Retro Game Guy

It's the 1980's again!

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Mappy is a video game designed by Namco and released in 1983.  Mappy is a side scrolling platform game featuring ‘Mappy’ the police mouse.  In Mappy, cat burglars have hidden stolen loot in their mansion and Mappy must maneuver around and recover the stolen items, while avoiding contact with the cats.

Mappy will score points for each item recovered as follows:

  • Tape player-100 points
  • Television-200 points
  • Computer-300 points
  • Painting-400 points
  • Safe-500 points

Mappy can also score points when bouncing on the trampolines, hitting a cat with a door, microwaving a cat, and retrieving a stolen item when Goro (the boss cat) is hiding behind it.  One some levels, bells will appear that can be dropped on cats for more bonus points.  Mappy can’t be harmed by the cats when bouncing on the trampoline or in the shafts of the mansion.  If Mappy jumps on a trampoline when it is red (unless there is a lower level to catch Mappy), or is touched by a cat on any of the mansion floors, he will lose a life.

Levels 3, 7, 11, and 15 are bonus rounds where Mappy must pop balloons for bonus points.  After round 15, the game loops back to the beginning.

Based on the NAMCO Super Pac-man board, the arcade unit used two Motorola 6809 CPUs with a Namco 8 channel PSG for sound.  In the U.S., Mappy was distributed by Bally-Midway and came in both upright and cocktail cabinet versions.

Mappy was ported to the Famicon (NES) in Japan, but not to any Atari systems until now.


Mappy Arcade Version

Mappy for the Atari 2600…

Mappy is the latest release from Champ Games, released by AtariAge at the 2018 Portland Retro Game Expo (PRGE).  Programmed by John Champeau, with sprites by Nathan Strum, and music by Michael Haas, Mappy is an amazing game for the Atari 2600.  John also credits Darrell Spice, Jr. for the music driver and Thomas Jentzsch for code optimization and improving the logo.

Taking full advantage of CDF (the latest incarnation of DPC/DPC+) and the Melody board (designed by Fred Quimby), Mappy delivers a near arcade level experience on the Atari 2600.  Comparing John’s 2600 port to the arcade version, shows an amazing level of fidelity to the original.  Just like the original, the music is almost constant.  Only a few Atari games like Pitfall II, Stay Frosty 2, and, now, Mappy have this much music in them.

In addition to offering three levels of difficultly (that can be selected from the main menu), John takes advantage of the difficulty switches to offer random locations of loot and reduced object flicker.  He also uses the color/BW switch to allow for pause/resume of the game.  Finally, Mappy can take advantage of the Atarivox to save high scores.

Mappy comes from AtariAge with a full color box, manual, and poster.  The box and cartridge art are the work of Nathan Strum who also did a fantastic job on the manual.  The twelve page manual is printed on glossy paper and includes four pages of a Mappy comic book.


Mappy for the Atari 2600

Overall Thoughts…

It probably seems like I am usually positive about the things I write about on this blog.  That’s probably a fair point as I have a tendency to write about things that I like.  This time it is a little different as I was not at all familiar with Mappy.

In fact, until last week, I hadn’t even played Mappy.  A friend showed me how the game was played on the AtariAge demo unit at PRGE and I bought a copy from AtariAge.  Turns out that I have one of the Jack’s Pacific Namco ‘Plug ‘n’ Play’ units that has Mappy on it.  In the past week, I have played Mappy on both my Atari 2600 and on my Namco unit.  Sometimes you don’t know what you are missing; Mappy is a great game and a lot of fun to play!

At PRGE, I had the opportunity to talk with John and his brother Paul.  Although John is rightfully proud of his work on Mappy, he made it a point to talk about the team effort by Mike, Nathan, Thomas, and others that was needed to make Mappy for the Atari 2600 a reality.

Like many of John’s recent releases, you have to keep reminding yourself that you are playing a 2600 game.  Mappy should be available for purchase in the AtariAge store next month.  This is one game that should be on every Atari 2600 owner’s wish list!


Wild for Mappy!

@Atarigame guy

P.S.  Mappy plays great on Atari 7800 units as well!




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Portland Retro Gaming Expo 2018…

Last weekend I was able to attend the Portland Retro Gaming Expo (PRGE) in Portland Oregon.  For those of you who are not aware of this show, it has grown to be one of the largest shows in the country.  As they normally do, they had a large Retrocade area set up where you could play any number of arcade games or games on home consoles.  This year, the Retrocade area opened on Friday at noon and was extremely popular.

