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Jaks Paddle Review


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#1 carpecarne OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 12, 2006 8:49 PM

I know this product is a bit outdated with the Flashback 2 and everything, but I wanted to write my own review so people who are thinking about getting one can have another opinion to base their purchase on.

Here it goes:

I was really surprised. I thought it was going to be slow and buggy and look or sound nothing like what the games should be. I only got it because I'm out of town for a couple of months and I wanted to carry some of my beloved Atari games with me without bringing an additional suitcase.

First, nothing can replace the real thing: I am a firm believer of that, but if you need a compact paddle game system, this is your thing.

GRAPHICS: These are practically pixel for pixel replications of the games we all love (or hate) on the 2600. Everything from the eye-raping colors of the hockey variation on Video Olympics to the HMOVE lines on Demons to Diamonds are included. Being that this is not original hardware, I am very impressed. A+

SOUNDS: Not bad, but a NOAC cannot reproduce those "electro-springy" sounds like the 2600 can. Some games like Night Rider or Video Olympics are really close and it would be hard for a novice to notice the difference. Some like Super Breakout are pretty close enough and don't bother you too much. Others like Circus Atari and Warlords are really off and it almost sounds like nails on a chalkboard. On the brightside, your ear does adjust to them, and you really dont care because they have really awsome... (B-)

GAMEPLAY: I didn't think they could do it, but they did. Gameplay is uber smooth and feels like the real thing. I haven't opened it up yet, but i'm positive they have a real potentiometer in there controlling it. I have noticed no slowdown whatsoever and they play just like they should. A

OTHER: I wish Kaboom! could have been included or a Kaboom! lookalike (ah hem...Avalanche....I would have liked an Arcade Avalanche than a Arcade Pong), but whatever. I'll live. The extra games replicated with NOAC goodness are Arcade Pong and Arcade Warlords. I've played neither on their native coin-op machines so I can't say much. Only: i prefer the 2600 versions of Warlords and Video Olympics. Oh and the menu is really awesome too. Has the matrixes for the different variations of each game. Not a bad thing, considering I am discovering variations of games i never knew existed!

So in all I give it an A. It wont ever replace the original system (no 4 player warlords available...boooo!) but if you want a small little system to take with you on trips, this is the one!

#2 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 12, 2006 10:31 PM

Thanks for posting this review!

I have to say that I agree 100%. Within minutes of plugging in my Jakks paddle for the first time, I was convinced that the developers worked closely off of the original source code. Looking closely at the 2600 titles, I was blown away by the fact that the interesting little quirks that we all recognize (the HMOVE lines, the glitches in the players' movements in Circus Atari, etc.) have been PERFECTLY reproduced. It makes me believe that some sort of emulation is being used; I can't imagine how they could have gotten so close otherwise. As carpecarne points out, the graphics, the colors, and the visual effects are dead-on accurate. The sounds are a little bit off, but I've been playing these games for years and the minor inaccuracies didn't bother me at all.

I was especially impressed by Arcade Warlords and Arcade Pong. I've only played Arcade Warlords in MAME, but from what I can tell, the version built into this paddle is a perfect recreation of the coin-op; the graphics and sound are just outstanding, and playing an authentic game of Warlords on a real set of paddles (even if you're limited to one or two human players) is enough to justify the purchase price. I do have some experience with the Atari Pong coin-op (I own one, in fact), and this version is the best simulation I've seen since the one included with the Atari Arcade Hits compilation for the PC.

31581712_2_300_overview_1.gif

They even got the controller design right, in my opinion: the main controller (containing the batteries and the game logic) is bulkier than an Atari paddle, but it's comfortable to use and provides even smoother control than the original (no jitter here!) The two-player version (pictured above) includes a second paddle that is hardwired into the base unit, and it is an almost-perfect replica of the original. It's a fraction of an inch shorter, and the button is a little more square and feels a little different than the original button, but veteran players will feel right at home with it.

