Wednesday, November 9, 2016

First look at the Atari Flashback 7, non-portable

Plus other flashback style product

"Flashback" consoles are all the rage these days. Well, they're not all the rage but they're at least half the rage, as evidenced by the veritable onslaught of consumer product shaped like gaming consoles appearing in the facebook feeds of aging Gen-Xers. So many that such a cheap thrill purchase seems like a societal expectation. Some folks are desperately looking for a retailer with stock left in time for christmas. But the question of the day is: should a retrogeeker put forth hard earned money for one?

What's new (yet again)?

This year it's the babysmall NES classic with 50 built in games, officially sanctioned by Nintendo of America, and available for around $50 from Target, Gamestop, BestBuy, and other retailers.

Pros? cons? You decide: The miniNES output is HDMI for compatibility with modern TVs. There is no cartridge slot so no need to fumble with cartridges, but at the same time, you're stuck with a set of games that includes most of the classics, is missing a couple definitive NES titles, and inexplicably includes a few games no one ever played on NES (Pac-man.) Also, of course, the games are played in emulation mode so purists will notice inexact audio in the emulation, and possibly other retrorection-killing artifacts.

Not to be outdone, ATGames hits back with a Mini-Genesis with 80 games. Same price point, $50 at Target, but also available at weird outlets like Bed Bath & Beyond and Family Dollar. They're marketing it as a pseudo-response to the Nintendo product as a 25th anniversary Sonic edition, but let's be real, this product has been available with different packaging for at least 3 years now. All the usual caveats apply: wireless remotes require direct line of sight to the console, 40 of the 80 games are not fun, and although it has a cartridge slot for playing your own thrift shop finds, the games run on a cheap megadrive emulator on an android-based platform.

← And of course, these baby Coleco and Intellivision versions of these mini-reissues already came out last year.

Spend your money? For committed retrogeekers, I say no. Most of us already have some of the original consoles, or can still acquire one for less than the near $50 asking prices of these essentially disposable knockoffs. If you want the convenience of playing lots of games from a single cartridge, and would rather do it using real hardware, I'd recommend putting your money toward an EverDrive flash cart from StoneAge Gamer. They offer SD-based multicarts for NES, SNES, Megadrive, N64, Gameboy, and more.

And what about the original? The Atari 2600? It's now on Flashback revision 7. Lord Karnage has a thorough rundown:


Review by Lord Karnage

Friday, November 4, 2016

Atari Flashback Portable

Fellow retro geeks, nostalgic nerds and dated dorks, as far as I am concerned, this is the Holy Grail of portable gaming and I've wanted this for as long as I can remember.

It's the friggin' Atari Flashback Portable.

Badass


Even as a child back in the Dark Ages, I recognized that technology was getting smaller, faster and cheaper and I often pondered how long it would be before the industry would eventually get to the next logical place and release a hand-held Atari, Colecovision or Intellivision system. I recall spending far too much time in my bedroom sketching and designing what I thought such a system might look like but of course, it was all just a bored kid's fantasy.

Now the good folks at AtGames, who previously brought us a slew of retro machines like the SEGA Classic Gaming Console, the Intellivision Flashback as well as the venerable Atari Flashback, are planning to release the Atari Flashback Portable, first officially licensed hand-held Atari 2600 game system. The unit should be out November 2016 and here's some marketing verbiage from their site:
  • LCD screen
  • Video out port (cable not included)
  • Rechargeable battery included
  • SD slot for downloaded games
  • A travel-friendly MUST HAVE for the avid gamer
  • 60 Legendary Atari 2600 hits including: Millipede®, Pong®, Missile Command®, Asteroids®, Centipede®
If AtGames follows their previous pricing from the SEGA Portable, which was updated earlier this year, then the Atari Flashback Portable should be priced around $50. Not too shabby.

The big selling point for me is the built-in SD card slot. In the past, the Flashback consoles have been limited by the built-in games that the producer was able to license for that particular version of the machine. So for example, the Atari Flashback 2 may have had a few more games built into it than the Flashback 1, but it may no longer have included a couple of your favorites due to the ongoing legal challenges of trying to license early computer-game technology from companies that often no longer exist or others who have now grown so large, their licensing fees have become too prohibitive for small companies like AtGames to tackle. Hell, I'm still not sure if there's ever even been a Flashback console released that has included Activision's top-seller, Pitfall, arguably the most popular 2600 game ever made!

But now we finally have a Flashback system with an SD card slot that lets you load up your own downloaded Atari 2600 roms, meaning that you're no longer stuck just playing the same included games over and over again. Better yet, you can most likely fit the entirety of the 2600 library on one inexpensive SD card enabling endless hours of retro-gaming Atari goodness on the go! That, to me, is worth the price of admission.