The largest area of the show is reserved for exhibitors.  These varied from vendors selling all kinds of retro game items to vendors selling new games for retro systems to vendors with announcements for new retro game systems.


Exhibitor Area at PRGE 2018

I had a change to support AtariAge with show preparations and I worked the booth for a few hours on Saturday.


AtariAge Booth at PRGE 2018 (with Al, Fred, & Matt in the background)

One of best things at the PRGE is the panels and speakers that they are able to attract.  I was able to attend a session with Atari and Activision developers.


Dan and Gary Kitchen, David Crane, and John Champeau discuss the development of Mappy

A couple of new retro game systems were announced.  CollectorVision announced a Kickstarter Campaign for their new FPGA based ColecoVision compatible system.


CollectorVision Phoenix

Also, Intellivision Entertainment announced plans to release a new console that will have ‘Re-imagined’ Intellivision games built in.


Intellivision Amico due 10-10-20

One of the best things about PRGE for me is the release of new games for retro systems.  AtariAge had several new 2600, 5200, 7800 and Jaguar games released at PRGE this year.


New Atari games from AtariAge

AtariAge had a number of Atari systems set up to demonstrate existing, new, and work in progress games.


7800 Demo Games

The absolute highlight of PRGE for me was the chance to meet and talk with legacy programmers like David Crane and Dan and Gary Kitchen as wells as folks that make new Atari games possible like Al Yaruso of AtariAge and Fred Quimby who designed the Melody board.  It was also a blast to talk with John Champeau and his brother Paul about the development of Mappy and Champ Games upcoming game Wizard of War Arcade for the Atari 2600.


John and Paul Champeau with Champ Games upcoming Wizard of War Arcade

If you ever get the chance to be in Portland in late October, make sure that you carve out some time to attend the PRGE!


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Tank Games for the Atari 2600…

Tank games for the Atari 2600 are based on Battlezone, a 1980 arcade game developed by Ed Rotberg for Atari.  Battlezone uses vector graphics and a monochrome display with green and red overlays.  It is driven by a 6502 CPU, a POKEY chip for sound, and came with a 19” CRT.  In Battlezone, the player controls a tank via an innovative periscope, first person view.  The object of the game is to shoot as many enemy tanks, super tanks, UFO’s, and missiles while avoiding getting your own tank shot.  Each of these enemies are worth different point values:

  • Tanks-1,000 points
  • Super Tanks-3,000 points
  • Missiles-2,000 points
  • UFO’s-5,000 points

A radar screen and status board tell you when an enemy is in range and in which direction you need to turn your tank to engage or avoid attack.  The status board also shows your score and the number of tanks (lives) remaining.  When your tank is ‘killed’, a simulation of your periscope screen cracking is displayed.

Battlezone was ported to several computer systems of the day and an Atari 2600 version, using raster graphics, was released in 1983.  An Atari 5200 version that uses a combination of vector and raster graphics was in development, but never released.  A copy of a playable prototype is available and seems to be about 90% complete.  Activision also developed their own tank game for the Atari 2600 called Robot Tank.

Atari 2600 Battlezone…

Released by Atari in 1983, the Atari 2600 port of Battlezone uses raster graphics versus the vector graphics of the arcade.  Instead of a periscope view, the game features a pseudo 3D view of the front of the players tank.  The game includes enemies from the arcade; tanks, super tanks, and UFO’s (saucers), but substitutes the missiles for fighters.  The 2600 version plays like the arcade version and the graphics are nicely done; even the radar and status displays are included.  The one thing missing, which does detract from the game, however, is the battlefield obstacles.  Use of the obstacles by both the player’s and enemy tanks is an important part of the strategy of the game.  Extra lives are rewarded at 50K and 100K points.


Battlezone for the Atari 2600

Activision Robot Tank…

Designed by Alan Miller, Robot Tank was also released in 1983.  Robot Tank is similar to Battlezone but adds several new twists.  First, no points are awarded; instead, the number of enemy tank kills are tracked.  Extra lives are awarded after an entire enemy squadron of tanks are destroyed.  In Robot Tank, damage to the player’s tank is possible which can cause the screen view to black out, the radar can be lost, cannons to be damaged and fire erratically, and, finally, tank treads can be damaged, making it difficult to maneuver.

Additionally, a full day period is modeled, causing visibility to be limited at dusk and at night.  Alan also modeled fog, rain, & snow which also limits visibility and forces the player to rely on the radar screen.  If radar is lost at night or in the fog, you will be driving blind!

