Last Christmas, I was given an Evercade with the first ten cartridges. Being a fan of retro gaming, this was a gift I was super excited for. With cartridges in mini Mega Drive style boxes, full instruction manuals, and old titles all in one, how could I feel any other way? So, I decided I’d do a run of reviews for each cartridge in order. As such, today, I’m looking at Evercade 01: Atari Collection 1. This cartridge contains twenty games from Atari’s early home consoles. These game are as follows:
Atari 2600: Adventure, Aquaventure, Asteroids, Double Dunk, Centipede, Crystal Castles, Canyon Bomber, Desert Falcon, Gravitar, Missile Command, Night Driver, Steeple Chase, Swordquest, Tempest, Video Pinball, Yars Return
Atari 7800: Ninja Golf, Alien Brigade, Food Fight, Motor Psycho
Now, while I never owned an Atari 7800, the 2600 was my first console. What makes this quite special for me is that I didn’t actually own any of these games, and only played two of them – Asteroids and Centipede – during that period. I’ve had some experience with a handful of the others since, but only through emulation.
Visually speaking, the 2600 games have not aged well. While I maintain that the system was capable of some nice visual touches, those included in this collection are perhaps not the best examples of this. In truth though, that doesn’t really matter, because the selection of games is an interesting one. In particular, it was good to see Adventure included in the collection. Those who saw or read Ready Player One should be familiar with this one, and already be aware that it popularised the concept of an ‘Easter Egg’ in a game. While not near the sprawling adventure that you’d see in later-generation titles such as The Legend of Zelda, you can see where the title influenced what would follow it.
Meanwhile, while the likes of Centipede and Gravitar offer plenty of fun, the real standouts of the 2600 titles for me were Asteroid and Missile Command. Coming remarkably close to their arcade counterparts, especially considering the original hardware, both still play well all these years on. The gameplay in each is simple, relying on increasing speed to vary the difficulty, but very addictive. Faring less well when compared to its original release is the unreleased Tempest prototype. With the 2600 incapable of reproducing the 3D perspective, it’s clear why the game wasn’t finished. That being said, it is a good effort at porting the title, and having it here is a nice addition to a collection that otherwise features a number of games that have been re-released multiple times over.
Moving on to the 7800 titles, the games certainly look nicer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they hold up well. Motor Psycho, for example, is decent enough for what it is but doesn’t come up well when compared to SEGA’s older home port of Hang-On. In the same way, Alien Brigade is fine, but not a stand-out among rail shooters.
Food Fight and Ninja Golf fare much better. Both are quirky releases that capture that simple addictiveness that made some of the 2600 ports so fun. In particular, Ninja Golf is a wonderful little hybrid title that combines sports and combat in a surprisingly seamless way. There’s a lot of fun to be had whacking your ball up the course then battling your way through rival ninjas and snakes before finally battling a fire breathing dragon on the putting green.
Overall, while some of the titles in this collection don’t really stand out, the ones that do make more than make up for it. With a combination of decent home ports of popular arcade titles, some ground-breaking-in-their-time releases, and a couple of fun surprises, I’m happy to give this a solid 3.5 out of 5.
Top 3 Recommended Games: Asteroids, Missile Command, Ninja Golf