TGIF: Friday Shopping Frenzy

Well, Thank Gawd It’s Friday, or better yet, #TGIF!

Friday always feels good as it is the end of the working week and knowing that the weekend shenanigans are nigh.
To make Friday flow even easier, we thought we’d go shopping for some cool retro gaming and general pop culture stuff that you may also be interested in. Oh yeah, if you are keen on any of the gear below, just click on the pic and it will take you to the relevant merchant/store – too easy, here we go!

 

The RepliCade Mini Tempest Is In Da House!

Being an early backer on a Kickstarter has its perks, you can usually pick up a product for an early bird price (way cheaper than its inevitable retail price) and you get to use / play it well before anyone else does. The only down side is the usual delivery time frame, so the wait can be agonising.

After waiting patiently, our Replicade Mini Tempest arcade machine has finally arrived! Joining its sibling, the Replicade Mini Centipede, these machines are a sight to behold! With great quality inside and out, it’s like someone got a shrinking gun and used it on the real arcade machines – they are that damn accurate! Don’t believe us, then check out the pics below. Oh yeah, the spinner, albeit on a smaller scale, feels almost how we remember playing Tempest over three decades ago!

 

 

 

Review: Atari Flashback Classics – Nintendo Switch

Up until recently Nintendo Switch owners had to watch and endure their contemporary console friends get their Atari classic gaming fix. Well, this is no longer the case!

The Atari Flashback Classics compilation is a collection of 150 Atari favourites for the Nintendo Switch. Taking full advantage of the Switch features, like vertical / TATE orientation (for compatible games), Switch owners now have lots to gloat about to their other console brethren. Let’s just say this straight off the bat – this compilation is choc-full of the legendary publisher’s iconic library of games, with titles from the Atari 2600 and Atari 5200 home consoles, along with former Atari coin-op/arcade exclusives.

Of course we were always going to play Atari’s seminal arcade titles first! Well, the scrollable 11 page games menu had the arcade titles first, so it made the choice easier. If there is one gripe here, we just wish that that you could customise the games menu. Anyway, it was game on with Asteroids, Centipede, Missile Command, Pong and Tempest (to start with), and boy, they did not disappoint! These classic Atari arcade games are perfectly converted on the Nintendo Switch, with impeccable controls (each game has a pop control area showing which map buttons to the correspond Switch controls). We also love the bezel artwork, which gives that authentic arcade feeling.

Speaking of artwork, the home console games (Atari 2600 and 5200) get their full box art on the menu and also come with their respective full manual. Some (not all) game manual scans are tad blurry, but it’s still a great example of conservation that helps turn this release into an almost museum-like archive.


source: Atari

Atari Flashback Classics has a slew of features, including a local achievements system, leaderboards and a local (up to four players) and online (two players) multiplayer. These features were designed to bring players together, just like back in the day – a neat little touch.

This massive library of classic Atari 2600, Atari 5200 and Atari arcade games is perfect for those Switch owners craving for a one-stop shop to play old school Atari games either at home or on the go. If you want a fix of classic Atari gaming on your Switch, then grab the Atari Flashback Classics now.

Disclosure: Atari Flashback Classics [Nintendo Switch] was kindly provided by UberStrategist for this review.

 

Film Review: Easy To Learn, Hard to Master – The Fate Of Atari

The story of Atari has been told many times, from books like Atari Inc: Business Is Fun to umpteen documentaries, but none tell the full and complete story as well as Easy to Learn, Hard To Master: The Fate Of Atari.

Narrated by revered Commodore Engineer, Bil Heard, this documentary delves deep into the Atari history like no other film before it. From Atari’s humble beginnings as Syzygy and the breakthrough of Pong, to the Atari VCS/2600 home console, its subsequent sale to Time Warner and downward spiral to oblivion in the early 80s.

The story is weaved perfectly with many points of view, including former Atari Inc. President, Ray Kassar, who had never told his side of the story prior to this documentary. This is quite important, as stories about Atari had always been told from their former engineers (like Al Alcorn) and co-founder, Nolan Bushnell, so it was refreshing to get management perspective from Ray and Manny Gerard. This is even more poignant as Ray Kassar passed away in December 2017 – making his story even more important when it comes to Atari’s history. Another poignant interview was with old foe, Ralph Baer (Died on December 6 2014), himself a great inventor and the grandfather of video games and the concept of home gaming consoles.

