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Satisfying Nostalgia Brick by Brick – Review Geek

Satisfying Nostalgia Brick by Brick – Review Geek

Assessment:
9/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute hot garbage
  • 2 – Sort lukewarm rubbish
  • 3 – Severely flawed design
  • 4 – Some advantages, many disadvantages
  • 5 – Acceptably imperfect
  • 6 – Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 – Great, but not best-in-class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with some footnotes
  • 9 – Shut up and take my money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $239.99

A LEGO Atari set with three 3d levels
Josh Hendrickson/Review Geek

Despite being a child of the 80s, my earliest memory of video games centers on the Atari 2600. When I was a kid, my family would visit my aunt, who happened to have an Atari. And with it I got my first taste of gaming. The LEGO Atari 2600 captured those memories perfectly.

Here’s what we like

  • So much nostalgia
  • The joystick actually moves
  • Pop up 80s room

And what we don’t do

  • Expensive
  • Something fragile

I couldn’t have been older than six or seven when I first held the joystick and tried my hand at the excruciatingly difficult Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back game. I haven’t thought about it in decades; the memory was almost faded. But building the LEGO Atari 2600 brought it all back. If you’re even older than me or someone who really appreciates retro consoles, you’ll find a lot to love about this LEGO recreation. If you can get through some of the tricky bits.

A building process rated for adults

I’ve built quite a few LEGO sets at this point (although I don’t have any on my wife) and most of them have been rated 18 plus due to my interests. But while LEGO generally does an excellent job of age-rating their sets, you can never be sure of the difficulty level of those designed for adults.

For example, the Bonsai Tree and Piano are rated 18 and up, but they weren’t too difficult to build. The piano is more boring than anything, as is the typewriter. On the opposite side is the LEGO Nintendo Entertainment System, a challenging build that can have you redoing several steps if you’re not careful.

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I’m not ready to say that the Atari 2600 is as difficult as the NES, but it’s up there. The instructions will have you using several advanced techniques to get the quirky angles that make up the console. Look at the sides and where the power buttons are, and you’ll notice they’re almost triangular. LEGO bricks don’t usually form that shape naturally.

I found myself repeating steps where the instructions weren’t quite clear enough. And the final build is a bit fragile in a way I don’t think it should be. I’m pretty sure I still got a few steps wrong, most likely pulling out bricks to correct a mistake made several pages ago.

Again, I’m not the most experienced LEGO assembler; my wife introduced me to the wonders of LEGO and can build circles around me. But neither am I new, and overall it took me several hours over several days to complete the build. I suspect LEGO realized that construction was also becoming challenging, as it chose to break up the process with small 3D vignettes of game levels.

It’s a great touch, and in some ways highlights the best parts of the build process. Often little surprises would pop up and you wouldn’t be sure where LEGO was going with the next steps until it all came together. Hidden inside the console, for example, is a fun retro arcade scene that pops up when you slide the top of the console up.

Even though I assembled the game room and all the components that make the “pop-up” action happen, my mind still couldn’t wrap my head around how it worked. It felt like magic and I had to go back and look at what I was doing. It’s such a nice little moment and the process was so fluid that I didn’t fully understand what I had achieved until afterwards. Overall, it’s a fun, but challenging, build.

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Retro from start to finish

Let’s be honest; if you’re interested in the LEGO Atari 2600, it’s because of a sense of nostalgia. And LEGO knows that because there are so many satisfying details that hit you right in the memory. The set could have been just the console and nothing else, but that might have left you wanting a little. So luckily that’s not the case.

Throughout the build, you will work with cartridges that come with the console and small 3D vignettes from these games. My favorite of the bunch is Asteroids, but that may be because it’s the most famous of the three included “games”. LEGO did an admirable job of recreating a small spaceship blasting asteroids, and it’s just fun to watch on its own.

The game cartridges are also a nice touch, especially since they fit into the console. But I also like the “wooden” case you build to hold the games. LEGO managed real precision with the design as the games fit perfectly in there and still snug. You don’t have to struggle to get them to slide in, but they also don’t feel wobbly or out of place.

But when it comes to “accessories”, my favorite part is the joystick. LEGO could have designed a static joystick that just looked good, but I’m happy to say there’s more than meets the eye here. While the button is unfortunately just a static round piece, the joystick moves. Shifting up, down, left, right and diagonally is satisfying. The mechanism inside is also quite clever, somewhat mimicking the components of a real joystick.

And as a bonus, you’ll also build a small game room that slides into the console. It’s a lovely piece of 80s nostalgia, filled with little touches like a soda can, an old phone, a CRT screen and posters. In case you’re wondering, “Johnny Thunder” isn’t just another style reference Indiana Jones. He also calls back to the minifigure of the same name found in several Adventurer-themed sets.

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LEGO nailed the “wooden” and vented look for the Atari as well, and you have to appreciate the number of printed parts that went into this. The Atari logo, control panel and more are all printed parts, adding an unusual number for a set. However, that doesn’t mean you can escape stickers, which can be found on all cassettes, vignettes and posters. It’s a shame these couldn’t be printed pieces too, but it already had quite a few, so not too surprising.

Even the instructions are a joy to look at, somehow harkening back to the catalogs of the 80s.

Do you need anything other than the LEGO Atari 2600

At $239.99, the LEGO Atari 2600 isn’t the cheapest around. But it’s pretty much on par with sets aimed at adults. It’s not quite as interactive as the LEGO NES, but chances are you either grew up with one system or the other (if you grew up with either). I found the NES more challenging to build, so if you’re new to LEGO, this might be the safer bet.

At the current price, you’re paying just under 10 cents per brick, which is a bit on the high side, but not unexpected for a licensed set. And of course, LEGO announced prices on many sets will go up later this year, so that’s also worth keeping in mind.

Overall, it’s a fantastic set with tons of fun details and concepts. You might learn some new building techniques along the way. You should buy it if you are a LEGO fan and a gamer. Especially if you’ve ever played with an Atari – it takes you right back to your childhood.

Assessment: 9/10

Price: $239.99

Here’s what we like

  • So much nostalgia
  • The joystick actually moves
  • Pop up 80s room

And what we don’t do

  • Expensive
  • Something fragile

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