One weakness of Robot Tank is that, if the player turns the his/her tank so that an incoming round is no longer in view, it will miss the player’s tank.  This is, of course not realistic and is, honestly, a flaw in the game.


Robot Tank for the Atari 2600

Overall thoughts…

Both Battlezone and Robot tank are great games for the Atari 2600.  The graphics in both are outstanding and they are both fun to play.  One note of caution for Atari 7800 owners is that Robot Tank is one of a handful of games that does not work on most 7800’s.  I was able to pick up boxed copies of Battlezone and Robot Tank for around ten dollars each.  At that price, why not get both of these great games?


Wild for Atari 2600 Tank Games!

@Atarigame guy


Refurbishing Old Carts…

When I got back into gaming a few years ago, I started with the Atari 7800 and collected mostly 7800 carts.  Lately, I have had the desire to re-build my Atari 2600 collection.  Back in the early eighties, I had a number of Activision games and always enjoyed their colorful boxes and cartridges.  Unfortunately, the labels on Activision carts typically develop ‘anti-plaque’ and most haven’t held up well.  In fact, even if you can find a ‘new in the box’ Activision game, the cart label will typically not look very good.


Not so wild for an old Activision label!

With multiple multi-carts available for the 2600, collecting carts is more about having something cool to look at, more so than any kind of necessity.  Given the condition of most Activision cart labels, this really wasn’t all that appealing…until recently.  Last week, I obtained some replacement Activision labels from Phil Boland (pboland on AtariAge) and replaced the labels on several of my carts.

This is a great project, even for someone new to the hobby.  I started by using a hair dryer to slightly warm up the glue and loosen the cart label, being careful not to get the cart too warm.  With a little heat, most labels will come off easily, but I did have one come off in small pieces.  I then used a wet wipe and a paper towel with a little rubbing alcohol to remove the remaining glue residue from the cart shell.


An open Activision cart

While the label was off, I carefully opened the cart and cleaned the circuit board and the inside of the cart shell.  To clean the inside of the cart, I used a Q-tip and a little more rubbing alcohol.  Then I reassembled the cart, being careful not to tighten the screws too much.  Remembering that the 35+ year old plastic could be brittle, I didn’t want damage the cart shell.  Now all that was left to do, was apply the new label.  I took my time to make sure that the label was aligned correctly and started from one end and bent it around the corner of the shell.

Phil’s labels stick really well and look great.  Now my Activision carts look awesome and as colorful as they were back in the eighties.  They should be good for another twenty years!!!


Wild for new cart labels!


P.S.  Please note that Phil’s labels are perfect, just poor lighting in the last photo

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Tempest is a 1981 arcade game developed by Atari.  Dave Theurer, a senior programmer at Atari, was trying to develop a 3D game similar to Space Invaders, but ran into a whole host of problems.  Supposedly, Dave had a dream about monsters coming out of a hole in the ground, which gave him the idea for what became Tempest.  The technology used in the Tempest arcade systems included Atari’s (then new) QuadraScan color vector generator, a 6502 CPU, and two Pokey chips for sound and I/O.

The QuadraScan technology allowed Dave to generate 3D ‘tubes’ that form the ‘playing field’ for Tempest.  The goal of the game is to use your ‘Zapper’ to shoot as many enemies and last as long as possible.  The enemies, which appear at different levels, include:

  • Flippers-the most common, appear at level one
  • Flipper tankers-which split into two flippers when hit, appear at level three
  • Spikers-they built green spike that can kill you when you warp to a new level, appear at level four
  • Fuseballs-who zip up and down the channels, appear at level eleven
  • Fuseball tankers- which split into two fuseballs when hit, appear at level thirty-three
  • Pulsars-who electrify the channels, appear at level seventeen
  • Pulsar tankers- which split into two pulsars when hit, appear at level forty-one

There are a total of 99 levels in Tempest, with the first sixteen having unique geometric shapes.  They then repeat, with varied color schemes and increasing difficulty, as the game advances.  In additional to an unlimited supply of ammunition for your ‘Zapper’, you also get a ‘Super Zapper’ which can be used twice in each level.  The first time that the Super Zapper is used, it will destroy all enemies on the playing field.  The second time, it only destroys one, random, enemy.  When all enemies are destroyed, you will ‘warp’ through to the next level.  Tempest is also one of the first arcade games to let your pick your starting level.

Tempest was a monster hit for the Atari coin-op division and it was ported to many platforms of the day including the BBC Micro, the ZX Spectrum, and the Atari ST.  Ports were also planned and partially developed for the Atari 2600 and 5200 game consoles, but, until recently, were never released.

