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Atari 5200 Tempest now out at Atari Age - Review on 2nd Page

by CRTGAMER Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:56 pm

Atari Age 5200 Tempest Review

5200 Trakball Repair In The Reply Below


This game was truthfully a decades wait for me. I was first made aware of Atari 5200 Tempest when watching the movie Cloak & Dagger which I purchased on Laser Disc. I bought the movie just to see a possibility of an official Cloak game which turned out to be just special effects and movie props. What really caught my eye was all of the other game boxes shown in some of the movie scenes which included Atari 2600 and 5200 versions of Tempest. A pause and jog shuttle back to scrutinize the movie frames. I had already bought a 5200 console new which offered arcade perfect translations in its time. That movie really teased gamers, wondered when Tempest would ever come out on the 5200? :?

You can read more about the early history in the OP.


Atari Age collaborated with the original programmer, Keithen Hayenga to complete the game thirty years later. A decades long history, there was still a lot of work involved to make this release something very special.

Albert at Atari Age wrote:

There's a pretty limited market for the 5200--just think how many more NES systems Nintendo sold--I wouldn't be surprised if it was tenfold or more. The NES also has a HUGE fanbase compared to the 5200. So there is an economy of scale involved that you simply won't get for the 5200 market. This is especially true of boxes, which are very expensive to have printed in small quantities, and this is an expense I have to pay for up front, along with the manuals, labels, and everything else that goes into producing homebrew games (circuit boards, TTL chips, EPROMs, used 5200 cartridge shells, and so forth). This doesn't even count reprinting the manuals, which wasn't necessary, but I'm a bit of a perfectionist so I wanted to make sure this release was done right, and that's money coming out of my pocket. Price out 250 boxes printed on chipboard paper stock on an offset press, with a custom die for the boxes, and you'll see it's an expensive proposition. And don't forget the box insert, also cut with a custom die on chipboard stock, and these can only be used with 5200 carts.

Of the various systems I produce homebrew games for, the 5200 games require the most work due to the cartridge shells. It takes a lot of time to prepare the shells, as the labels are generally difficult to remove, and there are many steps involved before I have a shell that is suitable for using with a new homebrew game (I recently posted a few photos of this process in another Tempest 5200 thread). For all the labor involved in producing a boxed 5200 game, $50 is a pretty reasonable price in my opinion. And this doesn't count all the time spent working on this project before I even built a single project. Like Adventure II, this project has been ongoing for several years.

Except for the cartridge shells, everything that goes into an AtariAge 2600, 5200 or 7800 homebrew game is brand new. This includes the EPROMs for the games--I always use new EPROMs where I can, and I have a large stockpile of them now.

Finally, that boxed copy of Tempest for the 5200 is going to be worth quite a bit more than a loose copy down the road, should you ever decide to sell it. I know I could sell the game for more than $50 and people would still buy it, but I prefer to keep the prices reasonable.
Atari Age 5200 Tempest.jpg
Atari Age 5200 Tempest.jpg (253.75 KiB) Viewed 19456 times

Tempest Arcade Cabinet History
One of the first Arcade games with a selectable level of difficulty at the start of a game. This is the very first arcade cabinet to use a color vector monitor. Vector screens offer high resolution graphics compared to Raster scan screens of the day. Since a vector screen is mapped to draw lines point to point, game speed is quick due to less processing required for the screen draws. The original plan called for monsters, but the vector lines would not not display this well. An electrical theme was used with a shooter labeled Live Wire (Open Circuit) that rotates around a tracked tubeway. To offer precise movement over an Arcade stick, a Spinner control panel is installed. Of note the Arcade cabinet art displays monsters, the original concept for Tempest.


I remember when Pong with the Game Paddles came out at my local bowling alley. I thought it was interesting, but monotonous. I really got hooked into Arcade games when Space Themed games such as Rip Off, Asteroids and the beautiful monstrous cabinet Space War came out. It was then when I discovered Tempest which also featured that Pong Paddle, but now a fully free wheeling Spinner.


