Atari's Flashback 2.0 Takes Flak (and deservedly so)

 

Hidden games: At the main menu, move the joystick in the following directions: UP 1x, DOWN 9x, UP 7x, DOWN 2x.  If done correctly, a secret menu containing 2 hidden games will appear – Super Breakout and Warlords.

Hidden joystick menu: Hold SELECT and RESET with the TV TYPE switch to COLOR and turn the system on.

Hidden paddle menu: Hold SELECT and RESET with the TV TYPE switch to B&W and turn the system on.

A few prototype/demo versions exist that contain only 10 games and a simple text menu, and supposedly don’t have all the hardware problems that versions #1-#3 have.  However, they don’t have a TV TYPE switch.

At least 4 versions of the internal software exist. Note that there is no way to tell which version you have (by the box) w/o either playing it or opening up the case:

     Version 1 - has Atari’s version of Millipede, instead of GCC’s (as indicated on the packaging).
     Version 2
- has GCC’s Millipede
     Version 3
- has Atari’s Millipede and corrects the TIA/sound problem- the result of a redesigned pcb (“Rev B”). It also has a version of Adventure II with brighter colors.  Video output quality isn’t as good when using carts.
     Version 4
– supposedly fixes all the incompatibility issues with running certain carts (on a modified system) - the result of another redesigned pcb (“Rev C”). The games are the same as Ver. #3.

At least 4 different hardware revisions exist:

     Version 1 - The largest pcb of all 4 versions, with a “hole” in the center for the power and reset buttons (picture #1).
     Version 2 - A redesigned smaller pcb (“Rev B”) without the “hole” (picture #2).
     Version 3 - Slightly redesigned (“Rev B”) pcb with the game rom (epoxy blob) chip directly on the pcb (picture #3).
     Version 4 – Supposedly is a micro pcb (“Rev C”) with all the cart mod points in the upper-left corner.  Only 60k were produced.

Unauthorized Flashback 2.0 systems have a pcb that's similar to the "Rev B" one, but not the same (picture #4). They can also easily be identified by the strange Atari logo printed on the board, which is the same logo that appears on the menu (picture #5).

Two homebrew programmers were commissioned shortly after the FB2’s release to correct flaws in some of the new games: Dennis Debro worked on the flicker problem in Yars’ Return (and planned to work on Asteroids Deluxe and Space Duel), and Johnny Champeau fixed the bug in Pong, as well as programming all-new versions of Caverns of Mars and Lunar Lander.  Unfortunately, none of these improved versions were ever used in the subsequent releases.  A hack of Pole Position (as Checkered Flag) was also unused.

The version of Quadrun (that’s on all versions) is actually a pre-release version (dated 3-18-83) – after clearing the first 5 waves, the text “Crazed Wave” should appear (as stated in the manual); instead, “Woita Wave” appears, which was an Easter egg hidden in the release version.

The version of Fatal Run is actually either a prototype or an unauthorized PAL conversion; an NTSC version was never released.

The version of Frog Pong is actually an earlier version; a later version exists, complete with a finished title screen (see the review for it HERE).

5 of the games included are hacks of original titles: Adventure II and Return to Haunted House (Adventure), Arcade Asteroids and Space Duel (Asteroids) and Yars’ Return (Yars’ Revenge).  Also, 2 of the games included are Activision titles (Pitfall and River Raid).  HERE are the ROM bins for all the unoriginal games.

The controller jacks are slightly larger than the originals, which may lead to connection problems.  They're also mounted upside-down, compared to a real VCS system.

It’s impossible to tell how the difficulty switches are set.  Then again, the manual makes no mention of how to use them with any of the games.

The FB2’s 2600-on-a-chip software was originally written in VHDL by Carlos Lopez in 2002-2003, who possibly worked out an agreement with Legacy Engineering Group for the rights to use it (and if so, likely signed an NDA about it):

http://www.biglist.com/lists/stella/archives/200309/msg00238.html - Lopez finished his program in fall 2003 and…

http://www.biglist.com/cgi-bin/wilma/wilma_hiliter/stella/200309/msg00246.html - was in negotiations for its use in a com.product

http://www.biglist.com/lists/stella/archives/200208/msg00156.html - Vendel sent Lopez the TIA schematics to use in writing it

http://www.biglist.com/lists/stella/archives/200208/msg00240.html - Lopez’s emulator has a problem with Cosmic Ark

http://www.atariage.com/forums/topic/75267- - FB2 has the exact same problem with Cosmic Ark

Vendel later threatened to kick Lopez "in the balls" for questioning his handling of the FB2.  Lopez also confirmed he did not purchase but instead was given a set of TIA schematics from Vendel.  Given Vendel's past feloneous history, not to mention his track record of sabotaging shows, forging emails, and erasing posts, anything he states as "fact" should be questioned.  It's unclear whether or not he even holds an actual engineering degree.

