Category: reviews

Hot chocolate

I like to drink hot chocolate. That’s not unusual, lots of people like to drink hot chocolate.

I have a problem. I cannot make a decent cup of hot chocolate. I mean, OK, I can, it just takes more effort than it should.

It’s 2024. This should be a solved problem. Maybe it is, but I can’t figure it out.

I used to boil water, add cocoa powder, and drink it, and that was fine. But a few years ago I learned that hot chocolate made with milk is a lot better. And I started getting picky about the cocoa mix and caring about the ingredients list. This would prove my undoing.

I went to one of those fancy coffee shops, one that wasn’t a chain. It seemed like a well run business. One that I could respect and feel good about spending money in, and was worth driving farther and spending more to go to. They didn’t just make tea and coffee for you and sell it to you for consumption right there. You could also buy the stuff and take it home and make it for yourself. That seemed convenient. I bought a container of real cocoa powder which I believed would make an authentic, superior cup of hot chocolate, and felt confident that whenever I was at home and the mood struck me, I would be able to reliably produce a satisfying cup in a short amount of time with convenience, enjoyment, and minimal mess.

I wasn’t even a third of the way to shangri-la. Or wherever the fuck you can get a good hot chocolate at home. Let me tell you.

Heating milk is more complicated than heating water. With water, you basically can’t fuck it up. You get a container, you fill it with water, you apply heat, the water gets hot, you’re good.

With milk, things are complicated by the sugars, fats, and proteins in the milk and how they react to being heated up. Basically, you don’t want to get the milk too hot. You can scorch the milk, and the milk will get this disgusting skin on the top. Scorched milk creates like an advanced polymer bond with the walls of the heating vessel, and you basically need to take out a grinder and polish the shit off to get it clean again, or I guess if you want to you accept defeat gracefully you can just learn to love the brown stains on the insides of your heating vessel. It’s up to you, it’s a free country.

Me, I want to finish with my cleanup and be indistinguishable from the starting state, so that I can preserve a sense of eternal youth and renewal. Building up brown scorched milk on the inside of a sauce pan that I could just throw out and replace every so often when I grew sufficiently disgusted with it is not an approach to life that I would consider. I mean sure the metal could be recycled, but I take it seriously when you buy a pan and they tell you it will last you the rest of your days and can be handed down to future generations. Apparently this means I am hard to please and may never truly be happy.

Anyway, for a while I tried using a sauce pan and put it on my gas range, turned the heat on low and tried to eyeball it to see when it seemed warm enough to use to make hot chocolate. I quickly learned that the human eyeball is not an ideal instrument for measuring temperature. I tried dipping a finger into the milk at various points and learned that this was also not optimal. It occurred to me that there were thermometers, so I tried using one of those. This was a bit of a breakthrough, as it it afforded a repeatable, reliable method of quantifying temperature. I could even leave the thermometer in the milk and monitor its temperature in realtime. This was the start of something.

You might be wondering why I didn’t try using a microwave oven. I don’t own a microwave oven, because fuck microwave ovens. So that ruled out using a microwave oven. Microwave ovens are not for me.

I recognized that a key to hot chocolate happiness would be if I could create a good cup consistently, and that knowing the number of the temperature would be a prerequisite to achieving this. So I wasn’t exactly sure what temperature I should be targeting, but I knew that through trial and error and many thermometer readings I would be able to quickly hone in on the ideal temperature for hot chocolate, my way.

Very early on, I learned that a boil was definitely not necessary. I also learned that bringing the milk to temperature quickly was not necessarily in the best interest of quality. Rather, you want to bring the milk to temperature slowly, gradually, and if you can do this it helps to reduce aggravating the proteins and causing them to turn brown and form that gross skin.

I came to recognize that heating milk on the stovetop was going to be a lot of work. Or rather, would require that I watch the milk like a hawk, and take great care to ensure that I turn the burner on to the precise level that wouldn’t heat the milk too quickly. And that was not easy, because I have a pretty basic oven that was built to be cheap and last a long time and be reliable and safe, but not necessarily be the easiest to dial in to the exact same flame level every single time you turn it on.

Maybe there was another way.

I considered an electric kettle. I had used them to heat water and they worked well for that, although as we’ve already established, that’s a lot easier. But what I liked about the electric kettles is that they have built-in temperature setting and will shut off reliably at the desired temperature. So I thought, why not use an electric kettle.

I tried one, and found that unfortunately most of them are engineered to bring water to temperature as quickly as possible. The way this works, apparently, is that there’s a heating element at the bottom of the kettle, which turns on and heats up to a temperature well in excess of the set temperature you’re trying to get the water to. The heating element then dumps heat into the mass of water contained within the kettle, and through convection the water heats up to a uniform temperature, although probably at any given moment the water very close to the heating element is probably much hotter than the average temperature of the water throughout the kettle. So — you guessed it — this temperature is high enough that it will cause chemical changes in the milk proteins, resulting in scorching and that yucky skin.


Further product research led me to knowledge of the existence of another type of device, called a milk frother. These are used by coffee aficionados, of which I am not one, to produce specialized coffee that use heated milk. That sounded promising. These frothers didn’t just heat the milk up, though, they agitated it to create a foam. This was irrelevant to me, but wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I researched an eventually bought one. A Maestri House CJG8XLAFV Integrated Milk Frother MMF9201 – Moonlight White. It seemed like it would do the job. It was a small unit, holding 400ml of milk, which was just the right amount for a single cup. And since I’m not running a restaurant, and am not a glutton, or a frequent host of hot chocolate parties, that seemed like the right amount for me. It had target temperature settings of 120, 140, and 160 degrees. Fahrenheit, of course. And it was only about $60. I thought for sixty bucks, it would probably solve all my problems. I felt excited, an impending happiness that I had not yet known.

I bought the thing. And it was delivered to my door a few days later. I opened up the package and tried it out. And I learned some new things about the subjective sensation of temperature which frankly I had not been expecting, and therefore surprised me.

First, let me say that the Maestri House design seems pretty smart. The heating element is contained within a base, which you can mount the kettle on, so the heating element is not directly in contact with the milk, which is for the best, and honestly a really good idea. The inside of the container has a little spindle in the center, and on this spindle you can mount a little wire agitator, which spins while the unit is in operation, stirring the milk, and generating the froth. It’s really clever. There is no mechanical linkage that causes this thing to spin. It seems to be done through magnets and a current generated by the electricity in the heating element. So no mechanical linkage means a completely sealed container that doesn’t have a chance of leaking.

