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Holy Flashback Bat Geeks! Atari’s Greatest Hits Comes to iOS.

  • By: Atari Inc.
  • Genre:  arcade game, retro game
  • Platform: Universal
  • Price: Free with in-app purchases
  • Multiplayer Options
  • SAHGeekMom Rating: 4 Stars
  • Pump gives it 0 Pump’s up!
  • Recommended Age:  30+

Atari’s Greatest Hits (Universal. Free to download, comes with one game, Pong, 99 additional titles available as in-app purchases) was just released in the US App Store having surfaced in the New Zeland Store several days ago. And the buzz is huge.

If you were born after 1970, this may be ancient history, but once upon a time, Atari was king of arcade gaming.

And by the end of the decade they were  not just the progenitors of the modern console unit, their name was synonymous with home video gaming.

My friends and I dropped many quarters into classics like Missile Defence, Asteroids, Space Invaders, and oh the joy of Centipede and that wild trackball.

By 1979 every kid I knew had the VCS or 2600 or had rented couch space at a fortunate friend’s.

The trouble is, when I got the additional 99 titles you can purchase in-app to accompany the free Pong game, I was lost in nostalgia.

What I failed to recall was the consternation the clumsy 2600 joystick caused. And does anyone else remember their Pac Man game? Talk about a let-down…

Arcade left – Atari VCS right

I also forgot how much harder those first games were. Let’s be frank, generally our quarters and tokens bought us two minutes max of playing, and many of us spent as much or more time watching the best players duke it out, as playing ourselves. (They got easier. But only in the early-mid 80’s did true casual gaming emerge. I could last 45 minutes on Ms Pac Man!)

No matter how devoted we were to mastery, most of us were lucky to see board three of Donkey Kong (never owned by Atari, just an example of the era.)  I know I sound like grandma, but kids today do have it easy, at least when it comes to gaming.

Even the original Pac Man was unwinnable for almost all but the proto game-geek Billy Mitchell.

(If you are love these game, love docs, or just want to see a very funny movie, and you have not seen  King of Kong,: Fistful Of Quarters, (CLICK HERE FOR MOVIE TRAILER) open Netflix and pop some corn. Or at least check this out 😉 – total LOL! Billy is always SO serious… rockstar my ars…. Seriously, even if you are the anti-geek, watch the award winning movie and laugh until you cry as a hapless down-on-his-luck gamer Steve (rhymes with dweebie) Weibe takes on Billy, his evil minions and his super-sized ego.)

Ok, enough, get to the point old geek, right?

Well, I kinda did. This is an app for old folks like me who want to stroll down memory lane, but not, as you can see by Pump’s score above, for everyone.

*Word of caution. Read App Store Comments with grain of salt. The game is free to DL so anyone can comment, and if you don’t read a review like mine, most people don’t understand what they are buying. This is a love it or hate it app.

After playing with Atari’s Greatest Hits for hours I’m in retro-heaven, but have to fess up. These games were novel once, but only the best still pass muster.

It’s no reflecction on our generation’s replay value, but video games are not fine wines. They generally don’t improve with age.

And Atari doesn’t own the most iconic titles anymore.

They gave up the rights to the biggest names like Space Invaders, E.T. (why anyone would want that terrible game is beyond me, but it was a huge hit for them and I am reading complaints) and Pac Man or never owned them to begin with.

Those titles and later 80’s classics like Tapper, Tetris and Ms. Pac Man already ported to iOS,  granted without cabinets, but faithful renditions or retro-style with a new twist. Look at Namco’s Pacman on iOS and compare to above: 

So Atari can’t bring you many of their greatest hits, no matter how much haters wish or whine in the App Store comments.

But they can offer a great deal. Free Pong, 99 games for under $15, or smaller multi-packs for .99 each.

But for $15 many of the VCS titles don’t pass the laugh test, much less the test of time.  Unless you are a die hard fan, of all things Atari, I suggest you stick to your favorites.

If you love particular games, absolutely drop a buck or two. It’s flashback fun and rendered well for touchscreen, when you consider the source material.

I made my second video ever, sound and artless, to give you a peek under the hood:

But sadly, forget selling this to your kids. Pump took one look, laughed and beelined right to his Wii.