I played the Arcade tempest a few times which quickly sucked up my money. This was also during the release of Williams games such as Robotron and Defender which seemed more realistic with the ability to move in any direction. The Arcade sticks and numerous buttons offered a more intriguing control to get into a game. I did not quite like Tempest due to moving just sideways with just a volume control knob, so spent my quarters on the other cabinets.


There was one knob control game that was interesting though, the lightening fast Omega Race since it had a separate thrust button. The game Asteroids might be more responsive with the spinner instead of the rotation push buttons.


Many years later I rediscovered Tempest thru emulation on Mame and a Mouse. I even modified a ball Mouse to work as a Spinner attaching a rubber caster wheel at one end. It was then I fully realized how tightly controlled the Spinner could be. Arcade games Tac Scan and Omega Race featured a Spinner which fine tuned a ship direction, but Tempest really took advantage by allowing complete speed control of movement! :mrgreen:

Spinner Mod Tempest Method - viewtopic.php?f=52&p=353752#p353752

CRTGAMER wrote:Imagine if the Spinner became popular in the Arcade as the primary controller on the different cabinets. Think of SHMUPS or Platformers that would really benefit in complete speed control movment. Instead of Galaxian just creeping sideways a full range of movement speed with a Spinner. Or how about Mario instead of just walk and run, a creep all the way up to very quick Sprint Run instantly with stop on a dime of the Spinner.

The Atari 5200 console offers the speed control feature in some of its game library. Unlike the arcade, 5200 Space Invaders and Galaxian both have a dual speed mode. 5200 Gorf may have gone too far, the ship would literally position across the screen in direct relation to how far the analog stick is pushed. Ridicously hopping around the screen, unfortunately Gorf did not have a Trakball "Spinner" control option. I actually like play 5200 Gorf with the instant response, a real steady hand required. :D

wilykat wrote:The beta version of Tempest was finished by the original programmer who started it back at Atari almost 30 years ago. This means Duke Nukem no longer can claim to be the longest running vaporware as Tempest took double that time to get released.

Atari 5200 Tempest.jpg
Atari 5200 Tempest.jpg (214.25 KiB) Viewed 19456 times

The 5200 Tempest box is exactly like an official Atari 5200 package that sold in the stores back in the 80s. Heavy duty cardboard with the authentic looking silver theme and color printing including a screenshot on the back. It even contains the inner cut cardboard to keep the 5200 cartridge in place.

On the back, there is an interesting description, note the correct spelling for the Trakball!

* Use your 5200 controllers or Trak-Ball with this Atari game cartridge
* For use with North American and other NTSC television sets only
* Model 5220
* Programmed by Keithen with graphics by Michael Kosaka

ATARI. INC. Consumer Division
1312 Crossman, Ave., P.O. BO 61657. Sunnyvale, CA 94086
(c) 1981, 1984 ATARI. INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Made in U.S.A.
ATARI and the Atari logo are, of course, registered trademarks of Arai Inc.
They're not in Sunnyvale and not owned by Warner
This reproduction is published by

The game booklet is beautiful semi gloss and in full color. I like the non reflective look better then glossy paper for an easier read. The pages are heavy duty very commercial quality done. Inside has instructions on how to play and includes detailed pictures describing the Playfield and features of Tempest.

The two page picture inside the manual is just like the original Arcade Flyer!


There is a well laid out history section that details other console Tempest editions including the Jaguar, Nuon, Playstation, Sega Saturn and XBox and even a mention of an unreleased beta 2600 version. The manual has a screenshot from the movie Cloak & Dagger which shows made up boxes of 2600 and 5200 Tempest.

The Atari Flashback 4 PlugnPlay has the 2600 Tempest game on it. Another version I need to try later on!