That is, unless you overfill the container. See, as milk froths, it occupies a greater and greater volume. And also as the agitator spins, it creates a vortex and the resulting centrifugal forces acting on the milk cause it to climb up the walls of the container, like a frothy milky tornado. And if you add too much milk, this tornado threatens to, can, and will, escape over the top of the kettle. Which is a problem. You don’t want that. So, to hopefully avoid this problem, the designers at Maestri House thoughtfully and helpfully put a mark on the inside of the vessel that says “Max Fill”. As though to suggest that when adding milk, the level should not exceed this level, lest you run the risk of spillage.

Here’s the thing about that. They put the Max Fill mark too high. Or, they made the walls of the kettle too low. Either way, if you put in that much milk, it will overflow. The kettle has a lid, but the lid isn’t really sealed, and milk will make its way out, spilling over the top. And if you weren’t watching, you’ll find that your milk frother is sitting in a big puddle of warm milk on your countertop. And this is a major inconvenience. If you have homeowner insurance, make sure that it covers you against milk tornadoes. If it doesn’t, then you better fill the frother well below this mark. What’s a safe level? Well, you can try to figure that out, and then try to remember it each time you use it.

I thought I’d try just not using the frother. Who needs froth? I just want warm milk. So I removed the agitator, and the manual says that it’s not needed. The thing I found out about that is that without the action of the frother, the milk doesn’t really circulate. So what ends up happening is, the milk close to the heating element in the bottom heats up to the temperature it’s set for, and convection alone doesn’t mix this milk around and result in even heating. The rest of the milk, not adjacent to the heating element, ends up remaining cool. And so the average temperature of the milk ends up being well below the set temperature. And then when the unit reaches temperature and turns off, it turns out that the milk temperature is really well below what you were going for. So, really, it turns out that you really better use that frother to stir the milk so that the warmer milk would mix and evenly heat up the entire volume of milk in the kettle.

But wait. There’s more. It’s not enough that the thing overflows. It also doesn’t feel like it’s as warm as the indicated temperature. Like, if I put water in my electric tea kettle, and set the temperature to 140, I get water that feels like it’s pretty warm. If I stick my finger in it, it feels hot, and I can’t stand to do it for more than a very brief amount of time and I’ll burn myself if I try to do it longer.

With the milk frother, the same temperature feels almost cool. It’s warm-ish, but it’s not going to burn me. If I put my finger in it, or gulp it down, I feel like it’s just barely warm enough to count as warm and not disgustingly tepid. The reason for this, I have come to believe, has to do with the froth. The milk itself might be the temperature indicated, but all the air that has been mixed into the milk by the frothing action isn’t hot. And it’s a considerable amount of air. And it cools the milk down rapidly, and the result is that room temperature air mixed with hot milk results in milk that feels cooler than it really is. You get a sensation of the average temperature of the air and the milk together. So 140F, which could scald you if it was just the milk, ends up feeling like maybe 90F, which is not hot. The Maestri House frother maxes out at 160F, but this feels like maybe 120F. If you drink the hot chocolate immediately and quickly, this is maybe acceptable. But it’s really at the bottom end of the range of what’s acceptable.

The one thing I’ll give the frother credit for is that it doesn’t scorch the milk, and I don’t get a skin on the surface. However, the sides of the kettle do end up getting kind of a thickened milky slime that you’ll want to wash out after every use. So that’s not really great. Like, of course I’m going to need to wash the thing out after use. But if I don’t do it immediately, this milk scum is going to dry out and harden, and make cleaning it much harder. It’s way better to rinse the thing out before that happens, so you quickly learn that you need to do it immediately after pouring the milk into your mug. So then you spend a minute or two rinsing out the kettle, and by the time you’ve returned your attention to the mug, you find that the milk has already cooled to a temperature that basically sucks for enjoying hot chocolate.

I came up with an ingenious hack that works around this, but it feels convoluted and wasteful. Nevertheless, I will share it with you. It involves heating the mug. The easiest way to do that is to pull it out of the dishwasher as soon as the dishwasher is done washing it, and everything in the dishwasher is hot as fuck. If you don’t have a dishwasher, you can also just heat some water to boiling, put it into the mug, wait for the water to transfer heat to the mug and get it nice and warm, and then dump the water and replace it with hot frothy milk when the milk is ready. That way, the milk will stay warmer because it doesn’t end up getting heat sucked out of it by the un-warmed mug.

The downside of this hack is that you end up running two different kettles, one for water, one for milk, and you end up feeling like this is wasteful because you’re just throwing out hot water. But you do get a halfway decent hot chocolate this way. It’s just a lot more effort than it should be. You have to fill the milk kettle, not too much, and you have to time the water so it’s hot sooner and fill the mug with it and give it time to warm up, when dump the water, wipe out the inside of the mug so it’s dry, refill with milk, rinse the milk kettle, add cocoa powder, stir. And only then do you get to enjoy.

At that point it’d be easier to walk down to a coffee place and order one. This gives you the illusion of possibility that you might have a social interaction, which could be rewarding. Only that never happens. Nobody talks to people. Just the barista, but they’re just taking your order. And now you had to get dressed and look presentable. And while that may help you feel human and allow you to believe that you’re a functional member of society, it’s just more effort and doesn’t actually pay off in any real way.

So. I’ve been through a lot. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve experienced and grown. And yet, I don’t feel like I’ve reached my goal. I feel like I’ve invested capital and time, and yet what I have to show for it still leaves much to be desired. It’s taken up way more of my time than I ever thought it would, and still I don’t have the success that seemed so straightforward and achievable when I set out.

MyArcade Atari GameStation Pro hands-on

I pre-ordered the day it was announced, 7/31/2023. The original ship date was supposed to be 10/1; this was quickly moved up to 9/1. My delivery date was supposed to be 9/5. 9/5 came and I still didn’t have a shipping number; Amazon finally acknowledged there was a delay. The listing on went offline for a few weeks, then came back, with a new launch date of 10/31.

I started hearing a few weeks ago (early October) that units had showed up in Costco and were selling for 20% off. I still didn’t have a shipping number from Amazon. I don’t have a Costco membership, so it didn’t do me any good, but then I heard that these were at Target retail stores, so I went to my local store and they had them. I canceled my order with Amazon, who were still telling me that they were delayed in shipping these and couldn’t tell me the truth about a shipping date. Always 2-3 days from the point I contacted customer service to ask for an update on when my order would ship.

I bought one at Target, and played it a bit today, and I’m not as impressed as the reviewers who received advanced copies of the system were. In fact, I’m totally disappointed.

The main problem seems to be with the controllers. They do not feel good.

