Whenever a collection of classic games is released, I always find myself picking it up. Despite not usually having nostalgia for these retro packages (as my first console was the Genesis), I love learning more about the medium that I love, and it’s typically a good way to experience games that I missed out on. Typically this experience is hit-or-miss as for every one game I end up loving, there are usually a handful of titles that are only interesting to look at through a historical lens.
The latest retro video game collection comes in the form of Atari Flashback Classics Volume 2. This $20 package features 50 games in total, with 9 being arcade games, and 41 Atari 2600-era titles. Since the games are the main reason why anyone would pick this up, and there are way too many of them to touch on individually, here’s the full list of arcade titles: Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, Crystal Classics, Gravitar, Major Havoc, Missile Command, Red Baron, Spring, and Super Breakout.
Meanwhile, here are the 41 Atari 2600 games: Adventure, Asteroids, Atari Video Cube, Basic Math, Brain Games, Breakout, Casino, Championship Soccer, Codebreaker, Concentration, Crystal Classics, Demons to Diamonds, Double Dunk, Flag Capture, Golf, Gravitar, Hangman, Haunted House, Maze Craze, Missile Command, Night Driver, Off the Wall, Outlaw, Race, Realsports Baseball, Realsports Basketball, Realsports Tennis, Return to Haunted House, Secret Quest, Sentinel, Sky Diver, Space War, Star Ship, Stellar Track, Street Racer, Submarine Commander, Super Breakout, Surround, Video Checkers, Video Chess, and Video Pinball.
As you can see, 50 games is a lot. The biggest titles on the list would be arcade hits like Asteroids, Missile Command and Super Breakout, but the Atari 2600 has some interesting offerings as well. The 1979 classic Adventure is on this volume, and it’s pretty incredible how much depth is present despite the technical limitations. It’s also interesting to see how it laid the base for the Swordquest games to build upon, although you’ll have to purchase Volume 1 to play those games. That said, Volume 2 definitely has a weaker overall line-up due to titles like Basic Math and Video Chess (which features long pauses between every move) being featured.
The biggest issue that past collections have had is properly controlling the games on the collection. A lot of these games used the Atari 2600’s paddle controller, which is an input device that hasn’t been seen in decades (besides the super rad Nintendo DS accessory Taito put out). Games like Breakout and Demons to Diamonds feel terrible when using an analog stick, as it just doesn’t offer the precision needed for those titles. That is a problem that Atari Flashback Classics has to tackle, and I feel like they’ve done a pretty solid job even if they didn’t solve the issue.
Each paddle game can be played in three ways: A) with the analog stick where it resets to the center after the player lets go of the stick, B) using the d-pad to move the paddle and then holding it there (it doesn’t reset position), and C) using the DualShock 4’s touchpad as a replacement paddle. I found using the touchpad to generally be the best solution (although it varies from game to game), and I actually had a good time playing these titles that are hard to port. It isn’t perfect, but it’s far better than giving players a single option.
Since Atari Flashback Classics is primarily comprised of games from the late 70s and early 80s, I was expecting a lot of the games to be dated. That’s definitely the case, and quite frankly a lot of the offerings here are games that I booted up once and never had any desire to play again. That said, while they offer little in the fun department, they do have plenty of historical value and seeing them preserved is great. I’ll never play Casino or Codebreaker again, but I’m glad they’re available.
Some of the surprise stand-outs of Volume 2 ended up being the Atari 2600 version of Crystal Castles, which ends up being more fun than its arcade version simply because the arcade original used a trackball and feels terrible, and Video Pinball, a game that ends up in so bad it’s good territory as I once had the ball bounce around for over a minute without me ever having to hit a trigger. While neither are as good as Asteroids or Super Breakout, they are games that I would’ve never played if it wasn’t for this collection, and I feel like that is why these packages are so important.
While there are probably only a dozen games or so that I actually enjoyed playing (such as Missile Command), that’s more than enough for me. This clearly isn’t about playing the latest and greatest games, it’s about taking a look at the history of video games – and in that respect, it totally succeeds. There are also some really nice extras added in on the presentation side. Players can view the manuals for all of the Atari 2600 titles, which is a really cool and thoughtful thing to do. There is one issue, though, as sadly the photo viewer’s instructions can’t be hidden from the screen, so the bottom of the manuals are often obscured when zoomed in. That’s a bummer, but hopefully it’ll get fixed in a patch. Another awesome touch is that the game’s cartridge artwork are shown when selecting each title. It’s the small things that make a collection like this feel like a labor of love, and not a cash grab on nostalgia.
Finally, there are some great modern additions such as online multiplayer for games (you can even play games while you wait for someone to join your lobby), and online leaderboards for the arcade games. The multiplayer is where I feel like the game really shines because even if Realsports Boxing is terrible in 2016, I still managed to laugh hysterically while playing it with a buddy. It’s also pretty cool to see that I’m apparently the number three player of Missile Command in the entire world. While it doesn’t go as far as Microsoft’s Game Room did in allowing players to view the replays of high-score runs, it’s still a great addition.
Atari Flashback Classics Volume 2 features a lot of old games that are terrible by today’s standards, and a few that are still surprisingly fun. That isn’t really the point, though, as it’s more about getting to celebrate gaming’s past. If you’re looking for a solid way to play Missile Command and Asteroids, or just looking to learn about the Atari 2600, then I definitely recommend this retro collection.
This review is based on the PS4 version, which we were provided with.
Atari Flashback Classics Volume 2 features a lot of old games that are terrible by today's standards, and a few that are still surprisingly fun. That isn't really the point, though, as it's more about getting to celebrate gaming's past.