Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Atari Classics Evolved

Featuring eleven classic and remixed arcade games, Atari Classics Evolved for the PSP is a decent compilation for the retro gaming fan. While some of the remakes, like Warlords and Lunar Lander do a decent, if underwhelming job in updating their ancestors, other updates are more impressive, with Missile Command's radical makeover and the new hyper Asteroids making immediately positive impacts. Players can also unlock a variety of extras by completing achievements, including more than 50 classic Atari 2600 games. Decent emulations of the originals and some interesting updates makes for a solid package for classic gamers on the go.

There have been several classic gaming compilations released for the PSP with the likes of Midway, Sega, Capcom and Namco all delivering solid sets for the handheld. You can now add Atari to the list with Atari Classics Evolved. While this volume only includes 11 original arcade games, this is a misleading statistic since all the games are genuine classics with only the best included, so there isn't much in the way of filler here. The big names you remember like Battlezone and Missile Command are present and each game features decent emulated versions of the original arcade roms as well as sometimes impressive 'evolved' versions with completely new visuals and sounds. These remakes for the most-part stay true to the solid gameplay that made the original games so enduring, but add some graphical flourish to make them feel more contemporary. These games strike a very good balance between staying faithful to the original games and look and play as you'd expect - which is a very important thing to achieve since those who played many of the ill-fated remakes will recall some fairly awful updates, such as the PS1 Hasbro titles or the DS hip-hop versions of a couple years ago. Atari has thankfully learned from these mistakes and keeps each title within the parameters of the originals while offering enough modern flash to make them appeal to current gamers. Most of the 'evolved' games share a similar elegant outer-space background, and this neon-on-black motif feels like a natural extension of the original games and makes a nice tribute to the classic Atari art style seen on the arcade marquees and catalogs. One of the prime examples of this approach is the new Super Breakout doesn't really need much in the way of improvement; it's cool to play it again with some slightly updated visuals that don't detract from the overall feel of the original game. The controls in this version of Super Breakout are fairly decent, though the paddle seems a little bit over-responsive and requires a subtle touch. It gets easier as you become accustomed to its controls.

It's not as elaborate as Jeff Minter's remakes, the tubes in ACE's evolved Tempest look crystalline blue instead of their original wire-frame look that updates the look of the original while keeping to the feel of the classic arcade game. The intense shooting action looks sharp on the PSP's screen, but the only problem here is that the game forces you to play sideways, which can be annoying with the PSP's button configuration ill-suited. It plays fairly well with the d-pad, but the analog stick really delivers the feel of the arcade game on the handheld, and the game plays just as smoothly and intensely as you remember. On the other hand, Atari's bug-blasting duo Centipede and Millipede have to make do with minor updates, though the increased resolution of their sprites and more vibrant backdrops actually makes things a bit more confusing in some ways. Warlords keeps essentially the same layout as the original arcade game, but the new version adds some slicker visuals to make the game more interesting. The best remake on the disc is Atari's new version of Asteroids, which changes the visual look of the original game with more detailed rocks to shoot along with massive particle effects and screen-filling explosions that recalls Geometry Wars in a strange case of the master learning from the student. Asteroids Deluxe is also included and while its more complex gameplay made it a sleeper when it came out originally, its refined formula and better visuals make it an excellent choice for inclusion this time around.

The original video game, Pong is another obvious choice for inclusion and while the new ping-pong table design in the evolved mode is a fairly obvious evolution, the game's other modes such as a pinball theme give the game a refreshingly new feel. Another solid example is Battlezone, which also updates the vector wire frame of the original for a somewhat cool cybernetic, virtual world feel. The most radical change is most apparent in the new version of Missile Command, that features fully rendered cities and environments along with redesigned missiles and weapons to give the game an almost completely new look. The controls in the new Missile Command are just as they were in the original, though it seems to be a bit harder to move the target around the screen with as much accuracy as you'd expect. It's a bit disappointing in this regard, but isn't enough to ruin the experience. Overall, the quality of the evolved games is fairly solid, keeping the basic mechanics intact. Most players shouldn't find much to complain about in these new versions, and if the changes are too much, you can always fall back on the originals.

These eleven games offer a fairly good taste of classic gaming, but the real heart of the package lies in its inclusion of more than 50 classic Atari 2600 games. Unfortunately, you need to unlock all four awards for each game, which means you'll have to accomplish more than 44 goals to access these titles. Unless of course, you can find a save file at one of the cheat sites, then it's not much of a problem. The emulation of these games is quite good and the selection isn't half bad. With games ranging from expected titles like Combat, and Air-Sea Battle to more obscure games like Quadrun and Radar Lock, there's an excellent selection of titles for the seminal console included in this disc. Despite a few flaws in its execution and the occasional awkwardness of having to play the games with the PSP on its side, Atari Classics Evolved delivers a solid dose of retro gaming with a decent selection of classic games. The emulated versions are fairly good, though a bit Spartan in the extras department and the use of achievements to unlock the 2600 games feels a bit excessive in terms of difficulty. However, the sleek remakes more than compensate for these problems and update the originals with a contemporary look that stays faithful to the original style without becoming overbearing. The games themselves have held up well over the years and remain as challenging and enjoyable as you remember with solid controls and a decent selection of titles that makes this a worthwhile purchase for classic gaming fans.   

- Michael Palisano


Related Reviews

Metal Slug Anthology (PSP & PS2)
Capcom Classic Collection Reloaded  (PSP)
Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits
(Nintendo DS)
Activision Hits Remixed
(Activision for PSP)
Space Invaders Revolution
Ultimate Ghosts 'N Goblins (PSP)
Dig Dug Digging Strike
(Nintendo DS)
Retro Atari Classics (DS)