Friday Slide: The App Store Needs an Atari 2600 Emulator

As I get older and spend more time glowering at young folks, I am seized by strong urges to re-live my personal videogame history. Reverence for retro games is nothing new, and if Nintendo’s Virtual Console or Xbox Live Arcade is any indication, there is a mountain of money to be made on videogame nostalgia.

But the direction of my inward journeys have surprised even me at times. I’ve been going beyond Super Mario Bros. and reliving and writing about the true genesis of my video game obsession: The ColecoVision and the Atari 2600. I visited the App Store to see what I could access in terms of jagged 4k goodness. The answer: Not a whole heck of a lot.

I have therefore resolved to wait quietly until a worthwhile Atari emulator comes out for the iPhone (I banged some pots and pans together in the name of my cause, but the property manager got on my case pretty quickly). By now, anyone who cares has downloaded and played with Manomio’s C64, a Commodore 64 emulator for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Having grown up with a hand-me-down Commodore 64 as well as my game consoles, I was happy to have some old favorites in my pocket. An Atari 2600 emulator done up in the style of the C64 would make my soul sing.

C64 currently comes with several free games, and you can pay to access more. It’s a good formula, as some of the C64’s starter games (Bruce Lee, Laser Squad, and Samurai Warrior) aren’t exactly low budget, single-screen affairs. The Atari 2600 had its share of garbage; we’re talking about the system that gave birth to E.T. in 1983 and subsequently caused the North American game market to go up in a big mushroom cloud. But who wouldn’t love an Atari 2600 emulator for the iPhone that came preloaded with forgotten classics like Frostbite, Ms. Pac-Man, or Dragon’s Den?

Controls might be an issue, though Manomio handled that problem with a virtual joystick/button setup, and the option to play the emulator vertically or horizontally. The tilt function might come in handy as well for games like Solaris, one of my favorite space shooters. You could tilt the iPhone to make your ship sway back and forth through enemy swarms, and tap on-screen buttons with your thumbs to waste Cobra ships.

If this fictional emulator ever comes to pass, the developers behind it could bundle games for a small price, or even sell them one-by-one. There’s at least one retro junkie who’d buy them all. A retro junkie named me.

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