This year marks Atari’s 50th anniversary, and the just released Atari Mania feels like a celebration of their history – especially the earlier decades. Released for PC and the Nintendo Switch, we checked it out on the latter.
The choice of platforms felt a bit odd to us, as the Switch is the only platform that features a similar kind of game concept as Atari Mania, and it’s serious competition – Warioware. As with that series, Atari Mania dips into a rich back catalog of games in order to deliver quirky, fun, fast-paced micro games. For those who are nostalgic for Atari’s heyday, it’s a success.
Your protogonist in the game has to take care of the Atari Vault, but when a strange anomaly (a dead pixel!) starts to suck Atari’s classics into another dimension, they all get twisted and mixed up with one another. It’s up to you to head after them and make things right, and although it’s just a silly premise it’s enough to make you want to find out which titles got jumbled together and what the end results are going to be.
What’s nice is that Atari Mania isn’t just a random collection of micro games, but that developer iLLOGICA has layered a game world on top of it and filled that with icons and puzzles you can unlock and complete over time. There are plenty of enemies that have invaded this game world as well, but these are usually gateways to the little micro games that form the heart of the experience here. The scenarios you face there are almost always easy to grasp, but also throw up a decent challenge – much like the classic arcade and Atari 2600-era titles that Mania borrows from.
One thing you can definitely argue about Atari Mania is that the back catalogue here isn’t as recognizable as the one used in Warioware. That’s certainly true, and for a number of reasons – many of Atari’s games predate the NES by a number of years, and characters had a lot less visual detail to them – making them harder to stand out and leave a lasting impression. In addition, those who were around and playing games in that era are the minority now, so this is a title best suited to those who either fondly remember Atari’s earlier years or love retro gaming and have previously tried out things like the Atari Vault collection.
Those who fall into that target group will also appreciate the little museum-like touches that have been included, like covers of the original games that are being used here or even full manuals to flip through. And if you like retro games but museum content is not your thing, then you’ll at least love the cool chiptune soundtrack and pixel style visuals – though oddly enough the Switch (even when docked) would sometimes struggle if too much was going on on screen. But in an era where too many games are lazily rereleased on new platforms, Atari Mania takes a heritage and mixes it up into something fresh, and it’s an easy recommendation to retro fans everywhere.