Even in my youngest gaming years at the age of 3 or 4, I never had the pleasure of playing an Atari 2600. Most of my childhood friends had the NES or the SNES, and I was born just a little too late to catch the Atari 2600 bandwagon. It wasn’t until last April when we got a huge console/game lot that I ended up getting one (rather, six!) of my own to try out, and as you might already know, we recently acquired a seventh. Because I had access to a Commodore Vic-20 growing up, I was familiar with some of the games common to both consoles like Breakout, Frogger, and Choplifter. I was excited to see how they had been translated to another system. When we got that large lot of Atari stuff and I tried out a few games, I was left feeling a little disappointed. Though the familiar games were okay, they didn’t compare to the experience I had on the Vic-20. Also, lots of the games from my childhood Vic-20 that I had adored and was hopeful to rediscover were nowhere to be found (Dungeon, Gorf, Radar RatRace, etc.). Simply put, I had no nostalgia for many of the Atari games we got. On the contrary, my boyfriend had been exceptionally excited about getting them because he did grow up with the system. He’s a few years older than me and had siblings even older than himself. He described how at one point in time, his family had had a hockey bag full of games that were given away to a family friend and were never seen again. Getting the Ataris and the huge pile of games was really important to him.
Something important to me was wanting to feel more appreciative of the games we received. Though I can’t build my own nostalgia around these experiences, one desire that I did have was to be able to play Atari games with other people and hear about their love for the system and the games we own. I wanted to do this via live streaming on Twitch, or capturing gameplay and uploading it online. Unfortunately for me, the Atari 2600 has a default signal output in RF which is not easily recorded using my conventional means using a capture card. Though many people were probably not looking for a different ouput option for streaming, the RF signal is not readily accepted by many modern televisions either. Thankfully many people before us were looking for a solution to this issue and found one: a modification that installs composite video capability!
We went on eBay to find a composite video upgrade kit for the 6 switch Atari 2600 (light sixer) and came across one here. The modification was pretty simple, and the instructions can be found at this link if anyone is interested. My boyfriend and his trusty soldering iron did all the tough work here, and below you can see a photo of the modded Atari 2600 (bottom) compared to an unmodded one (top). The hardest part was drilling holes into the chassis of the console for the jacks. They’re a little crooked and unevenly spaced, but they work!
Though we have lots of Atari 2600 games already, I’ve recently tracked down some interesting ones. One was Swordquest FireWorld, an RPG. I bought this game with the intention of passing it along to a friend. With no manual or idea of how to play, I wandered around this game for a little while and was perplexed and disgruntled until I watched a few minutes of an LP online. Needless to say, without the manual, this game would be pretty difficult!
I also picked up Plaque Attack, a hilarious game where you play as what I’m assuming is a tube of toothpaste that shoots paste lasers at various food products, thus preventing them from landing on the teeth in the gums on either side of the screen. I laughed so much while playing this because of the pure absurdity of it all, but there’s something so foreboding about the noise that plays when you fail, the tooth turns yellow, and consequently disappears forever. As someone who just recently had root canal work done for the first time, this was a very hard-hitting experience!
Kung Fu Superkicks seems like it’d be awesome, but for some reason it won’t insert in the Atari slot. It’s exactly the same as the other cartridges we have. We even have a Telegames Atari, and it doesn’t fit into that one either. I have no idea what the problem is, so unfortunately it remains unplayed for the moment.
I also picked up a few games produced by Zellers, a now non-existent Canadian discount store similar to Walmart. These games included Earth Attack and Dragon Treasure. Earth Attack is a clone of Defender, where you play as a space ship trying to rescue abducted people as they get taken up to space in alien spaceships. In Dragon Treasure, you’re probably Bilbo Baggins trying to sneak into the dragon’s lair to steal all of its goodies, including helmets, gold, chalices, etc. It’s a fun game with faster dragons each round that shoot fire at you constantly.
I have to say that the artwork on these two game cartridges is really interesting compared to many others I’ve run across. They’re beautiful! The images are a bit washed out since I’ve taken the photos under lamplight, but in person they’re very vibrant and colourful. I’m pretty sad though. I accidentally tore off a bit of each game’s label while trying to remove the price tags. The edges came up easily, but it tore at the center of the price sticker. Sigh. It’s not as if they were perfect to begin with, but still! I hate destroying the past!
Last but not least, I found a game called Frostbite that was recommended to me by The Deviot. You play as a stereotypical Canadian trying to build an igloo. You accumulate ice blocks as you jump from row to row of floating ice in Frogger-like fashion. You run up against evil crabs, bears, clams and water fowl that are trying to thwart your efforts to stay warm while the temperature is continually dropping. It’s very fun and very challenging for me as a first-time player, so I think it’ll be fun to practice!
I think it goes without saying that with the composite mod and some excellent games for the Atari 2600, sooner or later I’ll be doing a stream or recording some gameplay. I’m very happy with how the Atari mod turned out and I’m looking forward to making some great memories playing some of these games with others who have nostalgia and a broader appreciation for these games.
In the meantime though, it’s off to fight the good fight against my Sega Master System RPG backlog. I just finished up Ys: The Vanished Omens last night and am hoping to start into Phantasy Star next. Hope you’re all enjoying the weekend!
Thanks for reading!