Retro Game Guy

It's the 1980's again!

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When I started this adventure a few months ago, I had never heard of a multi-cart.  A multi-cart is circuit board, usually mounted inside a standard cartridge shell, that allows you to load multiple games on either flash memory or some type of memory card.  As it turns out, some very creative and talented individuals have developed multi-carts for almost all retro game systems.  For example, multi-carts have been made for the Atari 2600, 5200, 7800, Colecovison, Vetrex, Intellivison, and others.

Multi-carts have become a critical part of the retro gaming community as they allow developers to quickly load and test their games on real hardware.  They also make it possible for others to test game release candidates and report bugs back to the developers.  They are also great for the gamer as a whole library full of games can be put on a single cart, saving wear and tear on cartridge ports.

The Atari 7800 multi-cart was made by Chad Schell and was called the Cuttle Cart 2.  It is estimated that Chad built and sold about 200 of these and they are highly sought after.  The Cuttle Cart used a MMC to load and store the games.  The Cuttle Cart 2 is no longer in production, but you can learn more about it at Chad’s website.

Atari 5200 and Colecovision fans are in better luck as Steve Tucker makes and sells multi-carts for these systems.  Recently, I purchased Steve’s ‘Atarimax Ultimate SD Multi-Cart’ for my 5200 SuperSystem.  This Multi-Cart is an amazing product that allows you to put all of your 5200 games on a single cart.  Steve has also ported over more than thirty 8-bit games including classics like Atlantis, Demon Attack, and Donkey Kong.  Additionally there are a number of hacks, homebrews, and prototypes available for the 5200.  To see all of Steve’s cool products, check out his Atarimax website.

2600 fans are also in luck as a great multi-cart is readily available.  Developed by a team of great guys from the AtariAge forum, the Harmony cart is available for both SD and micro-SD memory cards.  The Harmony cart also works with the 7800 and allows you to play almost all of your 2600 games on either your 2600 or 7800.  Since purchasing my Harmony cart, I have been able to test and provide feedback on the development of a couple of new 2600 games as well as play a number of homebrews and hacks.

The same team that developed the Harmony cart are also working on the H2.  The H2 cart will be compatible with 7800 games.  This will allow those of us who do not have Cuttle Carts to help with development of new games for the 7800.  The development of the H2 has been slow, but it should, hopefully, become available in 2013.

Hooray for Harmony!

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Paddle Games…

I have always enjoyed paddle games for Atari.  Maybe because they were simple to play, or maybe because they provided some variety and that there weren’t that many of them.  Of course, it was a paddle game that started the home video game market…Pong!  Pong was developed by Atari engineer Allan Alcorn in 1972 and a home version was released by Atari/Sears in 1975.  For the 2600 (VCS), one of the earliest game cartridges was Video Olympics (1977) with fifty different variations of Pong.

Other great paddle games for the 2600 include: Breakout, Super Breakout, Circus Atari, and Warlords.  Warlords is a simple, but fantastic game and is an awesome party game as up to four people could play at the same time.  Darrell Spice Jr.  has updated the Warlords concept with his homebrew game ‘Medieval Mayhem‘.  This game has improved graphics and sound, but has the same great Warlords game play!

Another outstanding paddle game, developed by Activision, is Kaboom!  If you take a look at my ‘About’ page, you will see me with some friends playing Kaboom! circa 1982.  I can remember playing this game over and over!

If have a 7800 and like paddle games, your only option was to play the 2600 classics.  Recently, however, a new paddle game ‘Crazy Brix‘ has been developed by Bob DeCrescenzo.  Crazy Brix brings the Breakout concept to the 7800 with some cool twists.  A couple of new things are having two balls to ‘juggle’ and having the ‘Brix’ patterns change.  In fact, if you get through the first few levels, you will really enjoy some of the patterns at the advanced levels!

One of the problems with paddle games is not the games, but the paddles themselves.  The original Atari CX30 paddle controllers have a tendency to become ‘jittery’ after a short time.  Best Electronics has been able to source replacement potentiometers for the CX30’s and I recently purchased a pair of upgraded paddles from them.  I have to say that these upgraded CX30’s are awesome…very smooth and jitter free!

Another potential option are the new paddle controllers from AtGames.  I am not sure what the quality of these will be, but they should be widely available soon.

In summary, if you want a change of pace from joystick games, pick up some paddle games from your local retro game shop or the new ones that I mention in this blog!

Crazy for Crazy Brix!

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Having a Flashback?

An Atari Flashback that is…

Atari (and AtGames) have released several ‘Flashback’ systems starting with the original in 2004.  The original Flashback looked like a micro 7800 and included a combination of twenty built in 7800 and 2600 games.  It was designed and brought to market on a short timetable and was built around an ‘NES on a chip’. Thus, all of the games ran in emulation mode.  Some hard core Atari fans did not like the Flashback, but it sold nearly a million units and convinced Atari to release the Flashback 2 in 2005.

The Flashback 2 (and 2+), like the original Flashback, was designed by Curt Vendel of Legacy Engineering.  This time around, the Flashback looked like a micro 2600 included 40 built in games.  Curt actually designed a ‘2600 on a chip’ so that the Flashback 2 was capable of running almost all 2600 games.  One of the cool things about the Flashback 2 is that Curt included solder points on the motherboard to add a cartridge slot.  Many Atari fans have done this mod to their Flashback 2 so that they can play most of their cartridge based games, as well as the 40 built in games.

In 2011 Atari allowed AtGames to build and market the Flashback 3.  The Flashback 3 includes 60 built in games and is built around an ARM processor, so all games run in emulation.  Like the Flashback 2, it uses Joysticks designed to look like the original Atari CX40.  You can also use your original Atari joysticks and paddles with this unit.

For 2012, AtGames is back with the Atari Flashback 4, due to be released in a few days.  This time around it will include 75 built in games including a new version of Space Invaders.  Some of the other classic games included in the Flashback 4 are:  Asteroids, Battlezone, Centipede, Jungle Hunt, Missile Command, and Super Breakout.  AtGames will also be selling a ‘Deluxe Edition’ that includes a set of paddles.  You will still be able to use your existing joysticks with the Flashback 4, but, for the first time, they are including wireless joysticks!

Ok, if you have a 2600 or 7800 why would you buy an Atari Flashback?  There are actually a few good reasons.  The first is that these typically sell for $40 or less and are a lot of fun.  Second, they have an AV output and work much better with today’s TV’s.  Third, the joysticks are pretty good.  They have a ‘looser’ feel than the original CX40’s, but work great.  I was able to pick up a new Flashback 3 at a local store for under $30.  At that price, it was worth it just to get the two joysticks!

If you are looking for some fun at a reasonable price, consider getting an Atari Flashback.  For more information on the Flashback 4, check out the description at AtGames!