By Jamison Cush
The irony of using my hot new gadget to enjoy technology that is almost old enough to sport an AARP card is not lost on me. But as someone who eagerly anticipates a wood-paneling architectural renaissance, the Atari Greatest Hits app is right at home on this former mallrat’s iPad 2. And since no self-respecting OG (original gamer) relies on the inferior touch screen for game controls, the Atari Arcade from Discovery Bay Games docking station/gamepad is a must to enjoy Atari in all its low-rez glory.
True, most Atari and arcade classics are freely available in Flash form, so shelling out $9.99 for 99 of them (the app ships with Missile Command free, and game bundles are available for a lower cost) is a tad uneconomical. In addition, the $59.99 price tag for the Atari Arcade dock is also a bit much, considering it only works with the Atari Greatest Hits apps and not the countless other iOS games. But this is the holidays, the time of year many spend almost as much, if not more, on a dying tree they only keep for a few weeks before tossing it curbside. Santa hates frugality, and I’m always willing to splurge for nostalgia’s sake.
On this tech day of Christmas, and the 364 other days of the year, I absolutely love the Atari Arcade and complementary games, but those not sporting rose-tinted glasses for age of Reagan should probably avoid it. An honest assessment of the Atari and arcade games of yore is that even the best games sucked, especially compared to today’s epic masterpieces like Skyrim and Batman: Arkham City. The level of technology severely limited programmers, who often resorted to confusing concepts and odd gameplay (30 years later, I still can’t figure out how to play the Swordquest series).
Atari Arcade is strictly aimed at those weaned on Atari and pizza-parlor quarter munchers. The app is split into both Atari 2600 and Atari arcade games, and features fun details, including pics of the original arcade cabinets, promotional materials, manuals and the delightful Atari cartridge art, which is suitable for framing, seriously. Each game is presented with a digital Atari console, complete with the familiar switches for black and white gaming (you know, for color was a luxury), difficulty setting, game options, and "Game Reset", which actually means "play game."
The Atari Arcade dock is very plastic, with four buttons and a joystick control; rubber grips on the bottom keep it in place. The Apple iPad or iPad 2 slots easily into the dock’s 30-pin connector and is secured with two rubber bumpers. Discovery Bay Games missed the boat by not using the Atari’s old orange and black color scheme, but I can’t complain about it performs, even if some games are better suited for the trackball than the joystick, like the aforementioned Missile Command.
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