Game: Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration
System: Nintendo Switch (Also on Steam (Windows) PS4 and Xbox)
Developer|Publisher: Digital Eclipse | Atari
Age Rating: EU 16 | US Teen
Price: US $39.99 | UK £35.99 | EU € 39,99
Release Date: November 11th, 2022
Review code provided with many thanks to Uber Strategist.
There are plenty of retro game compilations released to modern systems. But often these collections are simply large collections of games without much attention to the actual history. Atari itself has released many collections in the past to consoles and through its famous Flashback consoles. It came as a massive surprise that Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration wound up being so much more than just a collection of games from the company’s history.
This compilation is like a museum exhibit that walks you through the company’s history through its highs and lows. If you love retro games or just want to learn about the history of Atari this is an essential purchase. For the rest of the review, I’ll attempt to explain why.
The Game Collection
There are two ways to experience Atari 50. Run through a tour of the company’s history or just play a large selection of games. The game library has a generous selection of games. It covers the arcades to the Atari consoles, such as 2600 all the way to the Jaguar, a system I believe is yet to even feature on an official Atari compilation.
There is even a little love given to the Atari Lynx, the little handheld that has also seen a nice resurgence thanks to consoles like the Evercade. The compilation even features a handful of remastered classics such as Neo Breakout. This has enhanced graphics and visuals whilst providing some spins on the classic paddle ball gameplay.
All of the retro games feature various options to toggle with such as CRT filters. There are even unusual toggles like screen glow to give that extra nostalgic feel. The ability to flip through the original game manual is also present. Where possible local multiplayer can also be enjoyed, in some cases with up to four players. Emulation seems spot on with no load times and instant pick-up and play access. Graphics perfectly capture the feel of each console, possibly taking you back to a simpler but entertaining time in gaming history.
Some games have multiple options and modes that can be tweaked such as difficulty, so you can tailor the game to your liking. Most, of course, feature save states so you can pick up where you left off later. Menus are also easy to navigate making this a comfortable experience for gamers of all skill levels.
As for the featured games, you have over 100 to sink your teeth into some of which are unlocked. Of course, not all games are going to be winners for everyone but there is something to love for everyone. Familiar classics including Centipede, Pong and Asteroids are featured, many of which have multiple versions which is always appreciated by dedicated retro fans. But there are also some little gems like Major Havoc on the arcade, a really cool little vector-style game where you fly around in a spaceship-like a shmup before walking around in a space station on foot.
Even when you get to consoles like the Jaguar that feature some of the more questionable quality titles like Cybermorph, a 3D space shooter where an AI later sometimes pops up to tell you how bad your flying is. It was still great to jump in and experience these unusual gaming delights which seem lost to the ages. This is further assisted by the collection’s excellent attention to its history and how it’s presented.
Take a Tour Through History
The best way to enjoy Atari 50 is through its main timeline presentation. You follow a timeline which takes you through the origins of the company all the way up to the Atari Jaguar. In addition, you stop at various nodes on the timeline which will usually focus on a specific game or event in the company’s history. You can then scroll down to observe design documents, watch documentary videos and of course jump in to play one of the games discussed.
All of this loads instantly with no delays and feels like one of the museum exhibits you might pay even more than the cost of this game to experience. Here you’re able to enjoy this at your own pace and leisure. I don’t want to spoil too much of what’s featured. This is an experience best to go in blind and very welcoming to newbies to video game history. What I was most impressed by is how the experience is not afraid to cover some of the company’s darker or controversial moments such as the famous video game crash and even covering behind the screens antics. This is a celebration that is not afraid to cover mistakes which is commendable.
Conclusion – The Best Compilation to Date
Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration, is easily the best retro compilation of games I have ever played. You’re taken on a journey through video game history. Which is not afraid to educate you on both the highs and lows of the company. It raises the bar for compilations being released in the future, it would be great to see this design repeated with other companies or game series.
Allowing me to learn more about each game actually made me more interested in playing some of the games I initially wasn’t fond of. This is the museum exhibit experience brought home for you to enjoy alone or with friends at any time. Whether you love Atari or not, this is an essential purchase for anyone interested in gaming history. On a personal level, Atari 50 reminds me why I love video games and I never expected Atari of all companies to remind me of that in such a positive way.
Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up