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December 01, 2010

Atari Greatest Hits: Vol. 1 -- A DadCentric Review

Atari greatest hits If you are of a certain age, you'll likely have a blast reliving your misspent youth in the arcade or your awkward pubescence fumbling alone with your joystick in front of the TV by playing Atari Greatest Hits: Volume 1, a collection of 50 classic (read: prehistoric) video games that you can play on the Nintendo DS.

That is assuming you can pry the DS away from your Pokemon/Mario-obsessed son's hands for a few minutes.

And a few minutes is really all you'll need.

After that, you'll be shaking your head, trying to get your vision straighted out after squinting at the gaudy color schemes and primitively pixelated graphics on a screen that's smaller than a Jack of Spades. Then you'll be scratching your head trying to remember why you wasted so much time blasting asteroids with a hyperspace-equipped nipple or bombing Slinky's bow-tie collection as its flipped up a hole while spitting at you.

Temptest Atari Greatest Hits
That is why Atari Greatest Hits: Volume 1 for the DS is and isn't exactly what its name implies.

It IS visually and sonically faithful reproductions of nine arcade games (including the  pioneering Pong tennis game, Asteroids, Centipede, Missile Command and Tempest) and a mess -- figuratively and literally -- of games for the original, faux wood Atari 2600 home console. These latter games include the innovative (the Dungeon and Dragons-ish Adventure, its darker cousin Haunted House), arcade clones (the colorful vomit of comets/nipple ship remake of Asteroids, a massively incomplete prototype for Tempest), the usual sports suspects, the lame (Atari -- nee Rubik's -- Video Cube? Slot Machine?) and the incomprehensible (the whole Swordquest trilogy sans the comic books you need to understand what the heck you are supposed to be doing). 

Centipede It ISN'T the "greatest" games, unless you interpret that word to mean "a large number of."

Seriously, Video Checkers? 3D Tic-Tac-Toe? Fun with Frickin' Numbers?

Unfortunately, some of the 2600's best games (Pitfall!, River Raid, Space Invaders) were made by or licensed from other companies and some of Atari's better ones (Breakout, Yars' Revenge) are probably being held out for Volume 2 along with a bloat of more stinkers (ooh, ooh: E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, pleeeeeeeease!)

Enough about what isn't there; what is on this game card are exactly the same games you wasted hour upon hour on as a kid. The game play is generally the same, with a few exceptions.

On the arcade games that used trackballs in real life, you can use the DS stylus to mimic that tool's' quick, fluid movement. It helps as you'll be squinting to see what you are aiming at, because given the DS's compactness, some objects are actual pinpoint dots.

Tennis On the 2600 games, you only have the option of using the DS control buttons to move up and down or side to side. This inability to make simple and fast diagonal moves made it pretty hard, for me at least, to make a race car cut even the widest turns in Sprintmaster.

Adventure dragon In the end, with the exception of Missile Command, Centipede, a little Tempest and a few rounds of defeating those duck-like dragons in Adventure, there's not really much to keep you coming back -- especially for the $29.99 retail price.

Sure, I had fun playing a few innings of Home Run, the original Atari baseball game that I played endlessly as a pre-teen when I wasn't outside actually hitting, pitching and catching for real. It was simple and stress-free to have no pretense about having team rosters that exactly match present day Major League ones or worrying about righty-lefty match-ups and warming up the bullpen. Nope, in Home Run you get one to three players, all of whom look like they were nicked from a Egyptian cave painting and move in fascists-on-parade lockstep.

It was a nice little trip down memory lane.

Emphasis on "little."

DISCLOSURE -- Dear FTC: Don't touch this junk which I was given for free; if you do, I'll have you arrested for stupidity.



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