Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration in the test - An excellent piece of contemporary history

Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration in the test - An excellent piece of contemporary history

Atari 50

50 years ago, with the founding of the Atari company and the release of Pong in 1972, the age of commercial game development really took off. The game collection Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration wants to do justice to this anniversary and is more than just an accumulation of old classics for current systems as you know them so far. It's more like a visit to the Computer Games Museum in Berlin, so a piece of computer game history that you can experience that today's Atari has about as much to do with the original rock as a Tyrannosaurus Rex has to do with a rooster - somehow genetically related, but not identical. In 2001, the French publisher Infogrames (including Alone in the Dark) acquired the rights to the Atari brand and exchanged its original company name for that of the industry pioneer. After hopeful beginnings, the company almost completely hit the wall. Today, the Gallic rooster lives almost exclusively from the exploitation of the purchased rights - always oscillating between well-served nostalgia and nefarious brand exploitation. The anxious question the fan always has: is it finally a golden egg again or a rotten one again?

Yar's Revenge, reinterpreted by Digital Eclipse.

© Atari

Luckily, Infogrames-Atari has found a specialist in Digital Eclipse who has already proven his diligence several times (e.g. Disney Classic Games Collection, Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection). The range of games is extraordinarily rich and includes over 80 milestones plus various ports from Atari's arcade, home computer and console archives. The selection is so broad that the impression of always the same game principle does not arise.

The majority of the titles come from the Shoot 'em Up, Jump 'n' Run or Arcade racing simulation categories (you can find a complete list of games in our News ). Consoles from Atari 2600 to Jaguar are covered, numerous arcade machines and even a few home computer classics from the Atari 400/800. Among the titles are such famous classics as the obligatory Pong, Asteroid, Breakout or Missile Command. From the later hardware generations you can look forward to Star Raiders, Tempest 2000 or Atari Karts, for example. As a bonus, there are some prototypes and unreleased titles, such as Airworld, the fourth episode of the Swordquest Challenge, which was never released due to the video game crash. Finally, with five contemporary reinterpretations of old classics, Digital Eclipse proves they can do more than just dust off dinosaur parks.

What's missing are all the games, an which Infogrames-Atari has no trademark rights. On the one hand, there are arcade games that appeared after the split in 1984 by the independent sister Atari Games (e.g. Gauntlet, Marble Madness). On the other hand, well-known licensed titles such as Pac-Man, Space Invaders and E.T., which is actually important for history, are missing. - The alien. The Atari ST home computer was also left out entirely.

There are two avenues of exploration: the story chapters, explained in more detail below, and the games library. You can switch to the latter at any time by pressing a button and can select all the games contained there directly. Clever filter functions and jump labels make navigation easier for you in a pleasant way. Unlike the originals, you can save the games at any time and revisit them later. You can also make adjustments to the key assignments. If you are at a loss with the aim of the game or understanding the abstract pixel objects, you can open the original instructions in the menu and read them.

An assessment of the games according to today's standard is naturally difficult. These are faithful conversions of titles from the very early days, some of which sold millions. Most of them were played on arcade machines or - as was common at the time - based on arcade titles. This means simple controls and high levels of difficulty so that the player has to toss coins and the high score can serve as a real test of one's gaming skills. But platformers were still a long way from the smoothness of Super Mario Bros., and it rarely got comparatively more complex than the first Mario Kart. Without the option to save, most of the titles just stayed short or simple - it's nice that the developers have retrofitted this point. Very few titles are likely to keep you glued to the screen for more than a few minutes, unless your sporting ambition has been awakened. The value and quality of these games must therefore be viewed in the context of their time. Digital Eclipse has put a lot of effort into making this as accessible and understandable as possible for you.

The same applies today as it did then: the more spartan the graphics, the better the frame is more spectacular.

© Atari

Because the real highlight of the program are the curated sections on Atari's company history. In five thematic chapters you work your way along a timeline point by point. All games are embedded in a historical context, regularly garnished with pleasantly brief additional information or eyewitness reports in video form. The old developer legends like David Crane or Al Alcorn have not forgotten anything and know how to entertain with their humorous anecdotes. All texts have been translated into German and interviews offer optional German subtitles. One or the other spelling and translation mistake clouds the overall impression a bit, but it doesn't distort the meaning. Other additional content includes promotional clips and digital reprints of game instructions, advertisements, old design documents and much more. Atari's enormous innovative power is made visible in many details and one wishes that today's game manufacturers were just as busy. Above all, there is a loving design of the colorful interface, which sets the scene for the content without being obtrusive or boring.

If you want a historical overview criticize something, then the conspicuous concentration on the early and Warner years. Already the Atari Corp. under Jack Tramiel much less comes into its own. The transfer of rights from 1998 via Hasbro to Infogrames degenerated into a marginal aspect shortly before the end and with it today's Atari SA with all its ups and downs as a whole. This means that almost half of the 50 years mentioned in the title are missing. Part of the truth is certainly that there were far fewer highlights in the Infogrames days to celebrate and include. Most of the silverware has meanwhile been sold and just these days the only more up-to-date product mentioned in Atari 50 – the ever-delayed Ataribox a. k. a. Atari VCS - discontinued after less than two years due to a lack of buyer interest. One gets the impression that the rump company itself has finally finished with this phase and for longtime fans Infogrames was never really Atari anyway. At the end of the day, however, this product is not a historical reckoning, but a conciliatory reminder of a great past. Cheers to the birth of computer games and their most important pioneer. Simply nostalgia in the best, entertaining sense.

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