The King of the Consoles is back. Whether you've played the games on the classic Atari 2600 console or in their original arcade cabinets, you will find loads of nostalgia when clicking through this collection.
Ten seconds of the arcade version Asteroids took me back to 1980 to a Pantera's pizza parlor where I would sneak off with a pocket full of quarters to feed the arcade games. The sounds are accurate and the graphics are awesome. Even the streaking smear of the ship as it zips across the screen is the same, and the adrenaline rush feels the same, too, right down to the racing heartbeat.
The games are faithfully reproduced down to the last detail with great emulation, accurate sounds and fast action, which rooted their popularity.
The Windows suite is easy to navigate between the nine game categories, although you will need to tweak the controls on all the games to get them working the way you want. Try closing your eyes and imagining your fingers on the arcade console. It works.
As for using the mouse for paddle games, I played Breakout and other paddle games with no problems. The arcade original Red Baron turns a little stiff on the keyboard, but I am hoping a joystick will be easier.
You can load the whole thing to your hard drive and play without the disc, which includes an option to download a bunch of extras including scanned manuals, boxes and flyers to fuel the nostalgia. There is even a manual and custom-mapped keys for Basic Programming.
But the sports category is missing 2600 Basketball and Championship Soccer. And if you are searching for Pitfall, River Raid, Demon Attack or Chopper Command, you will have to round out your software with an Activision 2600 collection.
Despite the fact that many of the games have been released in other collections and that this one obviously doesn't have every Atari game, it does seem very comprehensive. Cartridge classics Combat, Air-Sea Battle, Yars' Revenge, Adventure and the elusive Major Havoc are done well and will go far to bring back the memories. I found myself looking over my shoulder to see who was watching.
_ DOUGLAS CLIFFORD, Times staff writer