Blaze Atari Handheld (60 game version with SD slot)

Started by davyk, April 06, 2022, 15:25:06 PM

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Handhelds really aren't the sort of thing I'm into - but - it's Atari - my first love. It also has Asteroids and 7800 games. Also has a microSD card slot so I picked it up. £18 and I had £4 on my shop loyalty card so why not.

At the price I wasn't expecting much and there are several shortcomings - but - this is kind of OK.

It has 60 built in games inc. 5 7800 games. It has an AV out for composite to a TV - haven't tried that yet - and a headphone output too.

Many of the games work fine. I continue to be baffled by the inclusion of paddle games though. They are next to unplayable and a waste of time. But there they are - inc. Super Breakout, Circus, Night Driver - all nice little games but unplayable without a spinner or equivalent. Even analogue sticks are useless.

However with non paddle games the control works well. It has a spongy dpad and 2 buttons (7800 games use 2 buttons). Missile Command requires good dpad control and it works just fine. 7800 Centipede is an excellent port and it's intact here and controls fine.

The screen is small but it works just fine - nice and clear.

Now the downside. Sound is crap. It's the one thing that cheap emus never get right and this is no exception. It doesn't really bother me that much. It's functional. And some games sound OK. Yars' Revenge - one of my favourites - sounds OK-ish (and is further proof that the dpad works well - as this game requires pretty accurate movement). The sound is no better with headphones.

Sprite multiplexing. Atari devs , trying to port arcade games like Pacman etc had to create a game well beyond the hardware's limits. So multiple sprites (>2) on the same vertical position have to be displayed on alternate frames - creating the infamous Atari flicker. Originally on a CRT isn't wasn't as bad as on modern screens because of the persistence of phosphor glow. But on this device in particular the sprites disappear for longer than they should - rendering some games unplayable - Pacman, Space Invaders are 2 examples - ghosts and bullets disappear for far too long to be playable. According to reviews the AV out image on a TV doesn't suffer from this - you get normal flicker - so the screen refresh rate must be screwing the game up.

Difficulty switches. There aren't any! And the default appears to be the B setting which is the easier mode in any 2600 game that uses them. This means - on 2600 asteroids - no ufos. What an idiotic decision. Clearly made by someone who knows nothing about Atari 2600. It also means some games are not playable - the ones like Space Shuttle which use them and the bw/color switch as controls.

Some of the 7800 games run too fast. Far too fast. Guess which one is unplayable? That's right - bloody asteroids. 7800 asteroids is still the best port of the game to a console that isn't an emulation. But they managed to screw that up here. Centipede plays just fine, as does the excellent Food Fight. But not Asteroids. Gnnnnnnnnn.

There are plenty of the better 2600 games missing because of licencing (though why Pacman is on here instead of the superior Ms. Pacman or Pacman Jr. is anyone's guess).

However the sd card slot comes to the rescue. It really does. I dumped the contents of my Harmony cart onto a card and stuck it in and they all work. Even the homebrew stuff.  The Activision games in particular play great on this unit. This is mainly because those guys were the elite Atari devs who left to get a better deal, but also because they didn't do arcade ports , which means they designed games to the strength of the console. So no flickering for example.

Being able to copy ROMs means I will be able to hack up a version of Asteroids set to difficulty A and other games that are similarly hampered by that.  Some tech videos on YT look at its innards and apparently the spec of this is decent enough so the thinking is the sound should have been better.... shrug.

I have tried the PAL60 roms I created for my PAL woody console and a few suffer from overscan (you lose  portion of the screen at the bottom). But one NTSC ROM (Pitfall) seems to have the wrong colours so I'm not sure what the emulator is doing re PAL and NTSC. Another YT video I saw showed the overscan issue absent when using the AV out. So another thing I need to try.

For £14 I can't complain, but this should have been the definitive 2600/7800 fan's handheld because of it's natty styling with fake woodgrain and the classic Atari joystick styled dpad and buttons.  2600 games when well presented with good control are perfect for handheld quick 5min blasts - and you need real buttons - damn mobiles.

This isn't a bad unit to own - even it's look makes it a nice thing to have on a gameroom shelf. Games that work well with the unit, work REALLY well and are a delight - but I won't be swapping out my real woody consoles any time soon.


I have one of these too, maybe I should load it up with homebrew games.

Own: Jaguar, Lynx, Dreamcast, Saturn, MegaDrive, MegaCD, 32X, GameGear, PS3, PS, PSP, Wii, GameCube, N64, DS, GBA, GBC, GBP, GB,  Xbox, 3DO, CDi,  WonderSwan, WonderSwan Colour NGPC