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Atari Keychain Games from "Basic Fun": Stay Away!


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#1 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Aug 22, 2006 6:57 PM

I searched but didn't find anything conclusive, so forgive me if this has been talked about before.

B000GKY19K.01_A1WQRNT5P5WWSJ._SCLZZZZZZZ_V64239227_.jpg

I saw one of these on sale at Wal-Mart today (I picked a Centipede / Yars' Revenge unit like the one in the picture), and although my hopes weren't high, I figured I'd at least give it a shot. In the forty-five seconds I actually used it, I noticed the following:
  • The picture shows a battery holder with a blue Atari logo on it (there was no logo on mine, just black plastic). This holds the three AAA cells and the A/V cables, which wrap around the holder and plug into the joystick through a little jack. Not the most elegant setup, especially for something advertised as a "keychain game." I guess you're supposed to carry around the spool of wire in your back pocket. The power switch was apparently broken right out of the package, too; I had to squeeze it to get the unit to power up.
  • The joystick was so incredibly flimsy that I was afraid I would break it, and it tended to get stuck if I pushed it up or down. I can't imagine it surviving on a keychain for more than a few hours, and I can't imagine it being very easy to keep in one's pocket either. It would have been a lot more comfortable to carry around if they had shortened the joystick handle to about half its original height, which also would have made it easier to control with the right thumb. I thought it might at least be useful as some sort of hobby hardware project, but at $15 it isn't worth it. It isn't even worth it for $1.
  • Contrary to the claims on the package, the games are ***NOT*** "just like the real Atari originals." They're actually just like the nasty NOAC monstrosities in the Flashback 1 (who knows, maybe those were the "Atari originals" the package referred to). At a time when the original 2600 chipset has been reduced to a battery-powered glop-top, there's just no excuse for this anymore. How hard could it have been to take the Flashback 2 chipset and bundle it with two authentic 2600 binaries instead? If they just had to be cheapskates and use the same old NOAC, they could have at least put in a little effort and modified the original software for it (as Digital Eclipse did with the Jakks Atari 13-in-1 Paddle) instead of recycling their old crappy counterfeits. There was nothing on the package or the splash screens that indicated who did the games, but they look like the work of Techno Source to me.
  • The empty black space on the front of the joystick in the picture, to the left of the key chain and under the Atari logo, is actually a square red "menu" button (although you wouldn't know this without using it because it isn't even labeled). I'm sure it was left out of the picture to help improve the appearance of the joystick. I successfully used this button during Yars' Revenge to get back to the main menu, but it didn't work at all in Centipede; when I tried it, the screen just flashed a garish bright pink and reset the game. I had to switch the unit off and on again to get out of it.
  • A minor complaint (but one that shows they couldn't even get the small things right): after all the splash screens, my unit showed a main menu containing the Centipede and Yars' Revenge "arcade marquees," one on top of the other, and allowed me to move the joystick up or down and press the trigger to select my game. The problem is, the menu only indicates selection using alternate colors, which is totally non-intuitive in a two-option menu because moving the joystick just toggles the colors. As a first-time user, I ended up having to "guess" which one was selected. It turned out that red meant "selected" and blue meant "non-selected," but I didn't learn this until after I pressed the trigger. Very bad usability. An arrow or some other indicator would have been better.
Hopefully this will dissuade anyone who might be tempted to pick one of these up. I know mine is going back first thing tomorrow, assuming they'll take it. And to anyone at "Atari" who approved this thing and might be reading this: I would have preferred the Flashback 3, thank you very much.

Edited by jaybird3rd, Sat Sep 9, 2006 8:51 AM.


#2 SteveW OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Aug 22, 2006 8:28 PM

I played one at Brad Prillwitz's table at OVGE last Saturday, and I have to agree, they aren't good at all. The joystick was broken when I tried it out, making it difficult to play, the power was hard to turn on with the iffy power buttons, and the thing would act up if the power plug came loose. The games aren't original; the Ion Zone on Yar's Revenge lets you know that right away. Since the 2600 version of Centipede is so blocky anyway, it didn't look too far off the original. But Yar's Revenge graphics screamed Nintendo-on-a-chip. It's an amazing accomplishment to get games into that tiny case, it's just a shame that the games aren't more accurate.


