Fanboy Report

Nerdgasms Away! Atari Vault Has Arrived

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Atari-Vault

Image: Atari

We all know Atari is king of the attempted comeback – and here they are again, with their long-anticipated Atari Vault. During the 70’s and 80’s, Atari was the name in gaming – and many of us are old enough to fondly remember long hours spent in video arcades, trying to claw our way to the top of the Asteroids or Centipede leaderboards. Well, with the arrival of Atari Vault, you can dive into the favorite games of your childhood right on your PC – without a clunky, crash-if-you-hit-the-wrong-button emulator.

Whether you’re an original Atari arcade gamer, were the proud owner of an Atari 2600 console, or had one of the plug-n-play Atari Flashback consoles, if you loved all things Atari, there’s a good chance you’ll quickly be addicted to the Atari Vault.

What Makes the Atari Vault Different?

Now, it’s definitely not flawless, but it’s pretty impressive – and outstrips all the emulators and previous Atari “Greatest Hits” comeback attempts. There’re 100 games to choose from right now, potentially with more to follow if Atari sees enough success that they want to further grow the Vault.

One major disappointment for many is that the Vault is only available for Windows, but if you’re a Windows user, you’re in for a retrorific treat. It’s an interesting combination of supercharged Unity 5 emulation coupled with the original 40-year-old ROMs. So you get plenty of retro gaming nostalgia but with a definitive modern edge.

The vault includes meticulous attention to detail in the form of arcade cabinets rendered in 3D. Atari has managed to perfectly preserve the original aspect ratio, and your gameplay area is flanked by remastered artwork from the original arcade cabinets

Original menu overlays, box artwork, instruction manuals, and digitally enhanced promotional materials add to the retro feel. For many of the games in the vault, you also have access to the authentic arcade cabinet settings, so you get to change the difficulty and game duration, among other things. Which means, if you’re a hardcore gamer, you can really challenge yourself by maximizing difficulty and duration. Go on – you know you want to! I mean, how hard can a 40-year-old game be?!

For the First Time Ever…

Remember we talked about all those hours in arcades trying to creep up the leaderboard of your favorite game? Well, because the Atari Vault is on Steam, you’ve got worldwide leaderboards with local and global multiplayer options. Have you got what it takes to be the best in the world?

What’s Your Favorite Game?

However you originally experienced Atari games, you’ll definitely have a few favorites – and you can find many of them already in the Vault. You’ll see best-selling Atari titles like Ateroids, Pong, and Centipede, along with the RealSoirts series, Red Baron, and the Sword Quest franchise. From sports and puzzles to adventure, RPGs, and shoot-em-ups, there’s something on the Atari Vault for everyone. You can find a full list of Atari Vault games here. We’ve seen a fair amount of complaining that games like River Raid, Pac-Man, and Taz don’t appear on the Vault – but here’s why: They’re not Atari originals. Yes, they appeared on the Atari consoles, but they were ported or third-party games by companies like Activision and Namco.

Controls

You’ve got a bunch of control options for the Atari Vault – some better than others. You can use your keyboard and/or mouse – but it’s clunky and ends up giving you less of a retro feel and plenty of frustration. Players seem to get the best results from an XO controller or licensed Microsoft Windows 10 gamepad. For those who have one – or want to spend a little extra – the Atari Vault is compatible with the Steam controller, which has the haptic pad you can use in place of the traditional Atari trackball. On the plus side, with the Steam controller, you can set and store profiles for specific games, so you don’t need to reconfigure every time you switch. Steam also promises that you can “plug in your very own trackball” for the Atari purists – but we can’t find a compatibility list – and it’s unlikely that you can plug in the original Atari trackballs, given that they used a d-sub 9-pin connection. If you’ve had success with a trackball for the Atari Vault, let us know which model!

Our Verdict

We like the Atari Vault – it’s definitely a good choice for retro gaming enthusiasts. Does it have issues? Yes, there’s a few things that need improvement. But remember, the games you’re playing are remastered editions of 30 to 40-year-old originals. The graphics aren’t going to be stunning. If you want jaw-dropping graphics, you don’t play retro games. It’s a good price at only $19.99, given that you get 100 classics. Who doesn’t love a little Asteroids action?