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on May 24, 2005
Imagine yourself at a flea market or garage sale. There's a big shoebox with 40 different Atari cartridges in it for 75 cents each. Interested in that dusty old junk? Maybe, maybe not ... but what if it were all neatly self-contained in one tidy, legally licensed package? Cool!

What an improvement this machine is over the original "Flashback" console! The Atari Flashback 2.0 uses updated Atari 2600 VCS hardware, joysticks with the original "classic" feel, and 40 games built in. The joysticks aren't as nicely rubberized as the originals, but they feel similar, and if you had one of these systems in the 1980's, they'll immediately feel familiar to you.

The hardware is well built and is quite faithful to the original controls. A nice touch: the included joysticks are compatible with vintage computers and consoles from the era, too. Hardwired AV cables provide cleaner video than the original system did, and allows you to attach this toy to any modern TV set, and an AC adapter lets you play without running out of battery power like similar toys. Modern users might be annoyed with the crude graphics and sound, plus the fact that you need to get up and turn the thing off and then on again to change games. There's no pause button should you need a bathroom break. That's the way things were in the 1980's, and that's the price we pay for fidelity to the source material.

The console's built in 40 games are separated into "Adventure," "Arcade," "Space," and "Action/Skill" categories. There's enough variety here for everyone. Many of these games are "homebrews" and unreleased prototypes, meaning that unless you are a die-hard collector of Atari trivia, you haven't played these games elsewhere. Not even on an emulator running ill-gotten ROMs.

The full list of games: 3D Tic-Tac-Toe, Adventure, Adventure II, Aquaventure, Arcade Asteroids, Arcade Pong, Asteroids Deluxe, Atari Climber, Battlezone, Caverns Of Mars, Centipede, Combat, Combat 2, Dodge'm, Fatal Run, Frog Pond, Hangman, Haunted House, Human Cannonball, Lunar Lander, Maze Craze, Millipede, Missile Command, Off the Wall, Outlaw, Pitfall, Quadrun, Radar Lock, Return To Haunted House, River Raid, Saboteur, Save Mary, Secret Quest, Space Duel, Space War, Video Checkers, Video Chess, Wizard, Yars' Return, and Yars' Revenge. Supposedly, there are some secret hidden "easter eggs," but I haven't found them yet...

How did the games turn out? Well-known games came out just like the source material. That's good! They deliver a solid, nostalgic game experience. "Battlezone" (a last minute replacement for a homebrew that didn't make it-- and is MUCH better than the poor Flashback 1 version), "Missile Command," "Centipede," "Millipede," "Adventure," "Haunted House," "Combat," and "Yars' Revenge" -- many of these were included on other plug & play units as well as "Atari Anthology" and they work just fine here. If you're into Atari, you may well already have copies of these as they're pretty common. If not, you're in for a treat! Also included are the Activision mainstays "Pitfall!" and "River Raid," a nice touch.

Some other old, familiar games don't hold up so well. They come off as primitive, but it's nice to see them here in the spirit of "family fun": Outlaw, 3D tic-tac-toe, Hangman, Video Checkers, Video Chess, Dodge'Em, Space War, Human Cannonball, Maze Craze are all here and playable. You might like them for some quick plays, but I would wager that many adults, let alone modern kids, would find them ugly and boring.

Some rarities are included for those of us who don't like to spend hundreds of dollars on Atari games. Most of these were released late in the lifespan of the original system, so they show a little more technical flair than the early games. "Secret Quest" (designed by the founder of Atari, Nolan Bushnell) and "Off the Wall" are weird little games that are fun in their own way. "Radar Lock" appears to use the beautiful Solaris engine for an Afterburner-like game which is worth playing. "Fatal Run," only released in Europe, appears to use the Pole Position engine and adds some violent crash-em action to the racing. "Quadrun," an obscure title that fetches big bucks on auction, isn't much fun to play, and the game's main gimmick, a synthesized voice, didn't work on my unit. The manufacturer stated there was a problem with some of the chips in the early run which would be fixed later; since this was the only flaw I could find, I think I'll live with it.

