Without delving in to details of fandom and jovial childhood bliss, the Atari game console was an integral element of my gaming timeline that filled quite a void for me on a cold, Christmas morning in New York. It was 1989 and people were going rabid for a peculiar system by a Japanese manufacturer with a chubby plumber as its poster-boy. I was spending the day with my cousins, entertaining myself with a run-down PC that peaked at games like ‘Skate or Die’, humming the Super Mario theme song, nonchalantly expecting the console as an offering from St. Nick.
As most things went during my youth, I received half of what I asked for, but ended up with more. When my uncle walked in to the house with a big bag, we rushed him, clawing at the contents, ripping apart the wrapping of the gift, oblivious of its size and weight that could not have equated that of the NES. We read ‘Atari’ on the box, and turned it over looking for any mention of the word ‘Nintendo’. “All the shops were sold out of the NES. I looked everywhere”.
For the sake of coherence and structure, I shall skip the part where we jumped around in a frenzy, blurry eyed, uttering whatever nonsense that came to our shell-shocked minds: “Why does God not love me? I will not drink milk anymore! I am going to play in the snow without a coat!”
Two days later, I found myself playing Space Invaders continuously, disregarding my classmates who were busy saving princesses as plumbers, knights and green-clad adventurers. I was saving the world from an alien invasion; who’s more righteous now?
The Atari brand name has been present from as far back as Wikipedia states, which incidentally is 1972. They released multiple consoles since then, all varying in shape, form and size with a string of numbers assigned to each model. To them, it was apparently ‘hip’ to sound technical: We shall not give our a console creative name like that of the ‘Odyssey’, but rather assign each product a set of charming numbers. Ooh how giddy!”
In 1993, they decided to forego all they stood for and substituted the numbers with a name and more importantly, replaced the signature single button joystick with a 15 button joypad. Had they known then what they know now, they would have stuck to their guns. The release of the Atari Flashback series is proof of the market’s need for nostalgia and simple gaming fun.
The Flashback 3 includes 60 built-in Atari 2600 games, 2 joysticks, and a case design that is similar to the Flashback 2/2+ design, except for front-based joystick ports, no B/W switch, and a different curvature. Structural details aside, when I first opened the box, I was flush with joy at the opportunity to load up Atari games on my HDTV without the assistance of an emulator. The actual console was smaller than I expected it to be and the joysticks are as creaky and fragile looking as I last remember them, but when I receive half, I get more.
Simple to plug and navigate, I went through all the games in one sitting, laughing at the mediocrity of some and applauding the genius behind some others. ‘Adventure’, for example, throws you in the dead end and expects you to unlock its secrets armed with nothing but your imagination and logic. In an age when more and more games are developed with an infernal hold-your-hand style of gaming that spoon feeds you everything ad nausem, such demand of skill and imagination is more than welcome.
At about $60 US retail price ($100 or so for the Middle East), the Atari Flashback 3 should be an instant purchase for those of you who have cherished the charm of the original Ataris in all their 8-bit glory. I would also encourage parents to buy it for their children as I equate its importance to that of a Lego set. It will trigger their imagination, open their minds and that blissful glee they will experience upon uncovering a secret will always stay with you.
Do you speak or understand Arabic? Check out my video unboxing / review of the Atari Flashback 3!