The Atari 2600+ has been out for a few months now and I have spent plenty of time playing many games as well as beta testing the new forthcoming firmware to do a full review of it. Let’s find out in our Atari 2600+ review if it is worth buying for newcomers and seasoned retro gamers, as we unbox, take a closer look at the new hardware and compare it with original game cartridges and peripherals.
Table of Contents
Atari 2600+ Review Video
Unboxing the Atari 2600+
We start our Atari 2600+ review with the unboxing. Inside we have the Atari 2600+ which we will take a closer look at shortly.
Underneath is an instruction sheet. Inside the box are HDMI and USB Type-C cables to power the 2600+. And in the final box is the game cartridge and Atari CX40+ joystick.
Atari 2600+ Overview
We continue the Atari 2600+ review with a closer look at the console and accessories. The Atari 2600 Plus remains faithful to the original four switch design model. There are power, TV type, Game Select and Game Rest switches and in the middle is a slightly wider cartridge slot to make it easier to insert and remove cartridges.
The back from left to right has a 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratio switch, a DB9 port and a difficulty switch for player 2. In the middle is a HDMI port and then there is a difficulty switch and DB9 port for player 1. And furthest to the right is the USB Type-C port for the power.
The front has the iconic wooden veneer and the Atari logo which lights up when powered on, a nice touch!
It is around 20% smaller in size than the original Atari 2600 model, slighter larger than the 2600 Junior model and X than the Atari 7800. While I would have liked it to be the original size, it was quite large to be fair. It does keep the original design and the smaller fits modern TV units for example.
CX40+ & CX40 Joystick comparison
The CX40+ visually looks identical to the original CX40 joystick. Apart from the wear and tear on my original you would barely notice any difference.
In terms of using the new joystick, it feels just like the original. A little stiffer where it is not worn in but I could swap between the two with no issue.
Original and new cartridge comparison
The included Atari 2600+ cartridge is physically the same size as an original 2600 cartridge. You will notice the plus cartridge has a row of dip switches which you use to select which game to play.
The cartridge comes with 10 games on it. You refer to the cartridge label and move the dip switches off or on respective to the game you want to play. We will check out the games in a moment.
Setting up & powering on
Continuing our Atari 2600+ review with the set up and first power on. It is simply a matter of connecting the HDMI cable to your display, the USB Type-C cable to a USB power supply, plug in your joystick, insert the cartridge and power on.
On boot you will be presented with the classic Atari logo for a few moments then a screen to inform you that it is loading the game. It usually takes a few seconds to dump the contents of the cartridge to the Atari 2600+
And then prepare your jaw to drop at the quality of the video output. If you had the original Atari 2600 you will remember the awful RF output with dull colours and fuzzy graphics. Here on the Atari 2600 Plus we have bright colours and sharp graphics, nicely upscaled for modern TV’s.
Bundled Atari 2600 Plus cartridge games overview
As mentioned you get 10 games on the included Atari 2600 cartridge. We will briefly show some gameplay from each as part of this Atari 2600+ review.
Adventure is an exploration game where you must recover the Enchanted Chalice and return it back to the Golden Castle.
Combat is a great 1 or 2 player game where players must shoot at and hit their opponent to score. You have tank, biplane and jet fighters to choose from and it is great to play against a human.
Dodge-em is a maze based action game for up to two players. You race around the track and run over the dots to score, all the while avoiding the opponents car. There’s some great strategy on this game ????
Haunted House is an exploration game set in, yeah, a haunted house. You need to recover three pieces of a magic urn and return them to the entrance.
Maze Craze is another maze based action game where you must navigate a maze of city blocks from left to the right side of the screen while avoiding robbers and blockades.
Missile Command is a classic shoot ‘em up where you must defend the planet against a missile attack. It is a great game that still holds up well today. I am glad this game is on here!
Realsports Volleyball is an up to two player game of volleyball. Nothing much else to say here, you all know how to play it.
I never played Surround until the Atari 2600+. It’s essentially an up to two player game of Snake. You navigate the screen and try to block or force your opponent to run out of space to move.
Video Pinball is a pinball game for up to two players. It is a fairly basic pinball game but quite fun as you can compete against someone for a high score.
And last but not least is the classic Yars’ Revenge. It is a single player shooter where you must break down the enemies shield and destroy the little shit hiding inside. A great game to play and happy to see it is included in the cartridge.
