Retro Review: Atari Flashback 3 Plug 'N' Play Console

fb3Collecting retro games is what we do, and some of the more dedicated among us are even now scouring eBay for the elusive title to add to the groaning shelves in their back room. But what do you do if you want to play some of the best Atari 2600 games made, don’t want to break the bank, clutter the dining room with boxes but still want an authentic feel as you play? Simple. You buy an Atari Flashback 3. 

I am, as you may already know, a bit of an Atari fan so I was very interested to see what this bit of kit could do. I have an original flashback but was left a little cold by its tiny replica joysticks and less than perfect emulation. Opening the box I find that the Flashback 3 comes with joysticks that are full size, and not only that, they are constructed to feel just like an original CX-40, if a little lighter in the hand. The CX-40 is the iconic stick from the early days, and for many the only stick to use. Many of these were brutally murdered playing Daley Thompson's Decathlon on their 8 bit computers before the invention of micro switches, their internals mangled so badly that Atari even sold repair kits to keep us going. So its very nice to have a pair that have been brought up to date but still retaining the original feel, and I can happily report that they still creak.

Touchy, Feely

The console looks great, its about a third of the size of an original 'woody' and has plastic buttons instead of metal toggle switches (no B/W switch) but alas no cartridge slot. Its very light but is well constructed and doesn't have that 'cheap' feel to it that otherwise would make it feel like a toy rather than a 'real' console. The textured plastic feels solid and the wood-grain finishes things off nicely, and sits very well with the others in my collection. So, the console looks good, feels good and comes with 'real' joysticks for 'real' game play, this brings me on to the most important part, the games. 

Bring on the games!

2012-02-01_09.44.10A list of 60 games squeezed inside one console is impressive but remember this is all emulation and the earlier games only take up 2-4K so the machine is not overly stretched. The list is pretty normal covering most of the game genres, making sure there are a few blockbuster games in there supporting the weaker choices. its hard to please everyone but there are some problems. Why on earth 'Fun With Numbers' was included is beyond me, and if you are going to include games like 'Circus', 'Super Breakout' and 'Night Driver' then for goodness sake bundle a set of paddles. 'Circus' is a great game ruined if played with a joystick because you just cannot get the accuracy that a paddle gives. 

The thing is you are probably not going to want to play a hefty section of these games for any length of time unless you are really into classic Atari. The adventure games (Adventure, Adventure 2, Swordquest Earthworld, Swordquest Fireworld) and the ultra simple (Outlaw, Basketball, Starship, Fun with Numbers) probably wont get much of a look in other than a few seconds of curiosity, from the average user that means over 10% is space that could have been used by better games. Perhaps Flashback 4 could have a few RetroCollect readers on the games selection committee. Makes sense to me.

The stock classics are there, stuff you expect to see in a collection like this, but there are some surprises too. 'Frog Pond' is a prototype game aimed very squarely at children that was never released, it's interesting to try, and might make for a little discussion and of course 'Combat 2' a game that didn't see the light of day but was included with Flashback 2 and again here with the 3. Another interesting game is 'Fatal Run' again a prototype but possibly the largest capacity 2600 game ever made at a hefty 32k. It's visually very impressive, making you almost question if it really is running on a 2600. Sadly its gameplay leaves a lot to be desired so while it looks impressive, you will find yourself switching back to 'Centipede' very quickly. 

Emulation

All the games are emulated and 'Haunted House' is the benchmark I use to determine how good the emulation actually is. When you are just a pair of eyeballs lost in the dark, atmosphere plays a big part and its lost if it doesn't sound right. The original Flashback was way off making things sound and feel like a sketch from 'Benny Hill' than the first ever survival horror game. Flashback 3 is not bad, still a little fast but not bad, once again its nearly there.

In Conclusion 

They almost have it right. The emulation is good enough and if you haven't played the games on original hardware you probably wont notice anything. The console looks and feels great, if a little small and the game list is on the whole good, with some old favourites and some nice surprises, albeit a few howlers. Perhaps there are a few players who long for evenings of 'Fun with Numbers' while eating pizza washed down with coke but I doubt it. My main gripe is the inclusion of games that are not designed for joysticks. It's true that there are not that many but they are excellent games marred by the lack of the right controller, and this is a shame. Apart from a re-think of the library, the only other improvement I would make would be the addition of a cartridge slot, but that really wont happen. Prices range from £29.99 - £39.99 making it less than a pound a game even if you exclude the ones you will never play, and at value like that if you are an Atari fan, you cannot afford not to have this in your collection.

Atari Flashback 3 Games List

  1. Adventure
  2. Adventure II
  3. Air-Sea Battle
  4. Aquaventure
  5. Asteroids
  6. Backgammon
  7. Basketball
  8. Battlezone
  9. Bowling
  10. Canyon Bomber
  11. Centipede
  12. Championship Soccer
  13. Circus Atari
  14. Combat
  15. Combat 2
  16. Demons to Diamonds
  17. Desert Falcon
  18. Dodge ‘Em
  19. Double Dunk
  20. Fatal Run
  21. Flag Capture
  22. Frog Pond
  23. Fun with Numbers
  24. Golf
  25. Gravitar
  26. Hangman
  27. Haunted House
  28. Home Run
  29. Human Cannonball
  30. Maze Craze
  31. Miniature Golf
  32. Missile Command
  33. Night Driver
  34. Off the Wall
  35. Outlaw
  36. Realsports Baseball
  37. Realsports Basketball
  38. Realsports Soccer
  39. Realsports Volleyball
  40. Saboteur
  41. Save Mary
  42. Secret Quest
  43. Sky Diver
  44. Space War
  45. Sprintmaster
  46. Star Ship
  47. Steeplechase
  48. Submarine Commander
  49. Super Baseball
  50. Super Breakout
  51. Super Football
  52. Surround
  53. Swordquest: Earthworld
  54. Swordquest: Fireworld
  55. Video Checkers
  56. Video Chess
  57. Video Pinball
  58. Wizard
  59. Yars’ Revenge
  60. 3D Tic Tac Toe

Fatal Run Gameplay

Fun With Numbers Gameplay

Circus Atari Gameplay


Last Updated ( 23 February 2012 )  

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I am the original first generation. I wandered in to an arcade in the late 70’s and never really got over it. I don’t have a favourite system but I do have a lot of favourite games and spend most of my spare time playing and writing about them. On sunny days you could find me outside, but only if my longboard is with me.

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Comments 

(Link to this comment) Cauterize 2012-02-23 21:47
Always great to hear from a true Atari expert on how these things hold up!
(Link to this comment) TwoHeadedBoy 2012-02-26 00:31
Got one of these for Xmas, and it seems to've been worth the money for Combat alone. The two-player fun that's been had on that over the past two months!
(Link to this comment) oldgamerz 2016-08-03 19:44
I have an Atari Flashback 6 and it has 100 games, and I really enjoy them, one upside or downside of the Atari Flashback 6 is that the Joysticks are wireless and require batteries but this site sells paddle and wired controllers for all the flashback consoles.

place to buy accessories for the Atari Flashback consoles
http://www.atgames.us/

link to toys are us to buy an Atari Flashback 6
http://www.toysrus.com/buy/electronic-interactive-games/atari-flashback-6-classic-game-console-ar2680-62142276
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