Lost Atari Game Has Been Brought Back And Is Now Free To Play Online

An image of the Atari game Tarzan

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times; the Retro Gaming community never stops on their mission to keep the games of the past alive. How else are we going to prove to the VR gamers of the future that we used to play games where pixelated figures moved amongst blocky worlds (and no, I’m not talking about Minecraft.

Atari recently acquired its long-time rival Intellivision, ending one of the longest-running console wars. The company has also resurrected Infogrames as a publishing division, as well as acquiring other publishers and imprints in order to do what they do best – owning the retro scene. They’re such a big part of gaming history, and the Atari 2600 was, and still is, one of the most influential consoles of all time. So when games that were once lost turn back up again, it’s a pretty big deal!

There was a version of Tarzan for the Atari 2600 that has since been classed as MIA, a casualty of time’s never-ceasing march forward we all thought had been forgotten in the annals of history. That was until a collector bought a copy of the game from an employee from Coleco back in 2022. What followed was a journey made by Rob “AtariSpot” (the collector) embarking on a journey with Atari homebrew programming expert Thomas Jentzsch to get this game running on emulators for the public to finally experience.

While this incredible discovery was brought to our attention by our friends over at Digital Trends, it’s an in-depth article on the entire process written by Kevin Bunch over at the Video Game History Foundation that gives all of the insight into how this extraordinary task came about and eventually reached completion. It tells us all about the process of bankswitching, an Atari 2600 process that enabled the console to read larger games that created a bigger, more random-feeling side-scrolling world to explore.

“I remember when they first came to me with the concept (of bankswitching for Tarzan), I’m like, ‘it’s gonna do what?’ Because in order to switch the banks, your software had to be in a certain place. So it landed in the right place in the other bank … once we got the hang of figuring out how we were gonna do it, it wasn’t too complicated.” – Henry Will IV, interview with AtariSpot, July 8, 2023

A still of the gameplay for Atari 2600 game Tarzan
Credit: Atari

While the game was being made for the ColecoVision, there was an Atari 2600 Tarzan version in the works that ended up being completed and ready for distribution just as the first video game recession reared its ugly head. Coleco didn’t make it out of the other side, the Atari version never got released, and the game just faded into obscurity.

Thanks to the efforts of AtariSpot, Thomas Jentzsch, and especially Kevin Bunch for documenting the entire process, a game that would have forever sat in limbo has now made its way onto the internet for people to enjoy, and the developer team’s hard work can finally receive the credit it was due all of those years ago! Those wanting to check out the original ROM and a modified file for use with your favourite emulators and flash carts can do so by visiting Archive.org.

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