Previewers said that they had some weight and felt like quality sticks, and gave me a false hope that this system would be worth buying. I don’t agree. The joysticks are lightweight and while not exactly flimsy, they don’t feel robust, either, and the joystick switches do not have satisfying travel, and buttons do not have satisfying click. The joystick sensitivity felt off, and I didn’t feel like I had the fine control that I expected — and received — from original hardware.

Worse, the tiny buttons on the base of the stick which are used for menu, game select, and start, are prone to accidental presses, which can abruptly end the game in progress and restart it or return you to the main menu. This is a disaster for user experience — a game should never be one easy accidental button press away from being abruptly ended.

And many of the games MyArcade picked to include in the system’s built-in library simply are not well suited to the controller.

All of the Atari 5200 games are seriously compromised by the fact that the GameStation joystick doesn’t have a 10-key pad like the original 5200 joystick, nor does it have an analog joystick. You can’t play a game designed for play with an analog stick with a digital joystick worth a damn. And any functions that depend on the 10-key pad are simply not supported at all. RealSports Baseball is a decent game on the 5200, but on the GameStation Pro it’s terrible — batting relies on the analog stick, and the 10-key pad is critical for pitching and fielding. It’s a tragedy — the Atari 5200 had a decent library of games, and most people don’t know it because the original console didn’t sell well.

The original joysticks for the 5200 were pretty terrible, too, but mainly that was due to being engineered to be cheap, which meant they were fragile and broke easily. The non-centering analog stick was also not a good design choice, but could be overcome through practice or by buying a 3rd party controller with a self-centering stick. The sticks included with the GameStation Pro just simply aren’t the type of controls that the games for the 5200 were designed to be controlled by, and that entire section of the game library is basically unplayable. I mean, you can start a game, but you’ll be frustrated, denied the real experience that the game’s original development team delivered to the original platform it was built for.

The menu screens are inadequate as well. The thumbnail images of the game box art are terrible low-res images that are just barely readable. The “About” info on the screen is just a brief paragraph of some 25-50 words or so, and not complete instructions. Many of the games are simple enough that you can just figure them out by playing, but that’s no excuse. Storage is cheap, and MyArcade easily could have included full manuals for each game title. But they didn’t.

The tiny dial for controlling the paddle games doesn’t feel good — I tried a game of Super Breakout, but the paddle wasn’t smooth, and I lacked fine control. The experience is terrible compared to how the game played on 1977 hardware, and it’s a travesty.

Tempest, an arcade game controlled by a spinning knob, doesn’t use the paddle dial, it uses the joystick, and it feels completely off, and basically unplayable.

And there are trackball games on this system, which just don’t play well with the substituted joystick.

I’m not sure how many of the 200 built-in games are actually playable, as in designed to be played with a digital joystick with up to 3 buttons. But whatever fraction of the built-in library does, pretty much most of them will simply not play as well as they did on original hardware.

I have to wonder if anyone who was involved in the design and engineering of this product ever played the games on original hardware. They picked too many games (even one is too many!) that weren’t supported by the input device the provided, and it just screams WHY.

Why pack in 200 games and give such a terrible experience of them? Even the games that nominally do play with a digital joystick don’t feel very good due to the travel and click characteristics of the hardware MyArcade provides.

The games from the Atari 2600 and 7800 libraries are a lot more playable. Both systems used a digital joystick, no 10-key pad, and 1 or 2 buttons, which will work with the included sticks. But even then the included sticks don’t feel as good as the original CX10, CX40, or Atari 7800 Proline sticks did, and you’ll be frustrated by how imprecise they feel.

The Arcade library will be a mixed bag as well. Many of the Arcade titles are obscure, black-and-white era games that are really interesting as historical artefacts, but they deserved better treatment than they receive, thanks to the poor feel of the joysticks.

Verdict: D. Do not buy.

Even for $100 it’s just not worth it for the experience you get. It would have actually been better if they had not included the games that wouldn’t play well with the included joysticks.

Maybe a fun device to “hack” with a sideloaded SD card, but even then it’d be better to pick one up secondhand or on clearance.

MyArcade Atari GameStation Pro reviewed

Youtube influencer GenXGrownUp has just livestreamed a hands-on review of the MyArcade GameStation Pro.

The full livestream by GenXGrownUp.

The big news is that the GSP has an SD card slot. And apparently, according to GenXGrownUp, it will play ROM files from the SD card. This is exciting news and should heighten interest in the system. My initial impression of the system is improved considerably with this information. I think I can safely upgrade my recommendation from “wait and see” to “buy” based on GenXGrownUp’s review.

GenXGrownUp reports some latency in the controls, which is to be expected, but GenXGrownUp describes it as minimal, and manageable, and he likes the quality of the controller.

He also mentions that the joystick has three buttons, not two, and that the placement of these buttons works better for some games than others. The layout has the A button in the top-left corner of the base, in the traditional position for the classic Atari joystick. The B and C buttons are on the stick, on the top knob and in a trigger position, like on a fighter plane. All of which are fairly classic, normal placements for additional buttons.

One downside of the system, the console switches for the Atari 2600, for difficulty A and B, and B&W/Color TV, are accessed through on-screen menu. There are a few Atari 2600 titles ( such as Space Shuttle, Riddle of the Sphinx, Raiders of the Lost Ark) where these switches were used during gameplay, which would make playing these games a bit awkward, but these are the exception rather than the rule, and I don’t know if any such titles are among the catalog of pack-in games, so this could be a non-issue for the most part.

MyArcade Atari GameStation Pro or Atari 2600+: which?

It’s an interesting time to be an old middle aged guy who still loves ancient video games. 45+ years on from the launch of the Atari 2600, the console still remains culturally resonant, at least with my generation, and maybe some younger people as well.

There are two new mini consoles coming out in quick succession this fall, both aimed at our demographic: Atari’s 2600+ and MyArcade’s Atari GameStation Pro.

Both are very similar in capability, but differ in features. So which is the better buy?

The MyArcade Atari GameStation Pro is a pre-loaded system, similar to the AtGames Atari Flashback consoles of the past, but this one blows those systems away: with over 200 built-in games, HDMI output, wireless joysticks, and includes games not just from the Atari 2600’s library, but the Atari 5200, Atari 7800, and arcade as well. It is available for pre-order, with the shipping date now set at Oct 31.

MyArcade GameStation Pro. Tiny, slick, stylish, retro-modern Atari style.

The Atari 2600+ is a mini Atari 7800/2600 SOC-based emulation console with a cartridge slot and HDMI output. It’s available for pre-order now, but it’s unclear when they will start shipping. Probably in time for holidays, assuming it doesn’t get delayed.