One of the things that has always puzzled me about the glut of TV games is that, even though the NOAC chipsets they use are theoretically capable of smooth and polished games, most of the games on the market are choppy and sloppy and have an almost unfinished feel to them. I have always suspected lazy and inept programming, and after my experiences with the Jakks paddle, my suspicions have been confirmed. The software in the Jakks paddle was developed by Digital Eclipse, and their expertise in emulator development is clearly evident by the outstanding quality of the games. They have demonstrated what this hardware is capable of in the hands of skilled developers, and manufacturers of inferior products (cough ... Intellivision 10-in-1 ... cough) no longer have any excuse.

Overall, I'd give this unit an 8.5 out of 10. It still ranks slightly below the Atari Flashback 2, simply because it does not contain the original hardware, but it does rank higher than the Flashback 1 and above every other NOAC-based offering on the market. I've seen them on sale for as low as $15 for the single-player version and $27 for the two-player version, and I highly recommend them both.

Edited by jaybird3rd, Thu Jan 12, 2006 10:55 PM.


#3 Room 34 OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 12, 2006 10:44 PM

Wow, it's cool to hear this. I've been thinking about getting one of these because I really WANT it to be good, but I pretty much assumed it would be crap. Now I guess I'll have to go get one!

#4 Albert ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 12, 2006 11:39 PM

I concur, the Jaks Paddle is quite well done and definitely worth picking up if you can find them anywhere (are they still being manufactured?) I know I saw them heavily discounted months ago. The games are very well reproduced, although 2600 enthusiasts will spot differences here and there (most notably with the sound, of course). But the gameplay is spot on, and it's obvious that the developers took their time to "get it right". And the paddles feel very good, and of course don't suffer from jitter. :D

..Al

#5 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 13, 2006 12:12 AM

I don't know if they're still being made, but I can tell you that my local Wal-Mart here in northeast Alabama still has a toy aisle full of them (the one-player model, anyway) for $15. I bought the last two-player model that my local KBToys had for $27. If they're getting scarce elsewhere, I might have to buy one or two extras before they all run out! :)

Speaking of one-player vs. two-player models, I opened up my one-player unit the other night and discovered some jumpers and a few contacts on the board that I believe can be used to add another paddle, changing the one-player unit into a two-player unit. I'll give it a try on mine over the weekend (if I find the time) and will report my findings.

#6 supercat OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 13, 2006 1:16 AM

The software in the Jakks paddle was developed by Digital Eclipse, and their expertise in emulator development is clearly evident by the outstanding quality of the games.  They have demonstrated what this hardware is capable of in the hands of skilled developers, and manufacturers of inferior products (cough ... Intellivision 10-in-1 ... cough) no longer have any excuse.

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One of the keys, I think, is having the game port done by someone who understands the original code works on the original hardware. A game like Combat doesn't use the 2600's hardware to do anything an NOAC couldn't, but there are a lot of subtleties in the game Combat which could only be reproduced by someone who understood exactly how the players move. Since NOAC resolution is neither 160 nor 320, I don't think the screen hardware could provide collision detection that pixel-precisely matched the 2600. On the other hand, it should be possible to use code to determine precisely when collisions would occur based upon the object positions. Too much for a 2600 to do in 2K running within the vertical blank (which is why the 2600 has collision detection) but no problem for a processor with more code and more time available.

#7 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 13, 2006 7:58 AM

One of the keys, I think, is having the game port done by someone who understands the original code works on the original hardware.  A game like Combat doesn't use the 2600's hardware to do anything an NOAC couldn't, but there are a lot of subtleties in the game Combat which could only be reproduced by someone who understood exactly how the players move.  Since NOAC resolution is neither 160 nor 320, I don't think the screen hardware could provide collision detection that pixel-precisely matched the 2600.  On the other hand, it should be possible to use code to determine precisely when collisions would occur based upon the object positions.  Too much for a 2600 to do in 2K running within the vertical blank (which is why the 2600 has collision detection) but no problem for a processor with more code and more time available.

