The celebration doesn’t take place on time: June 27, 1972 is the official date of birth of the company, which was undoubtedly the origin of the video game industry. But what are a few more months if we get such a cool product for it?
Then Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration is really a big deal – not only for those who play with slots or consoles in their younger years, but for everything Pong-Pioneers have come into contact. However, there is something for everyone in this collection. The main menu already shows that a different approach is being followed here than with the usual retro collections: It doesn’t present you with the titles directly, but five sections of an interactive presentation of the Atari brand. In it you follow a chronological timeline with clickable points, which sometimes contain freely rotatable and zoomable packages, sometimes historical facts or (easily legible) scans of brochures and advertisements or video material. The latter ranges from very early TV reports and commercials to new interviews with Atari veterans and sympathizers. The focus is more on the first third of the company’s history, and you should allow yourself about two or three hours for the virtual visit.
Of course, the games have not been forgotten: the emulation experts from Digital Eclipse have processed more than 100 titles in a technically clean manner and for (almost) all of them there are scans of the associated instructions as well as various display options. The lion’s share is taken by slot machines and 2600 oldies, many of which have appeared multiple times in previous collections such as the Flashback Classics were recycled, but a few prototypes and exotics are new. In addition, titles from five other systems are added: 5200, 7800, 800 (representing Atari’s home computers), Lynx and Jaguar are also taken into account. The latter three are delightful debutants, even if their selection of titles seems rather sparse and random. Licensing issues are probably the reason for this, especially with the Lynx, one is surprised that all prominent names are missing, while the Evercade modules contain them. The diverse range is finally rounded off with half a dozen more or less true to the original “reinterpretations” of old classics, all of which are at least worth a look.