The Atari 2600+ is a retro console blueprint that everyone s…

An Atari 2600+ is sitting on a table.
Giovanni Colantonio/

I still remember every detail of the years I spent playing my mom’s hand-me-down Atari 2600 as a kid. I set up the system on an old CRT TV in the corner of my bedroom. On weekends, I sit on my soft blue carpet and crack open my mom’s dusty old cartridge boxes. I can feel the sensation of a heavy game being forced into the slot of the console until it clicks into place. I remember what it felt like to run your fingers over the console’s textured plastic design or fight against resistance in the system’s tight joystick. Of course, I still have strong memories of playing pac man Or space InvadersBut I remember just as strongly how far away I was from my screen, sitting in the same cross-legged position.

While companies love re-releasing the games we love, few of them have actually found ways to preserve the physical act of playing those games. Devices like the NES Classic are beautiful novelties that recreate the look of their older counterparts, but they fall short when it comes to honoring the rituals built around the system. Clicking a cartridge into place and blowing on it to try to fire it is also part of Super Mario Bros. In the form of platforming.

It seems that Atari understands this and has worked that idea into its latest retro console: the Atari 2600+. This isn’t a dozen-of-a-dozen console entertainments designed for easy nostalgia; It’s one of the few devices of its kind to truly capture the experience of the iconic system. This is an achievement that few others can claim – but I hope they will follow suit.

feel the past

The Atari 2600+ is an uncompromising retro system – which is both its most distinctive aspect and its greatest strength. It is an almost 1:1 recreation of the original Atari 2600, except that it can be easily connected to a TV via HDMI and has a button that switches between 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios. Otherwise, it’s an incredibly faithful recreation that’s fully functional. It still has levers that instantly change game mode, difficulty, and TV type. It comes with a gloriously incomplete Atari joystick, and really dedicated fans can even grab a pair of paddles separately. Every piece I tested looked and felt exactly as I remembered.

All of this is admirable, but the best quality of the 2600+ is its approach to games. This isn’t another all-in-one game console that just preloads a dozen classics onto the device. Instead, it still has a fully functional cartridge slot that plays both newly released Atari cartridges and any older ones from the 1980s. This makes it hard to sell to anyone who doesn’t have access to older Atari games. The system comes with a 10-in-1 cartridge that includes elements of classics like missile Command, but otherwise it is up to the players to hunt the game. Frankly, I can’t imagine most people would have old cartridges lying around to use the device.

but I do.

A case full of Atari games sits next to an Atari 2600+.
Giovanni Colantonio/

Long before I got a Sony PlayStation or a Nintendo GameCube, the Atari 2600 became my first video game console. When I was a kid my mother gave me her old pedals, along with a joystick and a treasured box of cartridges. Some of those games would become my all-time favorites. I still remember the months I spent choosing stuff danger, I could barely get past its fifth screen in my years with it, but I’ll come back to it day after day just in case. To this day, I still have a deeper emotional connection to that system than anything else I have. It connects me to my mother, but that’s why I love sports and that’s why I get to sit here today and write about them like this.

As soon as I heard about the Atari 2600+, I called my mom and asked if our old system was still in storage somewhere. It continued to suffer like a cockroach even after decades. I sent him the old game case, which arrived about a week before the new console arrived to me. With both in hand, I intuitively began arranging the play space in my living room much like the one in my old bedroom. I placed the console on a small rug, placed the game case neatly on its right side with the lid closed. Instead of sitting on my couch, I sat cross-legged on my floor and kept it that way danger The cartridge – still vibrant green beneath its fading label – slid into the slot with a tight click. I flipped the thick, metal power switch and waited for the screen to flicker.

An Atari 2600+ is sitting on the table running Pitfall.
Giovanni Colantonio/

As that familiar opening screen appeared on my TV, miraculously running from the same cartridge, my heart skipped a beat. My childhood years came back to me in a wash of green pixels. I could feel my old carpet on my feet, smell the musk emanating from the old machine, even hear the low hum of that CRT TV.

For the next few hours, I would pop every cartridge I had to unlock more of those memories. I will come in Spider Man And immediately remembered that as a child I could never figure out how to defeat the Green Goblin (I still don’t). pac man My time would be wasted as I remembered how limited the original game was, with straight lines instead of points. I will also make some unique reinventions like Circusa morbid form of spread out It involves two trapeze artists launching each other on a swing – and falling dead when they hit the ground.

a transportable artefact

A lot of these old Atari games hold up surprisingly well. When I attached a paddle controller and booted up pong-variant video olympics, I found that I was just as engaged in a classic duel as I was in a modern multiplayer shooter with all its glitz and glamour. A large part of this comes down to the Atari 2600’s most underrated feature: the physicality of its controls. Spinning paddles or wrestling with a joystick feels more active and physical than pressing buttons on a gamepad. when i play spread out, It’s like I’m driving a car carefully. That experience can’t be replicated with a standard joystick; You need to feel that spinning circle on your fingers. The Atari 2600+ offers an easy way to do this, capturing the feel of the era.

An Atari 2600+ joystick rests on a table.
Giovanni Colantonio/

Although what attracted me most during my tests is the same game that has always won my heart: danger, Once I loaded it up, I couldn’t stop playing the old-school side-scroller. it’s that captivating unresolved, now boiling the bloated action-adventure genre down to its essence. It’s a simple platformer full of precise challenges and genuine surprises; You never know what will happen on each new screen. Returning to it as an adult meant tackling it with more skill, which finally let me see what was there beyond the first few screens I’d spent hours trying to hone. I gasped loudly when I reached a screen I had never seen as a child and found a growing and shrinking sinkhole. Decades later, one of my favorite games was still finding ways to surprise me.

The Atari 2600+ is the most personal experience I have ever had with gaming technology. Instead of feeling like yet another holiday season cash grab for retro players, it feels like a genuine historical artifact that has been created with love and care. It won’t have the same impact on people who never owned a console and just want to play older games (Atari 50: Anniversary Celebration Better for him), but the games aren’t entirely the point. It’s the feeling of running your hand over its ridges, the worry that you’re going to break it as you push the cartridge into the slot, your body bending in sync with the joystick. It’s easy for games to take our minds back in time, but the Atari 2600+ takes my body back, too.

When I turn it on, I’m home.

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