One of the best products to be unveiled at Gamescom 2023 isn't actually a game at all – it's a reimagined console. However, my first impressions of it were possibly as impactful as if I'd seen Grand Theft Auto 6 running on a Steam Deck 2
That's because the Atari 2600+ is a fully working and accurate replica of the first games machine I ever had access to. My family, like many others in the late 70s / early 80s, acquired an Atari VCS (as it was called at the time) and a handful of games. And, it cannot be underestimated just how important they were to both my subsequent lifelong hobby and eventual career.
The new model evokes fond memories, therefore, and more so than most "mini" games console re-releases of recent times. That's because, while it is 80% smaller than the original, the forthcoming Atari 2600+ is no locked device running pre-installed, emulated games. It plays the exact same cartridges I coveted as a kid.
There are a few updates for the modern world, of course (hence the "plus" in the name). It outputs video via HDMI for connection to today's TVs. And, there is a USB-C output for good measure. However, the controllers are identical to the original (you get one included in the box), even to the extent that they can be plugged into the port on an original machine. You can also add authentically recreated paddle controllers that are sold separately.
Alternatively, you can even play using original 70s and 80s joysticks, if you can find some where the rubber exterior hasn't perished. And almost all second-hand Atari VCS / 2600 games will work too – there's only a small handful that aren't yet compatible.
To get you started, the Atari 2600+ comes with a new cartridge of 10 games, although even that is authentically designed. You choose each game through dip switches in the rear of the cartridge rather than an on screen menu.
You'll soon find yourself hunting down further games, even newly-created ones like Mr Run and Jump (the game I played in my Gamescom demo).
Either way, the new Atari 2600+ is a slice of nostalgia that is so close to the original that it will hopefully bring you as much joy as it did me. I advise also popping Showaddywaddy on the record player and a Fray Bentos steak and kidney pie in the oven, just to get the full effect.