How are the homebrew and unreleased prototypes? A mixed bag. "Saboteur" appeared on Flashback 1 and is redone more faithfully here, but the game is unlikely to become a favorite. "Lunar Lander," while interesting and never seen before, is slow and flickery and looks nothing like the nice vector lines on the box. "Arcade Asteroids," "Asteroids Deluxe," and "Space Duel" are all tweaks on the old Asteroids game, offering a few different play modes but nothing radically new. "Yars' Return" and "Return to Haunted House" are modestly tweaked version of the originals -- in my opinion, these are sequels no one asked for.

Don't despair, though, because there are better homebrews and prototypes on this thing: "Arcade Pong" uses the old Atari paddles if you plug them in when you choose the game, which give you much more control over this simple classic. "Save Mary" has excellent gameplay and graphics. "Atari Climber," also available on the GameBoy Activision Anthology set as Climber 5, is a fun little game that originally appeared on 8-bit computers. Another remake, "Caverns of Mars," is a flickery, upside-down River Raid-esque shooter that gets very manic very quickly, like a classic game should. "Frog Pond" features the best digital insects I've ever seen, and "Aquaventure"'s smooth scrolling and multiple screens suggest an early NES game. "Wizard" is a maze-bound shooter that doesn't seem finished but is still compelling to play, and if you liked "Combat" and "Adventure," the unimaginatively titled "Combat 2" and "Adventure 2" are here for your amusement and are worth trying.

For the hacker, there are instructions on the internet to solder a ribbon cable to the motherboard and add an Atari cartridge slot. This would allow you to play just about any released Atari VCS cartridge, but will void your warranty should you mess something up. I wish there were a simple way to get some of my favorites into the system, like "Solaris" (iffy version on the Flashback 1), or any of the non-Atari games that didn't make it for licensing reasons.

This is a great value for people who like classic games!
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on November 15, 2005
This great game system contains 40 of the original Atari 26000 games. Included are such classics as Combat, Asteroids, Adventure, and Pitfall. Two classic joystick controllers are also included. The set-up is quick and easy. Just plug the unit directly into the i/o jacks of your TV and plug in the ac adapter to an outlet.

The game graphics are exactly the same as they were on the original Atari games. I loved playing Atari games as a teenager, and this game contains not 1 but 40 great games. The price is what makes this game such a great value. For about $30, you get 40 games. When the Atari 2600 was first introduced, a single game cost upwards of $30.

I highly recommend this great game unit. With the fast and easy set-up, you'll be playing your game in a matter of minutes. The games are exactly as they were years ago, and they are just as much fun now as they were then. My children especially like this game, but I enjoy it as much as they do. Pick up this great game value and enjoy a "blast from the past" from Atari.
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on November 17, 2005
Like other reviews have said this Atari plug-n-play product is the real deal! It comes with 20 Classics, the other 20 games are prototypes and 'homebrew' games made from hobbiest programmers. The game Atari Climber is an example of a 'homebrew' game written in 2005 that is included in the flashback. Each game looks, sounds, and plays exactly the same as they did in the 1980s!

Others have complained about the manual not being well detailed. If you memory is fuzzy on these old games you can to this page on Atari's site.

[...]

You can view it online or download a PDF file for printing. The PDF version is 110 pages and goes over each game in great detail.

For $30 this Atari product is a steal.
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on November 17, 2005
This retro system is great. I just bought one and played it last night. The collection of games is good, though missing are some beloved classics like Ms. PacMan, Defender-Stargate, Space Invaders and Galaxian. I think this was because of licensing reasons. Oddly enough though, Activision's Pitfall and River Raid were included because of a deal Atari worked out. That was a nice touch. In any case, the system works great right out of the box and will attach to any modern television with ease. (If you ever tried using an old 2600 with a newer t.v., you know what I mean. Those front-connector A/V jacks on t.v.'s are nice, but not compatible with the old "2600 VCS".) Not so with the Flashback 2 - just plug it right in!

