Atari Anthology review
A collection that proves quantity doesn't always equal quality

The good:

85 classic Atari arcade & 2600 games included and perfectly converted from original formats. Some interesting new gameplay variations. Lots of rare, unique game-related bonus material.

The bad:

Horrible graphics and gameplay. Clunky controls. Many good games were left out.


The latest to jump on the "retro classic revival" bandwagon, Atari Anthology brings out easily the biggest such collection to date. This title includes a total of 85 classic games-18 original arcade titles from 1979 to 1983, and 67 titles originally released on the Atari 2600 home system, covering a variety of different genres.
The graphics, not surprisingly, are perfect for the games but absolutely horrible by today's standards. All of these games are from the pre-NES & 8-bit days so the 2600 titles have very crude graphics, lacking color & detail and objects generally are too difficult to make out. The arcade original graphics are much better, but generally are just wireframe graphics with a couple of exceptions. There are "enhanced" graphics available, but they're really nothing more than fancier backgrounds and a few other minor improvements. You can also play with or without the cabinet art, which adds authenticity but makes the gameplay screen to small unless you have a 27" or larger TV (screen size is adjustable though). Sounds are the same as the graphics-perfectly converted effects but not much more than standard blips & bleeps, with little to no background music during gameplay. Controls for the games vary from clunky to downright aggravating-many of the titles used setups involving a handful of buttons, trackballs, or other unique setups that the Xbox controller simply cannot replicate-while the controller is relatively responsive and you can adjust sensitivity for games that would use the trackball or 2600 controllers, it's still not the same. On the 2600 games, they are unresponsive in general and slow to execute your commands. Gameplay is generally exceptionally simple, as most of the games use only a controller and maybe one button, if any at all. The most playability comes from the arcade titles, as there are about 8-12 good ones in the batch, but pretty much all the 2600 titles are just filler. The 2600 titles include the original instruction manuals, but the interface for viewing them is unusually complex and they are written for the 2600 controllers, not the Xbox controllers, so even old 2600 players will have some trouble understanding them. Also notably omitted were any arcade titles from after 1983 (titles like Gauntlet, Marble Madness, Paperboy, etc.) and Atari 5200 & 7800 titles in favor of only the poor-quality 2600 lineup. On the flip side, you can unlock some rather interesting variations on the games, like speed-up mode, having to play multiple games at once, or time limits among others, and high scores can be uploaded to Xbox Live scoreboards-although you'll probably be all alone on them. One nice addition that will appeal to older gamers and history buffs is that Atari included lots of bonus content, including arcade sell sheets, posters, advertisements, collector's items, rare copies of boxes and game cartridges, manuals for the games, and over 30 minutes of interviews with Atari founder Nolan Bushnell. These interview clips offer a great first-person look back at the history of Atari from the beginning through the 1980s before Bushnell left the company.
While the sheer quantity of titles here would almost always justify the $20 price tag, the age of these games and quality really limits this title's appeal to hardcore retro gamers and those old enough to remember playing the Atari 2600. If you enjoyed the arcade originals, though, the 18 perfectly-converted games on this disc are enough to warrant a purchase just for those games, because they are still fun and challenging, but if you have them already on another system (like the many compilations available on PlayStation or PC) then there is no need to buy them again here. And do not buy this for the 2600 games-pretend they don't exist because they should not have even been here. This is a nice collector's item, but only for collectors of the classics & compilations.

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