Tempest at Funspot

Tempest at Funspot

2600 Version…

Carla Meninsky developed the 2600 version which was planned to be released in 1983, but was never finished.  The 2600 version plays with a similar concept to the arcade version, but the graphics are crude and the playing field is two dimensional.  In her 2600 port, Carla did manage to include four enemies:  Flippers, Flipper Tankers, Pulsars, and Fuseballs.  Tempest was included as one of the games on the Flashback 4 (November 2012), so now it has been ‘officially’ released.  I wanted to like the 2600 version of Tempest, but, honestly, it is pretty horrible.  Graphics and 2D playing field aside, the control and collision detection are terrible.  In fairness to Carla (who also programmed Warlords…an awesome 2600 game), she never had the chance to finish Tempest for 2600 and I am not sure why AtGames included it on the FB4.  You can read more about the 2600 version of Tempest here.

Another Tempest like game, 3D Genesis, was developed for the 2600 by Videosoft.  Although practically complete, it too was not released until recently.  Videosoft managed to create a better, if not perfect, 3D effect on the 2600.  If you have a 2600 and like Tempest, you should take a look at 3D Genesis here.

5200 Version…

Keithen Hayenga, who programmed RealSports Baseball for the 5200, volunteered to develop the 5200 version of Tempest.  Keithen worked closely with Dave Theurer and was able to use some of the same code as Dave had used on the arcade version.  This was possible, since the 5200 also has a 6502 CPU and a Pokey chip for sound and I/O.  This would make the sound and play of the 5200 version nearly the same as the arcade.  Since the arcade units used vector graphics, there was only so much of the code that Keithen could use as the 5200 needed bit mapped graphics.  Like the 2600 version, the 5200 version of Tempest was planned for release in 1983 and is featured as ‘coming soon’ in most of Atari’s advertising and catalogs in 1983.  A 5200 (and 2600) Tempest box was shown in the 1984 movie ‘Cloak and Dagger’.  Like most software projects, the development of Tempest ran behind schedule and came to a stop when Warner sold Atari in 1984 and let go most of the game programmers.

For years, there was speculation, but no copy or prototype of Tempest for the 5200 surfaced until 1999.  That copy was a version that was approximately fifty percent complete and attempts were made to finish the game, but with only limited success.  Ken Van Mersbergen made the effort to track down Keithen in 2002 and they located a more advanced copy of the Tempest source code.  Ken and Dennis Debro worked on the game, but never quite had the time to finish it.  George Reese is credited with somehow sparking Keithen to contact Ken about finishing Tempest.  With the efforts of Ken, Dennis, and Keithen, after nearly thirty years, a finished version of Tempest for the Atari 5200 SuperSystem was made available for sale by AtariAge at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo in September 2012.  Of course the story doesn’t end there.  Shortly after the expo, bugs were discovered in the Trak-ball control of the game, so back went the programmers to fix the bugs.  Finally, in the past week, Tempest has been released with a beautiful reproduction box, a twelve page manual (in full color), and a cool cart label.  The manual (which has had a life of its own), includes three pages on the history of the game.

Tempest for the 5200 does not disappoint.  Other than not being able to render vector graphics, the SuperSystem demonstrates its ability to be a ‘personal arcade system’ and Tempest rocks on the 5200.  Since the sounds and game tables are the same as the arcade version, it is hard to imagine how it could get any better.  Control with the 5200’s analog joystick is solid and, although I prefer the joystick, it also plays well with the Trak-ball.  I did find that in later rounds, you have really work to avoid the spikes when using the joystick.  This is definitely easier to do with the Trak-ball.  All of the arcade levels and features are present, including the ability to pick your starting level.  There is really not much else that can be said other than it is nearly arcade perfect!

A huge thank you needs to go out to Keithen, Ken, and Dennis for their programming work to finally bring this arcade classic home.  Thanks also to Michael Kosaka for his graphics work and to George Reese and David Exton for their work on the box, manual, and label for this game.  Finally, a big thanks to Al Yarusso for all that he does at AtariAge and for his work to program, solder, and assemble all of the Tempest carts.  At best, a few hundred (or maybe a thousand) copies of Tempest will be sold, so there is no big money being made here.  In an era of overpaid celebrities and sports stars, it is really nice to see people do something to make other people’s lives more enjoyable.

If you have a 5200, get over to AtariAge and order yourself a copy of this classic game.  It may have taken thirty years to be completed, but you should not wait another minute to get your copy!

