With the digital revolution, many classic tabletop experiences have fallen by the wayside. But back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, you could count on most households having a copy of Mastermind.
Mastermind was a code-breaking game developed by an Israeli telecommunications expert named Mordecai Meirowitz, and it was based on an earlier pen-and-paper game named Bulls and Cows. The concept is simple: one player develops a code consisting of four coloured pegs, and the other player has to guess this code in as few steps as possible, making use of the codemaker’s feedback.
Codebreaker is essentially a digital adaptation of this game, making use of numbers rather than coloured pegs. It also features an adaptation of the ancient mathematical game Nim, for those who enjoy taking the last chocolate in the box. As a complete game package, it might look a bit limited from a modern perspective, but there’s fun to be had here.
I detest most real-life sports, but I’ve been known to have a bit of fun with digital recreations of sporting activities over the years; they make great, easily understandable competitive affairs, after all.
My favourite sporting games are those that don’t try too hard to be realistic simulations; those that simply make use of straightforward, abstract mechanics that provide a rough approximation of the basic rules of the sport. Games that you can just pick up and play without having to worry about the more complex side of things.
As it happens, Championship Soccer for Atari 2600 is a great example of this. It resembles football in only the most cursory of ways — but it’s actually quite an enjoyable competitive game of skill, even for those of us who don’t really like sports!
It’s that time again! Yes, Centipede is back for a third time — this time in the form of the speedy and challenging Atari 5200 version.
Technically speaking, this version is probably closest to the arcade version, but it’s also one of the most difficult — particularly if you dare to play it with the original Atari 5200 controller, one of the most notoriously awkward pieces of technology ever created.
In other words, if you really reckon yourself at Centipede… then the Atari 5200 version is the one you should be challenging yourself with!
Centipede is one of Atari’s all-time classics, so naturally it appears in Atari Flashback Classics no less than three times: once in its original arcade incarnation, once on the 2600 (today) and once on the 5200 (next time).
Each version has its own subtle differences, though, and the 2600 version here is particularly impressive for keeping the gameplay’s core addictive quality intact despite not looking super-impressive from a technical perspective.
When you consider quite how much is going on on screen at once, though, you have to give the humble little machine some respect; it’s clearly working its socks off to provide some satisfying arcade action!
As we’ve previously seen, the Atari 2600’s launch lineup included a competent but fairly no-frills adaptation of the game of Black Jack.
A year later, creator Bob Whitehead followed it up with the much more substantial Casino, which not only expanded Black Jack’s gameplay with hand splitting and insurance betting, but also included stud poker for up to four players, and an enjoyable “poker solitaire” puzzle game.
Okay, sure, compared to modern offerings it might still seem rather limited… but there’s fun to be had here, especially if you bring some friends along for the virtual gambling fun!
Bip! Boop! Bip! Boop! It’s an iconic sound of the late ’70s: a computerised simulation of some sort of bat-and-ball game. And few games of this type are more classic or influential than Breakout.
The Atari 2600 version of Breakout offers a variety of ways to play, including several multiplayer modes. This technically made the home console version a superior experience to the arcade machine… which is a phenomenon we wouldn’t really encounter again until roughly the Dreamcast era.
Anyway, Breakout for 2600 is a good time, particularly if you’ve got some friends to play with. If you’re flying solo, Super Breakout may be a better choice… but that’s a story for another day!
It’s good to give the ol’ noggin a bit of a workout now and again, and that’s exactly what 1978’s Brain Games for Atari 2600 intended to do.
Consisting of several different games relating to memory and perception, Brain Games is a surprisingly fun little package that is all the more remarkable when you consider how early in the VCS’ lifetime it came out.
It was also a direct influence on the popular children’s toy Simon, so it’s got genuine historical significance, too!