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- Genuine cartridge slot
- HDMI output
- Comes with games
- Controller cables are short
- Included games aren’t all excellent
The Atari 2600+ is billed as a faithful recreation to one of the most beloved classic video game consoles of all time. Boasting HDMI functionality, a genuine cartridge slot, and backwards compatibility with the 7800, there’s a lot going for it. Read on to see whether the refreshed system is worthy of a spot in your home entertainment setup.
Whether you were around in the late 70s or are curious about the early days of the gaming industry, the Atari 2600+ presents itself well. It represents the era of boundless creativity combined with incredibly limited hardware, where developers had a blank slate to create many genres of games we have now almost 50 years later. Let’s get into it.
Atari 2600+ review: Price and availability
The Atari 2600+ is available from major retailers such as Amazon in territories in the US and the UK with a starting price of $129.99 / £99.99 for the console and an included game cartridge. Additional games and controllers are sold separately. You can expect to pay $29.99 / £24.99 for games such as Berserk and Mr. Run and Jump. A major plus here is the price point undercuts the going rates for HD conversion mods on the Atari 2600 from certain modders, and is comparable to what you’ll find a RetroScaler 2x for.
Atari 2600+ review: Design
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As with other microconsoles in recent years, the Atari 2600+ is nearly indistinguishable from the genuine article in terms of its visual design, but it is around 20% smaller and significantly lighter. There’s the iconic VCS woodgrain finish with the four-switch design that the system is famed for, all of which works as intended.
You’re able to switch between color and black white just as you could on the original Atari 2600 model, as well as select and reset games as well. It’s an excellent touch, and elevates this machine significantly from some other console re-releases that aren’t quite as faithful. There’s an enlarged cartridge port here to prevent sticking, which was an issue with the native hardware, with the key difference of being able to play both 2600 and 7800 titles, too.
While there have been many Atari plug and play systems over the years, the Atari 2600+ features full HDMI support, which includes the ability to play in widescreen. There’s also a switch on the console itself to go from 4:3 to 16:9 as well. The system is powered by USB-C which connects to a USB-A port on your TV or monitor, so everything’s nice and lightweight. Those wanting the genuine power brick are out of luck here, but it’s a change made for the best.
Given just how primitive Atari’s early games were, you aren’t exactly going to be blown away by the hardware inside. Powering the Atari 2600+ is a Rockchip 3128 SOC microprocessor with 256GB DDR3 RAM and 256MB eMMC flash memory. It’s more than enough to fuel the output in Full HD so you can appreciate the bold blocky graphics and the harsh bleeps and bloops without compression or fuzziness.
What I love about the Atari 2600+ is the decision to use the real Atari Joystick Port which would later become widely adopted by many other companies such as SEGA and Phillips after the fact. It means, should you have any existing classic Atari peripherals that you’ll be able to plug in and get to gaming. Certain micro-console re-releases such as the PlayStation Classic and the SNES Classic Mini went with USB and proprietary connectors, so I’m happy Atari made the right call.
Atari 2600+ review: Features
The main selling point of the Atari 2600+ is the fact it can play all your favorite 2600 and 7800 games in Full HD with widescreen support with minimal power consumption for an incredibly competitive price. The genuine cartridge slot is a real highlight as it means you aren’t limited to what comes baked into the system.
In case you’re worried about which Atari games will be compatible with this system, fear not. The company has provided a full compatibility list of 2600 and 7800 games published under its banner and from third parties such as Activiison. The vast majority have passed its tests, with a handful being un-testable due to their cassette requirements, and a couple, such as RealSports Boxing and 007 James Bond have failed.
Included in the box is a 1:1 scale CX40+ Joystick, which is a faithful recreation of the tried and true single button remote. It’s not the first controller that came with the Atari 2600, then called the VCS, that was the CX10, but this remake of the more popular cross-platform unit. It was ushered in around a year later due to being cheaper to produce, but also was stiffer.
A neat touch is that the Atari badge on the console lights up in white when the unit’s powered on. It adds to the overall vibe nicely. My review unit also came bundled with a set of two paddle controllers used for multiplayer games, and these feel as close to the genuine article as I’m able to verify. If you want the definitive experience, you’re better off getting your hands on the newly commissioned remake controllers instead of chancing the second-hand market.
Atari 2600+ review: Performance
The Atari 2600+ works exactly as you would hope an old school system dating back to the late 1970s would; insert a cartridge with a satisfying shove, plug in the joystick, and turn the power on and the game boots up instantly. In my testing, I was using a 21:9 gaming monitor, and the picture was adjusted to fit the aspect ratio without harsh squeezing of the picture.
What instantly put a smile on my face was hearing the heavily compressed sound effects come through in better clarity than I’ve ever noticed before. It was particularly prominent in Berzerk with the digitized speech coming through clear as day: “The humanoid must not escape” now burned into the back of mind. For as excellent of a title as it was for its time, there’s no escaping the stiffness from the CX40+ as Atari has faithfully recreated the rigidity in the stick as well. It meant having to really put effort into some of those diagonal movements. The cable is also on the shorter side, which meant sitting comfortably on my couch was out of the question, but your mileage may vary.
A pleasant surprise was Mr. Run and Jump, which is the first new Atari 2600 game published by the manufacturer in over 30 years. While this title is available in a far more sophisticated form on modern hardware, it was actually developed for the old-school system first. What’s here is a fiendishly difficult and deceptively addictive platformer which is well worth the price of admission alone if you get it in a bundle, or the standalone price. It’s encouraging to see high quality titles coming out for an ageing system outside of the demake scene done so well.
The standard Atari 2600+ package includes a 10-in-1 multi-cart which should be good for a few hours of curiosity at the very least. This includes revolutionary titles such as Adventure, Missile Command, and Haunted House, but the same level of enthusiasm can’t be dedicated towards the remaining titles. It’s likely down to licensing, but those wanting the absolute best Atari 2600 games out of the box may be let down, especially when considering many cheaper Atari Flashback units ship with hundreds of games from then jump.
I can’t fault the emulation quality of the Atari 2600+ whatsoever. Everything looks and sounds exactly as it should, complete with the sprite flickering that was common at the time. This was done to easily convey motion, and in titles such Berzerk, Mr. Run and Jump, and Haunted Mansion, they get the job done well. You’re getting great sound and video here.
Should you buy the Atari 2600+?
Whether you’re curious about what made the Atari 2600 such a smash hit success when it debuted nearly 50 years ago, or you grew up playing it at the time and want to dust off your collection of games, you’ll be happy with what the Atari 2600+ can do. The picture and video quality is stellar with the emulation being perfect for a price that’s hard to beat.
It is a little disappointing that the base package only comes with 10 games included in the box, with the likes of Bezerk and Mr. Run and Jump sold separately. It stings because many of the games that defined the system’s success in the early 1980s such as Pitfall, Space Invaders, Asteroids, River Raid, Demon Attack, Joust, and Spy Hunter are nowhere to be found, which is a shame.
Still, considering the build quality of the Atari 2600+, the functionality on display, and the fact you can still insert hundreds of supported 2600 and 7800 titles, it isn’t too much of a black mark. If you don’t care much for primitive gaming history then you’re likely to get nothing out of this package, but for those who want a blast from the past, this machine does enough to reign in the party like it’s 1977.