Atari Flashback 2.0
Review by Mitch Gerson
As most of you know, Atari has just released Flashback 2.0, in part due to to gamer complaints that the original Flashback just wasn’t cool enough. Especially troubling with the first version was the fact that it was shown to be running emulated 2600 games rather than being the “original games” playing on a 2600 chip.
Well, Atari listened and the hardcore guys over there essentially started from scratch and literally put a 2600 on a chip...warts and all! This roving reporter dives into the mysteries of the new $29.99 Flashback 2.0 to let you know if it’s worth the price of admission.
First off I have to say, this thing is super cute. Personally, if it did nothing…I think I would be happy to have it on display as a collectible. Hey — people display all kinds of gadgets all of time…why not a mini Atari? Admittedly, I wouldn’t want to pay $30.00 for a paperweight…but this thing really is cute.
The packaging is somewhat reminiscent of the original 2600 box in so far as the colorful photos of folks playing/enjoying the console on the packaging. The box itself is a well designed and the Flashback 2.0 is nestled in there in a great vacuum molded plastic form. Neat stuff.
My only two minor nit picks is that the “wood grain” on the console looks really cheap. I think they could have done a better job on the printing of that piece, but from a foot or two away it looks fine. Realistically, how often are you really going to seriously inspect the unit up close?
The other nit is that the toggle switches that you all know and love are gone due to their need to get the price as low as possible. I think it would have been really fun if they could have replicated the toggle switches, but again, this is truly a minor nit pick. In their place are buttons about the size of a US Quarter.
One bonus that I thought was neat (and uh totally useless!), was a Black and White/Color slider switch on the back of the unit. If you’re looking for authenticity….this unit truly does it’s best to give it to you!
Inside the Unit
QUESTION: So how big exactly does a 2600 on a chip with 40 games look?
ANSWER: Not very!
They have truly done some neat engineering to get all that retro gaming goodness onto the chip. Due to the size, it’s kind of obvious they probably could have fit the internals into just the joystick itself….but where would the fun be in that?
Yes, yes, it can easily be argued of course they could cram all of that onto a chip with modern silicon chips and manufacturing techniques…but hey, seriously, you’re at least a little impressed aren’t you?
By the way, for those hackers out there…the answer is yes — you can add a cartridge port to the chip and actually play the games as if you were using a real 2600! (Please see the end of this article for the “Hacking the 2.0” links and a great online tutorial.)
WHAT DO YOU GET?
OK, I opened up the box and went back in time. I know it’s smaller than the original Atari 2600, but I did have a brief flashback (sorry I couldn’t think of a better word!) back to the day I got my first Atari in the late 70’s.
In the box, you get the unit with 40 built in games, two retro 2600 sticks (the best part!), a power unit and RCA cables to attach it to your TV.
From the box itself, here are all of the unit’s features:
Hooking It Up
Super easy. It’s plug and play via a video (yellow) and mono (white) audio RCA cable. The only minor downside is that there is no way to run the unit off of batteries so you’ll need to have access to an outlet for the power pack (about the size of two Altoids boxes stacked).
I think it’s necessary to look at and compare these newly created retro sticks in contract with the original 2600 ones. One of the neatest features of these sticks is that they’re fully 100% compatible with your original 2600.
The connectors are identical, so therefore I would assume (I haven’t tried it) that your original 2600 gadgets such as the spinner joys would work just as well with the Flashback 2.0.
The feel of the new joys is excellent. I believe that they are significantly better than the original 2600 stick as they seem much more responsive. Physically they are slightly (very slightly) smaller than the original 2600 sticks, but I liked their use a lot in actual game play.
My only annoyance was that they added in a molded Atari Logo to the bottom of the joys that starts to uncomfortably rub against your fingers during game play. I personally could have done without that logo….but it is fun to see the Atari logo on hardware once again.
Exactly as you would expect if you were to plug in an actual cartridge.
This is not an emulator folks. This is a true 2600 on a chip with all 40 games built into the unit. The game list includes quite a few classics by the way as mentioned (Asteroids, Centipede, Yars Revenge etc.) along with a few homebrew and never released games.
When you turn on the unit you get to a good looking game selections screen broken down into such categories as “Skill and Action”, “Space Station”, “Arcade” etc. Choosing a game is as simple as a left or right movement on the joystick and a press of the fire button to choose a game to play.
I won’t go into individual game reviews as they are well documented on such great and informative sites as atariage.com. I will say, that the game play is flawless and exactly as you would expect and hope for. Personally, I really do like the new 2600 controller and had a blast (literally in Asteroids) playing this on my TV).
For fun I hooked it up to my stereo home theater and in my head I heard my mom in yelling at me to turn it down. Ah, the memories this gadget brought back to me!
One minor annoyance that I found with the unit is that in order to change games, you have to turn the unit off and then back on to get back to the main menu screen.
While that’s not a big deal in it self, it’s causing a problem for me on my Sony Trinitron TV (from 2001). When I turn the unit on and then off again my TV goes to black and white. In order to get it back to color, I have to cycle my inputs (ex. TV, Tivo, Input 1, Input 2 etc).
Interestingly, this happens when I connect an original 2600 to the same TV. The upside to this for me ?...uh, I guess you can say I’m getting the true 2600 experience!
So is this worth thirty bucks? Are you really asking yourself that question if you’re reading this on Retroblast.com? This is a no-brainer as it’s truly the perfect gadget for play, display and general nostalgia.
Go buy one…you won’t be disappointed!
Below I’ve included some great links to additional information including a fun and informative interview with Atari recently conducted by Rob’s Coin-Op.TV:
OF THE FLASHBACK 2.0
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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