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Publisher: MacSoft    Genre: Arcade
Min OS X: 10.1.5    RAM: 256 MB    Hard Disk: 1100 MB    Graphics: 16 MB VRAM

Atari Arcade Classics
May 3, 2005 | Mark Sabbatini

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For some, the simple brilliance of early quarter-eaters such as Pac-Man, Defender, and Donkey Kong will never be topped. Numerous copycat and modernistic versions exist for every computer and console. The success of recent products such as joystick and paddle controllers that play "classic" titles on TVs shows nostalgia still sells in a market where state-of-the-art rules.

It's arguable whether all video games merely reinterpret or combine the few simple concepts of the early titles: shoot things, avoid things, touch things, and navigate mazes. For some traditionalists everything else is window dressing, and a needlessly complex and bombastic distraction from pure gaming.

Thus a tricky middle ground exists for Atari Arcade Classics, a trio of games -- Pong, Breakout, and Centipede -- remade by Hasbro for the 1990s and now being sold in a single under-$20 package. The noisy, colorful 3D interpretations may be too fancy for nostalgia buffs and not impressive enough for modern gamers.

For those familiar with Hasbro's remakes, none of these are the unplayable disasters titles like Frogger are. They may not occupy the retro revival throne, but for six bucks and change each they earn their keep.

They should be thought of as distant cousins of their coin-op brethren, since all consist of a series of "worlds" or "quests" to conquer. Centipede is the only one to offer an immediately accessible option to play the "classic" game.

The system requirements are relatively steep given their roots, especially the 1.1 GB of hard drive space needed to install them. Even then, players still need the Centipede CD in their drive to run that game, although this requirement was removed from Pong and Breakout. By comparison, the free MAME emulator and 500 ROM files for classic machines (illegal unless you own the originals) occupy one-twentieth the hard drive space, and elaborate browser-based remakes take up none.

Furthermore, even though these titles had modest requirements like 32 MB of RAM and OS 8 when they came out, they now for some reason all require 256 MB of RAM and OS X 10.1.5. It might not seem like a big deal for most owners, but it helped contribute to a significant problem for me: the inability to get Breakout to run because it kept crashing after the title screen. Some notes and collective opinions about the game are included for informative purposes (including the summary of a 2001 IMG review), but the inability to resolve this with the help of tech support and various online resources must be noted.

The following is a look at the individual games, with some free online and shareware alternatives -- generally a mere sampling of the hundreds available -- at the end of each evaluation.


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