Atari 2600+. Mini, authentic, old-school design.

Which one provides the better value? That’s tough to say, but on paper at least I think I’ll give the edge to the MyArcade system. It’s considerably less expensive, at $100 for the console plus two joysticks, plus all the included games.


MyArcade GameStation Pro: $99

Atari 2600+: $130

Advantage: MyArcade.

The Atari 2600+ is 130% more expensive at $130 than the GameStation Pro, and includes just one controller, and only 10 games. The GameStation pro includes 200+ games, plus two controllers.


GameStation Pro: 200+ built-in games from the Atari 2600, 5200, 7800, and arcade titles.

Atari 2600+: cartridge slot, including a 10-in-1 cartridge. The compatibility list promises over 500 compatible cartridges from the 2600 and 7800 library.

Advantage: Toss-up

One advantage of the 2600+ is that it has a cartridge slot, and if you have a large collection of cartridges, it’ll be the system that can play them — if they’re compatible with it. Having to buy cartridges separately only adds to the cost of owning the 2600+, but if you already have a collection of old games, that cost is already paid for. And if you don’t, the games are common and usually pretty cheap.

On the other hand, the GameStation Pro’s 200 games probably include most of the popular games you’d ever want to play from these systems, but if one of your favorites is missing, you won’t be able to play it. It also supports a broader range of games, considering that it includes titles from the Atari 5200 library, and even arcade games.

It ultimately depends on what you have and what you want. If you have a large collection of games for the 2600 and 7800, the 2600+ might be better for you. If you don’t have a collection or don’t like to swap out cartridges, and are satisfied with the selection of the built-in games of the GameStation Pro, or like the idea of having access to the arcade and 5200 games, then those advantages are certainly attractive. On the other hand, if your favorite game(s) are missing from the built-in selection, you’re out of luck.


Atari GameStation Pro: 2 joysticks, 2.4GHz wireless, 2-button, plus paddle dial.

Atari 2600+: 1 CX-40 joystick; additional joysticks, CX-30 paddles sold separately.

Advantage: Undetermined

A great advantage of the Atari GameStation Pro is that the controllers it comes with feature a dial which provides built-in compatibility for paddle games. The joysticks also feature two buttons, a necessity for playing many of the Atari 7800 game titles.

The Atari 2600+ can support paddle controllers, but you have to buy them separately, adding still more cost. If you do, they’ll be real paddle controllers, the same design as the original Atari 2600’s. And they should feel the same as the original controllers, providing the most authentic experience. It remains to be seen how good the manufacturing quality is for these new sticks, and whether they’ll truly measure up to the original sticks from the 70s and 80s.

But Atari do not seem to be selling 2-button controllers to fully support the 7800’s library. If you have an old 7800 Proline controller, it should work with the 2600+, though. Of course those old sticks can be worn out or unreliable.

So it remains to be seen, but if the GameStation Pro joysticks feel good and don’t have a lot of lag, they might be better. If on the other hand the authentic feel of the original style controllers matters most to you, the 2600+ is better, assuming the modern build quality measures up. But the lack of 2-button options and including only a single CX-40 joystick are disadvantages.

Emulation quality

Advantage: To be determined.

A big part of what will determine which if either of these systems is worth owning will be how well they emulate the games. If they don’t feel right due to imperfect emulation or input lag, that can be an insurmountable dealbreaker.

The GameStation Pro’s joysticks have some advantages, though. They do support two button input, and they even have a built-in knob that serves to provide paddle game support. So it should support the full library of all the games that are included with it. Early reviewers have reported that these controllers feel well built, solid, and heavy, not cheap or junky.


Although neither system hits all the checkboxes that I would have wanted on my perfect system, I think I’m leaning slightly toward the GameStation Pro. The big unknown that I have been unable to find any answers to is what are the 200+ titles that come built-in? It likely has enough built-in games that I would like to play, and I think the fact that they are built in is an advantage, since I don’t have to switch cartridges to play a different game. But if it doesn’t have some of my favorite titles — which is probable, given that many of my favorites are third-party games — then the advantage goes to 2600+ for its expandability offered by having a cartridge slot.

Either system including a SD card slot or a cartridge slot would make them much more attractive. As would being FPGA-based rather than SOC. Even if an FPGA system doubled the cost, it would be worth it to me for the greater fidelity to the original hardware, which would mean full support for the entire library of games produced for the system.


I wouldn’t recommend rushing out to pre-order either system. It’s best to wait and see what the reviews are like after they’ve hit the market. Likely both systems will have drawbacks and disadvantages that will bring down the recommendation rating.

For enthusiast gamers who already have a means to play their Atari games, whether on a PC through an emulator, or through original hardware, I think it’s tougher to recommend either system. Unless your old systems are not working reliably any longer, and are too much of a pain to keep in repair, stick with them for now. If you enjoy the advantages of emulation, you can run an emulator on any PC, and there are adaptors that allow classic controllers to be plugged into a USB port.

We can hope that eventually in the future a proper FPGA-based system will be released that offers full compatibility with all games, HDMI output for modern HDTV, high quality joysticks, and a cartridge and/or SD slot to allow access to the entire catalog of games.

For casual gamers who aren’t as concerned about perfect gameplay, or nostalgic gamers who are looking to get back into retro systems, it’s easier to recommend either system. Either is also a reasonably good starter system for a younger gamer who never had the opportunity to play these systems in their heyday.

Ultimately, both of these systems are going to appeal mainly to a casual, nostalgia-driven consumer audience, rather than the enthusiast gamer who never quit playing their original systems, and learned to do field repairs on them to keep them in tip-top working order for decades, and modded them for superior TV output.

Atari 2600+ announced

Today Atari announced a new console product, the Atari 2600+.

The $130 system looks like a miniature Atari 2600 4-switch “woody” model from the early 1980s.

It features HDMI output, a cartridge slot, and compatibility with Atari 2600 and 7800 systems. One CX-40 type joysticks are included, along with a 10-in-1 cartridge that includes the following titles: Adventure, Combat, Dodge Em, Haunted House, Maze Craze, Missile Command, RealSports Volleyball, Surround, Video Pinball, Yars’ Revenge.

A second CX-40 controller costs $25. CX-30 paddles can be purchased for $40, which includes a 4-in-1 game cartridge. This brings the total to build a “complete” system as they were originally sold back in the day to $195.

Significantly, I do not see any solution given for playing 7800 games requiring 2-button controls, which is most of the 7800 system’s library. This is a real drawback if, as it appears, there is no modern 7800 controller available or planned.

