Pong and Breakout were winning formulae for Atari, so it makes perfect sense they would want to try and do everything possible with this style of game over the years.
Warlords was one of the more interesting experiments, adding a healthy dose of theme, four-player competitive (or team-based) action and a couple of interesting additional mechanics.
It’s even reasonably fun by yourself… but get three friends together and you can expect the trash talk to flow freely within moments of starting!
Yes, yes, yes, I know the “A to Z” angle in this series is already questionable and this one following Tempest makes it even more so, but we only just managed to find time to have a two-player match!
Indeed, today’s game is Atari Soccer, an arcade title which can only be played with two or four people simultaneously, so bad luck if you have either no friends or two friends. As a follow-up to Atari Football, it again had a cocktail cabinet form factor and exhausting trackball controls to blister your palms with.
Thankfully, the port in Atari Flashback Classics can be enjoyed with nothing more than a couple of analogue controllers, and even for those who aren’t big soccer fans, the game makes for an entertaining, competitive pastime for a few minutes every so often.
Dave Theurer, creator of the beloved Missile Command, is back once again with another all-time classic: “tube shooter” Tempest.
Tempest featured Atari’s then-new multi-coloured Quadrascan vector graphics display, plus an interesting feature whereby you could start later in the game based on how far you (or the previous player) had managed to progress on the previous credit. This later became a standard fixture in many Atari Games releases.
I’ll level with you, Tempest is one of those games I’ve always respected greatly but never really liked all that much… can spending a bit of time with it this weekend change my mind?
While a bit different from what we know today as the “arcade racer”, Atari’s early attempts in this regard were all rather enjoyable.
Of the three included in the Atari Flashback Classics collection, Super Bug was the earliest and, consequently, the simplest. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time, however — if anything it makes it a great place to start!
Drive until you can’t drive any more: that’s all you need to do. But as we’ve seen countless times on this series already, sometimes it’s the simplest concepts that make for the most addictive games…
Back before makers of arcade games figured out how to do a vaguely convincing 3D effect, racing games tended to be strictly top-down affairs.
Sprint 2, developed by Kee Games (actually Atari in disguise so as to get around contractual obligations) was one of several examples from this early era. Pitting either one player against a computer-controlled car or two friends against one another over twelve different tracks, it helped define the early days of a genre that has grown and changed significantly over the ages.
The oldies can still be goodies, though, and I still have a lot of time for Sprint 2, as simplistic as it is!
At this point, most people know that Super Breakout is a bona fide classic of the early days of gaming. But no-one really talks about how monstrously difficult its original arcade incarnation is.
Well, I’m here to change all that today! Super Breakout for the arcade is really, really hard, primarily because the paddle you control is such a stingy, pathetic little size that it’s very difficult to actually return the ball once… let alone enough times to clear the damn screen.
Doesn’t stop me coming back for more, though… particularly with three different game modes to take on in the vain hope I might be good at one of them!
How do you make Asteroids better in a more substantial way than just adding “Deluxe” to the name and making it look a bit nicer? Start by chaining two ships together and work from there.
Atari’s Space Duel was designed as another successor to Asteroids after the aforementioned Asteroids Deluxe regrettably failed to replicate the success and popularity of its influential predecessor. Featuring several ways to play — including both cooperative and competitive two-player modes — it’s a more obvious step forward than Deluxe was.
Don’t let the name fool you as it did me for many years, however; this game can very much be enjoyed single-player, and in one of its modes in particular provides an absolutely unique shooter experience that is well worth giving a go for yourself.
It’s time for another simple but addictive game from the early days of Atari today: this time around it’s the turn of Skydiver.
Skydiver is slightly more complex than Canyon Bomber, which we saw a few episodes back, but it’s still simple enough that anyone can pick it up with minimal explanation. Mastering it is, of course, another matter entirely, but it was ever thus in these early arcade games!
Skydiver is also one of the noisiest games Atari ever created. Be sure to turn your volume down a bit if you’re playing this one yourself!
Chocks away, tally-ho and all that! It’s time for Red Baron!
A contemporary of the rather more well-known and successful Battlezone, Red Baron sees players taking to the skies in a World War I biplane and challenging an endless variety of enemy pilots, blimps and ground targets to aerial combat.
This is an underappreciated gem from Atari’s back catalogue, so while it may not have been a bit success back in the day, it’s well worth playing today!
It might be hard to imagine now, but there was a time in gaming history when it was considered to be a seriously impressive technical achievement to get more than two or three things moving simultaneously on a screen.
Atari’s 1977 release Pool Shark is an early example of the company continuing to push the fledgling medium of video games forward. Not only was it a game that demonstrated the power of microprocessor-based hardware rather than the earlier transistor-to-transistor logic technology, but it also had, like, a whole mess of balls flying everywhere.
And like many of these early Atari arcade games, it’s simplistic… but really rather addictive! Be sure to give it a try.