The execution of the games in Atari’s Greatest Hits isn’t the problem. Some games are well rendered, others just don’t work on a touchscreen.

I suggest you AVOID IPHONE PLAY. The screen is too small and the controls too large for effective gameplay.

There is a glitch in Pong, as reported by users; the paddles aren’t quite long enough, but the quick fix is to change orientation to portrait.

Otherwise the games I knew were faithful renditions.

But, seriously? Backgammon is painful to look at, much less play.

The arcade titles play far better than the VCS’s. I really like the trackball control in particular, but they make up only 18 of the total games.

There are some standout former cartridge games my favorite is Yar’s Revenge, but there are a lot of antiquated oddball titles like Basic Math and Code Breaker that don’t add much to the package but memory usage.

Atari’s Greatest Hits looks authentic, in fact it’s pixelated eye candy. And loaded with goodies like original cabinet art and documentation.

And I discovered a fun way to work around what I find to be a clumsy joystick.

Grab a Fling for iPad. It works seamlessly on any of the games that use the 2600 joystick and plays better than both the simulated and original console controls. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am having a blast going through the whole collection, even the most obscure. But I am a long-time devotee of Atari.

I have to concede, however, that while it’s a pixel-lovers dream, the full package may not be for those whose lives don’t have the video game equivalent to a soundtrack.

I turn again to AppSpy as they seem to share my opinions and their reviews are nice to look at 🙂

One thing is certain, this game is destined to be an iOS classic and spark much debate. And it’s going to make a lot of old school gamers like me very very happy. Welcome back Atari!

Ok that’s it for the big game of the week. I’ve been quite sick, please forgive how infrequently I’ve posted, but also please check out my other reviews both here and on appadvice.com.

And have a GREAT weekend!

Happy App Hunting



Comments on: "Holy Flashback Bat Geeks! Atari’s Greatest Hits comes to iOS." (5)

  1. Tim Tembreull said:

    After pre-ordering Pac Man and waiting months for it to finally arrive, a group of my friends all gathered around the TV and popped the cartridge in to the 2600 and instantly, collectively experienced the most disappointing moment of our young lives. It was our equivalent of the moment in A Christmas Story when Ralphie decodes the Ovaltine message and I’m not sure I have fully recovered to this day.

    • lol great movie and perfect example, we had the exact same moment! It truly was breathtakingly horrible.

      But heal soon, because there’s a Lemmings clone out today that does the game proud and Namco brings a good ARCADE rendition to iOS. If you try Pac Man or Ms with a Fling on iPad, it actually feels like old times… and it only took, what, 200 gaming platforms to get there? Taito had Space Invaders too on iOS I am pretty sure. And I saw something called Minotron(?), which I assume is a Tron clone. I guessed the gaming worls has figured out what a huge demographic we are.

      I want a colecovisio and mattel’s intellevision ports too!.since it’s the year of the classic remakes anyway it seems fitting if totally not going to happen.

      I loved the controller from intellivision for asteroids (only for that game) and Zaxon (is that the name, the flight game?) was the first game to look like a real game at home! And CV was bundled with a decent donkey kong too if memory serves.. Now there is a game that NEEDS to port. And jr.

      Oh you know which classic is really nice on iOS? Pole Position. I loved that game and Turbo so much…. remember the little cabins where you sat?

      You, Tim, must see King of King, please say you have! And seriously, thanks for coming out here, you made my day 🙂

  2. Haaa…we had an Atari! Wow, how far we have come!

  3. Just another reason I need an iPad!! Good times, good times….

  4. Thank you for this review – I had thought about it, but the honest point is that though I had an Atari, we only had 2 games (other than Pong)…Pac-Man (which as you mentioned is not ‘Pac-Man’), and, yes, indeed, E.T. Oddly enough, I would purchase the 99¢ pack with E.T. in it, but mostly because I used to spend hours and hours trying to pass this one level which I have since heard is unwinnable – I want to see if that’s true! And I appreciate you telling me this is too small to play on the iPhone (and obviously, my iPod Touch). Might still pick up the free Pong to itch my retro scratch, but I don’t want to take the time to sort through the whole catalog on my teeny tiny screen! Thanks!

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