Being an older gamer, my first console was a Mattel Intellivision followed soon after by an Atari 2600 then, 7800. I was extremely excited by the chance to review this title.
Atari Flashback Classics is essentially a soft format version of the recent hardware fad. In fact, there are even multiple versions of an Atari retro console with the same name.
This software release has a hell of a lot more games than you would generally see on these retro machines. With 150 titles spread across classic Atari arcades, 2600 and 5200 titles, there is a lot to get stuck into here.
Atari Flashback Classics Review
In terms of presentation, it’s both simple and functional. However, the developers have chosen to implement a little flair by using cabinet art for arcades and top of cartridge art for 2600/5200 games. This makes the simple menu look much better than a basic list, and you can understand exactly what platform the game was on at a glance.
However, other menus are highly simplistic. The Challenges menu, for example, is represented by dozens of Atari logos and just looks a bit rushed.
The in-game menus – while clear and entirely functional – are very plain and use an extremely simple font; which may have been chosen for accessibility purposes.
Back in my day
In the game, arcade titles are surrounded by cabinet art, which aids in immersion, while console titles simply aim to emulate the original graphics as best they can. I can’t fault any of this.
While of course, it may be missing scanlines and other kinds of effects that make these older titles look more like they did in the 80s, sometimes that can feel out of place when playing on a large flatscreen HDTV.
For that reason, I’m glad the team opted to just make the graphics clear and smooth as default for modern hardware. There are scanline and other options to make things feel more… “authentic,” if that’s what you want.
Overall, from presentation and emulation perspective, the sounds are flawless of course, but that should come as no surprise. It’s more than competent, and the developers have done a solid job. However, there are two very major issues with this compilation.
Not what it could be
The first issue is with regards to the actual titles included in the emulation. While you can’t complain about the number of titles, you can certainly comment on the quality. For example, certain titles are offered across all three platforms, so you can try Asteroids or Millipede across multiple platforms.
This is interesting from a historical perspective, but the console versions pale so badly in comparison to their arcade counterparts that they are barely worth playing beyond the initial look-in. Beyond that, there are some highly questionable inclusions.
Does anyone REALLY want to play Basic Math? After all, it’s only… Basic Math.
In addition, certain titles that would have made this a must-have are missing; Pac-Man immediately comes to mind. In fact, if Pac-Man alone was included, it probably would have offset much of these complaints. But that said, where’s Space Invaders or Pitfall?
Surely there couldn’t have been too many impediments to getting these titles on there. Licencing issues, perhaps? Without these games, what’s on offer is extremely lacklustre and there’s nothing that really stands out beyond Asteroids, Breakout, Centipede, Pong, and Tempest; at least in my opinion.
However, this leads us to the second, and perhaps the worst issue of all; controls. While the games have been emulated well, the controls have not been mapped accurately to the controllers, regardless of the format, you choose to play in.
I used handheld mode, individual Joy-Cons for multiplayer and the Pro Controller. They certainly WORK, but the analogue sticks are overly sensitive, to the point where they are almost unusable.
The digital control pads aren’t sensitive enough either. This means that games like Breakout and Pong are extremely difficult to play, as positioning the paddle requires a finesse that the control systems don’t really support.
Tempest is playable, but again, the controls don’t allow enough fine control to make the payer feel like they are in charge.
Nostalgia Can’t Fix This
I wanted to like this compilation so much, but the lack of quality titles on offer and the poor implementation of controls has a massive impact on its playability.
There’s some fun to be had here, don’t get me wrong, but with a little more time and effort, and some better choices of games this could have been a solid recommendation.
As it stands, I’d only suggest grabbing this if you are a diehard retro fan, and even then; be warned.
Atari Flashback Classics was reviewed on Switch using a digital code provided by the publisher.
Game Title: Atari Flashback Classics
Great to have a classic collection - 7/10
Missing some key games - 5/10
Controls aren't great - 4/10