But that’s the feeling I got today when I tried out the new Colecovision Flashback plug-n-play video console from AtGames. They’ve previously had success with Atari and Sega Genesis plug-n-play conoles, and they released an Intellivision set simultaneously with this Colecovision unit.
What this is, basically, is a tiny replica of the original console, with 60 (or 61 if you buy it in the right place) built-in games. Most of the games are original games that were available on the Colecovision Game System back in the early 1980s.
A dozen of them are new creations, designed and programmed in the retro eight-bit style by programmer Kevin Horton back in 2006.
If you happened to be alive and paying attention back in 1982, you may remember that Colecovison was a major competitor to the Atari 2600, the most popular video game console with interchangeable cartridges that allowed you to play different games. Colecovision was surging, and was the game console of choice for hardcore gamers.
I had a Colecovision at the time, and to be honest, there was a love/hate relationship. The games were great, replicating the arcade experience better than any other console, and providing a top-notch libary of games. However, the controllers were among the clunkiest ever developed for a gaming system, with a stubby little joystick and a layout of buttons and a number pad that makes me struggle to come up with a word that means the opposite of “ergonomic.”
But the play value (and the purchase of third-party joysticks) meant that the Colecovision was head and shoulders above the Atari 2600 and Mattel’s Intellivision. If it hadn’t been for the great video game crash of 1983 and several bad business moves by Coleco around the same time, the Colecovision might have evolved into a dominant gaming system today.
But it didn’t turn out that way. Coleco tried to turn their hit gaming system into a home computer with the Adam expansion ports for the game system and The Adam Home Computer, which would have been a revolutionary product that would have beaten Apple’s MAC in the marketplace…if only it had worked. It didn’t. Coleco lost $35 million dollars with the Adam, and had compounded their mistake by buying the company that made Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble, just around the same time that those board games nose-dived in popularity.
In 1988 Coleco filed for chapter eleven bankruptcy and their assets were purchased by Hasbro. The Colecovision had been long-since discontinued. One of the reasons I have such fond memories of the Colecovision was that I don’t think I paid full price for any of the games after I got the unit for Christmas in 1982. It came with Donkey Kong, Antarctic Adventure and Blackjack, but by the middle of 1983, you could find almost every game made for the Colecovision for five bucks or less at Kay Bee Toys.
But even though I never really moved on to the next generation of gaming systems, and today’s advanced games confuse the living hell out of me, I have a warm spot in my heart for the Colecovision.
So it was really cool to hear that AtGames was releasing a nostalgic Colecovision console. For forty bucks, what the “A” games for the system each cost originally, you get a console with 60 built-in games, some of which are Horton’s “Homebrew” games.
Sadly, the game list does not include my favorites, Burgertime, Donkey Kong, Popeye, Joust or Q’bert. It does have quite a few popular games like Zaxxon, Jumpman Jr., Frenzy and Space Panic.
The actual console is probably less than one-fourth the size of the original Colecovision, and weighs less than one of the original controllers. They have perfectly duplicated the “fun of discovery” sparse game instructions, and the controllers are every bit as maddeningly clunky as the originals. I don’t think that third-party replacements are available, but if AtGames made and and sold them, they’d clean up. They also seem to have skimped on the sound a bit in some of the games, but it’s not a huge deal.
AtGames has pretty much replicated the 1982 video gaming experience, down to your legs falling asleep because you sit cross-legged in the floor while playing (ow, ow). It’s amazing that for one-fifth the price of the original console in 1982 you can get a game system with an instant library of cheesy retro video games.
Sure, you can download an emulator for your computer for free that includes every game ever made for the Colecovision (and some that were never released), but it’s not the same as plugging a unit into your own television with no-longer-groundbreaking graphics and crappy controllers and playing until your legs cramp up.
If you were a Colecovision kid who wants to relive the past, The AtGames Colecovision Flashback is the unit for you. It’s forty bucks, and should be available all over the place. If you buy it at Sam’s Club, you will get additional overlays for the crappy controllers. If you buy it at Dollar General, you get an extra game, Antarctic Adventure, which is a one-player penguin obstacle course game.
One word of advice: Pull up a chair if you’re going to do this for more than a few minutes.
Here’s a complete list of games(Homebrew games were created in 2006)
Antarctic Adventure (exclusive to Dollar General)
Bankruptcy Builder (Homebrew)
Bump ‘n’ Jump
Gateway to Apshai
Module Man (Homebrew)
Monster Masher (Homebrew)
Ms. Space Fury (Homebrew)
Princess Quest (Homebrew)
Quest for Quintana Roo
Schlange CV (Homebrew)
Search for the Stolen Crown Jewels (Homebrew)
Search for the Stolen Crown Jewels 2 (Homebrew)
Search for the Stolen Crown Jewels 3 (Homebrew)
Shunting Puzzle (Homebrew)
Squish ‘Em Featuring Sam
Super Cross Force
The Dam Buster
Tomarc the Barbarian