Wild for Tempest!

Wild for Tempest!

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Atari Flashback 1, a review…

It may seem kind of silly to review a system from 2004 that is no longer being produced, but I think it is worthwhile as a base of comparison to the newer units.

I was able to purchase my Flashback 1 for less than $10 and it came complete with the base unit, power supply, two controllers, box, and a manual.  Having only seen pictures of these until this unit arrived, I was surprised at how small it is.  The Flashback 1 looks like a miniature Atari 7800 and is about half the size of the subsequent Flashback units.

The Flashback concept was developed by Curt Vendel of Syzygy (formally Legacy Engineering).  Atari agreed to produce the unit, but wanted to have it ready for the 2004 holiday season.  This only gave Curt about ten weeks to design the unit and he went with a design that is based on a ‘NES on a chip’.  Since the system is based on a NES chip, all games had to be ‘ported’ and a mixture of 2600 and 7800 games are included:

2600:  Adventure, Air-Sea Battle, Battlezone, Breakout, Canyon Bomber, Crystal Castles, Gravitar, Haunted House, Millipede, Saboteur, Skydiver, Solaris, Sprintmaster, Warlords, and Yars’ Revenge

7800:  Asteroids, Centipede, Desert Falcon, Food Fight, and Planet Smashers

At first I thought it would be cool to see how the five 7800 games translated, but I was soon disappointed.  Centipede isn’t too bad but Asteroids didn’t make the transition well at all.  Also, I find the 7800 game selection puzzling…Asteroids, Centipede, and Food Fight are popular titles, but Desert Falcon and Planet Smashers are less well known.  In fact, Planet Smashers is one of the rarer 7800 titles and, also, one of the poorest rated.  Given the quality of the 7800 ports, I am not sure that it would have mattered, but Dig Dug, Ms. Pac-man, or Pole Position II would have been better choices.

I am happy to say that the 2600 ports are much better.  Of course, more effort has been put in over the years to port and emulate the 2600, so I guess that this should have been expected.  The exception is Battlezone…this port is horrible and hardly worth playing.  Millipede, on the other hand, is a blast to play on the Flashback.  Also, the Flashback 1 introduced the concept of releasing prototype games and included the previously unreleased Saboteur.

Breakout and Warlords had to be modified to use the Flashback joysticks and I wasn’t expecting much.  These were a pleasant surprise and are very playable.

It should be noted that the Flashback 1 joysticks are not usable with standard Atari (or other Flashback units) as they are wired differently.

Given that we know that the Flashback 1 was a ‘rushed’ effort, I guess it would be a cliche to say that it seems half polished.  Unless you are an Atari collector and need to have one of these, I would recommend skipping the Flashback 1 in favor of a Flashback 2, 2+, or the newer Flashback 4.

The Flashback 1 is an important piece of Atari history in that it marked the return of Atari to the console market.  It also sold well enough to convince Atari to proceed with the Flashback 2.  As I will discuss in a future post, the Flashback 2 is the system that Curt really wanted to build in the first place.

Speaking of Curt, he is going to have a significant surgery this week and I want to wish him the best of luck and a speedy recovery!

Atari Flashback 1

Atari Flashback 1

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Atari Flashback the series…

To date, there have been five Atari Flashback models.   In this post, I will give the general background on these units and go into more detail in future posts.

Flashback 1:

The Flashback concept originated with Curt Vendel of Syzygy (formally Legacy Engineering).  Curt pitched the idea of a Flashback unit to Atari who agreed to produce the unit, but wanted to have it ready for the 2004 holiday season.  This only gave Curt about ten weeks to design the unit and Curt went with a design that is based on a ‘NES on a chip’.  Outwardly, the system looks like a small Atari 7800 and includes twenty games.  Since the system is based on a NES chip, all games run in emulation and a mixture of 2600 and 7800 games are included:

2600:  Adventure, Air-Sea Battle, Battlezone, Breakout, Canyon Bomber, Crystal Castles, Gravitar, Haunted House, Millipede, Saboteur, Skydiver, Solaris, Sprintmaster, Warlords, and Yars’ Revenge

7800:  Asteroids, Centipede, Desert Falcon, Food Fight, and Planet Smashers

The Atari Flashback 1 met with mixed reviews, primarily due to the emulation.  Also, Breakout and Warlords had to be modified to use the Flashback joysticks.  The system was however, successful enough to convince Atari to proceed to with the Flashback 2.

