I never owned an Atari console when I was a kid but I do remember a downtown restaurant that we used to frequent that featured a variety of tabletop video games the likes of Centipede and Pong. I was a little too young at the time to grasp some of the games, often playing with the buttons without feeding the machine, thinking I was actually controlling what was going on, but it was one of my first exposures to the world of video games. Thanks to Infogrames, who now own the Atari name, those classic tabletop and console games are making another appearance in the form of the Atari Anniversary Edition.
Developed by Digital Eclipse, Atari Anniversary Edition features a collection of twelve classic Atari games. The package includes Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, Battlezone, Centipede, Crystal Castles, Gravitar, Millipede, Missile Command, Pong, Super Breakout, Tempest and Warlords. In addition, a level add-on for Tempest, entitled Tempest Tubes, is thrown in for good measure and there’s even a collection of Atari desktop themes, promotional materials, old photos and various other goodies included in the deal. While I would loved to have seen the likes of Pole Position included in this set, I certainly can’t complain too much considering most retro releaes of this sort come with less than a half-dozen games.
Atari Anniversary Edition is well presented. The front end is simple and effective, allowing you to select from the wide variety of classic Atari games as well as choose and configure your controller set-up, which includes support for keyboard, mouse and joystick. Considering some of these games, such as Centipede, Millipede and Missile Command, used trackballs back in the day, the updated controls end up working quite well, and in some cases, better than the original set-up. There is the odd exception, particularly with Crystal Castles and Tempest, in which the controls are a little awkward, if not difficult to use.
Rather than introduce these classic Atari games to the world of 3D gaming, Digital Eclipse has chosen to recreate the look and feel of these titles. While the focus lies clearly on gameplay, you can still choose to play each of the games in either an “enhanced” or “alternate” mode. The “alternate” mode simply adds color and little details to each game, whereas the “enhanced” mode inserts cabinet artwork and background images to recreate the original arcade machines. The only problem with the “enhanced” mode is that it takes away from the screen area devoted to the game. In most cases, you’ll likely want to avoid these special modes. Besides the original look and feel, each of the games also feature the original bleeps and bloops from their heyday.
When all is said and done, Atari Anniversary Edition is a fine piece of 1970’s and 80’s gaming nostalgia. If you’re looking to re-live your childhood video gaming memories, this collection is sure to get the job done. Each of the twelve games has been recreated well enough and the added Atari media is a nice bonus. Although you can probably find each of these games in some shareware form or another, here you have the entire package at your fingertips, and all for the price of $15 USD. You can’t really go wrong with that.