Review of the Atari Flashback 2

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Anyone who knows me well knows one thing about me: I love trolling Craigslist in search of cheap, used, neglected NERD SHIT!  After weeks of searching with nothing impressing me much, I found an ad touting the sale of an Atari Flashback 2 for a mere $20, complete IN THE BOX!

 
 

Who would say “NO” to THIS?!

What makes this little plug-and-play Atari console so slick is that it retains the same woodgrain styling as the original Atari 2600, as well as the joysticks retaining their original design.  However, certain elements were improved upon to be more friendly with modern appliances.  The first of these was the use of a new power adapter that utilized a different input jack into the back of the system, an improvement over the original system whose input jack resembled that of an old pair of headphones.
 
Out with the old…

 

In with the new!
 
Another improvement on the hardware side of things was the use of composite video and audio cables, opposed to the original RCA input.  The video is represented by the yellow plug-in that is inserted directly into your TV’s video input, and the monaural audio is represented by the white plug-in and inserted into it’s respective input.  The reason Atari elected to use the old RCA input was that television sets at the time utilized a switchbox that had the correct input jack located on it.  As technology advanced, this peripheral became obsolete as TVs transitioned to the use of composite audio/video inputs.  
 
An RCA F Adapter CAN be placed at the end of the original Atari’s RCA output which could connect it directly to your TV’s coaxial input, but this can result in degenerated video as the audio and video elements of the system fight for the advantage!  On the Flashback 2, these two outputs have their own cables and produces a clear image and provides crisp audio.
 
If you own the original Atari 2600, THIS adapter is your BEST OPTION!
 
 
One word of caution: use the Atari Flashback 2 on an older CRT television because newer flatscreens do not display some of the games properly.  I learned this after not seeing images properly for Asteroids while playing it on my new flatscreen.  The scan rates for newer TVs is too high for the output to handle, but older TVs with lower scan rates work just fine.  It’s ALWAYS a good idea to keep an old CRT tube TV available if you are a retro gamer, preferably one with the yellow, red and white inputs in the back!
 
The Atari Flashback 2 uses cables similar to this!

 

Goodbye, old RCA connection!  It was a good run, but…
 
Finally, another design aspect that differs from the original console is the use of five buttons on the front.  The red one is the Power switch, and the four yellow ones represent Reset, Left and Right Difficulty toggles, and Game Select.  On the back, between the power jack and audio/video cables, a toggle switch can be found that allows the user to select either a color display or one in black-and-white.  
This covers all the functionality that my old Atari Light Sixer has, but in a much lighter, more modern package!
 
A GIANT step-up from the Atari Flashback 1, which utilized a different internal setup that played the games differently from when they were originally released, the Flashback 2 utilizes internal hardware that closely resembles the original console.  What’s the benefit of this, you ask?  
Instead of running a ported version of your favorite game, the Flashback 2 is able to faithfully recreate the experience of playing Atari 2600 games in their true form!  The internal circuitry is reminiscent of the original console, which include the flicker one would see if they were playing Lunar Lander on the Atari 2600!
 
Ahhh….Lunar Lander!
 
Now that we have gotten the technological bullshit out of the way….ONTO THE GAMES!  When you turn on your Atari Flashback, you are greeted with a menu screen that separates the games by category.   Bear in mind that some of the listed games are either unreleased titles that never saw the light of day, or even hacks and homebrew titles created by enthusiasts!  First up is the ADVENTURE GAMES, which include: 
 
1) ADVENTURE
2) ADVENTURE II
3) HAUNTED HOUSE
4) RETURN TO HAUNTED HOUSE
5) SECRET QUEST
6) WIZARD
 
The second category is ARCADE FAVORITES and includes:
 
1) ARCADE ASTEROIDS
2) ARCADE PONG
3) ASTEROIDS DELUXE
4) BATTLEZONE
5) CENTIPEDE
6) LUNAR LANDER
7) MILLIPEDE
8) MISSILE COMMAND
9) SPACE DUEL
 
* I should note that some of these games can be played with paddle controllers, which are not included in the set.  (-:
 
Next up is the SKILL AND ACTION ZONE, the biggest category in the library and includes titles such as:
 
1) 3D TIC-TAC-TOE
2) AQUAVENTURE
3) ATARI CLIMBER
4) COMBAT
5) COMBAT 2
6) DODGE ‘EM
7) FATAL RUN
8) FROG POND
9) HANGMAN
10) HUMAN CANNONBALL
11) MAZE CRAZE (my personal favorite)
12) OFF THE WALL
13) OUTLAW
14) PITFALL!
15) RADAR LOCK
16) RIVER RAID
17) SAVE MARY
18) VIDEO CHECKERS
19) VIDEO CHESS
 
Whew….that’s a LOT OF GOODNESS!  onto the SPACE STATION category which includes:
 
1) CAVERNS OF MARS
2) QUADRUN
3) SABOTEUR
4) SPACE WAR
5) YARS’ RETURN
6) YARS’ REVENGE (another personal favorite)
 
Add that all up and that is 40 GAMES on this console!  BUT WAIT!  It doesn’t end there!  Lurking deep within the console are two HIDDEN games that require the use of paddle controls!  In order to access this hidden menu, the player must PRESS UP ONCE, DOWN 9 TIMES, UP 7 TIMES, and DOWN 2 TIMES!  This represents the first year that Pong appeared and takes the player to a menu that includes:
 
1) SUPER BREAKOUT
2) WARLORDS (yet another personal favorite)
 
EVEN FURTHER, the controller test screens can be accessed by HOLDING DOWN THE SELECT AND RESET BUTTONS WHILE PRESSING THE POWER BUTTON, which allow you to test the controller’s inputs and the console’s color and sound.  When the SWITCH ON THE BACK IS SET TO BLACK-AND-WHITE, the paddle control test screen appears.  After accessing the screen, a joystick can be plugged in, and when the LEFT JOYSTICK IS MOVED TO THE RIGHT, the game OFF THE WALL can be accessed.  Look at it again! That’s FOURTY-THREE (43) games available!  AMAZING!
 
Wait a minute….WHAT’S THAT?!
 
For the modders out there, you would be pleased to know that a cartridge port can EASILY be added to this console!  I have an Atari 2600 so this does not benefit me, but for those who would like to be able to play their old 2600 titles and do not have the means to get one, IT CAN BE DONE!  The assemblers were even kind enough to place a diagram inside of the console that tells you what connections need to be made in order for the port to work!  
The link to these instructions are here: http://www.atarimuseum.com/fb2hacks/page1.htm.  Even someone with MEDIOCRE soldering skills (present company included!) can add a cartridge port to the Flashback 2 and KEEP THEM IN THE GAME!
 
(Disclaimer: Neither myself or the author of the above link assume any responsibility for damage that may occur to yourself or your personal property while performing these tests.  MOD AT YOUR OWN RISK!)
 
That being said, I honestly bought this console having NO IDEA of its true potential, but after countless hours playing it and getting acquainted with its interface, I am pleased to report that this is DEFINITELY a MUST-OWN for anyone who longs for the days where games did not depend on the level of graphics, but on the level of shear playability!  I have not regretted my purchase AT ANY POINT and Atari purists will be pleased at how versatile this little machine can be!  Thanks for reading and MCL!  Lumpz the Clown OUT!!!
 
 
    Lumpz the Clown is an avid gamer who does Let’s Plays, reviews and other assorted clowny goodness   He aspires one day to make video games his full-time career and enjoys interacting with like-minded individuals with the same passion for gaming. 

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