Flashback 2:

In 2005, Atari again turned to Curt to develop the Flashback 2.  This time around, the system would include 2600 games only.  With more time for development, Curt designed a custom chip to produce an ‘Atari 2600 on a chip’.  Curt also included provisions on the motherboard for adding a cartridge slot.  A modified Flashback 2 can play most games designed for the 2600.  Taking a page from the Atari playbook, the name for the Flashback 2 project was ‘Michelle’ for Curt’s wife.  Her name is printed on the Flashback 2 motherboards.

The Flashback 2 looks like a small Atari 2600 and has two joysticks that are compatible with the original 2600 and, also, supports the use of original Atari paddle controllers.

Forty two games are included on the Flashback 2:

Arcade Favorites:  Arcade Asteroids, Arcade Pong, Asteroids Deluxe, Battlezone, Centipede, Lunar Lander, Millipede, Missile Command, and Space Dual.

Adventure Territory:  Adventure, Adventure II, Haunted House, Return to Haunted House, Secret Quest Wizard

Space Station:  Caverns of Mars, Quadrun, Saboteur, Space War, Yars’ Return, Yars’ Revenge

Skill and Action:  3D Tic-Tac-Toe, Aquaventure, Atari Climber, Combat, Combat 2, Dodge ‘Em, Fatal Run, Frog Pond, Hangman, Human Cannonball, Maze Craze, Off the Wall, Outlaw, Pitfall!, Radar Lock, River Raid, Save Mary, Video Checkers, and Video Chess

Paddle Games:  Super Breakout and Warlords (hidden from main menu)

The Flashback 2 broke new ground as it included homebrews, hacks, unreleased prototypes, and two Activision games.  With a great game selection, new 2600 hardware, and the ability to add a cartridge slot, the Flashback 2 was popular with both the general public and the Atari community and sold almost one million units.

Flashback 2+:

Released by Atari in 2010, the Flashback 2+ is, essentially, the same as the Flashback 2. Atari Climber, Caverns of Mars, Pitfall!, River Raid, and Wizard were removed from the game selection and a sports section was added that included:  Realsports Boxing, Realsports Soccer, Super Baseball, Super Football,  and Double Dunk.  Also, Circus Atari was added to the ‘hidden’ section for a total of forty three games.

Flashback 3:

For 2011, Atari licensed out the Flashback concept to AtGames.  AtGames developed the Flashback 3 around an ARM processor and included sixty games.  They originally did not include Curt in the design, but ended up bringing him in as a consultant when they ran into some technical issues.  The Flashback 3 included two joysticks that are compatible with original Atari systems.

Games included on the Flashback 3:  3D Tic-Tac-Toe, Adventure, Adventure II, Air-Sea Battle, Aquaventure, Asteroids, Backgammon, Basketball, Battlezone, Bowling, Canyon Bomber, Centipede, Championship, Soccer, Circus Atari, Combat, Combat 2, Demons to Diamonds, Desert Falcon, Dodge ‘Em, Double Dunk, Fatal Run, Flag Capture, Frog Pond, Fun with Numbers, Golf, Gravitar, Hangman, Home Run, Haunted House, Human Cannonball, Maze Craze, Minature Golf, Missile Command, Night Driver, Off the Wall, Outlaw, Realsports Baseball, Realsports Basketball, Realsports Soccer, Realsports Volleyball, Saboteur, Save Mary, Secret Quest, Sky Diver, Space War, Sprintmaster, Star Ship, Steeplechase, Submarine Commander, Super Baseball, Super Breakout, Super Football, Surround, Swordquest: Earthworld, Swordquest: Fireworld, Video Checkers, Video Chess, Video Pinball, Wizard, and Yars’ Revenge.

Flashback 4:

AtGames released the Flashback 4 in late 2012 with several improvements over the previous model.  It features new wireless controllers, support for paddles, and improved emulation.  It also includes seventy five games.  Secret Quest was removed from the game selection and sixteen games that were added.  The added games over the Flashback 3 are:  Black Jack, Breakout, Crystal Castles, Football, Front Line, Jungle Hunt, Polaris, Pong (Video Olympics), Return to Haunted House, Slot Machine, Slot Racers, Stellar Track, Street Racer, Space Invaders (special FB 4 edition, not 2600 version), Tempest, and Warlords.  Read more about the Flashback 4 in my previous posts.

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An Atari Flashback 3 or 4?

