No. None of us saw that coming.
"F. Chesnais ches what?"
Atari teased/trolled the world last week with a short video which revealed nothing more than a cheeky glimpse at a wood-panelled, classic Atari-looking device, referred to as "Ataribox".
What can this be? Nobody knows, as evidenced by multiple websites leading with the headline "Here's Everything We Know About The Ataribox!" - before pulling the rug out from beneath their curious readers with this revelation: "We know nothing - we just really need dem sweeeeeet clicks."
Surely, though, Atari wouldn't be stupid enough to launch a brand new console in this era of the PS4, Xbox One X and Switch? We must therefore conclude that Ataribox will be some sort of retro VCS device. Which is all well and good, but Atari already did a whole range of those: the Atari Flushbog (Flashback).
The fact is this... Atari 2600 games - if that is what they're doing... again - are terrible. All of them. It's not the fault of their creators, but a consequence of the era, the technology, and the fact that games were still finding their way. The Atari 2600, like a yam left out in the sun, has not aged so well.
Here are eight or nine supposedly classic Atari games, and a couple of crap ones, which prove this valuable and important point.
It also makes no sense. Playing as Pitfall Harry, you make your way through a jungle, avoiding holes and jumping over logs which are being propelled by some unknown force.
What's that you say? They're being propelled by gravity? No they are not! They are travelling horizontally. Also, in some of the holes Harry climbs into there are brick walls. Who built those? The Viet Cong?
Pitfall? More like Pitiful!!!!!
"Why are you called Pitfall Harry, Harry?"
"Well, you see, it's because I'm always jumping over pits."
"And that's your defining character trait is it?"
"Yes it is. What's yours?"
"I'm an ENFP personality type. Look it up."
"I don't have time. I've got me some pits to jump over!"
Adventure's quest to find a magical chalice, or something, was confounded by a trio of hungry dragons, and a bat that flew around randomly distributing important items around the map. I say "bat", but it might as well have been a programming glitch.
Yes, I get that Adventure changed things for the better... but so did the Titanic. I mean, just look at it. Who would choose this over the Witcher III or Skyrim or something?
Oh, and that Easter egg? Nothing more exciting than the programmer's name - a form of passive protest against Atari's insistence that its staff work anonymously. That didn't turn out so well when a bunch of them left to form Activision. You know: to make even more terrible games.
These days, Adventure is about as much fun as being lost in a cardboard box factory, when you're already late for your nan's funeral.
What was there was pretty playable for the time, but you know what else was pretty good for its time? Eating raw woolly rhinoceros meat prior to the invention of fire.
What you got in the Raiders of the Lost Ark Atari 2600 game was the travesty depicted above. Frankly, who can know what's meant to be going on there? It looks like somebody dropped the last of their packet of Liquorice Allsorts on a grubby tea towel.
In Sneak N' Peek, players take it in turn to hide in the rooms of a house while the other player hides their eyes and counts to ten... and then has to find them. This is what people in the early 80s believed was acceptable to produce as a video game. Actual hide n' seek isn't difficult to do - and it wasn't like Sneak N' Peek had you hiding in a variety of interesting fantasy settings; merely a series of nondescript rooms.
Interestingly, I used to go round the house of a boy called Michael Conabeer, primarily because he had both an Atari 2600 and every episode of It'll Be Alright On The Night on video. It's telling that we tended to play hide n' seek for real, rather than sit on his Atari 2600. Although one time something went a bit wrong with our game, and Michael Conabeer had to urinate in a coal scuttle.
When you look at it today, it beggars belief that they ever though it was going to corrupt anybody. Indeed, judging from that screenshot, if anything got corrupted it was River Raid itself!!!!! Oh... no... those are the actual graphics.
Also, there's a good joke to be had here about offering your friends some of your "riverade", and them thinking you're going to let them have a go on the game River Raid, but then you just offer them a glass of filthy river water, and force them to drink it out of "politeness"!!! Admittedly, I've not thought through the logistics of that joke, but, well, it probably doesn't matter. It's just hypothetical.
And if you think it looks bad - just try playing it. It'd be slow and clunky and imprecise even if it wasn't for the Atari 2600 joysticks, which have all the give and latency of a metal rebar wedged in a bucket of cement.
Combat? More like wombat!!!! Yeah, that one doesn't work.
Frankly, the most appropriate move for Atari at this point would be to reveal that Ataribox is a new type of coffin. And then climb into it, and be buried.