Inside the console is an Rockchip 3128 SOC (system on a chip), and since it’s a SOC-based system, this means that there will be compatibility problems with certain cartridges; a compatibility list, which does mention that some original titles do not work on it, as is typical of SOC systems, due to minor differences between the original hardware.

As of this writing, the compatibility list only notes 4 games that failed testing, along with another 113 games that they were unable to test. 515 titles passed testing. Weirdly, Atari were unable to test the console with Pitfall II, one of the most popular and easy to find Atari 2600 games.

For gamers who are running original hardware, but would like to hook up to a modern HDTV, and not have to worry about the eventual death of their 40+ year old consoles, this looks like a possible solution, assuming it supports the games you want to play on it. Of course, the original cartridges that you’ll be plugging into the slot are going to be 40+ years old too, unless you’re using a Harmony cart.

At first glimpse, I was excited about this product, but after looking more carefully, I’m going to have to give it the same C rating that I gave to the Retron 77.

Grade: C


  • Looks like an Atari 2600
  • Real cartridge slot
  • Real joystick port
  • HDMI output
  • Plays most 2600 and 7800 games


  • SOC implementation doesn’t support all games
  • 4-switch model, not a 6-switch model
  • Only 1 CX-40 joystick included; a second controller costs $. (Many Atari 2600 games have 2-player modes or require PvP play.)
  • No paddle controller included (CX30+ sold separately $40)
  • No 2-button controller option for 7800 games, other than vintage joysticks from the ’80s.
  • “Only” a 10-in-1 multi-game cartridge is included.

Recommendation: Maybe

If you can look past the shortcomings and focus on the positives, I think this can be a good buy that provides decent value. If you have a bunch of old cartridges laying around, but your console isn’t working reliably any more, go for it. But if you already have the means to play your Atari games, I’d recommend holding off for something `better. This system seems about as good as Hyperkin’s Retron 77 console, maybe a little better due to the build quality of the CX-40 joysticks and the inclusion of the 10-in-1 cartridge.

Hey, Atari: Make it better, do it right

If Atari had consulted with me before producing this, I would have given them the following advice to earn an A-rating and recommendation:

  • Implement the hardware with FPGA technology for the highest possible fidelity to the original hardware spec.
  • Use a 6-switch console shell, with real working switches. (Certain games, such as Space Shuttle, used the console switches as well as the joystick for controls, and the tiny, hidden difficulty switches of the 4-switch models just aren’t as good of a solution.)
  • Include 2 CX40 joysticks and 1 CX30 paddles.
  • Provide a 2-button joystick option for 7800 support.
  • Rather than a 10-in-1 cartridge, bundle the entire multi-volume Flashback Classics collection series, in cartridge format. Also, include a collection of 7800 titles in the box. There’s no reason not to do this. The entire Atari 2600 library was small enough to fit on a 3.5″ Floppy Disk (1.44 MB).
  • Sell as a bundle for $200.

If Atari can do all that, they would have a real winner that I would be excited to buy.

As it is, this product as it is isn’t bad, just not as good as it deserves to be, and a bit of a disappointment for someone looking for a premium modern system that can keep the original games running on modern TVs.

TOTK Diary 29 – general impressions so far

I am taking a break from playing the game today to summarize my impressions so far on the new play mechanics in TOTK.

The Sheikah Slate in BOTW has been replaced by the Purah Pad, and it’s basically the same thing, but has different powers replacing the ones that were in the previous game.

In BOTW, I mainly used the Sheikah Slate for bombs. I heavily relied on bombs, especially in the early part of the game, and often wasted vast amounts of time standing uphill, way out of range, doing long range bomb attacks on enemies to keep from wasting weapons on them, or getting killed while I was still low on heart containers and not well armored. I felt this was an unsatisfying way to play the game but I played it that way anyway, and I feel like this is Nintendo’s fault for making bombs be unlimited. Nintendo tried to nerf bombs by having them have a cooldown so you could only generate one every 10 seconds or so, and by having them do minimal damage at best to most monsters. Bombs were meant to be a physics tool, used to create an impulse to move an object around with their blast, or blow up an obstacle, not really to be relied upon as a weapon, although they could serve in that way if need be. Ultimately, though, I felt that they were off the mark in the way they were implemented. They were useful, had a lot of cool possibilities, but I think that making them unlimited, weak weapons wasn’t the best way to go with their design.

TOTK replaced Sheikah Bombs with Bomb Flowers. Basically they’re free bombs that you can pick up as forage, and are pretty rare, which limits their use rather well. The game seems to try to not count on you having them at your disposal at all times, or ever, really. But I think it seems like they do a bit better damage, making them OK to use as weapons, although I really haven’t found many other practical uses for them otherwise. I did use them in lieu of wasting weapons when I was mining, and bombed my way into a Discovery! cave, but it doesn’t really seem like they put as much bombable walls and rocks in this game, and I’m really pretty OK with that. Bombs are classic from the OG LOZ to present, but they can play a minor role or not appear in a Zelda game, and I’m fine with that.

The Map, Telescope, Camera, and Compendium powers are pretty much the same. Although, sure, the map towers work a bit differently in TOTK, and I like the way they’ve been changed. In BOTW the map towers were there to provide interesting climbing challenges, and they were reasonably well designed in the way their challenge curve increased the further you got from central Hyrule. But they were all somewhat limited, and once you figured out climbing and resting, there wasn’t all that much to them, other than maybe clearing obstacles or defeating some enemies. In TOTK, the map towers have been overhauled, and I like the changes. Most of the towers have some fairly easy problem with them that you have to fix, but it requires a bit of problem solving, and isn’t simply a challenge or a softlock to prevent you from using it until your stamina bar is big enough. I also really like the way they integrate the towers into the world design by having them shoot you up into the sky, giving you access to the sky world level, and a beautiful view of the world below at the same time, and multiple options for how to proceed from there — stay in Sky Level, glide and descend to a distant point in the region, fall straight back down, or fast travel to some other waypoint. Being launched into the air like a rocket may not be safe or plausible, but it’s fun and well done as a gameplay mechanic.

I like that TOTK has added a Character Profiles section so you can better keep track of all the names and faces you encounter in the world. It’s like Contacts in our smartphones, but with more robust profile background and less contact info. I think it really helps, since there’s so much world in the game to explore, and so many people you may run into.

The other BOTW Sheikah Slate powers were Magnesis, the ability to manipulate metal objects telekinetically, Stasis, and Cryonis. In TOTK these have been replaced with powers that are maybe a bit similar, but distinctly different. And they are actually powers granted to you by your prosthetic arm, rather than Purah Pad powers.

