Atari 10 in 1 Joystick
I'm a fan of the scientific method, so I was itching to get my hands on it and see if it would induce fond memories in the adults. The other part of the promise was a bit more interesting, and I did in fact have a handy test subject close at hand: my nephew Ronnie, aged 5 at the time. Would this simple device hold the attention of a young boy fond of Matchbox cars, grape soda, and Danny Phantom?
When we arrived at my brother's house the day before the party, he almost immediately dragged Aunt Bo (that's me) off to watch him play "Bleeposaurus" on the "laptop" (just calling it a computer, I guess, being hopelessly old-fashioned.) "Bleeposaurus" revolves around a young dinosaur on a quest to rescue his little sister by jumping obstacles, clobbering bad guys, collecting power-ups, and fighting level bosses, because Lord knows that's never done before. Please pardon my sarcasm, but a 3-D dino version of Super Mario Bros. WILL wear on your nerves after watching your nephew play it for approximately 374 hours, as he describes each move in minute detail for your benefit because there's just no way a fossil like yourself can possibly have seen anything quite so awesome. Then it was my turn to play, of course, with my pint-size navigator yelling out such helpful hints as "you forgot to get the crystal!" or "don't jump on the ankylosaurus!"
The next day, the party kept everyone occupied for most of the afternoon, until it was time to start cleaning up. My sister-in-law suggested I take Ronnie and the 10 in 1 and show him what games WE played growing up, and incidentally keep him busy while she and my mother got the dishes washed. Finally, my chance to dig for the truth behind the advertising, and incidentally my turn to be the expert for once.
Upon getting it out of the package, we hit the first snag: batteries not included. The last of the AAs in their bin full of batteries had been used up, so we had to get Ronnie's permission to take some out of one of his toys. He grudgingly agreed after we promised we'd return them immediately after we were done, and then we hit the second snag: A Phillips head screwdriver is needed to open the battery case. My sister-in-law hunted one up, and finally all systems were go.
It was easy enough to get the adults' perspective. Just about everyone who passed through had fond memories of playing these games for hours, trying to get to a higher level or beat someone else's score. Memories of being the first to roll over the score on Space Invaders or of being the popular kid because they had the first Atari in town came flooding back. Toymax chose a good assortment of games, ones that most everyone had in their cartridge stash and that were easy to learn and gripping enough to keep you playing for hours.
I did have a few complaints: when you want to switch games, you have to switch the unit off and on again to go back to the menu screen. Only one unit can be plugged in at a time so the 2-player modes in the games that normally have them can't be used (a minor beef, but I just personally think certain games are more fun with 2 people getting each other's way). The biggest problem is that the games that would normally use the paddle controllers are hard to play with the joystick.
We didn't get to play all the games, so I will just briefly discuss the ones we did, along with my thoughts and my thoroughly modern nephew's reaction to these good old games.
ME: Oh, let's play this one first. It's my favorite. You have to kill the dragons and get the magic chalice back to your castle.
ME: To win the game.
RONNIE: That's lame. What's that game there?
We did end up playing later on; he insisted on playing Level 3 ("I wanna do Level 90!" he said at first) and the klutzy graphics, getting lost in the mazes, and being repeatedly eaten by dragons earned this one the ranking of "Lame-o."
ME: In this one you have to shoot the rocks before they hit your spaceship.
At least until he watched me play and realized it was your little spaceship shooting rocks that turned into smaller rocks that you had to shoot...
RONNIE: What's that one?
ME: You have to bounce a ball at a wall and smash the bricks.
ME: So you can break out and escape.
RONNIE: Oh. Aunt Bo? Do you think I can get the SpongeBob one?
ME: Maybe for Christmas.
RONNIE: Daddy! Aunt Bo says I can have the SpongeBob one for Christmas!
This one was never one of my favorite games anyway, and as I said above is hard to play with the joystick instead of paddles. After a few rounds of launching the ball and not moving the thingy to bounce it at the bricks, my nephew announced "This game is lame. Did you see me play Bleeposaurus yesterday?"
RONNIE: What's this one?
ME: You have to shoot the alien ships.
ME: They're gonna take over the Earth if you don't.
ME: Cause they're meanies.
Not much more to say than that.
ME: You have to shoot a giant bug before he gets to the bottom of your garden.
ME: He'll bite your head off if you don't.
Another all-time favorite of mine, especially with the Trak-Ball controller. I once made it to Level 92 with good aim and careful mushroom management. Ronnie's assessment: "Those aren't mushrooms. Those are dashes!"
ME: You have to shoot all the alien ships before they land on the Earth.
RONNIE: We already played that. It was laaaaaame-oooooo.
ME: No, this is a different one.
Once he got playing, he liked this one a bit better than the others, or at least until the aliens started moving faster and he couldn't quite keep up and lost.
RONNIE: Yar? What's Yar? YAAAAAAAAAR!
ME: You have to break the shield and...
ME: ...blast the bad guy's fortress.
RONNIE: Hey, Aunt Bo, you know what the T-Rex says? YAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRR!
At the top of my Yar's Revenge form, no one could beat me for Qotile busting. I could hit the Swirl most of the time and had the timing worked out by watching the color of the Qotile change. Ronnie found the "pyramid thingy" to be quite lame, and after getting clobbered by his own cannon declared the whole game lame and refused to try a second time.
The final verdict? If there are kids around whose PlayStation controllers can't be pried from their hands with a crowbar, or who can enter cheat codes on a computer keyboard before they actually know their letters, this probably isn't gonna tear them away. An older kid (it is recommended for ages 8 and up) or one who hasn't yet gotten hooked on modern games might have a better time with it, but I have to say this product is really meant for adults.
If the young'uns in your own world shun the stars of the Atari 2600, take some comfort in the fact that they're good kids who will someday have children of their own. And I'll bet that THOSE kids will think THEIR parents' own favorite games are totally lame-o.