Other notable interviewees include Joe Decuir, Howard Warshaw, Ed Rotberg, Dannis Kable, Dave Rolfe, Eugene Jarvis, Steve Russell, former Nintendo of America President Minoru Arakawa and former Atarian and Activision co-founder, David Crane, to name just a few. If you don’t know the story of Atari or you would like the definitive history on Atari, then we highly recommend Easy To Learn, Hard to Master: The Fate of Atari.

Title: Easy To Learn, Hard to Master: The Fate of Atari
Director: Tomaso Walliser & Davide E. Agosta
Production: Junk Food Films

WWII Inspired Video Game Propaganda Prints

We are huge fans of Fro’s (aka Fernando Reza) video games related propaganda posters!

His latest series are inspired by World War II video game propaganda prints. This latest set contains a whopping 26 prints! There are six new Mario and Zelda prints each, as as well as Metroid, Galaga, Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Tetris, Metal Gear Solid, Joust, Frogger and many more great prints – check them all out here.

Duck Hunt – For Vital War Needs

Space Invader – Stop the Invasion

Mario – Superior Firepower

Galaga – Protect

Zelda – Victory

Tetris – Build for Victory

Zelda – Hope for the Future

Mario – Building for Victory

Pac-Man – Protect Our Pellets

Duck Hunt – Keep’em Firing

source: Fro Design Company

 

Review: Atari Retro Handheld

Let’s get one thing straight, this Atari Retro Handheld is not a Flashback portable console by ATGames! There, hopefully we have clarified this point for you all.

This cool Atari Retro Handheld is by powered by Blaze. With its iconic Atari faux wood veneer and Vader lines along its front, this portable system design screams late 70s kitsch. It is like having an Atari VCS woody in your pocket – almost! We say almost, cause you can’t really grab your old Atari 2600 carts and slam them in this handheld, but you can play one of 50 classic titles, including Asteroids, Adventure, Breakout, Centipede, Crystal Castles, Millipede, Sword Quest, Yar’s Revenge  and our absolute fave Atari 2600 game of all time, Missile Command – check out the full list of games below.

  1. 3D Tic-Tac-Toe (31 in 1)
  2. Adventure
  3. Air-Sea Battle
  4. Asteroids ®
  5. Black Jack
  6. Bowling
  7. Breakout ®
  8. Canyon Bomber ®
  9. Casino
  10. Centipede ®
  11. Circus Atari ®
  12. Crystal Castles ®
  13. Demons to Diamonds ™
  14. Desert Falcon ®
  15. Dodge ’em
  16. Double Dunk
  17. Fun With Numbers
  18. Golf
  19. Gravitar ®
  20. Haunted House ®
  21. Home Run
  22. Human Cannonball ™
  23. Maze Craze
  24. Millipede ®
  25. Miniature Golf ®
  26. Missile Command ®
  27. Night Driver ™
  28. Off the Wall
  29. Pong – Video Olympics
  30. Quadrun ™
  31. Radar Lock ™
  32. Realsports Football ®
  33. Realsports Tennis ®
  34. Realsports Volleyball ®
  35. Sprintmaster
  36. Steeplechase
  37. Stellar Track ™
  38. Street Racer
  39. Submarine Commander
  40. Super Baseball
  41. Super Breakout ®
  42. Super Football
  43. Swordquest: Earthworld ™
  44. Swordquest: Fireworld ™
  45. Swordquest: Waterworld ™
  46. Tempest ®
  47. Video Checkers
  48. Video Chess
  49. Video Pinball
  50. Yar’s Revenge ®

The Retro Handheld sports a 2.4″ screen, which surprisingly suits most of the games, however, there were a few that felt cramped on the tiny screen. The unit does come with a composite A/V out interface, so you can plug it into a TV (preferably a CRT) for some big screen action. Emulation was pretty much spot on, with the games playing like their cart counterparts. To round out its retro-ness, batteries, yes, batteries the AAA kind, are required to power this little Atari – relax, this isn’t like the original Atari Lynx, you’ll definitely get a considerable amount of playing hours out of 3 x AAA Duracell batteries.