There is also the background story on how 5200 Tempest was killed by Jack Tramiel (Commodore 64) when he took over Atari in 1983. Interesting in how the 5200 game source was discovered decades later in 2002 stored on 8 inch floppies. Then the reuniting Keithen Hayenga at 2004 CGE, the original programmer who had not seen the game for twenty years. Hayenga worked with Ken Van Mersbergen and Geo Reese to finally complete 5200 Tempest years later.


Atari Age also included a comic book bag to protect everything, a Flyer of some of their other exclusive games and sent a business card magnet as well. There is a quote printed on the magnet.

Nolan Bushnell wrote:Everybody believes in innovation until they see it. Then they think, "Oh No; that'll never work. Its too different."

Graphics and Sound
The Atari 5200 resolution is 384x240 with a 256 color palette. This pales in comparison to the Arcade which uses a Wells-Gardner Color Vector screen. Even so, the screen is a good rendition, a remarkable feat in the translation from Arcade to a home console from the 80s. The Sound is exact perfect since the Arcade and Atari 5200 use the same Pokey chip! :mrgreen:



5200 Tempest Game Play
I tried out 5200 Tempest with a Wico Joystick and the Atari 5200 Trakball. Setting the Wico stick to centering springs on helps to stop, but playing Tempest with an analog stick is really out of control. Any push of the stick just causes the Live Circuit shooter to just spin wildly around the tube. The Trakball is the best way to play. The ball offers instant quick movement to get to the other side of the tube or track by track precise movement with instant stop and move again. One thing I noticed is when expert level the Tempest Shooter really flies, the Trakball is so close to the Spinner response of the Arcade.

I love the way that TRAK-BALL is spelled Atari correct on the box! :D

Some prefer playing 5200 Tempest with the Analog Stick due to the quicker response in movement. Sure its faster then spinning the ball, but there really is no precise track by track control. Barely pushing the stick slows down the Tempest Shooter, but it just not feels as tighly controlled. Try Tempest in the Expert Mode with the Trakball to really see it fly and yet stop on a dime.

Analog Stick
The Wico Command Control can be set to self centering or free floating. One thing I really like about the Wicos is the two axis external potentiometer slide bar adjustment. This saves headaches of having to go inside a stick to readjust a pot center.


The analog stick control is too quick for precise movement. Unlike the original 5200 stick, the Wico can spring back to the center. This helps to stop the Live Wire shooter, but it moves way too fast even with the variable speed of the analog stick.


5200 Trakball
This emulates the Spinner of the Arcade very well. Move the ball slightly to jump from track to track. Give the Trakball a spin to fly around the track quicky. Very tight control really comes to perfection in the expert mode. With a Spinner the left right direction would match the rotation around a field. However, this at first did not seem to matter when rolling the Trakball. On later levels where the track turns into a "bottom shooter", the keen look at coding really shows. Spin the ball left and the Live Wire moves left, spin right moves right.


The Atari 5200 controllers have a Flex Circuit inside that tends to fail making all the buttons useless. I have glued aluminum foil on the inside of the buttons as a temporary fix. Luckily, the Atari 5200 Trakball has an actual PCB under all the buttons which offers great response. I continual shoot by holding the inner Fire Button with my thumb, rolling it to the outer Fire Button for a Super Zapper shot. :idea:


There are three difficulty levels and a demo mode to choose from.

DEMO - Press 0
Game runs a demo just like the Arcade attract screen.

Novice Mode - Press * to select
Fast movement of Trakball and Analog Stick with 9 game Levels to select.

Regular Mode - Press * to select
Faster Movement of Trakball an Analog Stick with 15 Levels to select.

Expert - Press * to select
Fastest Movement of Trakball and Analog Stick with 81 levels to select.

I had hoped that there would be an unlock or cheat that would give unlimited lives or especially no collision detection as in the earlier beta version. In normal mode I found out levels are unlocked as you beat them, but only after you complete every few levels. There is no way to save the levels completed other then leaving the 5200 permanent on and using the RF bypass if a 4 port model.

