Although Atari just announced Retro Atari Classics for Nintendo's DS today, we actually had the opportunity to get some hands-on time with it last week. The game, which is essentially a classics compilation that's been tricked out with new features, as well as DS-specific ones such as wireless and touch-screen support, looks like a promising spin on the standard retro compilations that are old hat these days. The work-in-progress version we tried was still pretty early, but it gave us a good feel for what to expect.
You'll find 10 games in the compilation, including: Pong, Missile Command, Asteroids, Breakout, Centipede, Tempest, Warlords, Gravitar, Lunar Lander, and Sprint. Each will come in two flavors. The original mode is what you'd expect, so you'll find re-creations of the original games that will let you use either the D pad and face buttons or the DS's touch screen for gameplay. The tagged mode, which features art from popular graffiti artists, including REAS, Delta, and Obey Giant, offers the same classic gameplay, but it's married with a fresh new look thanks to each artist's reimagining of each game's visuals.
The DS-specific features are still being tweaked to offer a solid playing experience, but they seem to be coming along just fine. For most of the games in the compilation, the touch screen will offer control panels that you'll tap with your stylus to get your onscreen avatar, be it a ship, a car, a shield, or a targeting icon, to move and fire. It all works reasonably well at the moment, although touch screen sensitivity and difficulty both need some tweaking.
The graphics are shaping up to represent an interesting mix of styles. The original games are just what you'd expect, so you'll see simple pixels and some primary colors thrown in for good measure. The "tagged" games sport an eye-popping collection of eclectic styles that just look cool. At the moment, the only thing we'd like to see tweaked is the onscreen craziness that makes it a little tough to make out your ship in games like Asteroids.
Based on what we've played so far, Retro Atari Classics is a neat idea in both concept and execution. The selection of games represents a nice spread of classic titles, and the artist makeovers of them introduce trippy spins on the visuals. If Atari can tweak some minor elements of the included game offerings, such as their visuals, controls, and difficulties, Retro Atari Classics should be a solid entry in the DS's growing library.