Atari Flashback Classics (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Gabriel Jones 13.04.2019

Review for Atari Flashback Classics on Nintendo Switch

Featuring no less than 150 titles, Atari Flashback Classics is an amazing collection for Atari aficionados. Alongside arcade hits like Centipede and Asteroids is a wealth of Atari 2600 and 5200 titles. Find the hidden treasure in Haunted House, destroy the evil Qotile in Yars Revenge, or eat some flies in the aptly-named Frogs and Flies. There's even a handful of previously unreleased prototypes, which are sure to interest historians and fans alike. Plus, modern features such as online multiplayer, leaderboards, and achievements breathe new life into old favourites.

"You had to have been there."

When it comes to throwback compilations such as Atari Flashback Classics, this tends to be the prevailing sentiment. Although one shouldn't speak ill of such an important era, it's hard to deny that nostalgia plays a factor in enjoying these old games. Graphics weren't remotely as advanced as they are now, which meant the player's imagination filled in a lot of the blanks. Developers also had to work with severe hardware limitations, so something as simple as a port would only scarcely resemble its arcade counterpart. Worst of all, even if there were RPGs, they'd be pretty difficult to enjoy on a one-button controller.

Still, there were good times to be had back then, or at least this old critic thinks so. Certainly it was a simpler era, but it's not like compelling entertainment was hard to come by. Arcade classics such as Centipede or Asteroids Deluxe have endured the passage of time, and are still immensely enjoyable. These exceptionally-designed titles engage its players on multiple levels. Not only is there the immediate worry of venomous spiders or hull-crushing rocks, one should also be concerned about the constantly changing level layout, or the deadly UFOs and their pinpoint accurate shooting.

Screenshot for Atari Flashback Classics on Nintendo Switch

Millipede is another great that's worth checking out. It successfully iterates on its predecessor by including a host of new nasties to contend with. However, smart players who effectively manage the DDT bombs placed throughout can save themselves a lot of headaches. Then there's Black Widow, which presents an interesting spin on the twin-stick shooter. Over the course of each wave, eggs constantly appear. Rather than wait for these bugs to hatch and wreak havoc, the spider can shove them off of her web, earning quite a few points in the process. Speaking of havoc, Major Havoc is also pretty decent. It combines multiple genres to create a unique experience. It does take a while to get used to the platforming controls though.

One game that deserves special mention is Space Duel. At first glance, it resembles a long-lost Asteroids sequel. If someone takes the time to dig into it, they'll discover something very clever. One of the game modes links two ships together. This makes for double the firepower, but moving around becomes several times more difficult. Indeed, those who don't account for the added weight will suffer dearly. Thankfully, there is a method to the madness. Two players can team up to cooperatively take down scores of intergalactic oddities. If they can manage to work around their predicament, then the enemy doesn't stand a chance. Altogether, this shoot em' up is as inventive as it is entertaining.

Screenshot for Atari Flashback Classics on Nintendo Switch

Granted, Atari's early forays in the world of arcades weren't all wonderful. Such is the case of Fire Truck, Monte Carlo, and Super Bug. They're all overhead driving games, but despite the one or two good ideas they possess, no joy comes from playing them. The claustrophobic viewing space and touchy controls make getting around a chore. Poolshark is outright baffling. Instead of a typical game of pool, one just has to move the cue ball around and the other balls into the pockets. Avalanche and Super Breakout, while not bad games on their own, are unfortunately limited by the lack of an optimal control scheme. Neither the d-pad nor the analogue stick captures the required accuracy for achieving high scores. It's probably too much to ask for a "paddle" controller that works with the Nintendo Switch.

Nevertheless, fans of Atari's arcade output will find a lot to like here. As for their console endeavours, well… much like cabbage dipped in hot sauce, they're an acquired taste. Though this old critic's first gaming console was in fact an Atari 2600, it's still difficult to recommend a lot of the offerings in this collection. Fans of Activision's River Raid, Pitfall, Frostbite, H.E.R.O. and so on, however, will realise that, even today, these games hold up quite well. Anybody who still owns a PlayStation 2 should consider grabbing Activision Anthology. One of the added features is a spiffy 80s soundtrack. It definitely adds to the atmosphere.

Sorry for getting side-tracked, though - back to Atari's 2600 library. The developer had a lot of forward-thinking ideas. One of them was that most of their titles usually had several variations. Back then, they were typically advertised as "video games," but it's better to think of them as 'difficulties' or 'settings.' Take Asteroids for example. It boasts of having a whopping 66 video games. Actually it consists of a slew of ways for players make things as easy or as tough as their skills can handle. They include requiring higher scores to earn extra lives, faster moving rocks, whether or not UFOs show up, and gameplay features like hyperspace or shields. The core experience doesn't change, but all of the different modes allow for a customizable and more gratifying experience. It also helps that despite the console's limitations, this classic space rock shooter is still fun to play.

Screenshot for Atari Flashback Classics on Nintendo Switch

This collection also happens to have quite a few hidden gems. The goal of Aquaventure is to dive for hidden treasure, while avoiding dangerous sea life. While patience is a virtue, oxygen is a necessity. If the diver doesn't move quickly, then he'll run out of air. The presence of both immediate and long-term threats lends this title an entertaining duality. Demons to Diamonds is a serviceable shooting gallery, but the action really heats up during competitive play. Players must shoot the demons that match the colour of their laser cannon, lest those demons turn into skulls that fire back. If somebody is skilled (and evil) enough, they can use this to their advantage and trap their friend in a field of skulls. If one has the inclination, they could discover a number of other titles here that are really well done. Graphically, they've aged like milk, but the gameplay holds up decently.

On the other hand, a sizable chunk of Atari Flashback Classics serves more to sate curiosity than anything else. There are a lot of sports titles here, as well as digital versions of checkers, chess, and backgammon. The only appealing aspect tends to be the brilliant artwork that adorns the box. It's also odd that somebody would develop "edutainment" software such as Hangman and Basic Math. Wouldn't a sheet of paper and a pencil suffice? Still, for those out there who are interested in the earliest console games, even the worst of the worst are worth exploring. Some, like the ambitious Swordquest trilogy, are quite fascinating.

As far as features go, there is very little to complain about. All of the console games include their original manuals. It's definitely a good idea to read through them before starting, as they'll explain how to play, scoring strategies, and other important info. Online multiplayer and leaderboards are available. Annoyingly, a Nintendo Switch Online account is required just to access the leaderboards. The achievements are fun bonus. They provide a small incentive to discover titles that one might otherwise overlook. Aside from the aforementioned control issues with games that utilized the "paddle" controller, the emulation is solid. Not only is it visually accurate, but there aren't any hitches or pauses. An especially cool feature is that certain arcade games support TATE. While playing in handheld mode, players can flip their console sideways to get a more accurate view of the action.

Screenshot for Atari Flashback Classics on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Ultimately, Atari Flashback Classics is a fine collection. The sheer quantity of entertainment software is reason enough to warrant a look. Alongside certified arcade greats, is a wealth of middling-to-fun Atari 2600 and 5200 titles. Even those that weren't around back then will probably be able to find something that they can really connect with, with one example being the previously-unreleased Aquaventure. Of course, considering the era in which these were made, it might be extremely difficult to garner any appreciation for what's here. Still, it is a valuable time capsule for those who weren't around for gaming's infancy.

Developer

AtGames

Publisher

Atari

Genre

Other

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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