Expert mode does have access up to the 81st level, but would like to try the upper levels in the Normal mode. The level select is a nice work around though, offering starting position all the way up to the 81st level in that Expert Mode. The entire 96 levels of the Arcade is included in 5200 Tempest. :shock:

Image5200 Tempest

5200 Tempest and the Laser Disc that started me on this thirty year journey

Atari 5200 Tempest - Cloak and Dagger Laser Disc.jpg
Atari 5200 Tempest - Cloak and Dagger Laser Disc.jpg (129.65 KiB) Viewed 19456 times

IMDB wrote:

Cloak & Dagger Trivia

Because the Atari 5200 version of "Cloak & Dagger" wasn't complete during filming, the cartridge props are actually other 5200 games with a "Cloak & Dagger" label stuck on them. The arcade game was complete by that time, and the signal was piped into Morris's monitor whenever he played. You can actually see the upright game cabinet standing next to Morris's computer setup. The arcade version of Cloak & Dagger appeared in 1983 prior to the release of the film. Next to the Cloak & Dagger games are boxes for the 5200 version of Tempest. Like the 5200 version of Cloak & Dagger, this game was never released.

The Gamekeeper is an actual shop located in the Glendale Galleria in Glendale, California; a few miles from Universal Studios. The shop originally specialized in sophisticated role-playing games, such as the popular Dungeons & Dragons series. Since the time of the film it has relocated to a smaller store space within the mall and sells mainly mainstream board games. There are now also several franchise locations at other malls around the country.

I'm still hoping to discover the 5200 Cloak & Dagger game cart featured in the movie. The secret plans revealed with a rotating CAD drawing of the Invisible Bomber Jet obviously was not from an Atari 5200.


Maybe one day the Cloak game might get released on the 5200 console? It took 5200 Tempest 30 years to release so this could happen as in two other movie games; Last Starfighter and Tron linked in the OP. :idea:


Image Image

Wiki wrote:

The game was created by Russel Dawe. The game was under development using the title Agent X when the movie producers and Atari learned of each other's projects and decided to cooperate. When Atari was consulted to provide a game as an element of the movie, they tweaked Agent X and renamed it Cloak & Dagger. Dabney Coleman's character was then named "Agent X" in the movie.

The game saw limited arcade release as a conversion kit for Robotron 2084 cabinets. The arcade version of Cloak & Dagger appeared in March of 1984, prior to the release of the film. The Cloak & Dagger game screens from the movie are mostly from the arcade version, and not the Atari 5200 game console as it would appear in the film. Although a 5200 version of the game was planned, it was never released due to the video game crash of 1983 and eventual sale of Atari. Because the Atari 5200 version of Cloak & Dagger wasn't complete during filming, the cartridge props are actually other 5200 games with a Cloak & Dagger label stuck on them.


Wiki 5200 -
Wiki Tempest -
Tempest JPG Files
Wiki Cloak Dagger -
KLOV Cloak Dagger -
KLOV Tempest -
Tempest: Geometries of Play - ... w=toc;xc=1
Tempest Level Guide -
Tempest Tips -
Cloak Dagger Game Story -
Atari Age Tempest Forum - ... available/

Vector graphics was available on just one home console, the Vectrex by Milton Bradley.
Darryl Brundage wrote:

Atari and the Vectrex

Atari and GCE, the creators of the Vectrex, never had any kind of business relationship with each other. However, the POSSIBILITIES of such a relationship would have been pretty cool. A demo of a Tempest clone called Abyss, but Dondzila didn't fully plan out the game before diving into it, so he never finished it. All you have is one level that never ends (until you shut it off), as there's no way to die, no sounds, and hardly any of the enemies are present either, just Flippers, Spikes and Spikers.

