The Lego Atari 2600 launched today, August 1, exclusively at the Lego Store for $240. If you loved building the Lego NES, you’re in for a great time with the Atari 2600. This mammoth set faithfully recreates the 2600’s most iconic design, making it a stellar display piece for retro gamers and those alike. who are nostalgic for their childhood favorite. The price is a little high at $240 – although it’s actually cheaper than the newly-reviewed Lego NES – but the build has a terrific design and includes some neat flourishes. And if you show it to your family and friends, they might even mistake it for the real thing.
Although Atari is technically still working today (in name only, really), it hasn’t been on the console market for many years. Young Lego enthusiasts and gamers may not know much about the Atari 2600, but it is a really important piece of video game history. Predating home consoles from Nintendo and Sega, the 2600 was truly the first console to make its way into homes. Without the Atari 2600, gaming would undoubtedly be different today. And the Lego Atari 2600 shows the console the reverence it deserves.
At 2,532 pieces, the Lego Atari 2600 has about 100 fewer pieces in total, but it has more pieces dedicated to the console itself. The TV took up about half of the NES version, while the Atari has a series of additional smaller versions. Although the Lego NES is clearly smaller than the actual console, the Lego Atari (4 x 13 x 9 inches) is almost the same size as its inspiration (3.5 x 13.6 x 9.1 inches). That’s part of why it might fool people into thinking it’s the real thing. The other reason is that everything from the grilles to the signature wood panel front looks so close to the actual console. The only easily identifiable sign that this is a Lego set is a set of four studs sticking out of the “wooden” front panel.
This set is incredibly well designed and comes with a huge variety of parts that made it a joy to build, even though it took me about seven hours. At a glance, the console itself does not look like a Great exciting build. After all, just like the NES, it’s basically just a box. But Lego has once again made the box-building process an in-depth event that excels in avoiding repetition. Each of the 15+ parts bags represents a new aspect of building with its own unique quirks.
While Lego recommends this set for builders 18 and older, the heavy instruction booklet is, predictably, superb. This shouldn’t be a child’s first Lego set, but if they have experience with decent-sized builds (even some of the Lego Mario sets) it shouldn’t be much of a problem.
The console itself takes the brunt of the build time, but the set is filled with smaller-scale kits that give it extra charm, authenticity, and variety. You build a joystick that attaches to the back of the console, three cartridges, three small models representing each of the three games (Asteroids, Adventure, and Centipede), and a cartridge holder.
Lego made a great decision by spacing out the companion kits throughout the building process. You start by assembling the Adventure wagon and castle model, then the cartridge holder, then the console foundation itself. The rest of the carts, models, and joystick appear throughout the rest of the build. It would have been a bit boring to assemble three cartridges in a row or even three small models in a row. So as long as you follow the instructions in order, you’ll have a dynamic experience that skips to further avoid repetition.
Given that the Super Mario NES cart was by far the dullest aspect of the Lego NES version, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Atari carts had more undertones. Meanwhile, the models that come with it delightfully skim the games. My personal favorite is the Centipede, which uses cool little bits to make it appropriately menacing. The cartridge holder is another nice touch for display purposes. Admittedly, you lose box artwork by displaying them this way, so some manufacturers may want to purchase individual cartridge holders separately. You can also insert the cartridges into the console the same way as the actual carriages.
Just as the console itself is based on the updated Atari 2600 design with four switches, the joystick nods to the CX40 controller, which was actually the second controller that came with the Atari 2600. The Atari Controller is size accurate and the joystick actually has 360 degree rotation. The solitary button is similar in style to the NES Lego controller in that it is a solid, unmovable piece. As mentioned, the controller plugs into a port on the back of the console, but it falls off with little movement, which is the same issue the Lego NES controller had. Anyway, the controller completes the set and gives the kit more interactivity.
The Lego NES included a recreation of Super Mario Bros. World 1-1, which was a very neat addition. The Lego Atari also has its own impressive decoration that will probably be the first thing you show your family and friends when they look at the construction. Since the Atari 2600 was partially hollow, Lego had room for this part of the build to really stand out – and it doesn’t disappoint.
During construction, you create a game room straight out of the late 70s and early 80s. The panel directly below the dials and the cartridge slot slides out and the room pops out. It’s pretty meta, as the included Lego minifigure (wearing an Atari shirt) plays the Atari 2600 while living in a secret room built inside a much larger Atari 2600 (for him ). There’s a CRT TV, a jukebox, a trio of posters, and more. One of the posters obviously makes a nod to Indiana Jones (the first film released in 1981). There’s even a white cat hanging around on its own – probably thinking of ripping off the Atari’s controller to force you to pay attention to it.
If you don’t have much nostalgia for the Atari era, the Atari 2600 set is probably a bit too expensive to build just because it looks cool. That said, if you’re a gamer who grew up playing the Atari, this release is an unmissable triumph.
The Lego Atari 2600 got us thinking of more console releases we’d like to see from Lego, so be sure to check out our Lego wishlist.
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