I love retro games. Especially the really old ones from before I was old enough to play them at the time of release. I believe that experiencing gaming of the past gives the modern gamer a better perspective and understanding about the current gaming landscape and where we as gamers came from. One of my favorite ways to experience older games is through collections. The convenience of being able to make a single purchase and acquire several games in one shot, all neatly organized in a single program is just perfection. This is even more the case when it’s on a platform I’m currently using. So at first I was very happy to get to review the recently (10/12/2016) released Atari Flashback Classics Volume 2 (AFCV2). That is until I started it up.
You are greeted with a black background full of dots to resemble stars in retro games like Galaga and other iconic symbols from the Atari 2600 era. There are a group of red lines disappearing into the cosmos and the title of the collection. Layered in front of all this is a grid of arcade game covers. Floating to the left of this grid is a spinning arcade cabinet for the game currently highlighted. There are nine different games, each with a spinning image of its original cabinet to the left. If you scroll over one page you are greeted with a grid of gray rectangles each with the name of an Atari 2600 game on them. As you scroll over them you see a floating Atari 2600 box spinning on the left where the cabinets once were. And along the bottom of the screen you have a line of options with corresponding buttons next to them. There are 41 Atari 2600 games included in this collection. At first this all seemed great. It was a simple looking interface that allowed me to play 50 different classic games at my leisure. But then I was reminded of something.
What I hadn’t thought of in quite some time until I loaded up this game was that about seven months ago I had reviewed a game called Atari Vault for Steam. I had completely forgotten about this until I saw the main menu for AFCV2. The resemblance was so uncanny that I had to start up Atari Vault and compare the two. The first thing I realized was that both collections were produced by the same studio. Code Mystics created both Atari Vault and AFCV2. But by created I of course mean made a menu and then ported a bunch of games that had already technically been ported to PC ages ago. And they didn’t even change the music. It’s the exact same main menu song for both Atari Vault and AFCV2. I know that because I was able to line up the tracks and play them together. Then I took the time to compare the games in both collections. It’s at this point that I got very angry. I don’t need to write an in depth review of AFCV2. I already did that when I reviewed Atari Vault seven months ago. If you’re interested, you can and should read that here. I found the collection to be excellent and awarded it a 7/10. A vast collection of 100 classic games, an excellent options system allowing for customization of each game independently, good quality sound, graphics as good as you’re ever gonna get for these particular retro ports, all organized very well, and online multiplayer and leaderboard options. It also includes scans of the original manuals for the Atari 2600 games and pictures of the original arcade cabinets.
Performance wise, AFCV2 is at basically the same level. The one thing I’d say is that using the joystick on the PS4 makes you move way too fast so you should stick with the d-pad. But the PS4 version is missing quite a lot of bells and whistles. You get the original manual scans of the Atari 2600 games, but not the photos and artwork for the arcade cabinets. There is no searchable directory of the games and they can’t be reorganized. You just have to scroll through the four pages to find what you want. Oh and did I mention AFCV2 is short 50 games?
AFCV2 only contains 50 of the 100 games available in Atari Vault. That’s why it’s called volume 2. The other 50 games can be found in volume 1. Now this isn’t the worst thing in the world. Both volumes have their own set of game specific trophies including a platinum. You can get them as physical copies, but the digital versions make the whole thing as convenient as Steam with the added bonus of being able to play on your home console like kids did back in the days of the actual Atari 2600. Even with the few things missing from the PS4 version of the collection, this still wouldn’t be a bad purchase . . . if it wasn’t double the price. That’s right, double. Atari Vault on Steam is $20 for 100 games. To get either of the two volumes of Atari Flashback Classics on PS4 with just 50/100 games, you have to pay the same $20 price tag. That means to get the same total collection of games, again minus the cabinet artwork, the searchable directory, and having all the games available in one app, you have to pay double the price that you would on PC even though it’s by the same developer and is seven months late to the party. I cannot understand this decision. I cannot justify this purchase. Unless you genuinely want a physical copy of this collection or really want those two platinum trophies, there is no way I can endorse paying $40 for this collection when you can get the same thing at a better overall quality of experience for half the price. Code Mystics’ decision to price it this way is both dishonest and insulting. And for the record, Atari Vault has such low minimum specs you could probably run it on a graphing calculator. Do people still use those in school?
I gave Atari Vault a 7. I opted to give AFCV2 a 5 because it’s a lower quality experience and missing half the games for double the price per a game. Do play retro games. Do buy Atari Vault. Do not buy Atari Flashback Classics Volume one or Two.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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