BUG: The 5v regulator is always connected; the power switch is actually on the 5v line.  Also, there's no heat sink for the regulator.

BUG: A few of the early (version 1) releases went out with a corrupted ROM.  Selecting some of the games may bring up different ones, or they may not work at all (solid black or blue screen).

BUG: HMOVE lines - there’s a design flaw in how the 2600-on-a-chip processor affects later games that take advantage of HMOVE programming tricks, such as Missile Command.  The HMOVE problem is more noticeable in other games if the system is modified to use a cartridge port.

BUG: OPcodes – at least 2 opcodes are known to not be supported by the FB2’s TIA chip: SBX and ARR.

BUG: Sound - there’s a design flaw in the fake TIA circuitry that affects the sound in a number of games.  The Atari version of Millipede is missing the ‘marching’ sound, the voice in Quadrun is missing, the robbers in Maze Craze don’t make any sounds, etc.

BUG: Sync - sync problems plague a number of games, such as Arcade Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, Battlezone, Caverns of Mars, Millipede (GCC version, which has too many scan lines for most NTSC sets – enough to be considered a PAL game), Space War, and Yars' Return, making them unplayable.  Owner's of TVs with vertical hold adjustments may be able to compensate for this. 

BUG: Flickering - the heavy flickering in the new title hacks is a result of poor programming; with the original titles, it’s a result of the system’s flawed processor.

BUG: Game incompatibility - A number of carts have shown to be incompatible to some degree with one or more system versions modified to have a cartridge port.  Most of the following games either use extra RAM, FE bank-switching, keyboard controllers (which aren't supported - they require 5v and the controller ports only output 3.5v.  Vendel actually mentioned you could hack your keyboard controller with some resistors to make it compatible!), or depend on special TIA programming tricks:

Airlock (picture rolls)
Alpha Beam with Ernie (requires Kid's Controller)
Astroblast (slight graphics problem)
BASIC Programming (requires Keyboard Controller)
Bermuda Triangle (ghosted player object on right side)
Berzerk (doesn’t run on some versions)
Berzerk VE (no voice)
Blue-Print (doesn’t run)
Boxing (doesn’t run)
Brain Games (requires Keyboard Controller)
Checkers (Activision) (doesn’t run)
Codebreaker (requires Keyboard Controller)
Conquest of Mars (severe issues)
Cookie Monster Munch (requires Kid's Controller)
Cosmic Ark (problem with starfield)
Cracked (title screen is a little garbled - crashes when you start game)
Crazy Climber (dotted lines on all the lower the window sills)
Crystal Castles (some gems never disappear allowing you to rack up thousands of points in seconds)
Cuttle Cart (doesn’t run)
Dark Chambers (doesn’t run)
Decathlon (doesn’t run)
Desert Falcon (ghosting problems)
Dig Dug (garbled graphics)
Elevator Action (crashes when you start game)
Fatal Run (crashes after a few seconds)
Galaxian (extra Galaxians; collision-detection with shots affected)
Gremlins (extra graphics on the bottom of scene 1 and on the top of scene 2)
Grover's Music Maker (requires Kid's Controller)
H.E.R.O. (doesn’t run)
Holey Moley (requires Keyboard Controller)
Hunt & Score/Concentration (requires Keyboard Controller)
Journey Escape (problem with starfield)
Jr. Pac-Man (dots don’t disappear when eaten)
Jungle Hunt (every time you jump on the cannibal scene, the scene resets, but the timer keeps running)
Klax (locks up on title screen)
Kool-Aid Man (player constantly bounces)
MagiCard (requires Keyboard Controller)
Mario Bros. (screen shakes every time you move)
Millipede (flickering/extra graphics; game keeps resetting)
Mogul Maniac (color bars on left side)
Monstercise (requires Keyboard Controller)
Off The Wall (locks up)
Omega Race (doesn’t run)
Oscar's Trash Race (requires Kid's Controller)
Peek-A-Boo (requires Keyboard Controller)
Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns (doesn’t run)
Plaque Attack (ghosted player object on left side)
Quadrun (no voice)
Radar Lock (locks up)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (graphics glitch on base of pedestal, Entrance room blast hole, and maproom)
Rampage (has small red lines in the lower-right corner, and above cars)
RealSports Baseball (a dot appears in the upper-left corner, and smaller dots appear on the left side every time a player moves)
RealSports Tennis (extra net graphics appear to the left of the net)
Robot Tank (picture rolls, screen shows “switching to reserve tank”)
Secret Agent (doesn’t run)
Secret Quest (when you start a game, you materialize inside a wall)
Skeleton+ (doesn’t run)
Snoopy & The Red Baron (“holes” in the mountain range graphics)
Snow White (game either has rolling picture, crashes, or garbled graphics – which can be cleared up by hitting reset)
Space Shuttle (picture rolls)
Sprint Master (garbled graphics)
Spy Hunter (garbled graphics)
Star Raiders (requires Video Touch Pad)
Stargate (doesn’t run)
Starpath Supercharger (doesn’t run)
Super Baseball (a dot appears in the upper-left corner, and smaller dots appear on the left side every time a player moves)
Super Football (garbled graphics – unplayable)
Swoops (doesn’t run)
Swordquest Waterworld (all the rooms are half white/half black in color)
Thrust Platinum (garbled graphics)
Tunnel Runner (picture rolls, no music plays, game locks up)
Tutankham (garbled playfield graphics)
Worm War I (ghosting problems)

