The Game: It used to take a pocket full of quarters to enjoy some of the finest arcade games from Atari’s golden age, but now it just takes a pocket full of Game Boy Advance. Included are Asteroids, Tempest, Centipede, Battlezone, Super Breakout and Missile Command, along with a dandy trivia game focusing on Atari’s history and most famous games. (Atari / Infogrames, 2002)
Memories: What should be one of the better classic game compilations on the Game Boy Advance turns out to be a classic example of a mixed bag. The audiovisual side of things is great – though a few of these games have been “reformatted to fit your screen,” to quote the dreaded pan-and-scan movie disclaimer, all of the games look great – very authentic – only this isn’t really the display they were intended for. Missile Command and Super Breakout are somewhat “scrunched” to fit into the available space, and Asteroids is a case where too much effort was poured into preserving the original game’s graphics: everything is shrunken down to the point where smaller asteroids, or incoming fire from an attacking UFO, can be hard to spot because they’re so tiny. Tempest, Centipede and Battlezone, on the other hand, look fantastic.
As for the game play itself? Well, that’s the real problem. And it’s a real big problem, because none of these games originally had anything remotely resembling the Game Boy Advance’s control scheme. Battlezone fares best, simplifying the arcade game’s double-joystick realism for more manageable simplicity. Asteroids comes in a close second, with its controls having been adapted in much the same way that they were for the Atari 2600 version. Beyond that, however, it’s a mess: Centipede and Missile Command are irritating when a digital plus-pad replaces their trakballs, Super Breakout similarly cries out for some form of analog control, and as for Tempest …it’s downright counterintuitive. Left and right don’t necessarily do what you expect them to do…and you’ll probably get frequent reminders of that the hard way.
Almost mitigating some of these game play troubles is the Atari Trivia Challenge game, a game show-style test of your hardcore classic gaming history chops. There’s some stuff in here that stumped me the first time around. It’s actually quite entertaining. It’s just a shame that some of the games that form the reason this cartridge exists aren’t executed quite as well. I’ve learned to overlook some of Atari Anniversary Advance‘s quirks and tolerate some of its control issues, but that’s just because I love all of these old games so much – and truth be told, if I’m not on the move or away from home, there are better ways to play them.