Atari Week Kicks Off With A Paddlin'
It's Atari Week here at Retro Thing, and all week long we're going to looks at some lesser known aspects of the video game company that started it all; Atari. Poor old thing has fallen on hard times - after years of being bounced around, Atari's current owners have incurred huge financial losses over the last few quarters... so it seems like a good time to remember a lot of those things that made Atari great.
It's still weird to me that current game systems only include a single controller and almost never include a pack-in game. The 2600 included Combat and four (count 'em!) controllers. Two were paddle controllers (rheostats to all of you solder jockeys out there) for spinning game elements from side to side. The paddles lay bare the 2600's heritage as a Pong machine, but dozens of widely varied games came out that used the paddle in creative ways.
The rheostat style controller more or less disappeared after the 2600 (Coleco's Super Action Controllers had one, and Arkanoid for the NES included a special spinning controller). Spinner type controllers are perfect for lightning fast gameplay (imagine Tempest with a joystick - yechhhh!), and on the VCS you could connect up to four of them for a mad frenzy.
Some of my favorite games for the 2600 are paddle games. Super Breakout is still awesome after all these years, the superlative Warlords, the underrated Circus Atari. Dual Shocks be damned... the closest a gamer gets to Zen is with a paddle controller in one hand and the classic Kaboom in the other.
Thanks to Atari Age for the photos.