Though the Starter Pack of the Evercade comes complete with Namco Museum Collection 1 – making that cartridge the one that many new Evercade owners are likely to try first – the Atari Collection 1 is numbered ’01’ in the Evercade’s library, so we’ll start here.

The Atari 2600 was the first experience of home console gaming for many people – and featured a large number of arcade ports too, making it feel like an arcade at home. Never mind that the technology couldn’t even keep up with the arcade machines of the day – for gamers of a certain generation, this really was the next best thing to going to actual arcades. In some ways, even better – even when the ports weren’t particularly up to scratch. Atari’s follow up consoles, the 5200 and 7800, are far less iconic and fondly remembered – but they played host to some excellent games too.

The last few decades have seen Atari collections released on consoles, PCs and even on their own, dedicated devices (some of which were produced by Blaze, the makers of the Evercade) – and it seems that the same games are trotted out each time, many of them moving from nostalgic conversations between old school gamers in which they utter ‘do you remember…’ and into the realm of ‘oh no, Centipede again?’ Though many of these games are included because they are absolute classics, it does get tiresome to see the same old titles, recycled over and over…ad nauseum.

Blaze have opted for a different approach with the first Atari collection on the Evercade, however. Yes, there are a few titles here that we have played endlessly – but they’re here for a good reason: they really are iconic and unmissable: Adventure, Centipede and Asteroids being three examples of games we always get in these compilations, but all three have such a great a pick-up-and-play simplicity and purity that it’s hard to complain about their inclusion here. Other, less familiar titles from the 2600 era don’t all fare so well – Crystal Castles is an awkward to control arcade port that is far too ambitious for its own good, Tempest has similar issues and Video Pinball suffers from an extremely poorly thought out table design. Yet the ambition shown by 2600 games like Desert Falcon actually pays off, and even simple, reaction-time based titles like Steeplechase have addictive qualities that are strengthened by their simplicity.

Adding to the appeal of this collection is the inclusion of four games that were originally released on the Atari 7800; these have not seen much in the way of re-released over the years, so it’s great to have them in an easily accessible format. Ninja Golf is the standout of the four titles (the others being Food Fight, Motor Psycho and Alien Brigade), with its surreal golf action mashed up with beat ’em up sections as your Ninja makes their way to the ball’s location. It’s charming, it’s crazy – and it plays really well. It’s pretty prohibitive to buy an original Ninja Golf cartridge too, given its current cost, so having this title in the collection is quite a coup – and essentially pays for the price of admission on its own.

The sequel to Yars’ Revenge – one of the Atari 2600’s most fondly remembered original games – makes an appearance here too. Yars’ Return was originally released in 2005 for the Atari Flashback 2 console – so it’s likely to be a title few gamers have played.

With 20 games overall, there’s a of of excellent experiences to be had – and even those that aren’t so great are worth checking out, if only to see just how far we’ve come in technical terms since the Atari 2600’s release. There’s a reason it’s so fondly remembered; these games may look extremely primitive in most cases, but many of them also have addictive, fast-paced and simple gameplay as a key ingredient. There’s plenty here that’s still very enjoyable and it’s great to see a good few rare titles included too, making it near enough essential for any Evercade owner. In fact, it’s more than enough to justify a purchase of an Evercade for old school Atari fans on a budget; the cost of the console and this collection is not far off the cost of a Ninja Golf cartridge alone – and even then, you’d also have the Namco Museum Collection Vol. 1 cartridge included, giving you even more bang for your buck. Priced at £14.99, the Atari Collection 1 cartridge – especially when you consider the fact that those rare, expensive to acquire 7800 games are included – is seriously good value for money.

Does this sound like an Evercade sales pitch? Perhaps, but then I am particularly enamoured with the console and smart decisions – such as including the lesser seen titles on one of the console’s very first collections – really show that Blaze know what they’re doing with the Evercade; it ensures that the console and its cartridges hold a great deal of appeal to more casual retro gamers as well as collectors.

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