"THE classic gaming system"

Before most (not all, but most) gaming systems, there was one that was considered the practical god of the gaming industry: Atari. Other companies like Magnavox, Colleco, and Fairchild gave it their all back in those days. Fairchild created the first system with interchangable cartridges called Channel F. The system met some success until one system would come along and be the first of the most dominant systems in gaming history... The Atari 2600, of course. Atari kept the idea of the interchangable carts with this system, and also upgraded the graphics. Their aim seemed to be to try to bring something closer to arcade graphics to a home system. Of course, they didn't bring true arcade graphics home, but considering the time they came pretty close (then again, consider that there were arcade games back then that ran on vectors instead of pixels). The Atari 2600 was the beginning of a legacy that would sadly fall as they struggled to make a transition into a more advanced gaming industry. The 2600 had some of the best home games at the time, as well as some very interesting ones that shouldn't be passed up (or at least played once).

Over-Looking Time
I've seen many a person slander Atari 2600 in graphics, sounds, and even in quality of games simply because it doesn't compare to [insert gaming system that has come out in the many years following Atari 2600's release]. Honestly, it's an unfair comparison. Of course Atari isn't going to have better graphics than NES, Genesis, or even Dreamcast or Xbox. It's a much older system and they certainly didn't have the technology back then. The key to enjoying 2600's games comes in two forms: Either you remember the days of old and play these as classic titles of your youth, or you can actually look past the age barrier. It's a lot like the argument between color films vs. black and white. There have been some incredibly black and white films (Citizen Kane) and some really bad color films (Neverending Story 3). The fact is you have to look at it from a age perspective.

Graphics Capability
As far as graphics go, the Atari showed some better advancements than machines before it. One major factor in its graphical capability is the fact that the graphics actually evolved over time and got better. The games went for a basic bunch of blocky pixels (like Pac-Man) and went to something a bit more detailed (like Pitfall). Some games even had textures to their graphics rather than just being one solid color. These weren't deep textures, mind you. At least not as advanced as today's textures. A great example for comparison... Check out Asteroids. Not a very diverse range of colors, but a slightly decent one; Not to mention that the colors are fairly simplistically used. Now, look at Piftall 2: Lost Caverns. Look at the sky! Very nice graphical detail put into a beautiful horizon. Yes, this is pre-NES! Loads of different colors all around the place, giving a nice diversity to the game. Let's not forget that some objects and characters in the game are more than one solid color. Not many systems have a high graphical evolution. It is usually the systems that are ''hard to develop for'' (as many anti-Sony people would say about PS2) that get such graphical evolution.

As far as sound goes, the Atari wasn't meant to be much of a sound machine. There are some games that have okay sound and some that are just plain annoying, which is one of Atari 2600's sounds. There are so many games with irritating beeps and bloops that it can give an individual quite a headache. Not many games have much music, if any at all, which is somewhat of a relief. What little music I've heard on Atari 2600 is a bastardization of the arcade version. Sure, you can't expect acrade quality sound on this system, but their attempt is juast as irritating as the many of the sound effects. On another note, why does every character with the ability to jump in an Atari game absolutely have to make a stupid noise when doing so? It's almost as though they have a chew toy in their pants making an awful hybrid sqeak/quack. Okay, enough of the piss-tired ramblings of a college senior. While it is written above on just how bad the sound effects are, a good majority of them are actually tolerable to some extent. Not to worry.

The Controls
The control of the Atari 2600 is both good and bad. Good because it's simplsitic. There is one analogic joystick and one (count 'em ONE) button, which pleases me very much! No fussing with a whole score of buttons. No getting confused. No shoulder triggers or hidden buttons in the joystick. Just one button that most likely does one action (if any) on each game. Where's the downside? I found the joystick a bit stiff at times. This made some games hard to play and also made using the joystick a bit hard on little children. There are (or rather were) however, third-party joysticks that weren't as stiff as the Atari one, but those aren't always fully reliable. I remember I had one as a second player control that was made of plastic and easy to control. Unfortunately, it broke off because it was made of a very fragile plastic.

The game library is certainly something else. Lots of good games, some bad ones, and loads of interesting and unusual ones.

Good- Pitfall 2, Demon Attack, River Raid, Ms. Pac-Man, Defender, Donkey Kong, Desert Falcon, Berzerk, Video Pinball.

Bad- Cruise Missile, Dragster, Pac-Man, King Kong, Beat 'Em and Eat 'Em (along with any other game made by Mystique or Playaround).

Interesting- Dragon's Lair, Tax Avoiders, Kaboom, Frogger, Congo Bongo, Tutankham.

Final Word

All in all, the system is very good. Most of the games really aren't worth playing beyond 30 minutes at a time, but there are some that are worth quite a bit of time. Honestly, I haven't found too many games on this system I didn't like. I honestly wish I still had this system. I gave it to my older brother who wound up pawning it because he claimed it stopped working. I had over 30 games for it, a few of which didn't work anymore sob. So, this is a tribute to my old Atari...

BG's Atari
Opened: Christmas Day, 1988
Pronounced Dead: About two days after Christmas Day, 1994

On a lighter note, I did purchase Berzerk from Value Village for about $3. Heh, now I just need an Atari 2600 to play it on...

Graphical Capability: The graphics gradually evolved which is always good for any game system 8/10
Sounds: Hmm... So many I could've done without... 6/10
Control Design: Some to love... Some to hate... 7/10
Games: Loads of good games! 9/10
Worth: I wish I still had mine. It's worth it in my view. That is, if you can find one that still works. 9/10
All Together: 8/10

It's extremely hard to find a working Atari 2600. The system is very old. The only remnants of the Atari live on in the Internet as emulators or as remakes. If you like old school gaming, definitely try to find this one. If you really hate old games, then this honestly isn't for you.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 02/03/01, Updated 12/17/02

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