Atari Classics Evolved

February 8, 2008

Retro compilations are rarely a good thing, and Atari Classics Evolved is no exception. Included are Centipede and Millipede, Pong, Super Breakout, Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, Missile Command, Lunar Lander, Battlezone, Tempest, and Warlords. Of the entire package one full game and one sub-game are worth playing – Tempest (and Tempest Evolved) and Pong‘s first-person Air Hockey mode. Everything else in the package is either horribly broken, horribly ugly, or both.

Some games just aren’t appropriate for some platforms. Fighting games were a poor fit for the GameCube, anything requiring more than three buttons is a bad fit for the Wii, and Atari’s old arcade games are a bad fit for the PSP. Why? Because in order to play many of them the PSP must be turned 90 degrees putting the directional pad at the bottom, the buttons at the top, and the shoulder buttons to the left of the screen. How are you supposed to hold the PSP, hit the buttons properly, have a good time, and not be hugely uncomfortable? If your game isn’t comfortable to play it doesn’t matter that it’s a classic.

Many of the games, due to being originally released on the Atari 2600, were designed with the antique console’s paddle controller in mind. Games like Pong and Super Breakout just don’t feel right without the physically turned knob as a control mechanism. These ports, aside from Tempest, are lazy, uninspired, and not worth your time. The evolved editions, again aside from Tempest, fare little better. Gone are the classic graphics and sound you remember from your youth, and in there place are half-hearted three-dimensional clones and bass-heavy club-inspired music. The whole thing stinks of the recent Tony Hawk-esque Guitar Hero III brand of extreme video games. Centipede isn’t supposed to look and sound like a trance club.

There is some good here. Tempest is as fun as ever – in both classic and evolved modes. The music still stinks, but Tempest should have been updated graphically years ago. If you like shmups, have never played Tempest, and don’t have a Live-enabled 360 then Atari Classics Evolved may be worth a rental for Tempest alone. Pong, at least the air hockey mode, is also fun and worth playing if you’re saddled with this compilation. It’s nothing complicated, but Pong as played from the first-person perspective is interesting and a fun new take on the game.

Atari Classics Evolved isn’t worth your time – even at the budget price of $20. It’s a quick port of quick ports to Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade, the orientation of the PSP makes many of the games uncomfortable to play, and you can get the only part of this collection worth buying on XBLA for $5.

Score: 1/5

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