So, instead of Magnesis, we have Ultrahand. Ultrahand is more versatile and advanced. We’re not limited to metal objects, but any virtually any type of object: Rocks, boxes, weapons, any item that Link can pick up basically. But not anything and everything you see in the game. You can’t use it to uproot trees or bend them to create spring tension, and so on. The power is mainly intended to serve as a way to manipulate in-world building blocks to create vehicles and contraptions or whatever the situation seems to call for, and gives you pretty nearly limitless potential for creativity. It’s most people’s favorite power, and can be used in so many different ways, most of which seem to be intentional by design, few of which seem to be truly game breaking or glitch based, but the power is very ripe for abuse, and I think the game encourages you to be as creative as you wish to be.

So far, my own use has been more limited and less imaginative. I’ve been trying to avoid spoilers, and I’m trying to play the game “straightforward” to experience the story and adventure, rather than as an open world sandbox. I basically see the objects that the game offers you to manipulate and mess around with, and I try to do obvious things with them. I usually succeed quickly or give up quickly, because I don’t want to waste a lot of time on an experiment that doesn’t pay off. I also took some time to get used to the controls to manipulate things, and now that I’ve gotten some hours into the game and have done it a bunch of times, I’m warming up to it and finding it more enjoyable, and will probably be more open to playing around with the mechanic more.

If I was playing differently, or in a different mood, I might have gotten deeper into this, sooner. I think the main reason I haven’t is because I know in the back of my mind that the objects I build, however cool they might turn out to be, will only be temporary. I can’t save them, or put them into inventory, and when the game requires that I put them aside and walk away from them, the time I’ve invested in creating them will have in some sense have been discarded as well, wasted. If I had a more “zen garden” mentality about it, I might regard this temporary, ephemeral nature of the creations differently, be detached from the inevitability of losing them, and in turn find more enjoyment in the act of creating and using them.

I would very much like for the game to have a “freeplay” or “storyless” mode where all you do is play with parts and put them together without restrictions, and with ability to save them so you can return to them, work on them more, and not always have to start over from scratch. I’d like the ability to create permanent objects in this mode as experiments, and then go back to the “real world” mode and see where I can produce them for some end that plays well in the story/mission part of the game.

I also have not gotten very far with exploring the various building blocks and pieces that you can use to create your constructions. I think in part this is because the game threw too much at me too quickly. I remember in the opening act of the game, getting introduced to all these new Zonai terms and I think for me it was too much, too quickly, and I didn’t have patience to take my time to read the descriptions fully, digest them, and let their implications sink in so that I could appreciate everything that the game was giving me. Again, this was in part to the dual mechanics of “everything is temporary” and “your assets are limited so you have to grind and farm for stuff” combined with “but it’ll break, or you’ll have to discard it and you can’t save it, and anything you accomplish with it will be erased by the next Blood Moon anyway, so really how much do you want to sink your time into this right now?”

So, I think introducing concepts and parts more slowly, and allowing me to absorb and learn at a bit slower pace, and build up and elaborate would have worked better for me. I have a ton of Zonai stuff in my inventory and I don’t really know how it relates. I have a vague understanding that I can turn some raw material Zonaite into refined Zonai material, and then maybe turn that into Zonai tech, but I don’t know what all the things are or how to do it all. It just seems like I’d need to break a billion rock hammers pounding out lumps of Zonaite, to trade in for Zonai capsules or convert into Zonai batteries, and in turn cash those in at the gumball machines to obtain bits of Zonai tech, use that to build things, or use them as augmentations for weapons, or who knows what all you can do with it. There’s too many possibilities, and, again, a slower introduction and walkthrough for them would probably have helped me enjoy them better and get deeper into them.

Stasis in BOTW was a time-stopping ability that enabled you to put a kinetic charge into a time-frozen object, or just freeze something in place for a temporary period so you could manage some situation you found yourself in. In TOTK, the time-themed power is Recall. It’s cool, but I bet there’s so many ways that you could use it, that you don’t even realize. There are puzzles that are intentionally designed to require you to use the ability, and those are generally obvious, but there are potentially a lot of non-obvious ways to use the power that will be discovered by inventive and creative players. It’s not natural or intuitive to think in terms of time moving backwards, for one object of your choosing, and think about how manipulating that object in that way can create possibilities. The world is so dynamic as it is, and this is a new dynamism that layers on top of everything and makes it even more complex. I probably use Recall the least, simply because I’m so accustomed to not having an ability to reverse something’s motion through the axis of time, that it’s unnatural for me to think of it and see opportunities.

Cryonis is gone, and I hardly miss it or think of it. It was a weird ability: the ability to, wherever there is water, create up to three giant ice cube that lifts out of the ground like a solid pillar that you can land on or lift things with. It was an entirely inconvenient way to cross unswimmable bodies of water, one stepping stone at a time. It was actually a surprisingly useful and versatile ability and BOTW did an amazing job of providing opportunities to get the most out of it, but it’s also just a pretty weird thing to be able to do as an adventuring swordsman.

Replacing it, apparently, is the Ascend power, which is also weird but useful. Being able to shoot upward, phase through solid matter like swimming through some kind of opaque jell-o, and pop out through the top to rapidly get to the top of virtually anything you can get underneath is a hard one to come up with in a brainstorming meeting. I wonder why Nintendo’s designers decided that this was an ability that they wanted to put into the game. It certainly beats the hell out of climbing.

As a power, it most closely resembles the Revali’s Gale ability, which instead of working in solid rock, would create a powerful updraft that could lift you into the air. That at least makes sense. But how can Link pass through solid matter? Why only vertically and up? Why not horizontally or downward? Why only when standing, not when crouching or falling? What’s the range limit on overhead ceiling clearance? I do use the ability a lot, and appreciate that I can use it, but it’s still really weird. Ascend, combined with Fast Travel, make LInk basically impossible to imprison, it would seem. So I would like to see parts of the game where this capability is taken away from you, and you suddenly have to struggle without it. I do find that I use the ability a lot more than I thought I would, and I am pretty actively looking for opportunities where it will be useful most of the time. If I want to get on top of something, rather than spend time climbing, I look for a way to get under it, then Ascend. I’d like more in-game narrative logic to explain why Link gains the ability, and a fantasy-plausible explanation for how it works and why it has the limitations that it has.

