Jan 14, 2008
There are eleven mostly beloved arcade games from Atari's golden years: Asteroids, Missile Command, Centipede, Pong, Millipede, Tempest, Asteroids Deluxe, Lunar Lander, Battlezone, Warlords, and Super Breakout. Each appears in both its original version and the titular "evolved" version - the same game with flashier graphics and a tweak here or there, and most of which we've seen on Xbox Live. Beyond that, there are some 40 additional Atari 2600 games. Simply put, Atari Classics Evolved should keep you busy for about six years.
Why then did we want to heave our PSP into the wall at least once per hour? There are three big reasons. First, because "evolved" apparently means "anytime two things touch, get ready for a flash of light that will obscure what's happening". These are twitchy games, so when you can't see the fragments of a freshly-shot asteroid because of the fireball, or you can't see the actual ball in Breakout because it's glowing so brightly from hitting the wall, it's a problem.
It's made worse by reason number two: the controls and graphics just don't translate well to the small PSP screen much of the time. It's erratic; Missile Command is okay, but Breakout and the bug-shooting games are nearly unplayable. Tempest starts off controlling well, but gets out of hand quickly thanks to the tiny size of everything onscreen.
This creates reason three. There are Xbox Live-style achievements (score 10000 points, get an extra life, etc) for each game, and some are a real bitch thanks to the first two problems. But you still need to try because your big raft of Atari 2600 goodies is completely unavailable for play until after you’ve nailed all 44 goals (four per game). That's like making a fighting game in which four-fifths of the combatants are locked until you can score flawless victories against the final boss with every character you do have. Whatever penny-pinching sadist locked that door should be dropped into a pit of rattlesnakes with his pockets full of rats.
All of these complaints might make it seem like it's impossible to enjoy yourself with Atari Classics Evolved. That's not entirely true. These are some of gaming's all-time classics, and they still deliver. It's just that, like a swimsuit model who just happens to be wearing muddy, chicken crap-encrusted overalls over her bikini, some of the magic of the original games is concealed by adjustments that were made but not needed or needed but not made.