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Matt Keller
20 Nov, 2005

Retro Atari Classics Review

DS Review | Classic, but for all the wrong reasons.
For the last 15 years (at least), a large portion of Atari’s bread and butter has been retro collections. Sure, the current Atari is a soulless front for the company formerly known as Infogrames, but that hasn’t stopped them from pumping out collections of some of their namesake’s best known games from the days of the Arcade (and subsequent VCS releases). While some of us aren’t old enough to remember these classics in their original form (this reviewer was born during the year of the great videogame crash), we’ve at least had the opportunity to enjoy them in some legitimate form.

The key to these collections was that the old arcade games would appear in their original form. As time has passed, Atari has included both the original versions and arrange modes to warrant some extra play time. Retro Atari Classics for the Nintendo DS would appear to be the first retro collection that Atari has released that has broken away from their established formula – but as the old saying goes; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

This reviewer seldom uses the word “travesty” when describing a videogame, but it is the most fitting description for the sorry pieces of code written onto this cartridge. Atari has enlisted developer Taniko (whose recent efforts include Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and He-Man for GBA) to develop somewhat updated versions of ten or their arcade classics, implementing better graphics and touch screen controls. Unfortunately, things could probably have not turned out any worse, with the soul seemingly having been ripped out of these classics by choosing not to emulate them in their original form, but rather trying to update them to use the abilities of the DS.


Pimpin' ain't easy, especially when you're small, yellow and look like a gimp

Many Atari arcade favourites have been selected for ravaging and raping of childhood memories, including Centipede, Missile Command, Pong, Breakout, Warlord, Tempest and Asteroids, and some “not-so-classic” games in the form of Sprint, Gravitar and Lunar Lander. Each game has two variations; the regular “classic” style of game, and a remix version, which features the work of various graffiti artists, few of which we can say we’re familiar with – only the “Obey Giant” label (featuring the likeness of wrestling legend Andre the Giant) has seen prominence, and broken through into relatively mainstream culture.

Rather than emulating the games to maintain their classic forms, Taniko has opted to reprogram them from the ground up specifically for the DS. This has resulted in a lot of anomalies being present within these games, leading to them being far inferior to the arcade originals. Centipede seems to have worn the brunt of the abuse, with the spiders moving in a rather bizarre fashion, and the centipede’s patterns are all over the place. Warlords is the best of the collection on the cart, but it is missing a lot of features from the classic version of the title; mainly the fact that the original game used to spawn multiple fireballs once a competitor was eliminated – this version only ever features one fireball, leading to it being a very drab experience. Missile Command decides to automatically select which base the missiles are fired from, rather than allowing the player to choose; this can lead to serious problems during an aerial bombardment.


Lollypop, lollypop, oh lolly-lollypop!

Control is the number one problem with Retro Atari Classics. While we admit it might make sense for some games to have an analogue control system like the DS touch screen can offer, the touch screen control has been so poorly implemented that most of the games in the collection are unplayable. Missile Command and stylus control seems like a match made in heaven, but as mentioned earlier, the player can’t select which base their missiles come from. Paddle games like Pong, Breakout and Warlord have a slider system, which basically involves the player rubbing the stylus across the screen to move their paddle – accuracy can be a problem here, especially in Warlord, where the shield sometimes decides not to correspond with your stylus movement, as it has stuck become stuck in the corner, and you need to suddenly reverse the way you’ve been playing. Tempest is controls quite weird – a grid has been placed across the screen, and rubbing the stylus off the screen moves your character around the edges of the grid; the problem being that one full movement of the stylus across the touch screen is not enough to get your guy around the grid, causing the player to have to rub like crazy. Add this to reduced accuracy, and we have a formula for frustration. Asteroids, Sprint and Lunar Lander are just outright unplayable with the stylus; the methods decided upon by the programmers are downright illogical, but the D-Pad control isn’t much better.

Given the source material on which they are based, you can’t exactly expect Retro Atari Classics to have mouth-watering graphics. In fact, you’d expect that the developer would have chosen to faithfully recreate the games as they were seen back in the 70’s and 80’s, but this is not the case either. Taniko has chosen to alter the graphics slightly, so they’re neither faithful to the original material (which would have been acceptable), nor are they pleasing to the eye. Asteroids seems to have suffered the most; the wire frames on the asteroids seem too jagged, and the ship is a mess of pixels – not the simple rectangle we’re used to. The graffiti graphics in the remixed games are quite poorly implemented, with tons of ugly looking sprites and backgrounds we’d expect to have seen in the hey-day of the 8-bit era. Arguably the only solid part of Retro Atari Classics is the sound, which has been accurately recaptured.


The left top screen features the guy to whom Atari sold your childhood memories during development

With the pickup and play nature of retro compilations, you can’t expect Retro Atari Classics to last for an extended amount of time, but given the poor job that Taniko has done in assembling the game, we can’t imagine anyone willingly playing the game for more than 30 minutes. Retro Atari Classics is a great example for future generations on how not to develop a compilation of arcade classics.


This review is brought to you courtesy of Infinite Gameplay, with unlimited game rentals starting from $19.95 a month.
The Score
Retro Atari Classics is an outright travesty. 2
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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4 Comments
8 years ago
I haven't had a good nightmare in a while...might pick this up...
8 years ago
Nick wrote
I haven't had a good nightmare in a while...might pick this up...
I picked it up from EB (got them to match the $27 offered by JB) but I took it back after a couple of days... I couldn't agree more with the review, the games are so poorly implemented it is a nightmare! I thought maybe the Mulitplayer might have been a bit of fun but there isn't even any download play so you both have to fork out the money! Even at $27 (or even $2 for that matter) the game's not worth it
8 years ago
Quote
Pimpin' ain't easy, especially when you're small, yellow and look like a gimp
icon_lol.gif

Excellent review.
8 years ago
Why are there so many below average DS games......
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  Out Now
European Release Date:
  Out Now
Publisher:
  Atari
Developer:
  Taniko
Players:
  1-4
Memory Blocks:
  EEPROM

Extra:
Local Wireless Play (multiple carts)

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