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Friday, May 20, 2022

Coin Op Capers: Atari Vault Review

Atari is a name synonymous with the birth of the gaming industry, and its part in the brief death of the aforementioned industry in 1983. Their back catalogue includes 14 consoles and 100’s of games. So it’s no surprise then that Atari in these leaner years wants to dip back into its varied bag of tricks to bring us the Atari Vault a compilation collection of 100 of its finest arcade and home console classics, and for the most part it’s pretty darn good.

But Dom I hear you ask, why do you at the tender age of 27 have such a nostalgia for games from the 70’s and early 80’s? Well hypothetical reader I grew up in a classic small British seaside town and the only thing to do in one of those places is to go to the arcade down the seafront. Many an hour I whiled away my hard earnt 20p pieces on asteroids, lunar lander and centipede. This was my initiation into gaming, shortly after these experiences I pestered my parents into getting me a Sega mega drive, (or genesis for our American readers), and the rest as they say is history. Nerd qualifications out of the way, here’s the review.


I think I will always be that six year old boy. 

Firstly as previously mentioned Atari Vault has 100 games and they are split into two different categories namely original arcade games and games form the Atari home console, the 2600. This makes for a huge variety of games, if you like arcade shooters they’re there, puzzle games yep, adventure games bingo! Value for money wise it’s a steal as for £15 you have an instant collection of classics. My only issue with all this variety is that some of the games can be very samey. There’s not much difference between the 10 capture the flag games that are in the capture the flag game for example. Now I know that this was the case back then and at the time I am sure they were all as exciting as the other. However I can’t shake the feeling that Atari could have put a more diverse selection of games in the collection without the compilations within the compilation.


Flagception if you will. 

You navigate through all the titles from a well presented and easy to navigate main menu that shines with all the neon goodness of the 80’s with an 8bit music loop that plays incessantly. This can get a bit annoying after about 30 seconds and because there are so many games and extras to browse through you might be spending quite a bit of time in the menu. It’s the extras which really add another dimension to this offering. Each of the games come with either a scan of the original manual to look through or a gallery of arcade cabinet art, and a look through the prizes that Atari used to give out for competitions in arcades back in the day. This is a really nice touch and will be eaten up by any retro gaming enthusiast and it really gives you a feeling that you have a real virtual collection.


Good Show!

The games are as they have always been – classics from playing asteroids to millipede developer code mystics have kept all the original quirks of the games, from weird graphical glitches to the original sound design. With the arcade games I found it hard to figure out how to start a game. The slavishness with which the game keeps to the arcade cabinet theme makes you click a small part of the UI which makes the game begin. It’s an odd touch but one that makes the experience kind of authentic.

Furthermore these games are hard, as was always the case with arcade titles (all more the better to separate you from your pennies). If you had the pleasure of playing these games originally hold them up to your siblings or kids as a lesson of how easy they have it in this day and age of over tutorialised hand holding games. Gravitar especially is rock hard and stands as a testament for how open world gaming started and to where it should return.


Gravitar showing No Mans Sky how its done. 

There is multi-player but at the time of playing, which was four or five days after release, it was non-existent. After waiting a little while I found one person hosting a game of warlords; I joined then they left the lobby. Atari vault does allow for local multi-player but I have no friends and my girlfriend didn’t want to play so I can only assume that it works well.

Overall Atari Vault is a great nostalgia trip with a wealth of content from the games to the history presented in the extras. It is a great time for long-time fans and newcomers alike. It stands as a testament to the lasting value of great game design.

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