We were a bit iffy when we first saw the controls, especially the funny looking d-pad nub. Once we started playing, the d-pad and the buttons felt good under the thumbs and were responsive. However, there was one game that was totally unplayable using the nub – not looking at you Pong! Apart from that little niggle, gamers will feel right at home with the controls. Oh yeah, one nifty feature is when changing games, you simply hit the Start and Select buttons at the same time and viola, you exit the current game and go back to the menu to select a new one – this was cool, as we didn’t want to turn off the unit every time we wanted to play a new game.

There will be some that will scoff at this little handheld and others that will absolutely love it for what it is – a portable little Atari that looks like your old Atari 2600 woody and plays your favourite games. We definitely love playing on it (bar the unplayable Pong!), even though we are not big fans of the current Atari SA company. If you can get past this, then this is a little winner.

If you are keen on one of these Atari Retro Handhelds, grab one from FunstockRetro right now! They will even throw in a limited edition Atari Centipede Gold Coin for free – but you better hurry, as this sale ends soon!

Disclosure: The Atari Retro Handheld was kindly supplied by FunstockRetro for this review.

 

Arcade1Up – Rampage Review

Arcade1Up’s line of diminutive arcade cabinets turned a lot of heads online when they were first announced. After all, the chance to own officially-licensed arcade machines for a fraction of the price of a real cabinet, complete with authentic controls and games? It’s a no-brainer! So there was a lot of waiting to see which of these machines (if any) would reach our shores in Australia, and if so, what were they like?

So it was with great trepidation that I scoured the local ALDI stores to find one on the day of their release. I had heard that they were selling out fast, and it didn’t help that ALDI didn’t offer any convenient way to find out which stores had stock in, so I was eager to get out and about to my nearby stores.

The question I was asking myself on the trip was, which one of the two available would I choose? On the ALDI site they were advertising two versions of the Arcade1Up cabinet. One was advertised as containing Williams / Atari classics Rampage, Gauntlet, Joust and the greatest shmup of all time, Defender. The other had a placard boasting it had a roster of Capcom favourites: Street Fighter 2 Championship Edition, Final Fight, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts and Strider.

The good news is that a local store had plenty of both machines on hand to purchase. The not good news? The Capcom cabinet was purely for Street Fighter 2 games. To make things even more confusing, the American version of the Street Fighter 2 machine had all five variants of the legendary fighting game, but the Australian one had only three. That’s….oddly frustrating. My personal favourite Street Fighter 2 Turbo, was completely missing and for the life of me I can’t understand why.

Plenty of machines ready to play!

So, in the interests of game variation, I picked up the Williams / Atari (aka: Midway Classic Arcade) one. As much as I personally love Street Fighter 2, I knew the people who would be using the cabinet would get tired of it a lot quicker than I would, and the chance to introduce Defender to a new generation was too much to pass up. $500 later and I was driving out of the car park a happy man.

Ready to assemble!

Assembling the machine was surprisingly easy and straightforward. If you’ve ever assembled an IKEA book shelf you’ll be in familiar territory here. Frankly, I have to commend the designers here for making it such a painless process, as parts were clearly labelled and the included instructions made sense at every step. You’ll need a good Phillips-head screwdriver and about an hour or two of spare time to go from opening the box to having a small but perfectly formed arcade cabinet in your own home. It’s a good excuse to invite some friends around to help and share in the multiplayer fun afterwards.

Starting to take shape…

It’s when you start putting the machine together that you really get a sense of how small this thing is. Basically, everything is ​3⁄4 of regular size. The controllers are small, not too small, but small enough to be noticeable. The 17” monitor is small, but not enough to be a problem. The cabinet stands 1.2 metres tall, which…yeah, is an issue. Basically the cabinet is too tall to comfortably play while sitting on the ground, and too low to play at all while standing unless you’re under the age of ten. The raisers that Arcade1Up offer aren’t available at retail stores here in Australia, so you’ll need to figure out your own solution. The small size also means that it’s difficult to have more than two people comfortably crowd around the screen, especially if you’re sitting on chairs because of the height issue. It’s workable, but it’s an issue you need to keep in mind.

