Reviews

Atari Classics Evolved

Azmol Meah

The 'Evolved' option is quite possibly the most pointless update since Transformers' Soundwave became "New Soundwave".


Publisher: Atari
Genres: Action, Compilation
Price: $19.99
Multimedia: Atari Classics Evolved
Platforms: PlayStation Portable
Number of players: 1
ESRB rating: Everyone
Developer: Various Developers
US release date: 2007-12-18
Amazon affiliate

Retro gaming is all the rage nowadays, don't you know. Compilations from the likes of Atari, Electronic Arts, Capcom and Activision to download services such as the Xbox Live! Arcade, the PlayStation Network and the Wii's Virtual Console, gamers and companies alike are basking in the fruits of yesteryear.

And why not? After all, the film industry is raking it in with re-releases of older films that missed VHS and DVD, and of course many films are being re-issued for Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. It's not wrong to want to watch classics such as Al Pacino's Serpico in a shiny new format, nor for that matter to want to play the original Super Mario Bros. as I did recently via my Wii. A sign of greatness, be it in films or in games, is that something is as enjoyable today as it was upon its initial release. The aforementioned are just two examples of titles that have survived the test of time.

Allowing the kids of today to experience what a generation before them enjoyed while also enabling said generation to relive some of their golden memories from when they were just knee high, is a profitable exercise for both consumer and business alike. Obviously a key factor in enjoying these golden oldies (other than that of the games in question still being of high quality) is of course nostalgia, an emotion that at times can blind even the most stable minded man.

You see, when Super Mario Bros. first came out, I was nothing more than a toothless baby, so in reality it holds very little nostalgic value. So Pong (one of eleven games included in this collection), for instance, which was released long before I was born, means squat all to me on a nostalgic level. You won't find any rose–tinted glasses here, and thankfully so, because I am somewhat loathe to declare that this compilation contains quite possibly some of the most mind numbingly boring games in existence.

Nearly 40 years of Atari's lineage are all contained in one tiny little UMD (I wonder if the kids of the '70s would have ever have believed that). I don't mean to disrespect what are undeniably some of the most important titles in this industry that I enjoy both working and playing in, but truth be told, these games are awful.

Missile Command seems oddly relevant again...

The full list is as follows: Pong, Asteroids, Centipede, Super Breakout, Missile Command, Lunar Lander, Asteroids Deluxe, Tempest, Battlezone, Millipede and Warlords. Most are variants on the shooter genre, while Pong should be self explanatory.

Then we have the 'Evolved' option. This is quite possibly the most pointless update since Transformers' Soundwave became "New Soundwave" (Transformers: Headmasters fans should agree). Evolved takes the original games and completely bastardises them with an unnecessary, generic graphical overhaul, which at times can actually make things harder to play. It also adds an embarrassing techno/rock soundtrack which serves to reinforce the stereotypical image of gamers as, well, techno-loving nerds!

In fact, most of presentation in the game just seems out of place. While the arcade cabinets at the main menu which grant access to each game is a cute touch, the overly sombre tone and the retro chic that Atari have gone for just comes across as passé. To heighten problems further, the controls for many of the games feel inaccurate and way, way too loose, with Lunar Lander in particular worse now than it was back in the arcades. To lay blame on the PSP would be unjust, and the problem should simply be put down to lazy programming.

...and the ping is back in Pong.

Funnily, though, the load times are pretty much the only aspect that this compilation gets right -- well, half right. Whereas some games load in seconds, taking you to and from the main menu in a blink of an eye, others, namely the ORIGINAL Pong, can take up to 20-30 seconds to load! Think about that, it's just three white lines for crying out loud!

Just as Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles proved, you can do all sorts of fancy graphic wizardry (or not so fancy in this case) and pack your package with loads of titles, but if you don't go back and fix the core problem (i.e. the gameplay, you know, the most important aspect of any title) your game will simply crash and burn. The term Evolved applies so loosely here, you really wonder why they even bothered adding it, other than to dupe a couple of sorry souls into thinking they were getting something new.

These games were never that much fun to begin with and they're just worse now; attempting to land a rocket ship on the moon wouldn't even pass as a free flash game nowadays. Atari was undoubtedly one of the key players in shaping this industry and their problems today are well documented, but looking into their past isn't the solution, looking and moving forward is. The sad truth of the matter is that their illustrious past isn't so illustrious today.

2
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.