There is a good selection of games on the cartridge for one and two players. The quality of the games is not too bad, there are enough popular ones mixed in with lesser known titles for balance.
There are also additional cartridges you can purchase separately including a 4 in 1 with paddle controllers and Bezerk Enhanced Edition. I would guess over time more cartridges will be released. But you can of course use original Atari 2600 and 7800 game cartridges which we will check out next.
Original Atari 2600 and 7800 game cartridges
Next in this Atari 2600+ review we will take a look at compatibility with original game cartridge. In my opinion the best thing about the Atari 2600+ is that it can play original Atari 2600 and 7800 cartridges. Up until the past few years you could pick up an Atari 2600 console with a bundle of games for next to nothing, or bundles of games for a few pounds.
I have close to one hundred original 2600 cartridges and around a dozen 7800 cartridges. And apart from one faulty cartridge, the majority of them load. I do say load and not working, as us PAL owners currently get a slightly raw deal when it comes to the emulation. There are issues with the colours for PAL games which are being worked on in the forthcoming firmware update.
I do have the beta firmware installed so I can’t show the differences in PAL and NTSC colours. There are still some issues but these will be fixed before final release.
There are also some issues with Atari 7800 cartridges. While I do not own many original carts, a fair number did not work or have issues while playing. Again, these have been worked on for the firmware update and I can confirm many more are definitely playable now.
Also do remember to give the cartridges a good clean with some IPA before using them. The amount of grime that builds up over the years will often cause the cartridges to not make good contact and simply not work or run correctly.
Original controllers compatibility
If you own any of the original Atari controllers you can use them with the Atari 2600+, as well as use the new CX40+ with the original model. Lets take a closer look at some of the peripherals you can use as part of this Atari 2600+ review.
The Atari 7800 Joypad, Pro-Line Joystick and CX40 Paddles both work fine. The Atari 2600 touchpad is unfortunately not supported despite the compatibility list saying Star Raiders works…. Support has not been added in the firmware update but will be looked into at a later date. Naturally the XE Light Gun will not work with the Atari 2600+ and modern TVs.
One thing to consider is the MEGA 7800 from RetroHQ. It is a SEGA Master System and Mega Drive controller adaptor made for the original consoles. You can connect controllers from both systems and they work great with the Atari 2600+. It only costs £15 and definitely recommended!
Flash cartridge compatibility
And a quick mention for flash cartridges in this Atari 2600+ review. The Atari 2600 Harmony cartridge is partially compatible with the Atari 2600 Plus. You will not be able to boot to the usual menu, but you can flash a single game via the serial port and it mostly works fine from my own testing.
Unfortunately the 7800 GameDrive is not compatible. The flash cart uses FPGA based hardware and is not compatible with the Atari 2600+ method of dumping games before running them.
Time to sum up this Atari 2600+ review now. As a standalone product the Atari 2600 Plus is a great look back at one of the most iconic retro gaming consoles. The reproduction of the console and joystick is of high quality and remains faithful to the original design with a few modern updates. The level of emulation in the current firmware is passable. In the forthcoming update this is far improved, and there are plans to continue with further firmware updates which is great.
However, when comparing it to say recently released consoles such as the SNES classic or Mega Drive mini. They came with 20 to 40 games and offered far greater value for your money. Getting just 10 games with the Atari 2600+ is quite low and in some ways does not offer as much replayability as many of the SNES or Mega Drive titles. I think 20 games would have given far greater value for money as a standalone purchase.
You can of course buy the original cartridges. Collecting Atari 2600 and 7800 cartridges was once very easy. You could pick up a bundle for next to nothing. But over the past few years the prices have gone up, making it far more expensive to buy even one cartridge. I haven’t bought any since 2020. Atari have announced original and new game cartridges and will likely make more multi-cartridges to buy, but nothing has been announced yet.
If you do have a collection of original cartridges then this is not so much of an issue. You will probably purchase the Atari 2600+ simply for the fact it is new hardware that plays your games on modern TVs in amazing quality. If so, buy one now, you won’t be disappointed in any way.
Personally, I fall into the latter category. I have a decent collection of cartridges and for me the Atari 2600+ is perfect. I can now play games on the living room TV without having to use lower quality video output with my original 2600 and 7800 consoles.
As a note, the Atari 2600+ was purchased with my own money and the review is not sponsored in any way. If you would like to buy your own you can order it from Amazon here and I earn a small commission to help fund buying new products to review. Thanks and I hope you have found this Atari 2600+ review helpful!