ColecoVision Flashback

6 Overall Score
Graphics/Audio: 4/10
Games: 10/10
System: 4/10

Brought back lot's of fun memories, and the games look good on a flat screen television.

No audio. I received a broken system.

ColecoVision Flashback

Growing up as a child of the 1970s and 1980s arcades, video games, and video game consoles were just coming in to my life by around the age of seven. I can remember my first video game console as my uncle walked it in to our house and told my parents that it was for me. The year was 1977 and I had just received the Atari 2600.

Before this I was casually playing and sucking at video games in the local arcade and theater at a one time mall in Miami Florida that was known as the Midway Mall. It sported a small arcade and a one room theater with a small lobby, the arcade was located directly next to it, but even so the theater had a couple of coin-op games too.

My favorite arcade game was and still is to this day, BERZERK! That was a great game for it’s time, as a kid in the 1970s I would mostly end up playing BERZERK!, Driver, and Space Invaders, I’m sure their were more that I would play but those games always just stick in my head as favored games to play of that time.

The Atari 2600 came complete with the cartridge for the game Combat. This was a war game where two tanks battled it out by driving around, blasting at each other and trying to dodge blasts. Combat as many other Atari games had a number of different modes to play, some with obstacles, and a few others just by flipping the “SELECT” button.

I was thrilled to have the Atari 2600, although I’m sure that my parents weren’t so much as they were the ones shelling out the cash every time I wanted a new game. I think I could say that the Atar1 2600 made me the most popular kid on the block as other kids didn’t have one. All my friends would come over to play, just show up at the door and want to come in and play the Atari 2600, it got to the point where kids who lived in the neighborhood that I didn’t even know were knocking on my door and asking to come in and play. My parents would probably just assume that I knew them and let them in and pointed them in the direction to my room.

So time goes on. 1979 a friend of mine down the street gets an Odyssey 2, which was a gaming console made by Magnavox. It was sort of like a video game console with a keyboard. I was never too impressed with the system or the games, as I always thought why the keyboard if you’re just gonna use it to play video games? I mean, all I needed besides a console and a game was a controller. In little time, a lot of my “friends” began to vanish and end up his doorstep asking to play, new cool console, new friends, right?

Not so far off in to 1980 another friend of mine in the neighborhood got an Intellivision by Mattel, this was Mattel’s venture into the world of video games. According the the Intellivision commercials the Mattel Intellivision was the most realistic video game console ever! One of the commercials had two TVs placed side by side to show you how real the games looked next to the competition which at the time was still Atari, since I don’t think the Magnavox Odyssey 2 really made that big of an impact in the small in-home video gaming industry.

To two ten year old kids, the graphics were just like “real” life. What did we know, right? Whoever quoted “The Future Is Now” clearly wasn’t thinking about the video game industry in 2014. You want real, or as close to real life, just look at some of the stuff that you can do in most video games today. The one this I could never get over with the Intellivision was the controllers, I was a joystick guy, what the hell are these flat paddle things with numbered buttons and side buttons, why? Just why?

I already wasn’t that great at video games. I was a tall, scrawny, paranoid Jewish kid with no coordination growing up in a sports oriented Jewish household where the only way to avoid having to play baseball or football was to hideout in my bedroom and play video games, make up epic battles with G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, and Star Wars figures turning a blanket in to the planet Hoth or sitting at the kitchen table trying to draw superheroes that I loved from comic books.

So now I had this weird flat paddle controller in front of me and I hated it. I tried to use it, but already uncoordinated and having to hold the controller with both hands to direct and press more than one button just proved to be too much work to put in to any game. So for a while I gave up on Intellivision and went back to past by playing my Atari 2600 and it’s outdated joystick controllers.

Two years later in 1982 ColecoVision by Coleco hit stores, and a friend of mine that I had known since the third grade got one. Coleco was another coin-op competitor to make an in-home gaming console like Atari, where Mattel was a well established toy company trying to break in to the small video game industry so I already had high hopes for the ColecoVision.

I don’t know why but the first time that I ever set my eyes on the ColecoVision, I just knew that it was a better console than anything else on the market. Coleco didn’t bash or go after other companies in the same market. All they had was an ad that said “We Deliver” and that pretty much said it all.

ColecoVision did deliver, better graphics, arcade graphics and sounds for it’s time, or at least as close too. Yeah for the most part these were the same pixelated blocks and beeps that you got on any other console, but for some reason Coleco just did it right. It worked, it was almost one of a kind, but it was definitely my favorite console to play, well with just one problem.. Flat, paddle controllers with a keypad! I really wasn’t understanding this whole flat paddle keypad thing that was going on, it was pretty awful, well at least for me, but as a twelve year old gamer, I guess you must push on, right?

I used to spend the night at my friends house or he would spend the night at mine and he’d bring the ColecoVision with him. Once I got used to the controllers, ColecoVision really became a number one priority for me. My friend and I would sit next to each other in school and discuss how and why we couldn’t make it on to the skull in the game Smurf or why we kept crashing in the underwater stage of Cosmic Avenger, and so on. The games and the times seemed to be endless.

My Atari 2600 was set up in my parents room, this is where we would set up the ColecoVision and just play all night, or until my parents woke up and made us go to sleep.

