Collector’s Cabinet: Aquaventure Limited Edition

There’s only one thing better than playing games and that’s collecting every piece of merchandise tied to them. There was nothing like flipping through your favorite gaming magazine and seeing a profile of a limited edition collectible or discovering a piece of memorabilia from a beloved game in an overlooked corner of a shop and it’s a feeling we strive to replicate every month as we look through our own collector’s cabinet and dig out items new and old to show the world.

Over the years, hundreds of games graced the Atari 2600. Some were better than others and some were in fact so bad that they cratered an entire industry. Then there were games which never had their chance to shine. One of these was Aquaventure. Unlike many unreleased games that still get a blurb in magazines, no one seemed to ever talk about this title. It just showed up one day on the scene as a nearly completed Atari 2600 title that was never officially released.

As part of Atari’s new physical limited cartridge line called Atari XP, the company decided to finally pay homage to this mysterious title. For the first time ever Aquaventure has gotten a true release for collectors to snap up. The Aquaventure Limited Edition comes in a cardboard box with a game manual and cartridge akin to buying a new Atari 2600 game. The manual is brief, but games of this era didn’t tend to have much complexity to them. The cover is full color but inside it’s all black and white.

The cartridge is exciting as it is a true Atari 2600 cart. That means it’s the same size as most other Atari games and will play in your Atari 2600 or Atari 7800. Things that make this a totally unique cartridge is that it does not have a game-specific sticker label. Instead it has an glossy design of an octopus and tentacles. The other side has a sticker label but it’s specifically of the Atari logo. It’s also a heavier cart than usual, likely due to the other trick up this design’s sleeve. There is an acrylic “Aquaventure” logo at the top which is a cute design flourish.

Also included with the Aquaventure Limited Edition is a poster, pin and patch. Patches are iconic to the world of Atari, as the company would give them away if you could prove you achieved a high score across a variety of games. They were basically achievements/trophies in an era before internet-connected consoles. The pin features the same general design echoed throughout the box, poster and patch. Although it’s worth noting that the box art, pin art and patch art are all slightly different even though they’re featuring the same figure with harpoon gun. It’s a nice touch rather than copying and pasting the same exact image everywhere.

The poster is 11”x17” and showcases what could have easily been the box art or label design. The only disappointment with this is that the poster came packed within the box. This means it comes folded in four right out of the gate – and it’s a severe crease. While it can be reduced over time, it’s the kind of crease that will never fully go away. And, while it’s a matter of taste, some collectors would have preferred the cartridge to have the same look and feel as all other Atari games of the era, rather than this specialized design. On the plus side, it’s great Atari chose to make it a fully working cartridge. There have been times other companies opted to give something that just looks like a classic cart only to have it be entirely non-functional.

Gameplay itself is very much in the vein of titles from the era. You play as a diver who must retrieve treasure from the bottom of the ocean. The diver has a harpoon because they must fend off angry sea creatures on their trip. After each successful dive, an additional screen is added to make the journey longer. The enemies get faster – especially after you kill them once. So players must do their best to simply avoid enemies rather than being too trigger happy with them. It’s a perfect mix of simple gameplay that quickly grows challenging.

The Aquaventure Limited Edition was true to its name. When Atari opened it up for pre-orders, it sold out quickly even at its $150 price point. There was also a standard physical edition containing only the box and cart (without the acrylic topper) for $50. This also sold out in little time. Unless Atari opts to do a later print run, the best chance will be to pick up a copy from another Atari collector down the road. The Atari XP line includes other classic titles such as Missile Command, Super Breakout and Yars’ Return, with more to come.

Want to look through the rest of our Collector’s Cabinet? Head right here.

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