The last ability that I’ll talk about, Fusion, is so integrated with Ultrahand that I really feel that they are inseparable. I guess technically with Ultrahand by itself, you would only be able to move stuff around. But with Ultrahand active, you can use it to glue movable items together, which is really the Fusion ability. But there’s a separate Fusion ability that allows you to fuse the currently-held weapon or shield, or an arrow, with virtually any other item in the game, opening up a staggeringly uncountable number of possible combinations of this+that. So the ability you have when you select the Fusion power from the menu is basically the same ability as the glue ability you have active when using Ultrahand to move stuff around, but Fusion works specifically with things laying on the ground in the environment around you and something you can put in your inventory. This gives the stuff you can craft using Fusion a little bit less temporary nature than the stuff you can craft with Ultrahand but not really save, and must have out and be using the the entire time you own it.

I like the Fusion ability, and even though it allows for some really oddball combinations, the game designers went with that rather than disallow the weird stuff. This gives the game a less serious, more playful feel, and in a good way. Stuff that just shouldn’t work in the real world, like a claymore (two-handed sword) glued to another claymore end to end work just fine in TOTK. Adding a fusion object also seems to add to weapon longevity, as the fused item will break from the end first, and then the object in hand. And weapon durability seems to be a little bit less fragile, and also given more in-game justification by the way the Demon King’s awakening caused all the weapons in the world to deteriorate and crumble. But even so the better weapons seem to last longer than they did in BOTW, where it was pretty common to go through 2-3 weapons in a single decent melee. In TOTK, you can carry a decent weapon through several, even many encounters, before it wears out and eventually shatters. And the better quality stuff seems to last longer than the poor quality or improvised stuff, like I was asking for. Tree branches still break in 2-3 hits, but a zonai weapon will last through many combats. Normal weapons fall somewhere in the middle. This makes me tolerate the breaking system a lot better than I did in BOTW. So I really appreciate this tweak. I feel like Nintendo more or less got this part of the game right, this time around.

Xanthiom: an Atari 2600 demake, homage to Metroid

A day ago, a video of an Atari 2600 homebrew for a Metroid de-make was posted on Reddit. I’m used to seeing these types of post and then losing track of the project as nothing happens for months or years. But this developer, MathanGames is working very quickly, it looks like in Batari Basic, and has already released a ROM.

The first two releases had a vertical jitter bug that gave the game a feeling like you were playing in a world prone to frequent earthquakes, which made jumping gaps somewhat dicey, but the 3rd build seems to have eliminated this defect, and is more playable. To hopefully avoid copyright/trademark infringement problems from the notoriously litigious Nintendo, the project has been renamed Xanthiom.

The game is not really attempting to port Metroid, exactly, but there’s a many familiar features: missiles,energy tanks, jump boots, wave beam, varia suit all make appearances. But there’s no morph ball, no bombs, no vertical shooting, no ice beam, and no screw attack. The starting world feels like Brinstar, and is joined by elevator pad to an area that seems to be Norfair, but the map layout is different, so it’s only very loosely based on Metroid, more homage than port.

Still, you’ll find doors to shoot, red doors require a missile, of course. A few of the enemies from Metroid also appear: Zoomers, Rippers, Rio,, and Skree. Even the mini-bosses, Ridley and Kraid, even a fake Ridley.. or is that a Space Pirate? Sadly, no Mother Brain, no Metroids (unless I haven’t found them yet.)

There’s no musical score, but there are sound effects for shooting and getting hit.

Controls are pretty awkward; it feels like the jump mechanics could use some polish. And some of enemies don’t collide with the backgrounds, so pass right through walls.

I love it. I’m hoping that the developer continues with this project, adding more to it, because what’s here already shows a great deal of promise, and I love playing NES de-makes on Atari 2600.

Altogether, this has a feel similar to Princess Rescue, but I think it feels better. Not terribly challenging, unless you count the rather awkward jumping, but you’ll enjoy playing through it in 20 or 30 minutes.


Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (a no spoiler review)

I know this is going to sound weird, but Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves might be the best movie I have ever seen. It is literally perfect. Everything that it should have been, it was.

The above is not an April fools joke.

The movie didn’t set out to be the greatest movie ever made, nor is it high art, or even a “serious” film.

But they succeeded beautifully at capturing the spirit and mood of Dungeons & Dragons. The production hit every mark about as well as it could have been hit.

In terms of being everything it should be, Honor Among Thieves does it better than any other film adaptation I’ve ever watched. It aspires to be nothing more than it is, and it doesn’t need to.

It blends comedy, action, fantasy, and light drama superbly well.

The performances were all outstanding, sets and costumes spectacular, sfx and cgi weren’t the absolute best I ever saw, but I have no complaints.

It really felt as though I was watching a campaign played out by a group of friends who are having a good time and aren’t necessarily concerned about being epic at every moment, and indeed are quite comfortable being absurd, yet despite occasionally diverging into silliness it never feels like it goes off track.

There are moments when the characters say things to each other that feels almost more like “table talk” (player to player conversation rather than character to character).

And the story even had a coherent plot, without feeling contrived or like they rushed and forgot something, or threw out continuity because who cares, or anything. That’s so rare anymore.

I don’t know that it quite has the heart of a Princess Bride, but it is right up there with Pirates of the Caribbean or Guardians of the Galaxy, and I would be happy to see sequels if they could be done to the same level of quality, although I’m very content with the film as standalone.

Above all they truly nailed source material and the spirit with which gamers approach playing the game — deliberately, different characters are played with different styles, and the clash of acting styles and abilities is absolutely brilliantly suited to making a D&D film that really feels like D&D.

And so many little Easter eggs and references to the source material, if you’re looking for them.

If you have fond memories of playing the game, go see it.

Howard Scott Warshaw: Once Upon Atari

I’m about halfway through Once Upon Atari: How I Made History By Killing an Industry by Howard Scott Warshaw, and loving it.

Howard Scott Warshaw, if you didn’t know, was a programmer for Atari in the early 80s. He worked in their console division, where he developed the games Yar’s Revenge, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial for the Atari 2600. These were groundbreaking games on the most popular home console of its day, and accomplished many “firsts”.

In 1983, the video game market suddenly collapsed, due to a combination of a multitude of factors, but at the time Warshaw’s E.T. was often given blame for causing what came to be known as the “Great Crash of ’83’. E.T. has often been referred to as “the worst video game of all time” but that is quite unfair to the game, which pushed the limits of the Atari 2600 hardware, and while not perfect, was by no means a bad game — although it was drastically over-produced by Atari, leading to a huge amount of unsold inventory, which hurt the company’s bottom line. Warshaw was given 5 weeks to develop the game, a feat thought by his managers to be impossible given that most Atari 2600 games took about 6 months to develop.