Almost there….

There are three microswitched sticks for three players, and two buttons (labelled Jump and Attack) that feel suitably responsive if not a teensy bit spongy. I have a hunch that the sticks won’t take the kind of pounding you can dish out in a real arcade, but I don’t really want to test it. On the controller deck is a big power switch and a switch for volume that goes between no sound, “loud enough to be clear for everyone who is playing” and “loud enough to let everyone else in the house know you’re playing”. It just feels nice to play with.

The back of the monitor houses the little box that runs the emulation software.

Anyway, enough about the hardware, let’s talk about the games! Arcade purists might scoff about how these systems use emulation, but honestly, for the price point this thing was never going to be 100% arcade accurate anyway (LCD screens can never replicate the feel of an old-fashioned CRT after all) and the emulation quality itself is legitimately good. However, the way the games play varies wildly.

No coins needed and always ready to play!

So, the cabinet is dedicated to Rampage, with all the original marquee and controller art to suit. That means that it’s a great Rampage machine and offers many hours of fun especially in multiplayer. It’s always a laugh when players end up hitting each other more than they’re hitting the buildings. So, Rampage is good.

Joust surprised me. I have always had a soft spot for the game since playing the Atari 2600 version back in the day, and for some reason I’m even more besotted with the arcade version. It looks the least interesting to play of the four games on offer but I have a hunch that it will be the one I return the most to. It’s a game that rewards skill and has a control system that will take a long time to master. So, thumbs up for Joust here.

Gauntlet is where things start to fall apart. The original was known for its four player action, but since the cabinet was designed with Rampage in mind it only has three controllers. So, at least you can play a three player session, right? Nope! For some unfathomable reason the version of Gauntlet on offer here is the two-player one. Frankly, that’s just absolutely stupid. Also, the game itself has not aged well at all and, since you can just give yourself infinite health with continued pressing of the start buttons, there’s absolutely no challenge on offer. I found myself just wandering aimlessly through the mazes not even bothering to fight any of the dungeon’s monsters. After fifteen minutes I gave this one a hard pass.

Finally we get to Defender. I love Defender. I mean I really, really love Defender. Eugene Jarvis and friends made what I think is one of the few “perfect” games. Legend tells of people who can survive more than five minutes of playing this exquisite classic, but I have yet to meet them. Yes, I am terrible at Defender but I still love it.

Defender plays like absolute garbage on this machine. I hate every second of it. The controls are so offensively broken that I feel like it wants me to grow a third or possible fourth hand to have access to all the buttons that are spread haphazardly across the entire surface of the control panel. You move up and down with the first stick, Thrust and Reverse with the player one buttons, smart bomb and hyperspace with the player two buttons, and fire with one of the third player buttons. It plays worse than it sounds. Your hands spend so much time moving across the panel there’s no way you can make the instinctive, split-second decisions needed to play Defender properly. This is one of the cases where I actually wouldn’t have minded if they used the control method found in some of the home console ports that eschewed the Thrust and Reverse buttons for left and right on the joystick. Even just thinking about playing Defender on this system makes me mad.

Uh…no thank you?

Also, and this one completely infuriates me for some reason, high scores don’t save at all! That’s a particularly egregious oversight that for me completely diminishes the arcade experience. Arcade games are all about high scores! What, I have to get a chalkboard to put next to the machine for people to write their scores down? Are we cavemen?

For $500 there were always going to be some compromises, but some of them just make my blood boil. I get the size. I get the build quality. But I really can’t get over how two of the games are basically broken and there were weird software shortcuts. If you’re a super fan of Rampage, or if you want to use this as a starting point for a modification project then absolutely you should get one. Otherwise…keep looking.

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Cameron Davis
Writer and artist of Rose: a comic about the world’s hungriest redhead and her love of food, friends, food, family, food and FOOD!

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