BUG: Adventure 2 - the bat may drop objects inside walls.  The bat can also drop a dead dragon on top of you, trapping you inside it.

BUG: Adventure 2 - some of the colors are too dark in the 1st and 2nd versions (this was fixed in the later versions).

BUG: Atari Climber - the ball may be placed in the area where the HMOVE lines would normally be, making it unreachable.

BUG: Battlezone - parts of the radar display's outline don’t show up.

BUG: Battlezone – graphics are distorted along the left edge of the screen; however, a real cart doesn’t have this problem.

BUG: Caverns of Mars - the 4th level is impossible to finish because there’s no ending to the cavern, and no bomb.

BUG: Caverns of Mars - you can still continue shooting after you've been killed. 

BUG: Haunted House - the walking sound f/x continually plays.

BUG: Missile Command - a line appears above your missile inventory.

BUG: Pong - there are two spots where the ball goes through the paddles.

BUG: Quadrun - your shots randomly tend to disappear for no reason.

BUG: Secret Quest – one or more versions show garbled copyright text.

BUG: Yars’ Revenge - when the cannon appears, 2 Qotile appear (image doubles).

BUG: Yars’ Revenge - game #6 has some collision-detection problems.

BUG: Yars’ Revenge - you can sometimes wrap-around the screen.

BUG: The system doesn’t work with keyboard controllers (making any game that uses them unplayable).

BUG: If you turn the system on in the paddle menu and try to use the joystick, the game Off the Wall will appear.

BUG: The menu lists 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe as “3D Tic Tac Toe”, Adventure II as “Adventure 2”, Combat Two as “Combat 2”, and Dodge ‘Em as “Dodge’m”.

BUG: The manual has a number of errors regarding gameplay, controls, and options, such as mentioning Centipede is for 1 or 2 players (it’s only a 1-player game – this was fixed in a later revision), and that Space Duel has game variations with linked ships (aka “Space Station”, which it doesn’t).  There are also several typos in regards to names of games (“Yar’s” instead of Yars’, “Combat 2” instead of Combat Two, “3D” instead of 3-D, etc.).  The excuse given for these was, "The errors in the packed in manual were from the graphic arts/layout company that was used. They couldn't keep manual revisions straight for some reason (even though they were clearly labeled in the file names) and submitted a mishmash of revisions to the printer."  Exactly how many manual revisions were needed?

BUG: The screenshot on both the box and website for Lunar Lander looks nothing like the actual game and resembles a bunch of Photoshopped nonsense (pictures #6 and #7).

 

 


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