Too bad they didn't find more of the plug and play Astrocades, the ones shaped like the Astrocade controller, with all the games built in? Hands down that has to the be the best plug and play system ever made, much better than any of the Atari ones!
For those not aware, Michael is referring to this 11-year-old article:
Bally Arcade "Retro Astro" Handheld Unit by ToyMax!
By Adam Trionfo (April 1, 2006)
This week has been a busy one for me! I've obtained a production model of the "Bally Arcade" from Toymax, the company that is finally putting the Bally Arcade back into the hands of consumers. By the end of May, if you live in the U.S., you should be able to get your hands on one of these little babies at plenty of places (including Walmart!). Let me tell you, from my use of the production model, I think that all fans of the Bally Arcade will be pleased. There are a couple of nitpicky things that I have about it, but I'll get to those later.
The name of this new little monster is "Retro Astro." Personally, I think that, while the name is clever, they could have gone with something else. The name appeals to people who are already familiar with the Bally Arcade (aka Astrocade)-- and how many people is that? Not more than a handful in terms of the potential buying crowd. I haven't actually seen a production box (or any box, for that matter), but, while I hate to admit it, I hope that it is colorful and aimed at small children. It is the grandparents of these kids that are going to pick this videogame unit up for $19.95, sight unseen (not having a clue about what they are buying for their grandkid's birthday). Without tapping this potential market, who would buy this? The system is about thirty years old. Sure, there are the Atari versions of this little box (for instance, Atari Classics 10 In 1 TV Games-- also by Toymax), but these products are sold by name-brand loyalty and nostalgia-- both of which are in very short supply for this system.
Let me get to the function of this system. First off, the system all fits in a joystick, but it looks nothing like the original Bally controller. This one is obviously meant for smaller hands, and there is no "trigger" button. Am I sad to see the gun-style joystick go? Not at all! While that controller had its pluses, it also got uncomfortable after you used it for a while. This new joystick looks similar to the Atari 2600 controller, except that the joystick itself spins like a paddle. I'm not sure how they could have gotten away without the paddle feature, for it is used by the on-board menu and many games to select features (game number, lives, number of bullets, etc). I was worried at first that the controller was going to take some getting used to, and it did, but not nearly as long as I expected. After a couple of hours, I was using the controller like a pro. My biggest problem with the controller is that since the whole joystick-top spins like a paddle sometimes that interferes with the normal left-right-up-down motion of the joystick, but with a little patience, you'll get used to that too.
The "Retro Astro" plugs into your television using the standard audio-video cables that all the little hand-held units use nowadays. So, say goodbye to all the RF Interference! This opens up the possibility of getting decent screenshots of the included game using my computer's video card.
The biggest problem that I have with the "Retro Astro" is that it runs on batteries. Now, I know that quite a few of the handhelds do run on batteries, but it would have been nice to have a way to at least also plug the unit into a wall wart or something, but no such feature exists. On the plus side, the batteries do last for about eight hours.
There are twenty games included with the "Retro Astro." I can only guess that somehow Toymax now has the rights to these Bally games. You'll find your old favorites here like Wizard of Wor (you have to play one-player, so that takes half the fun away). You'll also find some real stinkers to, like Biorhythm
(it's not even Y2K compatible, come on!). The complete list of games is:
1) Amazing Maze
2) Astro Battle (Yes, they still didn't use the Space Invaders name)
3) Bally Arcade Demo (Not a game, but neat once or twice)
4) BASIC Demo (Again, not a game, but neat once or twice)
5) Baseball (Actually, the included paddle games are much better)
6) Biorhythm (even if it was Y2K compatible... Why?)
7) Black Jack / Acey Deucy / Poker (Pretty fun!)
Brickyard / Clowns (Classic-- great use of the paddle controller)
9) Calculator (Um, it's there in the ROM, but there is no keypad!)
10) Checkmate (Not the same without more than one player)
11) Cosmic Raiders
12) Galactic Invasion (Another gem)
13) Grand Prix / Demolition Derby
14) Gun Fight (Built into ROM)
15) Pirates Chase
16) Red Baron / Panzer Attack
18) Space Fortress (Great game)
19) Treasure Cove
20) Wizard of Wor (Another classic, but... only one player!?!)
If you check the list, you'll notice that one "game," Calculator isn't even usable-- but it does count toward the total of twenty games. Another two "games," BASIC Demo and The Bally Arcade Demo are also not games, but they counts toward the overall total. Also, the on-board ROM games count toward the twenty too (but, I guess that's okay as they are games). Noticeably missing are Artillery Duel and Dog Patch, but they are both two-player only games. There is one third-party game included, and that is Treasure Trove, which is now in the public domain.
The way that you choose a game is by picking it from a menu using the joystick and then pressing the fire button. Once you do that, it's like the system restarts by with the typical on-board menu that we're all used to. For instance, if you choose Space Fortress from the first menu, then you get the regular menu with Space Fortress as choice number one, which you then choose by turning the paddle (just as you would on the regular Bally Arcade). If you choose any one of the four on-board ROM games, then you just see the menu as if no cartridge were plugged in at all. This menu system is probably the best way that ToyMax could have gone.
The Astrocade really is emulated here (for the first time!) and after playing these games for most of the week to get a grip on this little item, I can't find anything wrong with the emulation. So, as far as emulation goes, Toymax did a first rate job. Now, let me get back to a few of the Nit-picky things that I talked about in the beginning of this article. Now, for $19.95 I shouldn't expect everything, but here is a list of what is missing and I wish had been included:
1) A little console like the Atari Flashback with a built-in keypad and "Astro BASIC."
2) A Cartridge slot (yea, I know, even the Flashback doesn't have that).
3) A second controller so that two-player only games could be played.
4) A selection of third-party games.
I know that the above list is asking a lot, but why not put it out there in case there is a "Retro Astro 2?"
So, in the end, this unit will allow us to play on a system that isn't going to overheat, and if nothing else, then that is great!
BTW: I'll be taking pictures of the unit and posting them in the next couple of days.
Note: This article was originally posting number 2934 on the Bally Alley Yahoo discussion group. It is an April Fool's joke; none of it is true (but wouldn't it be neat if it was?).
Edited by ballyalley, Mon Apr 3, 2017 9:53 AM.