The Atari Flashback is a small device, but packed with the creativity of a decade or more. I’m tempted to compare a pocket Bible in tiny print with a big pulpit edition. What really matters is right there at your fingertips.
So, one might have more fun with a full screen and joystick, but the intelligence of these games is singing to me this morning.
Adventure and Adventure II are the first two games in the Flashback’s alphabetical menu. They are quite similar. One begins at a castle gate and navigates mazes, encountering magical bridges and gold keys along the way, not to mention goofy-looking ghosts (one of them in shape of a duck–good Lord, a dragon).
Online sources call this the first game of its kind, and the first to use Easter eggs. Before I break down and read the spoilers, I want to have my meed of fun with it.
At first, it is hard to get used to yourself as a small black square–little more than a pixel. It’s been many years since I traveled with Brandon (and his sandals) to get the Kyragem. To go back, now, to a black square seems quite the comedown.
But the feeling passes in seconds. The brain accepts that the black pixels are “you” and soon the game is utterly transparent. As you navigate the maddening mazes–one little portion shown at a time–you find your spatial memory challenged and you remember the text-based games that came earlier. (Which was the one where the unicorn “looks at you like the total ass you are”?)
The duck-dragon begins to take on a terrifying aspect. The castle looks as real as Malcolm the Jester’s (returning to Kyrandia for a moment). The need to figure out what to do, and how to do it, becomes urgent.
In short, the games loses its initial opacity and becomes simply absorbing. Kind of like a silent movie. And remember, these games are not retro. They are original, representing the best of the time. This gives them enduring value, I think.
A final note: don’t get indigestion. There are so many games here, released over so many months and years, and one might not have ever owned all of them. Take your time exploring them. Focus on one or two and figure them out, then move on.
In your own sovereign and sweet-ass time.