I was lucky enough for Atari to fly me out to their Atari spotlight event last week in Las Vegas to preview some of their upcoming titles and meet with some of Atari’s executives. Listening to the opening presentation it’s clear that Atari is changing corporate gears and even admitting that some of the games they had developed were a little half-baked. It’s also clear that this is a brand new Atari from a corporate perspective as most of the senior management has been with the company for less than 14 months and that the new goal of the company is to produce high quality games rather than the mediocre games that the company has been putting on shelves recently.
To do that, they are focusing on producing games by other developers rather than developing the games internally. They feel that the company does a better job of managing the projects of others rather than developing their own titles. For more information about the company’s restructuring you can listen to this interview I conducted with Atari Vice President of Sales and Marketing Nique Farors.
Once we were done with the executive overview we were given the chance to play some of their upcoming games and here are my impressions in somewhat random order.
Pat Sajack’s Lucky Letters (PC)–Pat Sajak’s name conjures images of spinning and letters and this game will just reinforce those notions. Instead of a wheel and a board jumble the game is actually more of what would happen if Pat’s Day job had a one night stand with a crossword puzzle. At the beginning of the game you get selected a number of letters which you think may appear in the puzzle and then begin the turns of playing though the game. At the beginning of a turn the player hits a button and is randomly given one of the clue to solve one of the words in a crossword like structure. You can also view the clue for the corresponding vertical or horizontal words to see if that helps you solve the puzzle. To help you solve the puzzle you are given the letters that are in the solution as well as a few extras to make it more of a challenge. After a certain number of turns you compete in the lighting round where you have to complete the puzzle in certain amount of time.
Much like the New York Times Crossword puzzle the game features five levels of difficulty based on the days of the week and when you complete five puzzles in a row you can play for a major championship. The game features 600 puzzles and over 30,000 clues but should take users quite a bit of time before they start seeing the same puzzles twice. While the game is only available on the PC right now I could see it making a small killing as a downloadable game on Xbox Live and whatever Sony and Nintendo have cooking for their consoles.
HOT PXL (PSP) – The best way to describe HOT PXL is to think of the game as Mario Ware for the PSP mixed one helping of European skateboard and digital cultures and then mixed with a hit of acid or two. The majority of the games last only eight seconds long so if you don’t like something you just have to wait a bit before something new comes along. The exception to the eight second rule is the “boss levels” which take a little longer but not much to complete. Examples of some levels include spraying a decal onto a shoe, tracing a tattoo on a woman’s back, and playing a custom version of breakout on the side of a sky scraper.
While the format of having users play large quantities of short mini-games is nothing new where HOT PXL breaks new ground is in its online component. The game will ship with 150 games on the UMD and another 50 games will be available for download the day the game ships. HOT PXL will also allow users to download new games, wallpapers, and podcasts to support the game. They game will ship with a PC tool that will allow gamers to sort and create playlists of their favorite games as well as manage the downloading of new content for the game. PSP owners will also be delighted to know that the game features very short load times.
The games themselves are a mix of re-makes of old Atari games like Breakout and Zaxxon as well as other new short form games. These aren’t full versions of the game but rather gameplay elements from them like bumping a block up to knock something loose or moving a ship along a 2.5 plane. The other mini-games are also interesting as they don’t come with directions and you’ll have to figure out how to use them. The team behind the game has already started to put some content online which you can check out here. The game is expected to hit store shelves in February 07.
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