From what I have heard, there are also two "hidden games" that can be unlocked through a series of joystick movements. Apparently these two games require paddle controllers though, so I am not sure most people will care anyway. (I doubt many people out there have old 2600 paddle controllers on hand anymore.)

I only have two complaints about this system. One is the sparse instruction manual included. When you have 40 games included, you would think the manual would be more than a few pages. How in the world are we supposed to know which game options in Asteroids, for instance, gives us "shields" instead of "hyperspace" when we pull back on the joystick? Again, a little more detail would have been helpful here. Either you have a REALLY good memory or just go through trial and error until you figure it out.

The other complaint is the lack of a cartridge port on it. Since this system uses actual 2600 technology inside (instead of an emulator like the Flashback 1), it is possible to attach a cartridge port to the system and play additional games you may have on hand. Apparently hackers can find the instructions on how to do this on the Internet, though must of us would not feel comfortable attempting it. (Besides that, it would void the warranty.) I love the idea of having 40 games built in, but it would be even nicer to have a cartridge port too!

If you think about it, one has to wonder why Atari just does not re-release the original 2600 or 7800 with modified Audio/Video connectors. If they priced it reasonably, people would buy a ton of them! Oh well, until that happens, the "Flashback 2" is well worth the money. It's a ton of fun for the whole family!
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on July 17, 2006
It's a shame that once again what should have been a great little system was rushed out onto market with little or no QA testing. Out of the 40 games included, over a dozen will be unfamiliar to most people since they're either new titles created just for the FB2 or old ones that were never released (and the reason they weren't is because they're not fun to play). Rather strange considering this system is called the "Flashback". Most of the new games are hacked versions of older ones, with some being completely unplayable due to poor programmer. Actually some of the built-in games don't even run correctly! The lineup of titles included is pretty weak overall, considering there were 100s of games that were released for the original Atari 2600. I suppose an argument can be made as to why games like 3D Tic-Tac-Toe and Video Checkers are included, but I personally don't remember playing them very much (and Video Chess runs so slowly, nobody would waste time trying to play it these days). Centipede and Millipede are great games, but why do we need both here? And why clunkers like Human Cannonball were included instead of more well-known games like Space Invaders makes no sense.

The manual is VERY light on information - descriptions for each game are reduced to a single paragraph, and there's no mention of what the difficulty switches do for each one. I guess it doesn't matter since there's no way to tell which way you have them set.

The menu is more complicated than it needs to be, as there are 5 different categories (for only 40 games), and space games like Asteroids and Space Duel are in the "arcade" section, instead of the "space station" section (and vice-versa). One simple list of all 40 titles would have been much better.

As far as modifying the system to use actual cartridges, don't bother. Due to internal hardware problems, there are incompatibility problems with dozens of games, including some of the most popular titles such as Boxing, Berzerk, Cosmic Ark, Decathlon, Dig Dug, Galaxian, Hero, Mario Bros, Pitfall 2, etc....

About the only real positive thing I can say about the system is the redesigned joysticks, but since there's so many problems with the system, you'd be better off using the joysticks on a real 2600 system. Whatever the reason(s)/excuses for the problems, dumping flawed product on consumers is a lousy thing to do, and this company has done it more than once, most notably with the original Flashback (1) model. For the price that these are selling for, you can pick up a Jakks Activision 10-in-1, Atari's 10-in-1, and Atari's 13-in-1 paddle TV systems.
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on December 7, 2011
For starters, I grew up on the original Atari 2600. It does "somewhat" have the essence of the classic, but that is about it.

First, much like the previous "Flashback" and the newer Atari Flashback 3, there are games that never existed when I was growing up. I am not saying they are bad games, but they aren't original titles.

