder if users back in the day experienced the same issues without the years of conditioning we have. It’s important to remember that these games weren’t born from tried and tested patterns of development and were released on their own merits.
With 75 offer, there’s bound to be a mix and not all are A+ titles, but pleasingly, all the classic titles I’d hoped for are present and correct: Space Invaders, Missile Command, Centipede, Pong, Asteroids, Battlezone and Tempest are all present and correct in their retro glory. There are also many forgotten gems to rediscover, which, while simple and engaging, with another human opponent provoke some real competition and that ‘just one more go’ feeling, which is worth the entrance fee alone.
Judging by the photo on the box, this console is marketed squarely at those, cool but slightly greying ‘dads’ looking to relive the nostalgia, although I have reports from friends that their young kids love it too, which makes sense to me as the one button configuration keeps things good and simple.
In this case, I’d have to agree with the box art. This is a fabulous system for those looking to relive their video game induction. The games are recreated flawlessly and are delivered in abundance, but the games themselves are often not flawless with confusing mechanics and clunky controls. Those without a history with this system will most likely find little to get excited about, but for those of us who were there it’s a pure delight; like finding some old forgotten holiday snaps. Add a few like-minded friends into the mix and what you have is an unbeatable evening of competition with the most joy inducing nostalgia machine.
Review by Andy Pryer
The Atari Flashback is available at Funstock.co.uk
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