I have a hard time keeping Atari paddles working. In fact I may have one the largest collections of broken paddles in private hands. What makes things worse is that I cannot seem to master “fixing” them, no matter what I read online. So whenever I do get a working set of paddles I take to my paddles games as quickly as possible, trying to get as much playtime in before I break them. This week I sat down and played Atari’s 1979 Casino. The expectations were pretty low, but with Casino, the stakes are high. How is that for a catchphrase? As I was saying…
Expectations are low because I have no childhood expectations of the game (I never played it then) and how could a card game using paddles on the Atari 2600 be any good? Plus this is a 1970’s title. Well I am happy to say, Atari shut me up. The game has a mild learning curve when it comes to the paddles, but they are actually the perfect tool for the job and the game, while not a perfect replacement for a deck of cards, is pretty remarkable.
You have 3 titles to choose from in Casino: Blackjack, Stud Poker and Poker Solitaire. The first two of these games have some unexpected surprises and third one is the most surprisingly fun of all. In Blackjack you play a standard game of 21, but it actually allows you to do things I did not expect like taking out insurance, splitting and doubling down (all are explained in the manual). In Stud Poker you can actually let someone leave the game and come back and it will keep track of their winnings. Of course this requires some switch and button legerdemain, but in my opinion, that just makes it more interesting. So you got these two titles that work well (although the cards can be hard to read), so I am thinking that this Poker Solitaire is going to be the weakest titles, since the other two are decent, but it is not.
It actually a fun game where you are dealt 25 cards and must assemble 5 of the best hands that you can from what you have. Then you get winnings based on how well you do when you are done. It is simple, but really works and I can see it as a great tool for teaching people how to play poker.
Casino has gone under my radar for decades. It will not be easy for me to pick up all the time, since I never seem to have working controllers for it, but it will now be in my considered rotation. As a replacement for a deck of cards, I cannot vouch for it, especially since so many modern games do so much better at it, but as a 1979 gambling simulator that clocks in at 4KB and is for 1-4 players, you can color me impressed. I give Casino a solid 3 stars.