One of the best classic gaming encyclopedias is an unexpected addition to a recent Atari retro compilation

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The compilation of classic games ‘Atari 50’, which reviews the entire history of the company from the old days of the founding arcades ‘Spacewar’ or ‘Pong’ to the company’s failed experiments with laptops, is undoubtedly a piece of candy For devotees of old video games. And not only because of the fantastic collection of games that it presents, which we will now enter, but also because of the unexpected bonus that it incorporates: a very in-depth interactive encyclopedia of the success and legacy of Atari.

It is not a hidden extra or content to be unlocked. The main menu of ‘Atari 50’ already comes to tell us: what do you want, play or learn and discover? It is a perfectly logical dichotomy: Atari’s history goes from the very beginnings of the medium to the present, with special incidence in the eighties, where it was indisputably one of the names most genuinely associated with the medium in the United States.

And likewise, in keeping with this encyclopedia, the games ‘Atari 50’ compiles aren’t exactly retro games that appeal to today’s user, as they’re far from cutting-edge. Some are still fun today, others decidedly outdated in their mechanics and which must be approached with the spirit of an archaeologist rather than a player in use, all are essential pieces in the gear of the history of video games. In some of them, like ‘Asteroids’ or ‘Tempest’, it’s not difficult to find the basis of the control and game systems that we still use today.

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That is to say, in ‘Atari 50’ playing is also an encyclopedic task. The set is one of the most interesting pieces of media history review we’ve seen in recent times. This is how you have to understand this stupendous compilation that also offers some additional surprises, such as the modernization (in some cases very successful) of the house’s classics. We are going to review some of the attractions offered by ‘Atari 50’.

Hundred and odd games

The mood of ‘Atari 50’ is very clear: he wants us to know the legacy of the company as thoroughly as possible. That’s why, Of the 103 games included in the compilation, only 5 are locked out, which is a relief compared to recent compilations like ‘Pac-Man Museum+’. The material that accompanies each of the games, as usual with Digital Eclipse (signers of two of the best recent compilations of retro titles, ‘Mega Man Legacy Collection‘ Y ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection‘) is juicy: new loading and control options, plus digitized extras like covers, boxes and manuals.

Of course, there are problems controlling some games so let’s not kid ourselves: especially in the case of arcade games, the best way to experience these games is on their original hardware (the ‘Asteroids’ buttons, the trackball of ‘Centipede’, the spinner of ‘Tempest’)… But as a substitute, this proposal more than meets and sometimes even improves it: the titles of desktop consoles are much more comfortable to play emulated. In my case, I’ve done it on a Steam Deck, and I haven’t missed the 2600’s dumpy joystick in the slightest.

The games are a perfect selection from the Atari catalogue: 40 from the 2600, 25 arcade games, and then a handful scattered around. between the 5200, 7800 and Jaguar consoles, the Lynux laptop and the two compatible Atari 400 and 800. What is most missed, of course, are the licences: the masterful shooter vector images of ‘Star Wars’, ‘Alien vs. Predator’ for Jaguar, the ill-fated ‘E.T. The Extraterrestrial’… in return we have a multitude of rarities. And as icing on the cake, the remakes: some like ‘Yars’ Revenge’ or the new ‘VCTR-SCTR’ (a kind of hodgepodge of Atari shooter ideas) are very remarkable.

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and a great documentary

The undoubted highlight of the compilation is a gamified documentary, set in a timeline through which we can move. Each of the Atari games is detailed and explained with unpublished documents, short video clips (from the time and current) and countless curiosities about the creation of each game. Of course, all subtitled in the language of your choice. The approach is sometimes somewhat partial (only the usual top heads are there but not, for example, the designers of the incredible covers of the eighties games), and the nineties are not covered in as much detail as the eighties.

All in all, the documentary is not only a perfect approach to Atari, but it is full of surprises and unpublished and playable material: holograms of a canceled Atari laptop, entire game codes (that fit in a simple image), and a little gem : ‘Airworld’, the game that closed the Swordquest saga and that never saw the light of day because of the crash from the early eighties. Digital Eclipse has recovered the documentation and has programmed it from scratch.

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It is these types of details that, without a doubt, differentiate this proposal from a compilation to use. There will be those who think that it is worth it, that all these games are easily located and playable on the Internet, but ‘Atari 50’ is not designed for them. The aesthetics of another era, the avalanche of material and documentation is not only for people who want to play, but for those who also want to understand.

The compilation of classic games ‘Atari 50’, which reviews the entire history of the company from the old days of…

The compilation of classic games ‘Atari 50’, which reviews the entire history of the company from the old days of…

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