SteveW's quick capsule review: Pass on it. I know that Curt Vendel worked hard to engineer these, and gameplay-wise they aren't too far off the originals, but the shoddy build quality almost guarantees they'll be broken in less than a month if you use them as an actual keychain. And $15 is a little too much to ask for the same games that have been put out in several different guises over the past couple of years. Get the Jakks full size joystick, the Flashback, or even better, the Flashback 2 if you want less breakable versions of these games.

#3 bcprs1 OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Aug 22, 2006 9:09 PM

Thanks for the warning. I'm a sucker for everything Atari and probably would have bought one.

#4 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Aug 23, 2006 9:43 AM

It's an amazing accomplishment to get games into that tiny case, it's just a shame that the games aren't more accurate.

SteveW's quick capsule review: Pass on it. I know that Curt Vendel worked hard to engineer these, and gameplay-wise they aren't too far off the originals, but the shoddy build quality almost guarantees they'll be broken in less than a month if you use them as an actual keychain.

First of all, I seriously doubt that anybody worked hard on these. I just took another quick look at mine, and I've revised and expanded my bitch list accordingly (see my original post).

If you had said "it's an amazing accomplishment to fit so many mistakes into that tiny case," I could have agreed wholeheartedly with you. Absolutely nothing about these units was done right: the concept is flawed, the implementation is flawed, the games are deeply flawed, and the price is totally ridiculous. I don't even like the packaging: it's deceitful (making false claims and featuring screenshots of the Atari originals and not the games in the actual unit), and I had to practically demolish the damn thing to get it open.

Edited by jaybird3rd, Wed Aug 23, 2006 10:48 AM.


#5 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 25, 2006 2:52 PM

How small are these? It's hard to tell from the pictures, since there's nothing there for scale.

Are the games the same versions as the Jakks 10-in-1 Atari sticks? Seems there have been many different takes on these now.

#6 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 25, 2006 3:03 PM

How small are these? It's hard to tell from the pictures, since there's nothing there for scale.

Are the games the same versions as the Jakks 10-in-1 Atari sticks? Seems there have been many different takes on these now.

I haven't measured it, but the base of the joystick is probably about an inch and a half square.

These are clearly built using the same NOAC hardware as the 10-in-1 joystick, but I don't think they're the exact same games. There are a few different keychains out there, and some of them have games that were not in the 10-in-1 (such as Millipede). There are also paddle keychains that I haven't tried, but they're probably just as bad.

#7 Retro Rogue OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 25, 2006 4:17 PM


SteveW's quick capsule review: Pass on it. I know that Curt Vendel worked hard to engineer these, and gameplay-wise they aren't too far off the originals, but the shoddy build quality almost guarantees they'll be broken in less than a month if you use them as an actual keychain.


First of all, I seriously doubt that anybody worked hard on these. I just took another quick look at mine, and I've revised and expanded my bitch list accordingly (see my original post).


Just to clear things up - while the origins of these may have been with Curt, that doesn't mean the finished product was. I'll just leave it at that (can't go in to any more), but add that knowing Curt he wouldn't have stood for a lot of that. Curt *did* work hard on the original proto.

#8 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 25, 2006 5:11 PM

I haven't measured it, but the base of the joystick is probably about an inch and a half square.

:o That's wicked small. Kinda too small to expect it to be any good, though. :twisted:

#9 Jacob Rose OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 25, 2006 7:07 PM

I haven't measured it, but the base of the joystick is probably about an inch and a half square.

:o That's wicked small. Kinda too small to expect it to be any good, though. :twisted:


I dunno, if the parts were made of titanium...and they cost $50 apiece... :)

Actually, if they used the FB2 chipset, and were durable, even at that price I'd buy one. :)

Has anyone tried the paddle version? Is it any better? I would think the paddle would be less likely to crush and break, just due to its shape.

#10 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 25, 2006 8:57 PM

Just to clear things up - while the origins of these may have been with Curt, that doesn't mean the finished product was. I'll just leave it at that (can't go in to any more), but add that knowing Curt he wouldn't have stood for a lot of that. Curt *did* work hard on the original proto.

