When I was a kid my parents bought a used Atari 2600, and even though it was during the SNES heyday I was blissfully unaware of what I was missing out on. Not only was it the first gaming console my family ever owned, it also taught me many of the video game hunting skills I still use today, as flea markets and thrift stores almost always had 2600 games available back then. Years later I asked my parents what had happened to the old console and, as with many things from my childhood, my parents have long since gotten rid of it.
In the years since I’ve amassed quite a collection of Atari 2600 games, as well as two non-working consoles. So what is a person like myself suppose to do when I want to relive those moments of being up past my bedtime playing Atari 2600? AtGames has you covered! I know, I know, I said AtGames again, but take a deep breath and follow me through this review.
The Atari Flashbacks have been on the market for quite some time, but only recently did I have the chance to pick one up from a thrift store. Yes, I’m far too cheap to have paid full price for it. Much like everything else AtGames puts out, the Atari Flashback has been through many different revisions and changes. The Atari Flashback 2 is simple, easy to use and even hackable! Yes, the instructions on how to add a cartridge port to this thing is practically written right on the board.
The Atari Flashback 2 has forty built in Atari classics, with classics meaning all these games were actually released for the 2600 and aren’t just junk, filler titles that AtGames is renown for. Once the system is booted up you’ll be presented with categories from which to choose any game you wish to play. Honestly I wish it was listed in more of a Power Joy, Famiclone style with just a numbered list, perhaps alphabetical order, instead of having to go from category to category blindly hoping to see a game you really like within. After you’ve chosen a game it will boot up and the emulation seems to be fairly faithful to the original 2600.
Some of my favorite included titles are Pitfall!, Dodge ‘Em (listed as Dodge ‘m), Yar’s Revenge and of course River Raid. Again, the games seem to play the same, as far as I remember, as they did on original hardware, this is made even better with the inclusion of controllers heavily styled after the originals. The included controllers are comfortable, but the joystick is hard plastic, compared to the rubber covered plastic on the original one. All in all they’re slightly smaller and a tiny bit less comfortable, but do an adequate job.
The Flashback 2 even includes two paddle games, hidden away within the system. Using the joystick press up once, down nine times, up seven more times and down twice more (representing 1972) to reveal a hidden paddle games menu. The Atari Flashback didn’t come with paddle controllers, but if you have a pair stored away somewhere you can swap out the joystick and enjoy Super Breakout and Warlords as an additional bonus.
So you have old Atari 2600 controllers laying around and you’re wondering whether you can use them on the Flashback 2 or not? As far as I’ve seen, the answer is yes. The Flashback 2 even has a hidden test feature for you to test your old Atari 2600 controllers and paddles. Holding both select and reset buttons while powering on the system will boot into a test mode. To test joysticks leave the Color/B&W switch on color and to test paddles flip it over to black and white before turning on the power.
Hooking the Flashback 2 up is made extremely easy with its hardwired video and mono audio cables shooting out the back of the console, the exact same way the RF cable came from the original consoles. This time around the power adapter is a barrel style 9 volts, rather than the 3.5mm we’re more familiar with seeing on headphones. Besides the switches being changed out for buttons, clearly a cost effective change, everything seems to be as easy to use as the original Atari 2600. Controllers plug into the back the same, you can choose black and white or color, difficulty settings, select and reset are all present. If only this thing had a cartridge slot!
I’m not a huge fan of AtGames products, although with as many as I own you may not know that. The Atari Flashback 2 helped fill the void of not owning a working Atari 2600 fairly well. I wish the built in games were presented in a different way and I wish there were a lot more desirable titles included, but I guess that’s why they’ve made six or more of these things; drain the money of consumers.
One of the most interesting features has to be the hidden controller tester, which I’ve even tested Colecovision controllers with. With how little I spent on this thing I would have bought it again simply for the controller tester alone. For a thrift store purchase I’m happy with what I got, this time, but there is no way I would have paid the original retail price.
About the author
Samuel Floyd first fell into video gaming with the Atari 2600...in the mid-90s! Always late into the system wars, Samuel enjoys that as he acquires them when they're cheap and the hot titles of yesteryear are bountiful. Samuel loves RPGs, his favorite being Crystalis for the NES.