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Atari 2600 Lego Set Review: A Terrific Tribute To A Gaming Icon

Atari 2600 Lego Set Review: A Terrific Tribute To A Gaming Icon

Building gaming’s past is sometimes preferable to playing it

Okay, let’s get that name out of the way first. You’re absolutely right: this is not an Atari 2600. It’s the four-switch model VCS - Video Computer System - from 1980, a revision of the initial six-switch version which incorporated difficulty settings for players one and two. Atari’s rebranding of its 1977-debuted 8-bit console line didn’t come into effect until 1982’s launch of the 5200 SuperSystem, at which point the older console’s moniker was adjusted to fit the new naming style. Phew. I’m glad we cleared that up. However, yes, in the years since - the decades since - Atari’s hugely successful machine’s period of market dominance (30 million units sold worldwide, eclipsing all 1970s and early ‘80s competitors), it’s become known as the 2600. And so you’ll find this set listed on the Lego site as an Atari 2600, even though it so clearly reads “Video Computer System” on the packaging. Confusing? It wasn’t until I started writing this paragraph. Moving on…

Check out the trailer for this awesome set below…

This 2,532-piece set (so close to the most perfect brick count, but never mind) is a near-to-1:1 replica of the four-switch VCS, and represents the very best Atari console money can buy in 2022. Which is saying something given the company actually has a new VCS console on sale right now, albeit in limited quantities in only select territories. But said system is more a low-end PC than a dedicated console like the VCS/2600 was - and with Atari’s games of the 8-bit era widely playable on other platforms (I’ve the 150-game Flashback Classics collection on my Switch, for example, which includes the three 2600 games represented in this set), nobody needs a functional Atari these days. Making this shelf-improving creation a recommended pick-up for any retro-leaning games admirer who wants to show off their appreciation of the medium’s past without, y’know, ever having to fire up those carts again.

Oh, we building /
the author

The set is more than just the console itself. There are mini-builds for three cartridges - Adventure, Asteroids and Centipede - and fantastic little 3D vignettes to go with them that showcase elements of each experience. My favourite is absolutely Centipede with its cute titular nasty rearing up and wagging its lil legs above some shot-blocking mushrooms. The Asteroids one loses something in translation with its blocky space-boulders being blasted apart but at least it aims to imply a sense of speed and action; and Adventure shows off its castle and dragon just fine (plus there’s a physical nod to the 1980 release’s in-game Easter egg - it was one of the first games to include such a thing). The carts themselves are identical save for a little colour variation and the stickers, each game’s art given a Lego makeover, and they slide into the console’s flap-free slot as you’d expect them to.

These mini-builds are great /
the author

The carts can be stored in a super-basic but also oddly appealing mini-build of some… shelves. They’re brown and square and do the only thing that they need to do: accommodate your fake plastic games. Eh, it’s not an unwelcome inclusion, but a part of me wonders if they’d only fancied this part of the set up a little, maybe with some Atari branding or a base, that overall piece count could have hit the magical 2600. A few extra parts wouldn’t have gone amiss on the replica CX10 joystick either, which feels fine in hand - its stick can be moved with internal rubber pieces ensuring it self-centres, though there’s no give on the fire button which sits flush on the black casing - but is lacking any sort of non-slip feet, with four tiny nubs looking incomplete on the underside. I’m fairly sure that official Atari joysticks had some rubberised grips down there (I’ve no actual CX10 to compare this set to - just as I only have a 2600 Jr. rather than a proper old VCS), so some sort of ‘feet’ would have been appreciated.

An Atari CX40 next to the Lego CX10 model /
the author

Like the Lego Nintendo Entertainment System before it, with its hidden-away World 1:2 mini-diorama, this Atari build contains a display that can either be on show or slipped beneath the console’s slidable top panel. Simply pull the top of the unit forward and up pops a delightfully early 1980s scene with an Atari tee-wearing mini-fig using a tiny VCS on a 14” CRT (they’re playing Asteroids, to be specific). Around them are posters of movies and music, a landline phone, a boombox, a VCR cassette, what I assume are meant to be action figures, roller skates and a cat. A tiny joystick can be put into the mini-fig’s hand, and two single-stud pieces represent carts on the floor. This is one of the more fun parts of the build to assemble, as it’s colourful and full of very different kinds of pieces (even its bookcase is a treat to construct). The same can’t be said of that top panel though, its smooth black bricks seemingly endless as you line them all up. 

Look at this guy, living his best life /
the author

And on that point, the Lego Atari set isn’t the most exciting build you’ll ever go through. It lacks the surprise factor of the recent Optimus Prime, which came together in a way where certain elements were always more than met the eye (groan). The woodgrain effect looks fantastic when finished but is a bit of a chore to click together - much like the checkerboard pattern of the Sonic Green Hill set of earlier in 2022 - and while nothing is especially fiddly there are sections that, well, are just boring. No other way to put it. Sure, that is often the case with larger Lego sets where multiple tiny identical pieces need arranging in just the right way to achieve a smooth, largely gapless end product (and this is, amazingly, mostly gapless - at a cursory glance you could mistake this build for the real thing). But it’s something to be mindful of if you’re sitting down with this anticipating a great time. Much of the build is great, but then there are pages that stretch on with just the most mundane place-30-matching-pieces busywork.

The carts go where you expect them to, snugly /
the author

However, there is no denying that what you end up with is incredible, really, a terrific tribute to an iconic gaming console (range) that in my opinion is so much more fun to have on hand, and on display, than the NES. Okay, that set did come with a TV that played Mario - that was brilliant. But picking up a Lego cart and slotting it in feels so satisfying - it doesn’t connect like the console proper does, but there’s enough resistance and purchase to get an impression of contacts meeting motherboards. Holding the Atari joystick and the NES set’s pad, it’s the Atari’s controller that I want to keep in hand, its stick having a degree of travel that’s uncannily close to the real thing. There’s a wonderful ‘bite’ point to the flip-up gaming scene that I can’t yet get enough of, and the level of detail - extending to difficulty switches and controller ports on the rear (yes, you can plug the joystick in) - is excellent. This really feels like its designers took learnings from the NES and used them to make the next Lego console so much more - which inevitably leads me to believe that a Lego Mega Drive will be the best set yet. C’mon Lego, you know you want to.

The Lego Atari 2600/VCS set is available now from and bricks-and-mortar stores. The set retails at £209.99, and this review set was sent to us by Lego. 

Featured Image Credit: The LEGO Group

Topics: Lego, Atari