I have written a couple of posts about this year’s Atari Flashback 4, but some retailers still have Flashback 3’s for sale.  I have had a few questions about the differences between these models and which one is better.  So…let’s take a look…

Atari Flashback 3…

I purchased my Flashback 3 (FB 3) at a local retailer last year and, as of today, they still have these for sale for under $30.  The FB 3 comes with 60 built in games and two wired joysticks.  These joysticks have a softer feel than the original Atari CX-40’s, but have become my favorite for playing ‘one button’ games on my 7800.  In fact, the main reason that I purchased a FB 3 was to get a set of these joysticks.

As for the game selection on the FB 3, there are several classic games, including:  Asteroids, Battlezone, Centipede, Circus Atari, Gravitar, Missile Command, Video Pinball, and Yar’s Revenge.  It also includes several ‘prototype’ games not originally released by Atari:  Combat 2, Frog Pond, Saboteur, and Save Mary.

Wild for the FB 3!

Wild for the FB 3!

Atari Flashback 4…

I paid $40 for my Flashback 4 (FB4) the first week that it was available.  These were on sale for under $30 just before the holidays at a couple of stores in my area.  They are still available at several on-line merchants for between $40-50.

The FB 4 includes 75 games versus 60 on the FB 3.  The additional games are:  Black Jack, Breakout, Crystal Castles, Football, Front Line, Jungle Hunt, Polaris, Pong (Video Olympics), Return to Haunted House, Slot Machine, Slot Racers, Stellar Track, Street Racer, Space Invaders (special FB 4 edition, not 2600 version), Tempest, and Warlords.  I am not sure why, but one game that was included on the FB3, but not on the FB  4 was Secret Quest.

The addition of Front Line, Jungle Hunt, Pong, Space Invaders, and Warlords  justify the purchase of the FB 4 instead of the FB 3, but there are also a few other reasons to consider the FB 4. First, the FB 4 has wireless joysticks.  Although they are IR based, they work well and it is really nice to be able to sit across the room and be able to reset or change games.  The second reason to consider the FB4 is the ability to use paddle controllers.  Have you ever tried to play Super Breakout or Warlords with a joystick?  Third, the emulation is improved versus the FB 3.  It wasn’t too bad on the FB 3, but the emulation is ‘pretty darn good’ on the FB 4.

Wild for the FB 4!

Wild for the FB 4!


Given the fifteen additional games, the ability to use paddles, and the wireless controllers, I would give the FB 4 a solid recommendation over the FB 3.  If you need some replacement joysticks for your classic Atari 2600 or 7800 and can find one for under $30, the FB 3 is still a great buy.

There is also a ‘Deluxe Edition’ of the FB 4 available for around $80.  For the extra $40, you get a set of paddle controllers and four additional posters.  If you can find one of these on sale for under $60, I would say that it would be worth the extra $$$ to get a set of paddles.

If you enjoy classic Atari 2600 games, both systems represent excellent value.  With that being said, the FB 4 gets my recommendation as a better system and a better value.

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On US Route 3, just a short drive north of the Weirs Beach Boardwalk, Funspot was founded by Bob Lawton in 1952.  Funspot has been in its current location since 1964 and, in 2008, the Guinness Book of Records named Funspot the ‘World’s Largest Arcade’.  In addition to all of its arcade systems, Funspot is home to a nine hole miniature golf course, a ten lane bowling alley, a tavern, and a restaurant.  Most importantly, the third floor houses the ‘American Classic Arcade Museum’ and is a true 8-bit retro gamers dream come true.

Computer Space

Computer Space

Funspot is a good two hour drive from my home, but what better to do on a sunny, but cold January day in New Hampshire?  Although I play my Atari game systems as much as I can, it had been a long time since I had been to an arcade with so many 8-bit systems.  As I entered the third floor of Funspot, I was amazed at their collection of systems.  It didn’t take me long to exchange some dollars for a cup full of tokens.  The biggest question was where to start?

Space Invaders

Space Invaders

I ended up starting with an old favorite…Space Invaders.  For not playing the arcade version for so many years, I was pretty happy with how I did.  In two or three hours, I managed to play the following games:  Berzerk, Centipede, Crossbow, Defender, Donkey Kong, Missile Command, Pac-Man Plus, Jr. Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Super Cobra, Zaxxon, and many others.  It was a total blast and, on some games I did well, but others were a real challenge.  You get so used to playing with your joysticks at home, that some of these games are a real adjustment.  I was completely useless on Defender and just could not manage the hand-eye coordination required for the arcade version.

