AtGames released their Atari Flashback 4 earlier this month and I have been lucky enough to get my hands on one of these units. The Flashback 4 looks a lot like the previous Flashback 3, but now includes 75 2600 games. Some of the best games included on this incarnation of the Flashback are Asteroids, Battlezone, Centipede, Circus Atari, Jungle Hunt, Missile Command, Super Breakout, Warlords, Yars Revenge and an all new version of Space Invaders.
The Flashback 4 runs on an ARM processor, so all of the 2600 games run in emulation. The emulation is significantly improved over the previous version and is close enough to satisfy all but the hard core 2600 fans. The thing that sets the Flashback 4 apart from the previous versions, however, is the new wireless controllers. These controllers connect to the base unit via IR, so they have to have a line of sight and I have seen several negative comments about IR controllers. In my testing, I have found these controllers to work extremely well, with no lag. The controllers have a good feel to them and being able to reset and/or select new games from across the room is awesome! The other cool thing is that traditional Atari joystick ports are included on the front of the unit. This allows you to use your wired Atari joysticks and paddles with the Flashback 4 (or new ones being produced by AtGames) . Being able to use paddles is really nice as several paddle games are included. The paddle input is converted from analog to digital and I have found that the response is a little ‘different’ that I am used to on my 7800. After a few minutes of play, you adjust to the difference in the response and the games play just fine.
The inclusion of a new version of Space Invaders is puzzling and intriguing at the same time. The new version is graphically very similar to arcade version, but seems a little too easy to play to me. I have no issue with the new version, but it would have been even better had AtGames included the original 2600 version as well. Given that they were able to include this new version of Space Invaders, is it possible that we could see new versions of other classic games on future Flashbacks? If AtGames produces a Flashback 5, it would be great to see them drop some of the lessor titles and license some Activision classics like Pitfall, Hero, or Ice Hockey. Also, since they are using emulation, they could also include some of the ‘single button’ 7800 games or make a deal with AtariAge to include some of the great 2600 and 7800 Homebrew games.
I really like my Flashback 4 and feel that it is quite an improvement over the Flashback 3. My only negative feedback is that it is hard to determine which position the difficulty switches are in and that it would be nice to include manuals for the games. With that being said, the manuals are pretty easy to find at sites like AtariAge.
The Flashback 4 will be selling for as low as $25 on Black Friday and, if you are an Atari fan, you should not pass up the opportunity to pick up one of these. The AV video out looks great on my HD TV and the games are pretty flicker free. Getting so many great games and the new wireless controllers make the Flashback 4 a must have!
Oh, and one final thing…the Flashback 4 box is cat approved!!!