Secondly, with current technology, you can fit the entire 100% library of original Atari 2600 titles on a CD. With how little storage space that is needed of whatever means is being used for titles, a huge number of 2600 titles are either being falsely advertised (like Pitfall) or simply aren't added. Why? My guess Atari doesn't want to spend the needed licensing fees to include them. Problem is, it really and I do mean REALLY kills a lot of the potential the "Flashback" has. Just as a few MAJOR missing titles includes Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Pitfall, Combat, River Raid, and oh....hmmm lemme see.....Pac-Man?!?!?

Thirdly, a "Flashback" could be a gold mine if it were made properly. I would spend well over $300.00 on such a system. If it included 100% of every single Atari 2600 United States title, had an HDMI port on the back, and included a pair of 2 original joysticks and a pair of 2 original paddle controllers that were both wireless, and put it inside a replica 2600 in the original "woody" wood grain shape and size
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on March 21, 2007
this thing is almost a dream come true. I remember wasting so many precious hours of my childhood on the atari game system. I think the atari flashback is big step towards redefining what REAL gaming is. The games present on this machine are tough...some are even bone crunching hard (caverns of mars, missle command and atari climber to name a few) and rather limited I might add. While I love the inclusion of Adventure and Pitfall (even the addition of Adventure 2 and haunted house 2 is a nice touch), I still find myself flipping past game after game that fails to hold me captive by its gameplay. Sure, these games are suppose to be challengin, but when the object of the game is obsure and I'm fumbling around with no guidance on what to do, I'm left reseting and trying the next game out only to findout that it's the same deal. Another thing is the reseting itself. If I want to change games I have to turn off the machine and turn it back on. Maybe in future releases of flashbacks Atari will include a "menu" button. I think the addition of certain titles such as stampede, barnstorming, freeway, journey escape, frogger and warlords might boost the appeal of the flashback as those games had a higher replay value than most fot he ones listed. Other than that, I'm enjoying the selection overall, which includes river raid, battle tank, combat, pong (gotta love pong!) and caverns of mars. In all, it's worth a purchase and a welcome sight to a market saturated with over complicated button configurations and painstaking real life graphics that suck out all manner of imagination within the human mind's potential. I find it's a treasure that will be passed down in my house to show my kids what real gaming is all about.
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on February 1, 2006
I bought this for a guy I work with and he loves it. He has been into gaming for a long time so I figured this might be a lot of fun for him. Sure enough he has been playing it a lot and has been telling me how many memories it brings back. I am not as much of a gamer but because of how much fun he has had with it I think I am going to order one for myself. When having friends over it would be a lot of fun to bring back memories of playing centipede, asteroids, missle command, etc.

If you are looking for a decent priced present for someone who loves gaming this system should score big. Obviously it is not for someone who is only into the newest games but anyone who has a history of gaming will really enjoy this as a gift.
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on February 23, 2006
So much fun to play, I have my 5 year old niece playing pong and all the other great games.

easy to use. great for everyone!
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on March 4, 2011
This system is clearly a later version that was re-released without the Activision games. Despite the images and the description, Pitfall and River Raid are NOT included. They were apparently pulled, and Amazon never bothered to update the images. They might change this in the future, but as of THIS writing, the main product image shows a box with Pitfall on the cover. This is not the box I received. It's a shame, as those were two of the games I was most looking forward to playing.

I am enjoying playing Haunted House and Combat again, as they were the first games I ever owned for my 2600 when I was a kid. But, other than those, Adventure and a few other classics, the included games just aren't that great. My old 2600 still worked last I checked, so I am probably better off digging it out and hooking it up. Luckily, this was only $35, but for the money you're better off getting one of the joysticks with 10 games. In the end, there are maybe only ten good games on this system.

Regarding the hidden games people have reported, they ARE on this system. Typically, I've only heard of Warlords and Super Breakout being on the hidden menu, but Circus Atari is also available on this system. These are paddle games that do not work with the included joystick controllers. Would have been nice for them to include an updated set of paddles OR include hidden games that will work with the joystick.

Side note: Other people have mentioned that in order to select a different game, you have to power the system off and then on again. This has proven true. Though that would be the same as the original system, that is kind of annoying.
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