The early days of the arcade were a magical time, filled with incredible creativity and endless clones of the popular games, or in other words just like the console scene today. The games were smaller, designed to defeat the players rather than ease their path to victory, but the crazed variety was almost overwhelming. Wonderfully nonsensical premises were grafted onto any situation a developer could think of, and the sky was the limit in terms of control schemes. I can only imagine the creative process for Centipede- People like to shoot bugs. Alien bugs were done last year in Galaxian, so how about regular bugs in a mushroom garden instead? And freeing the player from the usual left and right movement means we need a better control scheme, so how about a trackball? Yeah, that not only works, it'll drive classic game compilation developers nuts in a few decades.
There are eleven classic arcade games in Atari Classics Evolved, and as the title implies, each game comes in either Classic or “Evolved” versions. Classic is the original arcade game, mostly untouched other than the necessary adaptations needed to turn the controls into something that work with an analog nub, while Evolved is a tweaked version of the original with a shiny new graphical treatment. Each of the eleven games also comes with a set of four Awards, only available in single-player Evolved mode, and earning all 44 opens up an Atari 2600 with “over 50” titles. I'll have to take their word for it because no force on earth is going to let me earn a single award on Missile Command. I suck at that game like no other, and am willing to bet that most players have at least one game on the compilation they feel the same way about.
Though some games are more fun than others, they're all classics, and always worth revisiting.
Unattainable bonuses aside, Atari Classics Evolved represents its games very well. The only real drawback is that the PSP just doesn't have as big or as detailed a screen needed to present the vector graphic games well. The slightly chunky downgrade is perfectly acceptable though, when compared to a few of the Evolved games, which look like they were developed on a decent-sized monitor and then unsuccessfully shrunk down. While games like Asteroids and Asteroids Deluxe Evolved are perfectly playable despite the feeling of too much detail in too small a space, Tempest Evolved in particular suffers from information loss. Is that pixel cluster at the bottom of a lane a spiker, or is it a tank that will split into two flippers? There's really no way to tell.
Other classics come off much better in their Evolved modes, and I found Lunar Lander Evolved to be particularly addicting. The scoring method combines the scores for the speed of landing, descent, angle, and the multiplier for the landing spot. With a small fuel reward not present in the original game, and it rapidly becomes surprisingly addicting. It's also worth noting that Warlords Evolved (basically four-player Super Breakout) desperately needs an XBLA/PSN release, because the potential for multiplayer insanity is too good to keep confined to a handful of PSP-owning retro aficionados.
So you have Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, Battlezone, Centipede, Lunar Lander, Millipede, Missile Command, Pong, Super Breakout, Tempest, and Warlords. Eleven classic games from the dawn of the arcade, faithfully replicated for the PSP despite a few control and presentation compromises. There's no recreating Lunar Lander's giant thruster control and the deep bass rumble you could feel in your bones, for example, but the gameplay of every single title has stood up to the test of time. Though some games are more fun than others, they're all classics, and always worth revisiting.