Fast forward thirty two years. A company known as AtGames puts out a series of Flashback gaming systems which are basically a case with a small motherboard which includes sixty game roms, and two controllers. I had seen these around for a while, the first that I noticed was the Atari Flashback, then the Intellivision Flashback and the SEGA Flashback. As a console collector I was really never sure what to think of these, are they just for nostalgia purposes or for people like me who love this sort of stuff? Are these even considered game consoles?

I kept passing them by, then one day I saw the ColecoVision Flashback and I knew I had to have it. I already own a ColecoVision and a ColecoVision ADAM, but I don’t own all the games that I’d like to, yeah I could always find them online or build a MAME box packed with ColecoVision roms, but all that takes time and money. I don’t have much of either.

After seeing the ColecoVision Flashback I decided to send an e-mail to AtGames inquiring about the Flashback systems in general. I had read about AtGames on some sites that’s opinions weren’t too keen about them and had mentioned some not so great stuff about the company and the products coming out of it. I mentioned this in my e-mail and let them know that I was interested in potentially reviewing the ColecoVision Flashback.

I never received an answer to my e-mail, but a few months ago on a day when I went to check the FGS snail mail I opened the box to find out that I had a package waiting for me. A package from Taiwan by way of California. I don’t know anyone in Taiwan, so I had no idea what could be in the box as I couldn’t understand the print, except for some numbers and the word Taiwan and a stamped California address and the FGS mailing address.

The package was heavily taped and about 20×12 inches in size. I got home and opened the package and to my surprise it was a ColecoVision Flashback. I pulled the box out of the package and looked it over and then popped it open to check it out. I was beyond psyched about it which takes us to the actual review of the system.

The first thing that I noticed is that the system itself is very small, petite even. It looks almost like a miniature version of the original ColecoVision, minus the cartridge port, which is sort of a cool thing.

The controls, or paddles, looks similar to the original ColecoVision controls, keypad and all included, if you never played ColecoVision you know that most of the games required a keypad which on top could be used with an insert of a keypad which included the buttons for said game, they were all different. I really never liked this as it made the controls long and awkward to use, almost like using a Mattel Intellivision controller which I really disliked.

The ColecoVision Flashback comes with the system, two controllers, power supply, game controller inserts, and uses a pair of audio/video cables, yes old AV connectors for televisions which are like ancient. I mean who still uses AV connectors unless they are using an old console or a VHS player?

Maybe the idea behind this was to be authentic, or cheap? Then again, who would included an HDMI cable I guess, unless it was a real console, like next gen? You get two wires, white and yellow, they didn’t even include the red wire, so the system is connected to your television via this AV connector that splits in to white and yellow, only audio and video, no stereo, although both the ColecoVision and ColecoVision ADAM only came with the one connector which plugged in to an AV switch which hung off of your TV while being held in by two small screws. Many years later I had replaced the old AV switch with an AV switch from Radio Shack which was in stereo.

Anyway, the ColecoVision Flashback, in essence it’s very cheaply made, very lightweight, almost feels like you’re holding a piece to a 1970s Mattel toy from a Barbie play set. If you were a kid in the 70s then you know what I’m talking about, that cheap, hollow feel.

I haven’t taken it apart but I am sure that if I opened it up it would just be a small motherboard connected to maybe a cheap SD card, control ports, a power supply input and an AV connection leading out. Pretty simple.

I was still excited to play the ColecoVision Flashback. I made room for it and connected it as soon as I finished looking it over.

The ColecoVision Flashback basically runs exactly like a MAME box, after you turn it on it shows you a menu screen of sixty games and you choose what you want to play, and the system goes in to game mode and whichever game you chose comes on to the screen.

I was always a fan of Cosmic Avenger, so this was the first game I chose to play.

Interestingly enough, the game is an almost perfect port, or probably just the actual game rom, but it looks great on a flat screen where most games of that age look terrible. So either AtGames used some sort of graphics enhancer to make the games keep up with a 1080p flat screen or I just have a pretty awesome television.

The one thing that really sucked is that the audio doesn’t work, and who do you tell when the system showed up for review purposes practically on my doorstep?

The audio signal is just dead, none of the games have audio. I even set the system up on an older model TV just to check, so something on the board is most likely just dead or was never connected. I could probably figure it out on my own if I ever felt like popping the thing open.

I guess we’ll see if I ever care enough to get to that point. Maybe I’ll do an update?

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Author: Scott View all posts by
Scott grew up in Miami, Florida interviewing punk, metal and hardcore bands, reading comic books, playing with Star Wars action figures, Shogun Warriors, and MEGO dolls. Scott's work has appeared in Flipside Magazine, Scrape Magazine, Zaphod Fanzine, El 'Zine De Eugene, Rational Enquirer, Maximum Rock and Roll, Rated Rookie Magazine, POPSmear Magazine, Crying Clown Fanzine, Slug & Lettuce, ThoraZine, Fact Sheet 5, 'Zine Guide, O/Z Magazine, Asian Trash Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, Euro-Trash Cinema and more. He has two culinary degrees and attended art school for a Visual Arts degree with a minor in Music Journalism. Scott was the owner of Action Games & Comics in Clermont Florida from January 1999 til it's demise in December 2011. Scott can sometimes be seen flying across Florida at supersonic speeds, you just need a good eye to catch him.. :-)

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