Image Image
Arcade Tempest and the unfinished Abyss Demo, on the John Dondzila homebrew Vecmania cartridge

I would love to see another Arcade game translated to the 5200 which really lends itself perfect to the 5200 Trakball. Though not an Atari game, it did make an exclusive to game console appearance, on the Atari 2600. Even on that old Atari the rock guitar beat of the Arcade is there. I loved dropping a quarter in just to hear that rift.

Image Image

REACTOR - This game would play beautiful with the 5200 Trakball! :idea:


Scroll Down - 5200 Trakball Repair In The Reply Below
Last edited by CRTGAMER on Mon Oct 17, 2016 4:33 pm, edited 47 times in total.
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Re: Atari 5200 Tempest Shipping Feb 27 at Atari Age!

by FerretGamer Thu Feb 28, 2013 12:27 pm

#$%! CRT, I just bought Halo 2600... I'm tempted. VERY TEMPTED. Perhaps you could say I'm Tempest. *rim shot*

:lol: :|
Exhuminator wrote:Sega gonna Sega.
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Atari 5200 Tempest now out at Atari Age - Review on 2nd Page

by CRTGAMER Tue Mar 05, 2013 8:37 pm



5200 Trakball Maintenance

To play 5200 Tempest, the Trakball controller needs to be at its peak mechanical performance, it can get dirty just like a Ball Mouse. Have care when performing a cleaning on this decades old controller, the plastic is a little brittle. Be sure it is unplugged with the cord fully unwound and buttons are pressed a few times to drain any stray voltage.

Turn the Trakball controller upside down and remove five self tapping phillips screws underneath. Keep hold of the top so the Trakball will not drop, rotate back upright. Position the Trakball housing against a back support such as a few large books, the back of a workbench or even the back of a couch.

CRTGAMER wrote:The top cover of the Trakball will need to be supported upright to avoid pulling the upper PCB button wire connector. Too risky of damaging the upper PCB from removing a decades old connector, so best just to leave it plugged in.

Carefully remove the top and pivot against the back support of your choosing. Lift out the Trakball and set aside where it will not get scratched. Note that the Trakball is regulation Arcade sized of a standard Cue Ball. You can even replace it for a custom look with another Pool Ball if you want such as an 8 Ball. However, the two sensor wheel rollers have brass shafts and the third support roller is steel. This may eventually show up as tiny scratches on a darker colored pool ball.

This Trakball gets a cleaning every few years, the reason why it does not look that dirty. The first time I cleaned it, there was grime and dust buildup on the roller shafts. The Radio Shack Line Printer cover at the top is a custom hand sewing job that kept the Trakball in almost new condition for decades. I also tailored a separate Radio Shack Line Printer cover for the 5200 console. :idea:
Atari 5200 Trakball CX53 Inside - Pool 8 Ball - Never Dull Polish - 3in1 Oil.jpg
Atari 5200 Trakball CX53 Inside - Pool 8 Ball - Never Dull Polish - 3in1 Oil.jpg (209.62 KiB) Viewed 19458 times

A replacement Pool Table ball can fit, but any color other then white will show scratches scuffed from the steel roller underneath. If a Cue Ball replacement, be sure it is not the type that is made for separate ball return pool tables. :idea:

CRTGAMER wrote:Carefully remove only one sensor roller assembly at a time, never touching the plastic sensor wheels. This will prevent mixing them up as well as accidently bending the fragile plastic wheel. Lubricate each bearing only when removed to avoid contaminating the PCB.

Remove each sensor shaft assembly, clean out the hair bunnies and grime buildup off the rollers. If there is grime really caked on, use a plastic scraper or your fingernail. Do not use a steel scraper since the roller shafts are brass. I have pretty good luck with Never Dull metal polish which has saturated cotton balls for an easy clean.

