Last Fall, AtGames introduced its Blast! family of products. Old School Gamer ran a brief piece detailing the announcement: (https://www.oldschoolgamermagazine.com/atgames-announces-blast-family-of-products/)
For a brief recap, Blast! Is a series of plug and play systems. The official Blast! page describes it this way, “The Blast! is a compact, portable HDMI dongle that contains an assortment of classic hit games.” There are currently 7 titles in the Blast! series, including: Bandai Namco Flashback (and an additional Walmart exclusive version of this title), Legends Flashback, Atari Flashback Vol. 1, Vol. 2, and Vol. 3, and Activision Flashback. It’s part of a trend in products cashing in on the growing appreciation of retro gaming. The last few years have seen the release of products like the Bittboy (a mini-recreation of the Nintendo GameBoy), the C-64 Mini (a console that came with 64 preloaded Commodore 64 games) and the Basic Fun handheld arcade classics. While detractors inevitably pour out of the woodwork with each release, it has sparked a revived interest in titles that were by and large forgotten by the majority of modern gamers.
This weekend, while visiting the National Videogame Museum in Frisco, Texas, my son (an obsessive gamer in his own right) picked up a copy of Legends Flashback, giving me my first opportunity to see the product in action. As sold at the NVM gift store, the Blast! system ran $14.99, half the cost listed on the Blast! webpage. Versions can be found online for even less. A quick search on Amazon finds it listed new for $6.49. The unit comes with 12 games: BurgerTime, Burnin’ Rubber, Escape It!, Front Line, Jungle Hunt, Lock N’ Chase, Miss It!, Polaris, Shield Shifter, Space Invaders, Space Raid, and Strip Off.
Setting expectations early is important with a product like this. For instance, if you go in expecting the arcade version of BurgerTime, you’ll likely be upset to discover that the system runs the Atari 2600 version of the game. The graphics are considerably more primitive than the arcade version. A frequent complaint seen online is that several games require a second controller (listed at $14.99 on the Blast! webpage). However, the version my son purchased did not run into this problem. While multiple games had a 2-player option, all were playable in a single player mode.
While Space Invaders and BurgerTime are the A-list games (and the titles featured on the cover of the system), Polaris was the biggest hit in our household. Originally released as an arcade game by Taito in 1980, the version featured on the Blast! is the Atari 2600 edition released in 1983. The game, if you need a quick refresher, puts you in control of a submarine. You battle enemy squadrons, submarines, destroyers, and dive bombers. As you progress into the game, channel mines are introduced as well.
Another frequent complaint seen online is that the games can be glitchy and the controls unresponsive. However, this was another problem that we didn’t encounter. The games ran smoothly and the controls functioned well.
Setting aside all other considerations, it was a joy to see a young gamer, one raised on the cinematic graphics and elaborate stories created for systems like the PS4, fully immersed in the simple and addictive world of retro gaming. The low price point and easy set up on systems like Blast! are introducing an entire new generation of gamers to the classic titles that raised a generation. What’s not to love about that?