From Back in the Day: Atari’s Greatest Hits on the iPad

Thanks to the Atari’s Greatest Hits iPad app, Generation Xers just became a lot less productive.

If you’re old enough, you’ll recall plunking down quarter after quarter to destroy incoming missiles that we all knew were launched by the Russians. You learned that shooting a centipede in the body merely created two centipedes. You also realized that tanks and things resembling UFO’s traveling along the ground go hand-in-hand. In the 80s, Atari taught us those things and many more valuable pieces of information. That education has returned via the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

A Hero’s Welcome, of Sorts

Children today will likely have none of it, nor will they even understand the appeal. Today’s games so closely reveal reality that, had we seen them in 1985, we’d have been scared of the technology. So, a paddle and dot resembling a ball just won’t cut it.

But, for those of us reared in a video arcade, portable versions of hot dog cart-sized video games and game cartridges resembling 8-track cassettes are pure awesome. On March 28, Atari’s Greatest Hits was launched on the iPad and the other Apple portable devices.

You can now carry with you Asteroids, Pong, Missle Command, Warlords, Yar’s Revenge, Gravitar, Tempest, and dozens of other games. In the mid-80s, such a feat would have required a couple of 18-wheelers.

As I write this post, I can feel and hear Asteroids calling my name. I’m sure I’m not alone.

There’s Always a Catch

Downloading the app is free. But, imagine my surprise when I found that, to play any games, you have to pay $.99 for a “pack” of four. I was so pumped to play Missle Command and Battle Zone, but they were in two separate packs. Good business, but an inconvenience. Missle Command comes in a pack with Missle Command 2600, Fun with Numbers, and Flag Capture. Battle Zone is in a pack with Red Baron, Air-Sea Battle, and Submarine Commander; a respectable pack. The good news is you can buy all 25 four-packs for $14.99. A good price, but still $15 for what is, realistically, a time drain. Fun, but as much a waste of time today as the games were 25 years ago. Be prepared to exercise your self-restraint.

Also, take a few moments to read the App Store ratings. People love the games, but the controls stink for many of the games. iPhone users also complain about how the games are too small on the small-screen. With my use of Missle Command, Tank Commander and a couple of others, I haven’t experienced a terrible problem with controls, but I don’t doubt over 2,000 users who gave the app one star. The bigger screen of the iPad also dispenses with the size problem of the iPhone and iPod Touch. So, proceed with caution. The controller issues will likely be addressed, but they are distracting in this initial version.

Overall, I think this will be a successful app and the games are just as much fun as they were back in the day. Check out Atari’s Greatest Hits in the App store now.