Most helpful positive review
58 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2005
This compilation of classic Atari games includes Asteroids, Breakout, Centipede, Gravitar, Lunar Lander, Pong, Missile Command, Sprint, Tempest, and Warlords. This is a great buy for fans of classic arcade games, offering the additional lure of dual screen action and optional stylus control. Warlords even provides multiplayer action. Each version has both a classic version and a "remix" with new graphics, although in general I found that the remixed versions left me cold.
For the most part, the games work well with stylus control, and a few really shine. Missile Command is particularly impressive, and is the first home version I've seen that really captures the excitement of the trackball controlled coin-op original. Both screens are used. Incoming missiles are first visible on the upper screen, although satellites and bombers fly across the top of the lower screen. Antimissiles are fired simply by tapping the target point. Although stylus control must be done on the lower touch sensitive screen, you can hold down L, and your stylus clicks are transmitted to the corresponding location of the upper screen. However, this is a bit tricky, and by later levels I found myself working on the lower screen entirely. Graphics are a bit simplified compared to the arcade original, but work well on the small screen. The one thing I really miss is huge, expanding Game Over fireball, which has been dropped for some reason. Still, it is not a full recreation of the coin-op. As in most home versions, you do not have independent control of your 3 missile bases, eliminating a strategy element that was present in the arcade. Also, the "smart" missiles are much less smart than in the original version.
Tempest also works quite well with the pad, although it takes a bit more practice to get used to this input method than with Missile Command. You move your man by scratching left or right on the trackscreen. The lower display depicts a one-dimensional roller controller. Perhaps memory fades, but I remember the original having a spinner knob. I wish there was an option to control it by drawing circles, instead of scratching back and forth. Still, the control of your man works very well, with a bit of momentum that lets you recreate the sensation of spinning the controller.
Centipede (which originally had a trackball) also worked pretty well with the pad, but I couldn't get as enthusiastic about it. I'm not sure if it was the control scheme or if I'm just not that enthusiastic about the game anymore. A nice feature is that the two screens does a good job of simulating the sideways monitor of the coin-op.
Breakout works perfectly with the pad, providing impeccable control of the paddle. The two screens again simulate a sideways monitor, although there is a small problem (also evident on Missile Command) in that the screens behave "as if" they were contiguous, when there is actually a small gap between them. This creates a refractive effect that makes it hard to correctly extrapolate diagonal movement of the ball (or missile tracks) crossing from the top screen to the bottom one. But Breakout is just too simple a game to have much appeal. I found myself wishing for Arkanoid, or at least Super Breakout.
Asteroids doesn't really need a trackpad--it was a button control game in the arcades. Still, Atari has provided a pad control mechanism that actually works quite well, although you can also use the buttons. I was never much of an Asteroids fan, but it seemed to work well. All of the games include "Remix" versions with updated graphics. For most of the games, I did not find the remix graphics appealing. Asteroids was an exception, with a novel geometric theme.
Gravitar was ruinously difficult in the arcades. That is preserved here, and made more so by the small DS display. I'm glad to have it, but it really needs a big monitor.
For the price, I'd consider the package to be a bargain. Two of the games, Missile Command and Tempest, are topnotch adaptations that benefit from the touchpad, and retain their addictive appeal.
Some of the other choices are a bit odd. Why Breakout and not SuperBreakout? Why not Millipede instead of Centipede? Why no Crystal Castles? I'm hoping this means that Atari is contemplating a sequel, perhaps one that would rectify the greatest omission: Quantum. Quantum was a brilliantly original Atari coin-op that was never widely distributed, probably because it was released just before the great arcade crash of '83. You used a trackball to draw circles around "particles." It would seem tailor made for the touchpad. Perhaps next time.
I hope that other manufacturers of classic coin-ops follow Atari's example and take another look at their classic games with an eye toward the DS and its touch pad, especially for games with trackballs or other non-joystick controls. I'd love to see a DS version of Reactor, for example.