As a fan of all things retro, I approached Atari's Greatest Hits with a mix of cautious optimism and anxious, chain-smoking trepidation. Atari were doubtlessly instrumental in bringing videogames to the masses, but their recent attempts to re-release their wares on consoles has been met with universal critical derision and scorn.
They say that you should never meet your heroes... but flying in the face of this conventional wisdom, Atari have offered a smorgasbord of over a hundred "classic" games that can be accessed from a single free hub with the ability to purchase the titles you want or splurge on a major £8.99 bundle.
The titles on offer include seminal arcade hits like Pong (which is free), Tempest, Lunar Lander, Tempest and Missile Command; as well as a bewildering number of Atari 2600 ports. The emulation is surprisingly good with stable framerates and authentic audio across the board, but sadly, Atari's Greatest Hits is an unmitigated shambles on the iPhone.
Let me explain. Arcade cabinets pushed the boundaries of input methods, and thus provided a dizzying array of knobs, buttons and levers that were unique to each game. Unfortunately these have been translated into unresponsive, obtuse and cumbersome virtual control pads and sliders that obscure much of the screen and provide a weak accompaniment to the action.
The wireframe visuals also look busy, bitty and confusing on the tiny screen - and the slightest glare or fingerprint can render many of Atari's Greatest Hits unplayable.
Atari Greatest Hits makes much more sense on an iPad, where the spacious screen allows for more convenient virtual controls and makes browsing through the menus much more intuitive. Classics such as Tempest and Red Baron are an absolute joy to play on a tablet, and as such, I'd highly recommend dropping a few quid on some arcade packs if you're a misty-eyed idealist with fond memories of the good old days.
Sadly, though, the biggest problem with Atari's Greatest Hits is that most of its games were terrible when they were new. Whinge all you want, diehard Atari veterans (and I sincerely apologise for the betrayal), but whilst the arcade classics are still worth playing, the Atari 2600 titles are universally awful. I don't care about graphics - but for the record, they're no fun at all by modern standards. And after trying them again, I'm beginning to suspect that they never were.
The App Store is full of clones of these classic games... and the sad fact is that that most of them are better than their venerable forebears. As such, I can heartily recommend splurging on a couple of £1.99 arcade packs if you plan to play them on an iPad, but the £8.99 monster purchase is a false saving that offers a deceptively weak amount of value.
- Good quality emulations
- In-app pricing structure lets you cherry-pick the best games
- Works well on the iPad
- Hopeless on the iPhone. Avoid.
- Most of the games are terrible even with rose-tinted specs
- You can find better clones on the app store
Summary: Atari's Greatest Hits is a nostalgia-packed grab bag of the sublime and the ridiculous. iPad owners will get a kick out of some of the classic arcade games, but beware that even the thickest rose tinted spectacles will crack after a few minutes of play.
Compatibility: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later.
Price: Free (with rampant in-app purchases) - App Store