Publisher: Atari SA
Developer: Digital Eclipse
Release Date: 11/11/2022
Also Available On
The 8-bit era of Atari was before my time. I started the next generation with the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo as a young toddler. I still respect and have enjoyed iterations and ports of Atari 8-bit games over the years. What hasn’t been done well is anything outside of bundles of seemingly random collections. They’re nearly countless at this point and have spanned to nearly every console imaginable. Atari anniversary collections, various Atari-themed packs, and various retro packages with fancy UIs or presentations. However, no single retro package has been as cohesive or beautifully created as Atari 50. Even Sega’s recent Genesis Collection with its retro 90’s bedroom and bookshelf display can’t beat this.
The entire game is presented like an interactive history lesson. You go through four timelines. Atari’s origin story and their arcade routes. You get to see photos, printouts, commercials, and interviews with various Atari developers and industry veterans such as Tim Schafer (Psychonauts) and Cliff Bleszinski (Gears of War). These are presented in chronological order. A game is presented when its release comes up in the timeline. Some games have cover art, photos, and even comics underneath them to view. As you advance in the timeline you get a feeling like you’re playing an interactive museum tour. There are no fancy 3D menus or anything, but the clean and simple UI works well. There are a few surprises peppered in like unreleased prototypes and Digital Eclipse’s own recreations of iconic games like Yar’s Revenge and Haunted House.
As you advance to the home console and PC timeline things get more interesting. You will eventually get to Atari 5200 and 7800 games which are a bit more advanced. You will also get to play a few PC games for the Atari home computers. Then you will finish up in the 90s with the Atari Lynx and Jaguar. Sadly, there aren’t many games in this timeline, and the biggest issue with this entire game is the lack of third-party titles. You only get to play Atari-published and own games. That’s very limiting, and while I understand this is Atari’s own history there are many games that helped make their systems great outside of internal developers. The few Jaguar games range from Cybermorph to Tempest 2000 and Missle Command 3D. They aren’t great, but interesting to dive into. That’s another thing about this whole collection. Very few games are fun to play longer than five minutes. Some are pretty clunky and bad. This isn’t a “greatest of” collection which I really appreciate. You will most likely go back to the more fun games like Missle Command, Centipede, Millepede, Tempest, or their latest versions in this game. You get special bezels, backgrounds, overlays, and control options for every game as well. You can also select various modes and some games support save states which is cool. You also get a digital view of every manual for the game including the arcade operator’s manuals. They didn’t leave anything out.
By the time I spent around 5 hours in the game, I got to the end of the timelines. You can go back and play any game in the library view and pick your favorites. These games run really well and look great, but many gamers who didn’t grow up in the 80s will probably find this nothing more than a history lesson. Even more, will find pretty much every game boring or uninteresting. However, that’s not a knock to the games, but just a warning to younger audiences. Anyone younger than 30-35 will most likely not find this game interesting or fun. If you have a curiosity about Atari’s history or games then this is the best place to get that. If you have an itch for trying out 8-bit games or want to go back without emulating anything then this will give you nearly 100 games. I also appreciate how few ports and copies of the same game are in here. Each game was hand-picked and placed with relevancy.
Overall, Atari 50 is one of the best retro packages you can ever play. Telling an entire developer’s history with games placed in their correct time slots and even including unreleased games and reimaginings of some is just fantastic. The videos are entertaining and interesting and you will learn a lot. There are so many details added from commercials, print ads, posters, manuals, customizable controls, save states, and more. It’s a complete and cohesive package for Atari lovers out there. Just be warned that there are no third-party games and less of the 90s stuff.