atari-vault

A Review of Atari Vault on Steam

While I am a fan of using original hardware to play my Atari games, sometimes I have a hankering to play when I am not at home. When that happens I usually fire up an emulator, plug in my usb old school Atari joystick all of my favorite games. Despite having this ability, I am a sucker for anything Atari and when I heard that the Atari Vault was coming to Steam and would offer 100 Atari Console and Arcade classic I quickly added it to my wishlist.

They were vague about the release date. Sometime in the Spring is all they said. Well Spring started a few days ago and when I woke up yesterday morning I had an email from Steam saying that not only was the Atari Vault available, but that it was also on sale. So irrationally happy was I about anything Atari, I bought it immediately even though I had to leave immediately for work. Now a glass is half-full person would say, well you have something to look forward to when you get home. But for those of us living in the real world, we know that this just means a full day of distraction as you try to focus on work, but just want to go home and game.

When I got home, I immediately fired it up and here is the summary of my experience:

Music
When they released the news about the game, they had a trailer. In the trailer they used some electronic music that I found terribly distraction and only moderately well themed. I hoped that it was just music for the trailer, but this is the music that they play on the menu and game select screens. Under normal circumstances, I could enjoy this music, but for setting the mood for retro gaming, it fails. I would have preferred some arcade ambiance.

Controller
When I started the game up, I tried playing with the keyboard and was able to do moderately well. I even got an achievement on Yar’s Revenge. That was nice, but overall it was difficult and clunky. So I tried using my USB Atari Joystick. It would not work even after 30 minutes of tinkering. So I finally dug out my XBox 360 controller which worked decently. Not perfect. I felt like the controller was often too sensitive or not sensitive enough, depending on the game. I will do some tinkering and see if I can fix that, but right out of the box it made for a clunkier experience. I tend not to play games that require a controller on Steam, so this could be a good learning experience for me or better yet maybe an excuse to pick up and try a Steam controller.

The Games
A wonderful collection here. 100 to choose from and a good mix of them. Some of my favorites so far are Pong, Haunted House, Adventure, Yar’s Revenge and Lunar Lander. I am sure this list will expand as I get better at controlling things, but for under 20 bucks, this is already a deal of a game. Plus I can see a lot of potential DLC. Maybe we can get some E.T? Some Pac-Man? Some classic Activision titles? The game looks made for just those type of additions. I look forward to seeing how they grow the vault.

Each game is very faithful to its original. I didn’t notice much of a difference in how they play logically on games like Centipede, but I am sure a person who is more familiar with logic and patterns would better be able to speak to this. On Centipede I played about as well as I do in the arcade, just a little worse because of my unfamiliarity with the controller.

The Achievements
100 games and only 12 achievement? While I am not an Achievement Chaser, this seems kind of low. Not a huge deal for me, but if you like achievement, this could bother you. Plus they should have made the achievements look like patches. Missed opportunity.

Summary
Overall, for under 20 dollars this is a pretty good deal. If you are comfortable with MAME and STELLA emulators, it will probably be redundant, but if you do most of your gaming on Steam and enjoy retro gaming, The Atari Vault, with the right controller, promises to deliver hours of fun. It is on sale for 15% off for the rest of the month, so keep that in mind if you want to save a few bucks.

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