I kinda figured that Curt would never have looked at one of these and said "Okay, this product doesn't need any more work, it's ready to ship just as it is." That's why I didn't mention him in my original response.

I won't ask you to comment further, but I imagine he probably did an original prototype (built around the FB2 chipset and using the real games) that was actually cool, and that when "Atari" heard his price, they said "Nah, this is too expensive, we need to put that money into our next great Marc Ecko game instead, so let's find 'Basic Fun' and have them build a cheapie NOAC version that we can charge too much money for."

#11 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 25, 2006 9:11 PM

:o That's wicked small. Kinda too small to expect it to be any good, though. :twisted:

I haven't gotten around to taking mine back yet (that's one of my errands for tomorrow), so maybe I can take a few pictures of it before I return it. I'll include a quarter or something in the picture so you can get an idea of the size.

One of these units built around the FB2 chipset would actually have been pretty cool. I probably wouldn't have played it too much as a keychain game, but at least I could have moved its guts and the batteries into a different case (an original CX-40 joystick, for example). As it is, though, there's nothing to do with the board inside except give it to somebody you don't like.

#12 Curt Vendel OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 25, 2006 10:18 PM

My original proto's (some people played the prototype at VGXPO in Texas last year) was actually the FB2 chip in a handheld controller --- this was the original design offered to Atari to license out...

The company that is producing these now - Basic Fun went ultra-cheapo and decided to use the NOAC and is using the FB1 games... as for the quality of the production units these guys are putting out pfffft......... these are NOT what my firm designed and submitted, these were obviously handed down to some back alley Asia firm to cheapo the hell out of, they are a disgrace...

So sad to say - what started out as a really nice product line - turned into a POS... At least some people at VGXPO got to play the real piece of hardware that played SUPERBLY....

Sorry guys - this one was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out of my control as its a 3rd party firm using a design I did for Atari.



Curt



SteveW's quick capsule review: Pass on it. I know that Curt Vendel worked hard to engineer these, and gameplay-wise they aren't too far off the originals, but the shoddy build quality almost guarantees they'll be broken in less than a month if you use them as an actual keychain.


First of all, I seriously doubt that anybody worked hard on these. I just took another quick look at mine, and I've revised and expanded my bitch list accordingly (see my original post).


Just to clear things up - while the origins of these may have been with Curt, that doesn't mean the finished product was. I'll just leave it at that (can't go in to any more), but add that knowing Curt he wouldn't have stood for a lot of that. Curt *did* work hard on the original proto.



#13 Curt Vendel OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 25, 2006 11:19 PM

This is the original design with Fb2 chip and running on 1 AA battery internal (no external battery pedestal) This was deemed too big and too expensive ($1.06 over budget which may not sound like much, but the original target cost was to be $10.99-$12.99 ---- Now I see the current units selling for $14.99 which means that the FB2 chip could've been used)


000_0064.jpg

Here is the Flashback 2 CX-40B with the initial FB2 proto unit running with internal battery with 4 games onboard, next is the reduced unit to final size spec's, our design - structural wise is MUCH more durable then the ones being sold now, I have been looking at several critical corners that were cut, most likely to save 1/100th of a penny of plastic and also the screws were moved, this is the key failure point, the positioning of the original screws was to add support for the PCB inside and also the high density oring that was spec'd for under the stick is missing in the final design which lends to the joystick having too much freeplay and making it very easy to damage. All this to cut perhaps 1.75 cents off the cost of the units and in the end costs the total quality of the unit, damned shame :-(


100_2554.JPG



Curt

#14 atwwong OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Aug 25, 2006 11:37 PM

In this case, reading information about how something could have been as opposed to how it is makes me sad. :sad: I think I'll go devour some ice cream or do something else to improve my spirits...

#15 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 26, 2006 12:40 AM

Sorry guys - this one was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out of my control as its a 3rd party firm using a design I did for Atari.

Well, as I said before, I never for a moment thought you would have signed off on them in their present condition. As soon as I saw it was based on the NOAC, I knew something was very wrong: this couldn't have come from Legacy Engineering, because why would they have gone back to the NOAC when they've already got the FB2 technology?

