The name Seasoned Gaming originates with a very long history of gaming that began primarily with the Atari 2600. As the first mainstream gaming console, the Atari 2600 is a seminal platform in the industry.
With the 50 year anniversary of Atari occurring this year, Atari has chosen to celebrate with game collections, throwbacks, and collectibles. One of them is Atari Mania, a mash-up of classic Atari experiences and catalog of their history in video game form.
Atari Mania has a simple and silly premise. You take the role of the Atari Vault Caretaker and discover dead pixels are threatening the classic Atari games. You take it upon yourself to “clean up” these dead pixels, and, by doing so, you can restore the games and vault to their proper condition.
As the Caretaker you explore the vault to solve simple puzzles, interact with classic Atari characters, and challenge the dead pixels in a series of “microgame” mash-ups. The Vault itself acts as the simplest of RPG worlds with minor exploration and puzzle-solving. Throughout the vault you’ll find artwork from classic games and can unlock items such as the original manuals from the games.
Every so often you will be forced to deal with a dead pixel which challenges you to complete a series of the “micro-games” in a limited amount of lives. These micro-games are randomized and include elements from the classic games you find in that area of the vault. For instance, you may play a mini-game that combines elements of Millipede, Breakout, and Outlaws in a single game.
In theory, these mash-ups should be a lot of fun, but the issue is that they are exceedingly short (some can be beaten in a few seconds) and have very little quality control. It feels as though the developers took a few basic gameplay elements from each title and just allowed them to work together. This ends up creating an experience that is neither balanced nor interesting.
Navigating the Vault itself is also rather bland. As you conquer dead pixels, you are granted access to new areas of the vault and new items that unlock additional paths and/or items. Along the way you’ll interact with classic characters who offer some funny moments. However, they are short, few, and far between. The accompanying soundtrack is well done and offers upbeat retro tunes, but it’s certainly not enough to vastly improve the overall gameplay.
I have incredibly fond memories of the Atari 2600. It was the catalyst of my love for gaming, and I reflect on Atari and its history often (I recently purchased a VCS and spoke with COO Michael Arzt). With that in mind, I had high hopes for Atari Mania, even if it offered nothing more than a purely nostalgic experience.
Sadly, the final experience is anything but intriguing. While it does give off some nostalgic vibes at times, the micro-games being poor and the vault being overly simplistic drag the overall package down quickly. There’s simply nothing of substance here to get excited about.
If you’re like me and grew up with Atari while having fond memories of that era, Atari Mania is worth checking out at some point. Just don’t expect to find a package that offers an awful lot in return.