Atari Flashback 8 Gold scratches the retro itch
As a lifelong gamer I have to admit, right now feels like the most interesting moment in gaming history. We have gaming consoles on the market pushing the latest technologies like 4K graphics, HDR, and virtual reality capabilities. At the same time, interest in retro gaming—the foundation all these new games were built atop—is soaring sky-high. No product exemplifies this retro craze better than AtGames’ new Atari Flasback 8 Gold.
Featuring 120 Atari 2600 favourites, the Atari Flashback 8 Gold is a great new way to relive the classics. From Centipede, to Space Invaders, to Frogger, this console includes software that made Atari a household name. It also gives a nice selection of Activision hits such as Pitfall!, Kaboom!, and River Raid. Activision, as you may know, was one of the largest supporters of the Atari 2600 console.
What comes in the box?
The Atari Flashback 8 Gold comes packaged with the following contents:
- Instruction manual/poster
- Authentic, miniaturized Atari 2600 console
- Two high-performance 2.4Ghz wireless controllers
- HDMI cable
- AC adapter
Right from the get-go I was impressed with the attention to detail that went into all the contents. For one thing, the instruction manual (normally the most unexciting part) actually doubles as a beautiful Atari poster. It has a nice Atari logo, the iconic Pitfall! swinging man, and gorgeous close-up images of the console and controllers. After reading through the instructions this is a poster I’d proudly display in my gaming room.
Replica Atari 2600 console
Moving on to the console itself, immediately I was amazed at how authentic it looks. While much smaller than the original 2600 console (roughly half the size), the main features are mostly present. You’ve got a wood pattern at the front, the plastic grille on top, and two 9-pin controller ports. The overall shape of the console is the same, too, including the signature raised back half where the buttons lie.
There have been some quality of life tweaks as well to make this replica console more user-friendly. For starters, the two controller ports are located at front, whereas on the original they were located at the back. Sure it’s not true to the original, but it’s way more convenient and aesthetically pleasing having the slots front-facing. Furthermore, the metal control switches on the original 2600 have been replaced with easier to push circular buttons. You also get an eye pleasing white Atari logo in the centre where the cartridge slot used to be. Finally, with its smaller size and less internal components, the Atari Flashback 8 Gold is light as a feather. You could easily toss it in a backpack and take it over to your friend’s house for some retro gaming.
Two classic Atari controllers
Inside the box you’ll find two wireless Atari controllers that are near identical to the originals. They’re square-shaped with a central joystick and a single red button on the top left-hand corner. Compared to modern game controllers it’s amazing how simple the Atari controller design was. Ironically, despite being easier to learn and use, Atari games are well known for being quite challenging. The Atari Flashback 8 Gold actually make playing games a tad bit easier but I’ll get into that later in the review.
While similar to the Atari 2600 controllers, the Flashback 8 ones have a major difference: they’re both wireless. Using two AAA batteries (not included) the controller connects to the console via a 2.4Ghz wireless signal. This is another huge quality of life improvement that may not be authentic, but it’s certainly very welcome. With these controllers you don’t have to worry about messy cords getting tangled or cluttering up your living room. I just wish the batteries were easier to replace: you need to use a screwdriver to remove the battery case.
120 Atari games included
Hardware aside, of course the big question is how are the games? The short answer is really good. There are so many timeless classics built right into the console, Atari and retro fans are sure to be delighted. Some of my favourite games included are:
- Chopper Command
- River Raid
- Space Invaders
- Yars’ Revenge
And that’s just a little over 10% of the included game. My point is, there are so many classics you’re sure to have a blast going through them all. The neat thing about having such a huge collection on one console is finding hidden gems you didn’t know about. For me, it was Haunted House, a game that feels like one of the first ever survival horror. I also discovered Crystal Castles, a really cool game where you collect gems while exploring different castles.
One thing I should mention is that not all of the 120 games were released on the Atari 2600. Some of them are previously unreleased titles, prototypes, and even a few homebrew games. As well, Frogger and Space Invaders appear to be closer to their arcade counterpart on not their 2600 releases. They both look and play great though, so you’re not getting short-changed in any way.
Interface and new gameplay features
From a presentation standpoint, the Atari Flashback 8 Gold also excels. The console’s user interface is clean and easy to navigate using the packed-in wireless controller. Using the menu, games can searched a variety of ways including alphabetically, your favourites list, and recently played games. You can also search for Atari and Activision games specifically. From my testing it only took a matter of seconds to find what I was looking for, a sign for great UI design.
As far as the wireless controllers go, they’re highly responsive and feel great in your hands. I expected I would prefer wired controllers (I generally do for retro consoles) but that wasn’t the case here. The main reason why is the new red buttons baked into the player one controller. They’re located at the front of the controller and enable you Rewind or Reset your game at any time. Rewinding lets you backtrack your game up to 7 seconds—great for when you die and want to try again. Resetting will naturally take you back to the game’s title screen and let you start a new game. Furthermore, the controller has a Select button that makes navigating the menus very easy. All combined, these new controller features improve the overall experience quite a bit.
As you can probably tell, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with AtGames’ Atari Flashback 8 Gold console. I grew up playing Atari games and having the chance to relive this timeless classics was tremendous fun. It’s also amazing to see these older games brought back for a whole new generation of gamers to play. If you’re like me and love retro gaming, don’t hesitate to check out this incredible new Atari console!