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I'm sure they must be doing something like that, because sprite handling (or at least the paddle's simulation of it) is really close. Another thing that I'm sure was helpful is that, since the NOAC chipset contains a 6502-compatible processor, they were able to run at least some of the original game code on the 2600 titles and on the 6502-based Arcade Warlords (Pong of course had no game code).

I'd love to see the developers of the new series of Intellivision TV-game units take similar care in porting the original games over, but since the Intellivision was a much different piece of hardware (built around a ~895KHz CP1610), I'm sure it would be a more complicated process. Anything would be better than the handhelds they've got out now, though.

#8 else OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 13, 2006 10:00 AM

Thanks for posting this review!

I have to say that I agree 100%.  Within minutes of plugging in my Jakks paddle for the first time, I was convinced that the developers worked closely off of the original source code.


Wasn't the original source code for just about all the Atari 2600 games lost when Atari threw out a mainframe computer that they were stored on? Or is that just an urban legend?

Edited by else, Fri Jan 13, 2006 10:03 AM.


#9 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 13, 2006 10:48 AM

Wasn't the original source code for just about all the Atari 2600 games lost when Atari threw out a mainframe computer that they were stored on?  Or is that just an urban legend?

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That could very well be true; I don't know. I figured they disassembled the games and worked off of whatever code they got from that.

#10 Zwackery OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 13, 2006 11:02 AM

I'll also add my agreement to those posted here about the J-Paddle. It is well designed from a hardware perspective and the games are fun and well done. Actually, out of all the PnP games of Jakks that I own, this one gets the most use (plus, people see it and instantly go, "Atari, WOW!").

#11 ls650 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 13, 2006 2:02 PM

Curt Vendel wrote up a detailed review here:
Curt Vendel's review
I'd like to get one but I've never seen any in the stores...

#12 atwwong OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 13, 2006 6:42 PM

Curt Vendel wrote up a detailed review here:
Curt Vendel's review
I'd like to get one but I've never seen any in the stores...

ls650, if you can get to Richmond, check out the Lansdowne Park Shopping Mall Toys"R"Us... they had a bunch there last week on sale. If not, the Future Shop there may have a few left.

#13 ls650 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 13, 2006 9:59 PM

ls650, if you can get to Richmond, check out the Lansdowne Park Shopping Mall Toys"R"Us...

I assume you mean the Richmond near Vancouver. That might be kind of difficult, considering that I live in Mexico...

Edited by ls650, Fri Jan 13, 2006 9:59 PM.


#14 atwwong OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 13, 2006 10:35 PM

ls650, if you can get to Richmond, check out the Lansdowne Park Shopping Mall Toys"R"Us...

I assume you mean the Richmond near Vancouver. That might be kind of difficult, considering that I live in Mexico...

My error. Were you visiting our fair city?

I've noticed a few units available in a local (Vancouver) Future Shop and Zellers.  The price in Zellers was only $29.95 Cnd!

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Edited by atwwong, Fri Jan 13, 2006 10:39 PM.


#15 carpecarne OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jan 14, 2006 4:48 PM

I got mine off of amazon for 20 bucks. They have some used ones for 17 as well.

#16 ls650 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jan 14, 2006 4:58 PM

My error. Were you visiting our fair city?

Yes. I have family there. When I visited them at Christmas I bought an FB2.
Maybe I'll be able to find a Jakks paddle game when I return... in six months.

#17 NightSprinter OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jan 14, 2006 5:35 PM

Every Circuit City in the Orlando region I've been to has the 2-player ones for $10

#18 raskar42 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jan 15, 2006 9:32 PM

great hardware

middling software

needs kaboom

#19 Paranoid OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 2, 2006 10:11 PM

Seems like the Flashback 2 really makes this a mostly redundant purchase. Especially at the $30 I've been seeing them priced at locally.

$10 for the two player version, I'd probably pick one up.