Add a few drops of 3in1 Oil or Sewing Machine Oil on each of the bearings. Be sure this is done after the rollers are removed to avoid dripping oil on the PCB. After saturating and spinning the bearings, wipe off the excess to avoid splatter on the electronics. The low viscosity oil really helps the sensor wheels spin freely. Be sure to remove, clean and lubricate the third support bearing. Since it is steel, it may have a little surface corrosion that causes a drag on the cue ball. Scrape off any buildup to make it smooth using 3in1 Oil as a solvent and lubricant.

Closeup of the Sensor rollers, top shaft is not cleaned yet. Note the shine in the center of the shaft where the cue ball rides. The third support roller at the lower left is steel which tends to corrode from sweaty hands. The edges of the steel roller surface has a black pitting from corrosion, the center polished by the cue ball. 3in1 oil helps to lubricate and eliminate any further corrosion in the rollers.
Atari 5200 Trakball CX53 Rollers Inside.jpg
Atari 5200 Trakball CX53 Rollers Inside.jpg (95.31 KiB) Viewed 19458 times

Wipe the cue ball clean and with alcohol if there is grime buildup. Replace the cue ball back on top of the rollers and give a test spin to be sure all three rollers rotate. Replace the upper cover, using the cue ball as an alignment point. Hold the upper cover in place while turning the unit upside down. Replace the screws, do not tighten any until all have been stared.

Of all game controllers, the Trakball is easily contaminated by dirty hands. Even more so then a ball mouse which has somewhat more protection. Avoid eating cheetos when spinning that Cue Ball! The Atari 5200 line has one of the sharpest looking logos around.


Baseball, Centipede, Defender, Football, Galaxian, Kaboom, Krazy Shootout, Millipede, Missile Command, Tennis, Pole Position, Soccer, Space Invaders, Super Breakout and Tempest

Joystik magazine has a Tempest Guide and is available online as a PDF. Look for April 1983.
Joystik Magazine PDFs ... Issues%29/

I own every issue of Joystik magazine as well as other gems yet to review. One of the advantages of living during the Retro Game era. :mrgreen:

Atari 5200 Console - Check
Atari 5200 Trakball CX53 - Check
5200 Controller Extension Cable - Check
Wico Command Control Joystick - Check
Wico Command Control Key Pad - Check
5200 Tempest Game - Check, Oooh Yeah!
Consumer Guide How To Win At Video Games - Check
Joystik April 1983 - Check

Atari 5200 Trakball CX53 - Wico Command Control Joystick - Wico Number Pad - 5200 Tempest - Consumer Guide How To Win At Video Games - Joystik April 1983.jpg
Atari 5200 Trakball CX53 - Wico Command Control Joystick - Wico Number Pad - 5200 Tempest - Consumer Guide How To Win At Video Games - Joystik April 1983.jpg (198.47 KiB) Viewed 19458 times
Last edited by CRTGAMER on Sat Apr 22, 2017 8:34 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Atari 5200 Tempest now out at Atari Age - Review on 2nd

by crux Wed Sep 25, 2013 11:05 pm

Sorry for the bump, but I never did comment on this, even after motivating you to make it some three years ago, did I? :)

I too picked this up, after someone from AtariAge messaged me to let me know it was being released. I still don't have a 5200 (though I was gifted an Atari 800 recently), but I do look forward to adding another trackball to my controller collection, so I'll be looking into that in due time.

I've become something of a Tempest aficionado. Tempest 2000 is one of my all-time favorite games. I own the Jaguar version and the 3X version (which was a formidable tweak of its own - don't mistake it with being just another Tempest 2000 port). I also own three spinners for the Jaguar version, all of which are detented a little differenly (plus one has a different button layout) . I also own a Nuon and Tempest 3000, which is by far and away the silliest "console" I own. (Hint: Tempest 3000 isn't worth owning a Nuon DVD player for. Nothing is. Not even Buckaroo Banzai.) One of my dreams is to own a Tempest arcade cab someday, since the color-vector display ensures no port will ever do it justice.
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