I have to admit, this system I have had little interaction with. When I was young I didn’t play with it much except for a few times at Toys’R’Us. Not sure why since the system is a very good one for the era. It had good video (similar VDP that was in the TI-99/4a), good sound and used a zippy Z-80 processor. It also had some interesting add-on like the Atari 2600 module, the driving module and a full blown computer (the ill fated Adam). I also found the system to be one of the nicest designed. There was something about the simplistic black rectangle design that appealed to me.
So, for this article I went to a local retro-gaming store and played with the joystick to familiarize myself. The controllers were similar to the Intellivison except it had a short joystick in place of the disk. Holding the controller the size felt a little big but not overly so. The placement of the two gray action buttons were spot on and very comfortable. The implementation of the touch pad was better and worse then Intellivision. Sliding in the overlay into its slot would sometimes bend the overlay, but the buttons and overlay did seem to be more robust than the Intellivision. And of course with all overlays there was the problem of losing them.
Now for the actual joystick. Unless you had really smallish hands the feel was never quite right. I never could decide if I wanted to palm the top of the stick of grab it. Grabbing the stick and your fingers would get in the way due to the short stick length. Palming the stick would cause slippage when playing. Either way just felt wrong. If they had only made the shaft just a little longer would have helped things immensely.
The motion of the stick was, sorta, good. It had a good throw of just a couple inches, which was nice. But, it did suffer from a cheap mushy feel, which wasn’t so nice considering the cost of the system.
The coiled controller cable was a good attempt, but it always seemed to get tangled after a while like the phone cords of the era. This would make replacing the controllers nicely back in their cradle a bit of a problem and looked messy. Since I am excessive compulsive about coiled phone cables and putting things back in their proper place this would have eventually drove me crazy. maybe that’s why I didn’t play with the system much. 🙂
That’s it. A nice system overall and competent but not great controllers.
Next week the Atari 5200. The system that makes everyone say, “WTF was Atari thinking?”