WATCH THE VIDEO ANNOUNCEMENT FROM "THE NO SWEAR GAMER"



BONUS VIDEO: ENGINEER-EXTRAORDINAIRE BEN HECK'S HAND-WIRED PORTABLE ATARI 2600

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Art of Atari

As you all pretty much know, when I was just a wee tot living in suburban Wisconsin, milking cows and drinking beer, I spent a lot of cold winters sitting in front of our (alarmingly) warm TV set playing classic Atari games like Missile Command, Adventure and Asteroids. Games that, when played on a home console in 1981, looked pretty much like ass. The graphics, as some of you will recall, were embarrassingly simple -- one game's soccer ball was another game's ICBM missile. The sound of an explosion in a space shooter might double as the sound of a crowd cheering on a football team. What I'm getting at here folks is that the narrative power of these 2-kilobyte game programs was extremely, extremely limited, so we had to actually use our own imaginations while playing our video games back then. Which, ironically, was something that I think was lost on many parents of the time, as they often lashed out against this wicked new video-technology that would most assuredly eat their children's souls and melt their brains.
But how do you market and sell a game that contains only a dot, a line and a wall of bricks to millions of sweaty, greasy teenage kids who can't wait to hop into their station wagons and cruise on over to Kay Bee Toys to pick up the latest radical game cartridge?

Like this:
Not real, but an incredible simulation.

Nope, not what you're thinking about at all when you're eight years old and spinning a paddle in your hand -- sorry, that sounded weird. But believe it or not, this approach ended up working well for Atari and having been initially run by a bunch of stoners and hippies anyway, they were very up on the idea of dedicating a fair amount of cash and resources to art and design right from the start.

So wouldn't you know it, some forty-odd years later and long after the original company imploded, someone has finally put together a book chronicling this hitherto overlooked aspect of our favorite video game behemoth, and it's available today in hardback.

Penned by Chicago-based designer, Tim Lapetino, The Art of Atari gives the reader a comprehensive overview of the various design initiatives employed by Atari over the course of its entire history and reveals the stories behind them as well.

From the official site:

"THE ART OF ATARI is the first official collection of such artwork. Sourced from private collections worldwide, this book spans over 40 years of the company’s unique illustrations used in packaging, advertisements, catalogs, and more.

Includes a comprehensive retrospective collecting game production and concept artwork, photos, marketing art, with insight from key people involved in Atari’s rich history, and behind-the-scenes details on how dozens of games featured within were conceived, illustrated, approved (or rejected), and brought to life!"

Pick up your copy for only $39.99 from their site by clicking the link below!

VISIT THE MAIN ART OF ATARI SITE HERE FOR MORE INFO

BONUS VIDEO: INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, TIM LAPETINO




Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Retro Advantage: home computers

Everything I do with computers today, I learned in kindergarten 1986.

TaskThenNow
Word processingCorel WordperfectMS Word
Music productionCSoundLogic Pro X
SpreadsheetVisiCalcGoogle Sheets
OSProDOSEl Capitan
Graphic DesignBroderbund Print ShopAdobe Illustrator CC
AmusementApple PanicKingdom Rush
etc.

Watch Old Computers Did It Better

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Fix-It Felix Jr. Mini

You can't tell, but this is tiny.
Disney's 2012 animated epic, Wreck-It Ralph, paid tribute to many classic video games from the '80s and '90s by bringing to life some of the most beloved game characters of all time such as Q*Bert, Pac-Man and my personal fave, Tapper. However the main story centers around a fictional creation of Disney's called Fix-It Felix Jr., a game that most likely took inspiration from the legendary Nintendo hit, Donkey Kong. In it, our titular hero takes on the task of repairing a crumbling building while avoiding the wrath of the evil Ralph, who tries to take out Felix by hurling rocks, or clumps of dirt or something at him...you know these 8-bit games make it tough to tell, sometimes.

It's not a bad little game and I know because Disney went the extra mile of actually designing and programming the concept into a playable game which you can download for your iPhone, Android or Windows phone -- sorry Blackberry (kids be like, wtf is a Blackberry?) You can even play it on your home computer, as long as you have Flash. (kids be like, wtf is Flash?)

But because it was never actually a real arcade game, you retro game collectors out there can forget about getting your hands on a working model, unless one of those kit-bashers, game-hackers or MAME-floggers that live in your web browser decides to build one. I'm looking at you Ben Heck!

But until that day arrives, what you can do is stop by eBay and pick up a (relatively expensive) mini-replica of the arcade game itself. This decorative miniature doesn't actually let you play the game, but it does feature an LCD screen with a video loop and sound effects and would be a worthy addition to any geek's man-cave. The bidding starts at $70, which I think is a little steep, but if you're a fan of the film, this is one collectible that you probably won't find anywhere else.