This is all well known and chronicled history for video game fans. Warshaw to his credit has been remarkably accessible and open about his story for some time, and has given numerous interviews over the years. He’s even been known to appear on the Atari Age facebook page and comment once in a while. He’s truly a legend of the industry, and a wonderful, brilliant human being. This book details his story, how he came to work for Atari, what went on there during his tenure (confirming a lot of the oft-retold stories about the workplace culture), and how he faced the indignity of being cast as the creator of the “worst game of all time”.

Warshaw left Atari and went on to become a licensed psychotherapist and has helped people like himself, who worked in the high tech field to deal with the immense pressures that they’re put under to be creative, be correct, and deliver products that will make billions of dollars for themselves or their shareholders.

I haven’t gotten to that part of the book yet, but from what I already know of his story, his approach to dealing with failure, or at least the perception that he had been responsible in large part for a massive and very public failure of what had just a year prior been the fastest growing company in the history of the world, is remarkable as it is instructive. He has embraced the label, but adds to it that his Yar’s Revenge is often cited as one of the best video games on the Atari, thus giving him the rightful claim to having the greatest range of any game developer. Turning a negative into a badge of pride, he has faced the critics, rebutted them with not just clever rhetoric, but also facts, figures, and sound reasoning, and provides us an example of how “failure” often isn’t failure, that perceptions matter, that what you tell yourself matters, and that above all it does not define us — we have the power, if we choose to use it, to define ourselves.

Warshaw’s writing style is accessible, not overly technical, candid, often quite humorous, warm and insightful. Reading his book makes me admire him even more than I did, and grateful for the handful of times that he’s Liked something that I’ve said on the Atari Age facebook page, and most of all, thankful for the many hours I spent as a young child engaging with, and enthralled by, his digital creations.

Playing REDDER (Anna Anthropy) in 2020

Usually we hate to forget things. But one of the best things about being able to forget is that you can have a cherished experienced again as though for the first time.

REDDER was a game by indie game developer Anna Anthropy and first released on the web in 2010. I played it for the first time not long after, and it remains to this day one of my favorite puzzle platform games. Few games have made me want to design my own games as much as REDDER, and that’s perhaps the highest compliment I can think of to give it.

I’ve re-played it multiple times since then, and always enjoy it so much.

This year is the first year that Adobe has ended support for Flash, the technology that REDDER was originally built on. I have written previously on the impending death of Flash, and what that means for tens of thousands of video games that were built with it during its 25+ year history.

I feared that this would result in a vast, rich cultural legacy becoming more and more inaccessible. I still fear that. Adobe didn’t just drop support for Flash, didn’t just cease continuing development of it. They pulled the plug. Browsers stopped supporting it, so now in order to run Flash objects in a browser, one needs to keep an outdated browser. This of course has its own problems, and very few people will continue do do it. Moreover, as the userbase moves into a post-flash browser-scape, web hosts will over time have less and less incentive to continue hosting legacy Flash experiences, and in time perhaps the only ones that will persist will be deliberate historical preservation efforts.

That’s a damn shame, because REDDER belongs in the Smithsonian, or the Library of Congress, or both.

Fortunately, Anna Anthropy has re-packaged Redder, in a desktop OS format that wraps a Flash player into stand-alone application, and allows it to be enjoyed on Windows and Mac OS X. It is available for $5 on, and is worth every penny.

What a beautiful thing it is that I can forget this game just enough to be able to come back to it and experience it again, re-discovering the solutions to the maze and helping my little space explorer friend in their quest to collect all the diamonds to replenish his stranded spaceship.

The platforming is basic. You move, you jump, that’s it. There’s no wall jumps, no edge hanging, no coyote time, it’s pure basic simple. There’s no shooting, no destroying enemies. Your only tools are your brain, to figure out how to get past obstacles and get to where you need to go, and your agility, to accomplish the task. There are save points, to make the deadly obstacles a lot less annoying. There are switches to flip, which toggle special colored platforms into and out of existence, which serve as doors and platforms that block your way or create bridges to access deeper reaches of the world or traverse deadly obstacles to add an element of risk to the challenges you’ll face. When one type is on, the other type is off. And together they serve as the building block of the platform puzzles you’ll need to solve to win the game.

As you progress through the game, the graphics and music begin to glitch. It’s subtle at first, a tile here and there, and it adds an element of mystery to the game. As you continue to collect diamonds, the glitching increases, until, near the end the entire game is out of control with random tile animations. When the final diamond is collected, the entire facade is stripped bare, and everything turns into raw collision boxes, color coded — a clean, pure visual language.

At the end of the game, visuals stripped bare, at last we can behold the simple beauty of REDDER.

There are only three types of hazard in the game: patrolling robots, which traverse horizontally and are deadly to touch but never react to your presence in any other way; “drip guns”, which shoot deadly pellets that you must duck, jump, or otherwise avoid with good timing, and electrical fields which don’t move and must be avoided.

For all its simplicity, the game provides an engaging challenge to find your way through the complex, maze-like alien world, and collect all 27 diamonds.

One thing I love about REDDER is that there are no locks. You start out with all your powers, and apart from the switch platforms that are the only real puzzles blocking your progress, there’s nothing preventing you from doing anything, going anywhere that you can go in the game, from start to finish.

What I love about this is that this forces the design to challenge you in ways other than “oh if you get the item, you can get past this”. This comes down to understanding the map — the twisting, interconnected pathways connecting the grid of screens that comprise the world of REDDER, how platforms and switches relate to one another, flipping switches in the correct order to allow passage, and having a modest desgree of skill to master the timing and agility needed to make the jumps and avoid the dangers.

It’s a casual play — I would call the vibe relaxing. The music is soothing and evokes a spirit of exploration and puzzle solving. The game provides a fun challenge without relying on fear, anxiety, or frustration. Toward the end of the game, as the graphics and background music become increasingly glitch-ified, the game does start to produce a bit of anxiety. If you’re playing the game late at night, it can almost feel like your lack of sleep is to blame for the game’s breaking down. I really like this. To me it is the “something extra” that gives the game a memorable mystery, a question left unanswered, which both frees and empowers the player to come up with their own explanation, should they choose to.

Additionally there are three secret hidden rooms off-map. These serve no purpose other than to delight you for finding them, and perhaps provide a clue or an auteur’s signature.


It seems there have been a few changes from the original in this version. I don’t remember these secret rooms having these messages — a web search reveals that the original REDDER had secret rooms with the words “ANNA” “TRAP” and “PART”. TRAP and PART are of course pairs that make a palindrome, and ANNA is a palindrome, and REDDER is a palindrome. There’s something up with palindromes in this game.

But I don’t know what ROB? OWOR and BORR mean. It makes me wonder what else may have changed, and why the changes were made.