This won’t be the most in-depth hands-on in the world, but hopefully, we’ll be able to provide a little bit of information on each new game and help you determine whether they’re going to be worth your time or not. One thing we have to mention before we go on, however, is that every addition here comes with its own digital instruction manual; yet another example of Digital Eclipse’s unrivalled attention to detail.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at the games included in this free update…
Adventure II (2005, Homebrew) – Atari 2600
The original Adventure is perhaps one of the most well-known and beloved games on the Atari 2600, with its hidden easter egg serving as the main inspiration behind the 2011 sci-fi novel ‘Ready Player One’.
This official sequel, designed by the late Curt Vendel and incorporating elements from the 5600 homebrew title by Ron Lloyd, is pretty much more of the same, which is fine by us. The world is larger and more intricate than the 1980 original, yet retains everything that made it such a classic.
The only downside here is that there are no game variations for this one, so it’s technically a lesser game than the first Adventure in that sense, but still well worth your time.
Aquaventure (1983, Prototype) – Atari 2600
Aquaventure is a game that unfortunately fell victim to the video game crash of ’83, left stranded as a completed project before being officially released on cartridge in 2022. It’s a game that thrives on its simplistic yet addictive gameplay, requiring you to simply navigate to the bottom of the ocean, retrieve the sunken treasure, and make your way back up, all while defending yourself from sea creatures and keeping an eye on your oxygen supply.
The visuals here are a treat, with the sea creatures in particular showcasing gorgeous gradients of colour. With high potential for replayability and score-chasing, this might well be the best new game of the bunch.
Bowling (1979) – Atari 2600
Bowling was the last game designed by Larry Kaplan before he went on to co-found a little company called Activision. It’s a surprisingly satisfying experience that lets you briefly steer the ball in your desired direction to achieve those precious strikes.
If you’re not up for that, then certain game variations allow you to focus solely on your initial throw. Two players are also supported, so if you want to replicate the days of playing Wii Bowling with your mum, this might just scratch that itch.
Circus Atari (1980) – Atari 2600
If you’re familiar with Breakout (which, if you’re even remotely into Atari, you should be), then you’ll be right at home with Circus Atari. It plays similarly, requiring you to bounce a pair of clowns up in the air to pop a bunch of balloons. You’ll need to make sure the clowns land on the right side of the teeter-totter, however, as failure to do so will cause them to land on the floor with a hollow thunk.
Relatively simplistic in design, it nevertheless offers a bit more variation if you’ve already mastered the exceptional Breakout and Super Breakout. Touchscreen support is also included if you’re finding the analogue stick or d-pad doesn’t offer quite enough accuracy.
Double Dunk (1989) – Atari 2600
A direct sequel to Basketball, Double Dunk represented a significant leap in visuals and depth for the 2600, which makes sense given it was released in 1989, a full 12 years after the console’s debut.
Taking place in one half of a basketball court, the game features impressive details like foul detection and play-calling, making this a great option for those more familiar with the sport. For newcomers, however, learning the ropes here might make for a frustrating experience.
Maze Craze (1980) – Atari 2600
Maze Craze, originally released back in 1980, is one of several 2600 games that require two players. It’s a pretty straightforward experience in which you simply navigate around a randomly-generated maze before your opponent does so, but it manages to mix things up beautifully with its game variations. Depending on just how mean you want to be, you can choose to cover up a partial area of the maze or the entire thing, meaning you and your opponent will need to guess where to go. And so hilarity ensues.
It’s even still got a weird visual glitch as you boot up the game. If that’s not authenticity, we’re not sure what is.
Miniature Golf (1979) – Atari 2600
Who doesn’t love a bit of miniature golf? Well, the 2600 Minature Golf is a fine, if a little frustrating, way to experience the classic family game. It encourages you to go a bit nuts with your aiming since the limitations of the screen mean you can’t really put much power into your shots. So aiming for the walls and praying you don’t run into a moving obstacle is your best bet with this one.
MotoRodeo (1990) – Atari 2600
Developed by Atari founder Nolan Bushnell after he founded developer Axlon, MotoRodeo is another two-player game that splits the screen and accumulates points as you navigate your way past a multitude of obstacles.
Its gameplay is remarkably engaging, allowing you to perform flips as you fly up into the air before brutally crushing another vehicle as you land. It’s great fun if you’ve got a friend to join in, but equally worthwhile with the game’s AI opponent.
Save Mary (1990, Prototype) – Atari 2600
Designed by Tod Frye, the creator behind the ill-fated SwordQuest series, Save Mary is a curious, yet incredibly fun title that remained unpublished until 2005 when it appeared on the Atari Flashback 2. It required players to save a woman called Mary (duh) trapped in a canyon that’s slowly filling with water. You need to use the crane to drop platforms down to Mary and allow her to climb to safety.
It’s a slow, methodical game, but an immensely satisfying one once you figure out the optimal way to complete each level.
Like Double Dunk, Super Football is another title that might seem quite daunting for newcomers to the sport, but it’s nevertheless an impressive showcase of what the 2600 could do more than a decade after its launch. The animations are remarkably smooth, the visuals are pleasing enough, and there’s enough depth here to keep enthusiasts busy for a good while.
Return to Haunted House (2005, Homebrew) – Atari 2600
Created by homebrew programmer Anthony Wong, Return to Haunted House looks and plays like Adventure and its sequel, replacing the iconic pair of eyes from the original Haunted House with a simple dot. This isn’t to detract from the experience, however, as you’ve still got three different levels to tackle of varying difficulty, each boasting devious ghosts and daunting passageways. A worthy sequel, without a doubt.
Warbirds (1991) – Atari Lynx
The only non-2600 game on the list, Warbirds is a game that, like Turbo Sub, makes excellent use of the first-person perspective, squeezing out every last drop of power from the humble handheld. It’s a quaint title by today’s standards, sure, but it’s also an undeniably fun game. You can customise your experience to your heart’s content too, toggling invincibility, unlimited ammo, and more to your liking.
So that’s yer lot. For a free update (the first of many, according to Atari), the games added here are all well worth playing, even if a couple might prove a bit daunting for newcomers. The lack of any new content in the interactive timeline is a minor concern, but we’ve been told that future updates will indeed include new behind-the-scenes interviews and videos to flesh out the experience even more.
We can’t wait to see what else Atari and Digital Eclipse have in store, but for now, we’re off to play some more Aquaventure.
Have you tried out the new update for Atari 50 yet? What do you make of the games included? Let us know your thoughts with a comment down below.