Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration

  • Couch Co-Op: 2 Players
  • + Co-Op Campaign
  • + Co-Op Modes
Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration - Co-op Review
Review by

Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration - Co-op Review

The biggest and best-ever collection of Atari titles includes 11 co-op games.

Retro collections can be appealing because of the large number of games they include, but sometimes the games are too old to be much fun. Digital Eclipse and Atari overcome this problem by adding documentary content into the mix. Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration bundles an amazing 115 titles and a wealth of historical matter in one slick package. With an Expanded Edition due in October, it’s finally time to review the base collection.

Atari 50 consists of two main components: documentary content and the games library. The interface is identical to those of Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story and The Making of Karateka, also from Digital Eclipse. The documentary section here is broken into five sections spanning Atari’s origins all the way to the present day. Each section offers abundant photos, videos, 3D models, and text that convey the history of Atari and its games in an intuitive way. If you want to learn about Atari and the American side of the gaming industry from the 1970s-1990s, look no further.

Games Library

Atari 50 Games Library

The 115 games found in this collection (5 of which much be unlocked, and 12 of which were added via update) encompass the following platforms: arcade, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 7800, Atari 800 computer, Atari Lynx, and Atari Jaguar. Additionally, Digital Eclipse has created a handful of new games for the collection: Haunted Houses, Neo Breakout, Quadratank, VCTR-SCTR, and Yars’ Revenge Enhanced (not to be confused with Yars: Recharged), plus Swordquest: Airworld, a new Atari 2600 game.

Games in the library can be sorted by year, platform, and title. Notably absent is a way to sort by multiplayer and/or a way to exclude games with 2-player alternating multiplayer (which isn’t real multiplayer) from showing up as multiplayer. It took us quite a while to test the multiplayer features of this big old collection, but in total, 11 titles support 2-player local co-op.

Each game has cover artwork, a brief description, and an instruction manual or flyer. All games have remappable controls, save states, and video and border options as well.

Asteroids (Atari 7800, 1986)

Atari 50 Asteroids Atari 7800

The Atari 7800 version of Asteroids is better than both arcade versions, but it did come out five years after them. The chief improvement is that not only can players play solo or 2-plater alternating, but they can also play competitively or in the co-op “Team Play” mode.

The goal in Asteroids is to clear each stage of the floating asteroids that threaten your ships. This version features colorful, detailed asteroids that look much nicer than the plain vector space rocks of the original. Almost 20 years after its release, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better version of Asteroids.

Basketbrawl (Atari 7800, 1990)

Atari 50 Basketbrawl Atari 7800

While both versions of Basketbrawl are included in this collection, only the Atari 7800 version retains its co-op support. This one is essentially Atari’s version of Arch Rivals, a basketball game in which players can punch each other to steal the ball. Players can choose to play 1v1 or 2v2, and two human players can team up against the AI team.

Basketbrawl offers 6 playable characters with unique stats, multiple courts, and large, detailed players. Too bad the more robust Atari Lynx version doesn’t have co-op support in this collection, but the Atari 7800 version actually has better graphics anyway.

Centipede (Atari 7800, 1986)

Atari 50 Centipede Atari 7800

Centipede is a shoot ‘em up in which players fire at rapidly descending centipedes, hopping spiders, and other threats. Destructible mushrooms provide some cover but mostly act as obstacles.

Like Asteroids, the Atari 7800 version of Centipede adds co-op support that wasn’t present in the arcade game. In “Dual Player Competition,” both players share the field and play until one player runs out of lives. In “Team Play,” the team shares the same pool of lives. That’s co-op, baby. Solid graphics and an ample variety of modes make this the finest version of Centipede in this collection.

Dark Chambers (Atari 2600 and Atari 7800, 1989)

Dark Chambers Atari 7800 2600 comparison

Two versions of Dark Chambers appear in this collection, and both include co-op. The Atari 7800 version looks significantly better than its little brother, but you have to admire the ambition of squeezing a detailed fantasy game onto such a weak system.

Dark Chambers is based on a 1983 computer game called Dandy that inspired Gauntlet, so this one resembles Gauntlet as well. Both players will navigate maze-like floors of a castle while searching for treasure, keys, and other items. Our heroes can fire arrows to defeat their enemies, some of which come from spawners. Despite the lack of music, this game remains an enjoyable proto-Gauntlet adventure.

Fire Truck (Arcade, 1978)

Atari 50 Fire Truck

Atari’s first co-op game also stands as the first cooperative arcade game ever made, so it definitely deserves a place in this collection. The game uses black and white graphics on a vertical display. Gameplay centers around controlling both halves of a 2-part fire truck (the cab and trailer) and navigating obstacle-filled city streets.

When playing solo, the computer controls one half of the truck. In co-op games, one player controls the cab and the other handles the trailer. The truck has a fuel meter that constantly dwindles, and the objective is to drive as far as possible before the truck runs dry. If Fire Truck had any actual firefighting, it would probably hold up a little better to modern scrutiny, but it’s really just a driving game.