Atari Flashback Review

The Atari Flashback Portable came yesterday, and of course I tried it out till the “low battery” light came on.  I charged it per instructions overnight, and I’ve been having a lot of fun since the wee hours.

It was a nice, small gift to myself.  Who knows…perhaps I deserve a present on 9/7.

I didn’t buy on Amazon, so I won’t review it there.  I avoided Bezopolis this time because, as so often happens, various releases of the same item are conflated, including their reviews, making it very hard to know exactly what you’re buying.

So, thanks to Wal-Mart, I got the precise model I’d hoped for, and twenty dollars cheaper than my special personalized and jacked-up price chez Bezos.  Next time, Jeff, redistribute your own income.

(I’m down on the guy, but Bernie Sanders’  “Stop BEZOS”  bill is an outrage, at least in its name.  It’s tantamount to a bill of attainder, which the Constitution–remember the Constitution?–expressly forbids.)

Never mind.

The little console is a heap of fun.  I give it five stars. Here:


One thing to note:  the first time you boot up a game, it tends to misbehave a little, or not function at all.  Not to worry.  Hit “reset,” go back to the main screen, and try again.  At worst, turn the unit off and on.  Pretty soon, by hook or by crook, the game should function.

The game everybody wants, Pac-Man, is a disappointment.  It flickers altogether too much and that’s one of the games I’m used to seeing full-size, so perhaps it’s partly just me.  However, I have read other reviewers having similar reactions, so there we are.

The games I remember are all there, including a few whose name I’d forgotten but which I recognized.

I do miss a lot of the music, especially for Frogger, which proceeds almost entirely in silence.

Don’t be blinded by the incredible graphic detail of even an average game today.  These old 80s titles are wickedly clever in their simplicity.  Real creativity straining at the bounds of technology.  They test memory, reflex, logic, and do it all enjoyably.

One mention:  Solaris.  The graphics, simple as they are, are really attractive, with a deep blue opening screen and lovely colors against a dark background.  The game is similar to other fly-and-shoot titles, but prettier.

Also, as far as I know there is no connectivity, no browser, no web, no WiFi, no location, no spying, no marketing, no Zuckerberg, no Google, no nobody, no nothing.  The game is as unwebbed as my feet.

As I process my initial reactions this morning, I find that this freedom from the socio-corporate surveillance state called Internet is deeply relaxing and refreshing.

I plan to downgrade my phone, and then, with this console, perhaps I can soon commute to the city and back without my tablet, and without the Big Hot Shits knowing precisely where I am at any given moment.

Can we make that six stars?

About Jonathan B. Hall

Keyboard artist, sacred musician, teacher, writer, working in New York City and State. Many interests include music theory and history, literature, astronomy, genealogy, philosophy and theology, gardening, and good food. Cat lover, too.
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