Rest in Bits: Atari

Atari Lynx

Atari LynxThe Lynx could have been the start of a gaming revolution. It had an impressive pedigree with hardware designed by the guys responsible for both the Atari 8-bit and Commodore Amiga yet the timing of its release would have to go down as one of the worst in the games industry.

Why? That same year (1989), Nintendo released the GameBoy… though inferior technically, it was half the price and could run well off batteries. Plus there was a simple little game called Tetris that was included as a pack-in…

Technically, the Lynx was a marvel. The colour graphics chip had strong sprite capabilities (scaling, distortion, etc) that would see more widespread use as part of the SNES hardware. It could also network with up to 16 other devices. A uniquely accessible feature was that the console could be rotated 180 degrees for left handed players.

Unfortunately, it was huge for a handheld… not something that you could EVER fit in a pocket. And the battery life was abysmal… even with an additional battery pack containing 6 x D cells, you would likely get only a couple of hours from it. This was a portable that needed an AC adapter… not promising.

Thanks to the hardware, the Lynx was quite capable of handling good arcade conversions and a great number of Atari arcade titles made their way to the system. Much of the early software was by Epyx, who also developed the original hardware before Atari picked it up.

Games of note:

California Games

A very popular game on the C64, the Lynx version only had four events (BMX, Skateboard, Surfing and Footbag(?)) but as an early pack in it was an excellent introduction to the system showing off many of it’s capabilities. I played a LOT of the surfing game…

Blue Lightning

An Afterburner clone that really showed the hardware scaling capabilities of the Lynx and would have provided plenty of inspiration for how arcade conversions would be handled. Techniques used here would be found in many future Lynx titles… zooming explosion sprites, anyone?

Todd’s Adventures in Slime World

A showcase of what the Lynx could be ultimately capable of. Virtually everything on screen with the exception of the player character pulsated… threatening to throw goo all over the screen and the player. It was incredibly impressive to see in motion. In addition, the game supported multiplayer allowing multiple Todds to traverse the landscape together and even help each other out. Co-op gaming before it became a buzzword.


Originally, this was to be a unique Lynx version of Epyx’s own Impossible Mission but it morphed into it’s own title. A feature of this game was that the player could walk into and out of the screen, once again making use of the scaling capabilities of the Lynx.

Arcade conversions included titles such as Klax, Roadblasters, Stun Runner and Joust. There was even a version of Lemmings released. Later in it’s life there was talk of a version of Wolfenstein and Wing Commander but neither of these came into being. If you search the Internet you might even find an early ROM version of Aliens vs Predator, a Lynx version of the Jaguar game.

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