Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration review for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, Xbox, VCS

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also On: Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, Atari VCS
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Digital Eclipse
Medium: Digital/Cart/Disc
Players: 1-4
Online: No

I have been an Atari fan ever since I was old enough to hold on to a joystick. Even with all of the new technology and amazing games coming out for the current generation of systems, I still love occasionally going back to where it all started and just having fun with some great games. We’ve seen compilations from Atari in the past, but this time we’re getting over 100 of their classic titles including arcade classics, select games from the 2600/5200/7800, Atari XE and, for the first time ever, the Jaguar!

Upon booting up this collection, you are met with a great presentation with an interactive timeline of the history of Atari. Discover where it all started with archival images, special source material like manuals, adverts and behind-the-scenes content in five unique interactive timelines. You can explore more in depth interviews with the original developers and industry leaders, quiz yourself and others with some great trivia and try out some of the playable games. This presentation really makes you feel like you are on an interactive museum tour and really shows that they really poured their souls into this release.

If you just want to dive into the games list, you can do so at any time from the main menu. The List of games begins with some great Atari arcade releases like Black Widow, Centipede and, one of my personal favorites, Cloak and Dagger, a game that hasn’t been featured in any previous compilation before. You also get the unreleased title Akka Arrh, a game that, for the most part, is largely confusing and I can see why it was never released. Another surprise inclusion with the arcade titles is Food Fight, another personal favorite that has also never been included in other compilations. Along with the Arcade releases, Atari has included some re-imagined titles, some with enhanced graphics, with others being totally new experiences. Two standouts are VCTR-SCTR, a brand new arcade title that challenges players to land a ship onto very small landing zones, and Swordquest AIRWORLD. Yes the 40 year old lost Atari 2600 title in the Swordquest line has finally been finished and is now fully playable on this collection!

As for the home console releases, we get a standard selection of Atari 2600 titles. There are maybe one or two titles that are new when compared to other releases, but nothing to get too excited over. Still I am happy they included what they did, because there are some pretty decent games here. Sadly, copyright issues kept more famous titles like Pac-Man and E.T. out of this collection as well. The Atari 5200 is represented with just 5 out of it’s 69 title library, with Bounty Bob Strikes Back and Millipede being the highlights. The 5200 had many decent games that could of been included, so it’s a wonder why only 5 titles were selected. Seems a bit lazy, but the awkward controls for most games on that system might of played a factor in the decision. As you venture through the list of games, you’ll notice some titles that are hidden and come with cryptic riddles on how to reveal them. Some are easy to figure out, while others are more difficult. Most of these can be unlocked by simply watching videos, and checking out the museum, while others have you play a particular game in the list. These “Hidden” games are already part of the 100+ games list, and is just an incentive to explore the museum or play games you may skip normally.

Continuing with the home consoles we have, for the first time, Atari 7800 titles. Seven games out of a library of 59, but they are some of the better ones. Classics like Ninja Golf, Fatal Run and Dark Chambers are here, as well as the more obscure Scrapyard Dog and Basketbrawl. Missing is the incredible 7800 port of Food Fight, however a home port of that game is included, more on that later.

Rounding out the consoles, we finally have games from the ill fated Atari Jaguar system, and it seems that all of the “good” or “playable” Jaguar games are included here. Nine games in total, all of which represented the system pretty well, minus Club Drive which is, just awful. We do get a version of Fight For Life, a game famous for being released before it was finished and the version included here seems to be the finished game the original developers intended to release. The best Jaguar game of all time, Tempest 2000, is indeed included so more gamers get to experience the “killer app” for this failed console. Also included is a small selection of 4 Atari 800 or XE Computer games. Overall nothing of note here except the home version of Food Fight, and boy was it a terrible choice to include this. The 800/XE version is a weak representation of the arcade with just about everything being so terrible, it’s borderline unplayable. It’s not the emulation either, as it was this terrible on the actual cartridge. Why the far superior 7800 version was not included is a compete misstep for this collection. Thank goodness Atari included the original arcade version because playing this one will cause you pain. Personally the 800/XE should not have been included, as this space could of been used for more 5200 games or even more 2600.

On the handheld side, we get 6 of the 73 Atari Lynx games and a digital version of the LCD game Touch Me. I didn’t spend too much time here, as I was never really a fan of the Lynx and Touch Me is a little on the boring side because you are just controlling red lights and sounds. Great inclusion for some, and although I did mess around with them, they aren’t a selling point for me. I think fans of the Lynx will be satisfied with the game selection, as even I had a little fun with some of them.

To say that the Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration is jam packed with content is an understatement. Atari and Digital Eclipse really did a great job with this release and you can tell a lot of work went into making it. Despite some of the odd game choices and the inclusion of terrible Atari XE games this is a fantastic collection overall and should not be missed by anyone. Even if you find Atari rather primitive, you owe it to yourself to take this collection for a spin. The tons of informative interviews, promotion material and superior game list makes this release worth every penny. Highly Recommended!

Note: Atari provided us with a Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: A