#20 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 2, 2006 10:54 PM

Seems like the Flashback 2 really makes this a mostly redundant purchase.  Especially at the $30 I've been seeing them priced at locally.

$10 for the two player version, I'd probably pick one up.

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I actually think that it compliments the FB2 very nicely. One of the criticisms of the FB2 is that no new paddle controllers were released with it, even though it included paddle-based games. With the Jakks product, you get new paddles that are actually an improvement on Atari's originals, and with the notable exception of games like Kaboom and Solar Storm, just about every paddle-based game released for the 2600. On top of that, you get an implementation of the original Atari Pong coin-op that plays better than anything except the original, and a near-perfect version of Arcade Warlords. So it fills a significant gap left by the FB2, and at the discounted prices the one-player and two-player versions are being sold at now, it's a no-brainer for any FB2 owner.

Speaking of which, I haven't forgotten about my idea of making the one-player version into a two-player version through some jumper changes and adding an external paddle. My two jobs and my other obligations have just kept me from taking up my digital camera or my soldering iron recently, but I'll get to it soon.

#21 bedouin OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Feb 3, 2006 6:12 AM

I play all my 2600 games in emulation, but paddle games never really felt right using a mouse or other device, and I didn't feel like buying the appropriate adapters to use real 2600 paddles with my Mac. I found the Jaks Paddles and was pretty happy, though I have a few minor gripes that could cause me to just buy the real thing one day.

I wish the Jaks controllers had an option where the secondary paddle could be used for player one, because its size irritates me. Secondly, it's been probably 15 years since I last played with real 2600 paddles, but these just don't feel the same to me. I don't know if it's due to the software being different, or the controllers, but games I spent a lot of time with back in the day (Super Breakout) seem different, and I don't do as well as I did in the past. Sometimes the sound in Super Breakout ceases to function, but that could have been due to weak batteries at the time.

Also, I'm not particularly fond of the battery cover being attached with a screw. I'm sure it keeps the cover intact for some people, but I've never been careless enough to lose these types of things, and I hate getting a screwdriver every time the batteries need recharged or swapped.

All of that said, I paid $15 for the 2 player model at Circuit City a day or two before Christmas; I believe I bought one of the last units remaining. Don't get me wrong, I'm actually happy with the Jaks Paddles, but wanted to show some of my gripes with it.

Edited by bedouin, Fri Feb 3, 2006 6:13 AM.


#22 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Feb 3, 2006 8:55 AM

Don't get me wrong, I'm actually happy with the Jaks Paddles, but wanted to show some of my gripes with it.

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I have to agree with a lot of them. The need to run these dedicated TV games off of batteries has always bugged me. It isn't a problem unique to the Jakks paddles, either; TV games in general suck the life out of batteries, and they begin doing crazy things when the batteries get too low. I use NiMH rechargeables in mine so I'm not throwing away so many batteries, but it is still inconvenient to have to change them. When I (finally) open up my set of paddles again, I'm going to try wiring in a connector for an external power supply.

#23 Atariboy OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Feb 3, 2006 11:50 AM

I believe all Jakks Pacific tv games have the option of using an external power supply sold seperately that is available where these are sold (Wal-Mart's and such).

#24 jaybird3rd ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Feb 3, 2006 12:18 PM

I believe all Jakks Pacific tv games have the option of using an external power supply sold seperately that is available where these are sold (Wal-Mart's and such).

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I've seen the AC adapters, but there's no external power jack on the paddles. :(

Edited by jaybird3rd, Fri Feb 3, 2006 12:19 PM.


#25 bedouin OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Feb 3, 2006 1:39 PM

One other problem I have with the Jaks Paddles (and I suppose other units like them) is that they only include one RCA jack for audio. Yes, the 2600 was mono -- but that still doesn't mean people want to play the games with only one speaker working, especially if they have a home stereo setup. There's adapters to remedy this, but it's annoying.

I'm not a fan of the TV game units myself, but it's the easiest way to get something close to the original 2600 paddles.




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