Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration is a love letter to gaming and gamers alike and not just for retro fans, but any person that has ever played a game and wants the insights on where gaming began. This history package takes players through 50 years of Atari history, with the celebration beginning where pioneers of gaming Nolan Busnell and Ted Dabney started building arcade games and moving all the way up to today and how Atari is going forward with new CEO Wade Rosen. Featuring over ninety titles from several platforms, an interactive museum, excellent interviews, video snippets and a look behind the curtain, Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration is a bold collection that stands just as tall as Atari does.
Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration is an interactive museum that has plenty of videos, interviews with developers new and old, commercials, posters, advertisement and of course games spanning the last five decades. Each game comes with scanned instruction booklets and advertisements.
Atari 50 The Anniversary Celebration is split into five chapters: Arcade Origins, Birth of the Console, Highs and Lows, The Dawn of PCs, and The 1990s and Beyond. Each section is well set out with the games and extras all clearly laid out. Players can scroll through important checkpoints that highlight a certain game or event, with most checkpoints allowing the player to dig deeper. Each time an image is looked at or video watched they become ticked off, encouraging the player to check out all of the content. I never found the layout and compiled history lessons boring, and I was eager for more when it ended.
Videos are always interesting, with those sharing their passion and thoughts about the business and more so Atari. Familiar faces from Nolan Busnell, Cliff Bleszinski and Tim Schafer share their stories from what it was like to be working at Atari through to what Atari means to them and how it influenced their careers. The scanned high-definition detail of every article, manual and images is incredible, and each can be zoomed in on allowing players to view the finer details.
Digital Eclipse have done an outstanding job collating and emulating the titles presented here and offer games from a large variety of platforms. There are games from Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 7800, Atari ST, Atari Jaguar, and Atari Lynx. On top of this, developers Digital Eclipse also created six games that either re-imagine classics or created new titles. These titles are:-
- Swordquest: Airworld – The newly created fourth chapter of the Swordquest series.
- Haunted House – A modernised 3D isometric adventure.
- Vctr Sctr – Another newly created game that combines gameplay from several vector arcade classics into one title.
- Quadratank – A new version of combat as a four-player battle royale.
- Neo Breakout – Breakout and Pong merged into an addictive two-player contest.
- Yars’ Revenge Reimagined – Another graphical modernised version of one the best Atari 2600 games.
New and classic titles from the variety of systems played exactly as they should and in a 4:3 aspect ratio, with no issues emulating the classics. While there are many classic gems such as Pong, Asteroids and Yars’ Revenge, the collection mainly consists of 25 arcade games and 40 2600 games. It is fantastic to see the infamous Jaguar, the first 64-bit console with 9 games and the underrated Lynx with 6, although I wish these consoles were filled out a little more. I understand getting licenses costs money but Roadblasters, California Games and Aliens vs Predator are sorely missed on these consoles. I could say the same for all the systems, although all game compilations always have a few great titles missing.
It is also a shame that nothing in the last 20 years is included where Atari has published some solid titles such as Pong Quest, Alone in the Dark and anything from the recent Recharged Atari reboots. Graphical wise, the presentation and layout make it easy to navigate, with each game given a slight boost for current televisions. Of course, the overall visuals and art direction of each game comes down to original design. The music while in the museum gives off an elevator vibe and fits fine, while the sounds for the games are how I remember them. I loved how the old footage for interviews and commercials is clear as day, where players would have a lot less clarity if found online.
Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration is suitable for all ages, and while it could be fun to share games players grew up with, many younger players will likely not appreciate many of the games available and move onto something with more depth.
Adam Potts, for Adam’s full profile click here.