A Bizarre Retro Gaming Mixtape
Celebrating its fiftieth anniversary in 2022, Atari’s milestone yr is constructing as much as the discharge of its long-awaited Atari 50: The Anniversary Assortment, which guarantees over 100 traditional video games and the definitive “interactive journey” by way of the corporate’s historical past. Nonetheless, one thing rather more intriguing from the gaming icon arrives on Swap, PC and VCS this week–and for half the worth.
Atari Mania, which has obtained comparably little fanfare, is a microgame-based tackle the developer’s deep assortment of previous hits. Splitting its gameplay 50-50 between old-school action-adventure exploration and quick-fire, WarioWare-style minigames, it’s an concept in keeping with the developer’s modern-day need to place a brand new spin on its widespread franchises, very similar to its genuinely satisfying Recharged sequence.
You assume the function of The Caretaker on the Atari Vault, a museum-like constructing that shops its video games and their historical past, simply as disaster strikes: a useless pixel seems, unleashing hellish monsters that seize and corrupt characters from video games like Centipede, Circus Atari, Outlaw, and Crystal Castles.
Your process is to defeating these beasts by taking over quick-fire, mashed-up Atari video games in a sequence of more and more troublesome and super-speedy challenges, whereas unlocking and accumulating the whole lot throughout the constructing’s many flooring, to revive the Vault to its day-to-day glory. The idea sounds nice, and finally proves to be lots of enjoyable–even when it takes some moving into.
You anticipate Atari Mania to be playful and foolish from the beginning, but it surely initially proves uninteresting. The Atari Vault doesn’t really feel like a shrine to the corporate’s previous–greyish-blue colours dominate the constructing, whereas largely empty rooms commonly supply few trinkets or exhibitions. If this was an actual museum, you’d hope it was free.
The story and early gameplay are additionally sluggish to heat to. Initially, your function as caretaker sees you sweeping up and speaking to characters from Atari video games who come out to play, Evening on the Museum fashion. Conversations, humor, and worldbuilding really feel a bit of drawn out. When the whole lot goes sideways and also you lastly face your first boss–certainly one of many black-and-red monsters that seem like early drafts for Doom’s Cacodemon–the core gaming feels a bit uninspired, with repetitive trials primarily based round done-to-death video games like Pong.
Nonetheless, persistence is a advantage, and these introductory tutorial sequences quickly give method to a way more formidable and satisfying expertise. After taking part in it a bit of too secure, Atari Mania introduces an ever-growing collection of titles, which could be wildly totally different–for instance, combining Wizard, Darkish Chambers and Sentinel–however these additionally fuse with parts of video games you’ve already collected alongside the way in which, create ever extra bizarre challenges.
In consequence, parts of early video games like Breakout or Outlaw could arrive out of nowhere on high of your new crop of classics, that are already fused into weird and intelligent exams; you may end up taking part in as an enemy; typically, bosses themselves invade the sport and have an effect on your controls. The deeper you delve into the sport, the extra it appears to reward you.
Failure is an choice, however just for so lengthy. For those who lose a stage, you continue to transfer ahead, until you fail on the last problem, by which case you’re bumped again an extra degree. You’ll fail, too–Atari Mania is usually a merciless mistress, and even hardcore arcade followers will discover battles difficult.
You’re commonly thrown in on the deep finish with obscure missions. Controls aren’t displayed on display screen; you simply need to hope you work them out within the mere seconds you’re given. What’s extra, some challenges are punishingly fast, which means you must act as quickly because the timer begins. The brand new lick of paint that Atari Mania offers its traditional video games shouldn’t lull you right into a false sense of safety–these exams can simply be as demanding as their inspirations have been in arcades of the 70s and 80s, proper all the way down to their twitchy controls and excessive talent requirement.
Between these gaming sections, and in true action-adventure fashion, you’re compelled alongside a slim path by way of the Vault that more and more widens as you choose up new instruments to unlock once-blocked areas. Atari Mania’s boss battles every finish with the reward of a brand new merchandise that grants you a capability; magnets transfer steel bins, grappling hooks can pull open doorways, and jetfuel can fill mills. Earlier than you understand it, you’re fixing new puzzles throughout dozens of rooms in quest of new collectibles, trials, and story exposition.
You additionally start to revive a bit of colour by accumulating varied posters of sport covers–even when they’re solely restricted to 1 per room–alongside full-detail sport manuals gained by way of minigame battles with mice, for some purpose. These aspects can really feel like box-ticking workouts, however the attract of 100% completion is robust, and it’s nice to be taught much more concerning the video games you’re taking part in.
Atari Mania isn’t with out its points. On PC, the construct feels a bit of unstable–greater than it ought to, given the sport is available in at underneath 800MB. Essentially the most noticeable difficulty is rampant display screen tearing; V-sync sometimes feels non-existent between rooms, however is mercifully absent throughout minigames. Exiting and re-entering boss battles can pressure the sport to get caught in a loading loop–one thing you may end up doing commonly, as a result of issue spikes could be brutal. Typically, success hinges extra on luck than talent.
Nonetheless, for devoted retro gaming followers and newcomers alike, Atari Mania packs lots of good concepts into this finances celebration. For probably the most half, it executes them properly, and there’s a very good likelihood you’ll be launched to some previous classics alongside the way in which. It isn’t probably the most memorable sport of the yr–likelihood is, between Recharged and The Anniversary Assortment, it gained’t be probably the most memorable Atari sport of the yr, both–but when it clicks, you’ll get worth for cash from its $20 price ticket.