The Atari 2600+ is a faithful recreation that players with fond memories of the original hardware will love. Those unfamiliar with the system may also be surprised at how well many of its games hold up. Sadly, some frustrations with the hardware hold it back.
Loving recreation of the original hardware
Games hold up surprisingly well
Compatible with original Atari 2600 cartridges
Joystick is uncomfortably stiff
Port placement is awkward
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If you’ve ever heard older folks wax lyrical about Atari products, then you may want to give the Atari 2600+ a look. This reinvention brings the original hardware up to modern standards thanks to HDMI support, new cartridges, and even compatibility with original cartridges from the 1980s.
There’s something quite magical about the Atari 2600+. It’s proven that - beyond the crude visuals that require much imagination on the player’s part - the console’s games often hold up surprisingly well, with simple controls and responsive inputs that allow for moreish gaming sessions. This is especially true of straightforward titles like Video Pinball and Breakout which remain a blast to play.
There are some design flaws here, though, that hold the Atari 2600+ back from being a must-buy product. The bundled joystick controller is unbearably stiff, and it’s your only option for play for many of the games as the console doesn’t have a USB port for alternate controllers. Other design oddities, like the controller ports located on the rear of the console, may be faithful to the original model, but are nonetheless an awkward fit for the wired-only controllers.
Price and availability
The Atari 2600+ is available to buy from November 17, and can be pre-ordered now for $129.99 / £99.99. The base package includes the console, a CX40+ joystick and a 10-in-1 game cartridge. Additional supported cartridges are also being sold for $29.99 / £24.99 each. In the US and UK, all this can be purchased from the official Atari 2600+ store page or, alternatively, at Amazon.
If you want to enhance your experience with the Atari 2600+, the manufacturer is selling a Paddle Pack that includes two CX30+ paddle controllers and a 4-in-1 game cartridge for $39.99 / £29.99.
Design and features
The Atari 2600+ certainly looks the part. Not unlike the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive Mini consoles, the Atari 2600+ shaves off much of the size and weight of the original model while retaining its look and feel. The unit really is quite eye-catching, with the front-facing wood grain panel contrasting nicely with the rugged black plastic.
A row of four dip switches are on the front of the console, situated around the cartridge slot. The leftmost is your power switch, with the one next to it letting you switch between color and monochrome display. To the right of the cartridge slot are another pair of dip switches that let you reset your game, and select maps and modes within each should the game support that feature.
Things get a touch messy on the rear of the console, though. Here’s where you’ll find two ports for the included joystick and paddle controllers. There’s also a HDMI port for display and a USB-C port for powering the console. Lastly, there’s a couple of difficulty switches that alter the challenge of certain games.
I found the placement of the ports, especially, to be fairly awkward. Having the controller ports on the back of the unit means that your wires will stretch around the side of the console, which occasionally led to me shifting it out of place on my desk as I moved the controller around. It’s not all bad news back here, though, as I do appreciate the toggle that lets you switch between widescreen and the original 4:3 resolution, allowing for a more authentic play experience.
Now, let’s talk about the included controller. In the box, you’re getting a recreation of the iconic CX40 joystick. Unfortunately, it disappoints here as the stick is uncomfortably stiff and requires a good bit of elbow grease to use. As a result, gaming sessions requiring the joystick had to remain short in order to give my arm a rest.
The CX30 paddles (sold separately) thankfully fare much better. They feel fantastic to use, with the rotational dial acting responsively in titles that require it like Breakout and Berzerk: Enhanced Edition.
If you can get over some of the issues with the Atari 2600+’s design, you’ll find there’s really a lot to like about this retro system. Its games run on the system natively via cartridges, and the fact it’s compatible with existing 2600 cartridges is very impressive. If your nan is stashing away a copy of E.T., whack it in the Atari 2600+ and it’ll work just fine.
Now, these are Atari 2600 games, so visuals are rather simple, crude and blocky across the board. They also don’t look particularly fantastic stretched across a HDMI-capable display, so I would recommend flipping the rear switch over to the 4:3 resolution.
However, there’s something just so captivating about playing these Atari 2600 titles. Frustrations with the joystick aside, the games are largely responsive, simple to understand and a lot of fun.
Playing Berzerk and Breakout with the CX30 paddles just felt wonderful. The responsive, rotational dials are one-to-one with the on-screen action, ensuring that these games from the 80s remain perfectly playable today. Similarly, an all-new game, Mr. Run and Jump, presented a very straightforward platformer that I couldn’t pull myself away from.
There’s also something to be said about the relatively primitive sound design these games put forward. The sharp beeps and boops that accentuate these titles are undeniably charming, as are the bombastic approximations of explosions that serve as their own reward. Special mention also has to go to the emulated sound of the ocean crashing against the shore in RealSports Volleyball.
The crunchy, almost rustly nature of such sound effects is oddly calming and lends an almost otherworldly kind of immersion to these titles. This feeling is heightened by the overall lack of music, too; it’s just you and the developers’ best approximation of what things should sound like within those limitations. Try playing at night with all your lights turned off, and you’ll see what I’m getting at.
Should I buy the Atari 2600+?
The Atari 2600+ certainly does what it sets out to do, providing a modern way to play these legacy titles that helped to pave the way for gaming as a whole. While it can be quite an investment given the high cost of individual cartridges and some growing pains with the stiff joystick, it’s an excellent way to experience many cozy classic games via a more up-to-date gaming setup.
Buy it if...
You’re even remotely curious about Atari’s legacy
It’s quite incredible just how well many of the Atari 2600’s games hold up. They’re still really fun and act as a nice palate cleanser from the more complex games of today.
You own some classic Atari 2600 games
If you have some Atari 2600 cartridges gathering dust somewhere, you can give them a clean and find that they’ll work with the Atari 2600+.
Don't buy it if...
You’re not keen on the joystick
Easily the Atari 2600+’s biggest flaw is its relatively stiff joystick controller that takes a lot of getting used to. As there’s no support for alternate controllers, you’re out of luck if it’s not to your liking.
How we reviewed the Atari 2600+
I tested the Atari 2600+ over the course of a week by hooking it up to my PC’s 1080p monitor via HDMI. I endeavored to play a wide range of the included games with both the CX40 joystick and CX30 paddle controllers, including Mr. Run and Jump, Video Pinball, Yars' Revenge and Berzerk: Enhanced Edition among many others.
Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.