Dust off that console, tune in your TV, and return to the dawn of gaming in our Atari 50 review!
There is no sport left in ripping on Atari. The former king of video games has filed for bankruptcy more times than Elizabeth Taylor tied the knot. While it would be fun to dunk on Atari throughout this review, there’s no denying that Atari helped build the medium that we all enjoy today. To celebrate 50 years of the house that Bushnell and Dabney built, Atari has teamed up with Digital Eclipse to bring us an incredible compilation that celebrates the highs and lows of one of the most iconic brands in gaming, Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration.
Every great story has beginning.
Atari 50 Review – What’s Included?
Over the last 30 years we’ve seen countless attempts to compile Atari’s classics on a single piece of media. But what separates Atari 50 from prior compilations is the volume of games and overall presentation. Digital Eclipse has created an interactive museum that covers Atari’s entire history, ranging from their initial success in the arcades to the failure of the Atari Jaguar that forced the company to leave home console space. The ups and downs of Atari are presented via a beautiful frontend rendered at 4K with flawless navigation and minimal buffering. If there ever was an award for the best menu design, Atari 50 would take the cake.
People just don’t get this excited about PCs anymore.
Atari 50 Review – The History & Games
Amongst the playable games is a collection of interviews featuring key Atari employees like Al Acorn, Howard Scott Warsaw, Jerry Jessop and many more. In addition to the insightful interviews, the timeline is filled with TV commercials, advertisement fliers and promotional images for various Atari products. Digital Eclipse has also included the manual for every home console game that adorns this collection. Very useful, especially since they pre-date the era of in-game tutorials.
Unfortunately Howard Scott Warshaw isn’t an unlockable character, but you can watch his interviews.
If you wish to ignore the historical fluff and jump straight into the games, you can simply hit the square button to be presented with over 100 games included on the disc. The compilation contains arcade classics like Asteroids and Centipede, plus numerous games from every single Atari console (2600, 5200, 7800, Lynx and Jaguar) and a handful of games released for their line of 8-bit computers.
Licensed titles like Indiana Jones on the 2600 haven’t made the cut for obvious reasons. But the games included like Yar’s Revenge and Missile Command are still highly playable due to their simplicity. One of the more unique titles amongst the library is Ninja Golf for the Atari 7800, where you take control of a ninja fighting against evil ninjas and fire breathing dragons while playing a round of golf. PGA Tour 2K23? Eat your heart out.
Definitely beats Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge.
Atari 50 Review – The Extras
Perhaps the most exciting addition in their collection is the handful of games for the Atari Jaguar. To my knowledge, the console’s library has never seen any official re-release prior to Atari 50. While games like Tempest 2000 and Atari Karts are solid experiences that are worth playing, Club Drive and Cybermorph are easily among the worst games I’ve ever played. All the hard liquor in the world won’t be to erase the games from my memory. Having said that, I’m still glad to see these games being included since anything Jaguar related can fetch a pretty penny on auction sites.
Experience an updated version of one of Atari’s most recognisable classics, Breakout.
Rounding off the collection is a handful of unreleased prototypes and a smattering of original titles based on Atari’s properties. These include a 3D re-imagining of Haunted House and a reboot of Breakout called Neo Breakout. Perhaps the most noteworthy inclusion is the final chapter of the Swordquest Anthology, Airworld. This game was never completed due to Atari’s financial woes in the mid-1980s. But with the aid of the original design documents, Digital Eclipse was able to complete the game and include it in this collection. There’s something surreal about seeing a new 2600 games with a copyright date of 2022.
Part videogame, part treasure hunt. Sadly you won’t be eligible for any prizes this time.
Emulation for every game is flawless with no audio or visual glitches to report. The emulation wrapper contains optional borders and a CRT filter. But for those who want to stray further from God’s light, Digital Eclipse has included the option to stretch the image to fill the entire screen.
While the quality of the games included in this collection might be inconsistent, there’s no denying that Digital Eclipse has raised the bar for video game compilations. From the flawless emulation to the beautiful frontend, this is a compilation that brings videogame history to modern consoles. With the inclusion of original games and unreleased prototypes, Atari 50 is a must buy for Atari fans and retro gamers alike.
So, why should you play Atari 50?
- You’re a fan of retro and looking for the ideal way to experience Atari classics
- Looking to explore the ancient history of videogames
- Flawless emulation always has you drooling
- Interesting snippers of previously unreleased content
But why shouldn’t you play Atari 50?
- You have no interest in retro gaming. Why are you even reading this?
- Not a fan of games that are overly simple
A review code on PlayStation 5 was kindly provided by the publisher for the purpose of our Atari 50 review. If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out more of our retro content, like our overview of the PlayStation Classics available on PlayStation 5.