It really sucks that your original design was screwed up so badly by somebody else and then put into production anyway, and the price point totally baffles me. Your "expensive" prototype was still cheaper than the $15 unit that I bought, and that $15 was actually a reduced price; the original sticker price was $19.77! They've got a lot of nerve asking so much money for such a shoddy product, especially one based on technology that was made totally obsolete by the FB2 chipset, and it tells me that they're only doing it to make a quick buck off of unwitting consumers. I can only see this becoming a complete disaster for them, as if they needed another failure.

In any case, thanks for shedding some light on the subject, and for posting those pictures; the paddle proto in particular looks sooooo much nicer than the one I saw on the shelf. Either one of them would have been a pleasure to own. :sad:

#16 Atari Dogs OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 26, 2006 1:30 PM

Do they really expect you to put this on your keychain or is it just a gimmick? Maybe if the joystick could fold down when not in use, it would work. Anyway, it is a shame they decided to go this direction rather than the Flashback 3. When these are discounted for a couple bucks, maybe I will buy a few, get some spray paint and make some colorfully Christmas ornaments.

#17 Retro Rogue OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 26, 2006 2:35 PM

I think I have a new catch phrase for these - "Plug and Suck".

#18 purenergy OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 26, 2006 3:06 PM

I saw the Atari Keychain games two days before OVGE, and decided to offer one as a prize, so I bought 2 of them. The Joystick that I had on display had several people asking "does it really work?." So, I plugged it in and watched the joystick slowly disintegrate! Several gamers enjoyed it, while others just watched. Fifteen bucks for a very poorly made "Plug N Play", that will be used as a key-chain only.
(Keep an eye out for this item to be reduced.)

#19 christianscott27 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Aug 26, 2006 3:24 PM

I'm not sure where to put these type of plug n' play devices in my collection. I was excited when they first started way back with the activision 10 in 1 but still... I'm one of those atari collector geeks who has the real deal hardware ready to play at anytime. I kinda feel bad about people who might have fond memories of atari and then pick up one of these clunkers and conclude that atari always sucked. Oh well it really should come as no suprise, if it looks like crap, plays like crap it probably is crap. I've come to the point now where I'm only picking these sort of things up for $5 or less, like if I see one at a yardsale and theres nothing else interesting to buy. I cant place them in my collection since they're from this year and not the classic era.

#20 Lord Helmet OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Aug 28, 2006 8:04 AM

I'm not sure where to put these type of plug n' play devices in my collection.


I know what you mean. I just sold the entire lot of mine, except for the FB2 and the original Ms.PacMan stick (because I like the twisty joystick for pole position). they were cool at first, but most of them aren't worth the plastic.

#21 Jacob Rose OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Aug 28, 2006 11:18 AM

I wonder why they didn't make the battery holder look like a miniature 2600. The proportions would ahve been about right, and they could have had the reel for the cord fall behind a "woodgrain" flange in front. That would have been kewl. That, and quality production values...by the way, I wrote to the company and told them I'd been reading reviews of their product, and how sorry I was that I would not be buying one due to the durability issue, and proposing that they work on a "premium" version that would last. They wrote back with the following; I'm assuming that they're referring to Curt's team, which is mean-spirited and way off base, as evidenced by the FB2!

Hi Jacob,

You should buy one and judge for yourself. The negative comments are being made by an "engineer" that worked on the project, but could not finish it. He didn't have the know how to deliver what he promised. The Atari games were done directly with Atari, who not only approved the product, but is quite happy with the results. Do you think Atari would allow a product with their name and games to go to market if it was substandard?

Thanks for your comments on a "premium" product. It is out there - splurge and find out for yourself.

Basic Fun


If they're reading this forum, hi guys - I really do hope you make a high-quality version!

Jacob

#22 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Aug 28, 2006 12:01 PM

Hi Jacob,

You should buy one and judge for yourself. The negative comments are being made by an "engineer" that worked on the project, but could not finish it. He didn't have the know how to deliver what he promised. The Atari games were done directly with Atari, who not only approved the product, but is quite happy with the results. Do you think Atari would allow a product with their name and games to go to market if it was substandard?