Pac-Man Plus

Pac-Man Plus

What was really fun was to see how well many of these games translate to the Atari 2600 and, especially, the 7800.  When I write about games, I always take a look at photos and videos of real arcade systems, but nothing beats being able to play the real thing!

If you are reading this blog, then you enjoy retro gaming.  If you happen to travel to or live in New England, you owe it to yourself to add a visit to Funspot to your itinerary.   For twenty dollars or less, you can have an afternoon of fun that will be hard to match anywhere else.  Funspot has so many 8-bit arcade games, that the best thing to do is to refer you to their website, so that you can read the list for yourself.

Oh, and as a final note…Funspot founder Bob Lawton will be featured this Wednesday evening (January 9th) on American Restoration.



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Atari 7800 Pac-Man games…

The only officially released Pac-Man game for the 7800 was Ms. Pac-Man, but thanks to Curt Vendel and Bob DeCrescenzo, we now have a complete library of Pac-Man games for the Atari 7800.

Ms. Pac-Man…

Programmed by General Computer Corporation as part of the first set of games for the 7800’s release in 1984, Ms. Pac-Man is an excellent conversion.  Ms. Pac-Man demonstrates the strength of the 7800 as one of the best home consoles for arcade ports.   This game has great graphics and pretty much has it all…title screen, intermissions, four different mazes, and four flicker free pesky ghosts!  Better yet, since millions of copies of this game were produced, a boxed copy can be had for less than ten dollars.  The only thing that should stop you from picking up a copy for your collection is whether or not you decide to purchase the Pac-Man Collection described next.


It is hard to believe that Atari never developed a version of Pac-Man for the 7800.  Fortunately Bob ‘PacManPlus’ DeCrescenzo has come to the rescue.  Speaking of rescue, in 1996 Curt Vendel found the source code for Ms. Pac-Man in a dumpster.   It seems that in Atari’s haste to ‘go out of business’, they inadvertently discarded the source code for several games.  Through Curt’s efforts, this source code was preserved and released to the public domain.  Bob used this source code to develop several new Pac-Man games for the 7800.  Originally, Bob developed one game at a time, but already had the idea to put them together as a collection.  Included in Bob’s Pac-Man collection are:

  • Pac-Man
  • Pac-Man Plus
  • Ms. Pac-Man
  • Ms. Pac-Attack
  • Hangly Man
  • Puck Man
  • Random Mazes

Bob’s collection is about as arcade perfect as can be done on a home system.  He even ‘tweaked’ the already pretty awesome Ms. Pac-Man to be even better.  The Pac-Man Collection has been one of the best selling carts at AtariAge since Bob put it together.  If you have a 7800 you need to have this cart in your collection…don’t hesitate any longer!

Super Pac-Man…

After he released his Pac-Man Collection, Bob turned his attention to creating a version of Super Pac-Man for the 7800.  Before I started this thread on Pac-Man games, I really didn’t know much about Super Pac-Man and I don’t remember ever playing it in an arcade.  I didn’t know what to expect when I ordered my Super Pac-Man cart from AtariAge, but I have to say that I really like this game.   As always, Bob took care to make as accurate a port as possible and his 7800 version is a blast to play.  The colors are bright, all of the arcade features are included, and this game provides some variety from the ‘standard’ Pac-Man format.  If you are a fan of Super Pac-Man, then this cart should be in your 7800 collection!

Jr. Pac-Man…

This one started out as a fairly elaborate April fool’s joke on the AtariAge forum back in 2009.  Bob DeCrescenzo had been working on Jr. Pac-Man and got a few friends to go along with the hoax that a prototype cart of Jr. Pac-Man had been discovered.  The joke went pretty well until some discovered Bob’s initials in a line of code.

Jr. Pac-Man for the 7800 is another Bob classic and has become my favorite Pac-Man game.  Like the arcade (and unlike the 2600 version), the screen scrolls horizontally, there are six power pills, and the fruits have been changed.  As the fruit bounces, it changes the dots into larger, more valuable dots, but can also destroy the power pills.  Since this can be happening off-screen, there is some additional strategy to Jr. Pac-Man than other versions.

Jr. Pac-Man is another awesome game and is available on cart from AtariAge.

Thanks to GCC, Curt Vendel, AtariAge and, most importantly, Bob DeCrescenzo, almost every variation of Pac-Man is available to be played on the 7800.  I asked Bob which version was his favorite…can you guess what he said?  Considering that he goes by the handle ‘PacManPlus’, his answer should be easy to guess!

Pac-Man gamesfor the 7800

Pac-Man games
for the 7800