Thanks for your comments on a "premium" product. It is out there - splurge and find out for yourself.

Basic Fun

:-o

WHO DO THEY THINK THEY'RE KIDDING ?!

So now Curt is an "engineer" who doesn't have the know-how to finish a project or deliver what he promises?! Is that what "Atari" said to them when they handed over his keychain prototype and told them to turn it into a nasty piece of crap? I guess that means the FB2 must have just appeared out of thin air somehow despite the bumbling efforts of that so-called "engineer" Curt. Boy, I don't know about you, but I'm so glad "Basic Fun" came along to set the record straight about what's really been happening ... up until now, I actually believed that Curt was the one building all this cool stuff! What was I thinking???!!!

Seriously, everybody, I think it's time to BOYCOTT the "Atari" keychain games RIGHT NOW if you haven't already decided to do so. Comments like that, directed at somebody who delivered a successful product (about the only one to come out of that worthless company masquerading as Atari) only to have his ideas ripped off by some cheap Chinese junk factory, are just WAY out of line!

Edited by jaybird3rd, Mon Aug 28, 2006 12:34 PM.


#23 JamesD OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Aug 28, 2006 12:38 PM

This is the original design with Fb2 chip and running on 1 AA battery internal (no external battery pedestal) This was deemed too big and too expensive ($1.06 over budget which may not sound like much, but the original target cost was to be $10.99-$12.99 ---- Now I see the current units selling for $14.99 which means that the FB2 chip could've been used)
.................................................
Here is the Flashback 2 CX-40B with the initial FB2 proto unit running with internal battery with 4 games onboard, next is the reduced unit to final size spec's, our design - structural wise is MUCH more durable then the ones being sold now, I have been looking at several critical corners that were cut, most likely to save 1/100th of a penny of plastic and also the screws were moved, this is the key failure point, the positioning of the original screws was to add support for the PCB inside and also the high density oring that was spec'd for under the stick is missing in the final design which lends to the joystick having too much freeplay and making it very easy to damage. All this to cut perhaps 1.75 cents off the cost of the units and in the end costs the total quality of the unit, damned shame :-(
................................................

Curt

This sounds a lot like the C64 DTV stories. The Chinese engineers changed the design to remove needed capacitors just to save money and then wondered why it didn't work.

#24 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Aug 28, 2006 1:33 PM

If by "boycott" you mean "don't buy it," well -- yeah. That's my default setting for poorly-made, exploitative crap. In case you haven't noticed, that describes lots of the retro game cash-ins we've seen over the years. Quality toys like the Flashback 2 are the exception to the rule.

A "boycott" isn't going to be particularly effective. Why? Because the people who buy this crap from Wal-Mart and Hot Topic aren't scouring the AtariAge boards for opinions and reviews before spending fifteen bucks on funny little toys. Basic Fun knows this and they'll make their $$ with or without us.

#25 jaybird3rd OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Aug 28, 2006 2:08 PM

If by "boycott" you mean "don't buy it," well -- yeah. That's my default setting for poorly-made, exploitative crap. In case you haven't noticed, that describes lots of the retro game cash-ins we've seen over the years. Quality toys like the Flashback 2 are the exception to the rule.

You're right ... those of us who care that these are poorly-made and untrue to the original games have already made up our minds not to buy. But even those who don't care about those things should still refuse to buy them because of the unfair comments Jacob Rose cited above. Any company that spreads lies like that doesn't deserve anyone's hard-earned money, even if it is only $15 to $20.

A "boycott" isn't going to be particularly effective. Why? Because the people who buy this crap from Wal-Mart and Hot Topic aren't scouring the AtariAge boards for opinions and reviews before spending fifteen bucks on funny little toys. Basic Fun knows this and they'll make their $$ with or without us.

True, but people are being ripped off, and I still think it's only right to do as much as possible to get the word out. Fortunately, nobody has to scour the AtariAge boards to be duly warned: if you do a Google search for the words atari keychain right now, this thread shows up at the top of the list. It's possible that those who don't even know about AtariAge can find their way here just by doing a little research.

Edited by jaybird3rd, Mon Aug 28, 2006 2:14 PM.





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