Cuttle Cart 2
Now, what if I told you that you could have every Atari 2600 and 7800 game, hack, proto, and homebrew all on a single cartridge? And what if that cartridge cost $200? Would you buy one?
Enter Chad Schell. A few years back he introduced the Cuttle Cart. This gizmo allowed you to stream ROM audio files into your 2600 (like the Supercharger) to allow you to play every 2600 game. The Cuttle Cart 2, designed to work only on the 7800, takes that many steps further. Not only can you play all 2600 games, but 7800 games. And you store these ROMs on memory cards instead of having to stream them from audio. And you have a menu of every game. And you can save your high scores. And you can play Supercharger games. And you can play them on a real 7800 instead of an emulator. Is that enough "ands" for you?
To say the CC2 is a fantastic product is a huge understatement. Practically no detail has been left out. It supports every 2600 banking scheme known as well as every 7800 banking. Which means many of the later 2600 games that are 16K (like Xenophobe, Track & Field, Jr. Pac-Man, etc) will work.
One of the coolest surprises on this wondertoy is the inclusion of the 7800 High Score Cart programming. On certain (early) 7800 games you are asked for your initials when you get one of the top 5 scores and they are saved into memory. Very nice feature indeed!
There is even a socket to install a POKEY sound chip for the few 7800 games that use it (Ballblazer, Commando and soon the homebrew Beef Drop.) The system is upgradeable and even has a failsafe system included. There is a serial jack to allow for quicker loading of a project you may be working on. You can even display a game's instruction manual right on the screen in case you have forgotten how to play it. If all that isn't enough, you can also customize the colors of the on-screen menu and there is a built-in screen saver in case you leave that menu up for too long. As I said, no detail left untouched.
If there is any problem I had with the CC2 it was the initial setup of the files on the memory card, which actually wasn't that hard. There is a quick start guide in the .pdf manual that is provided, but the instructions were a bit overwhelming for a dullard like me. First, you have to create a menu.txt file with all the ROM entries you have. Thankfully, there is a utility provided to do this for you. After you create this file, you have to run another utility to convert this menu.txt file into a menu.cc2 file. This is the file the CC2 actually reads.
It didn't take me long before I had all my menu entries tweaked exactly as I wanted to see them, but this process did have me wishing there was an all-in-one utility to do this instead of two separate ones. I'm sure someone would suggest I write it myself, but that ain't happening, I assure you.
Of course, having the ability to play homebrews, hacks, protos, and rare games on a real Atari system hooked to your television instead of an emulator on your computer is a great joy and definitely worth the effort. Some of my favorites in this area include 7800 Klax, 7800 Beef Drop, 7800 Commando, BMX Airmaster, Crazy Climber, and my own hack: Moon Patrol Plus. Yes, you can even play your own hacked games on it.
In fact, so far there is only ONE game that will not play on the Cuttle Cart 2. And it's not one of the super rare ones either, so you can have every 2600 & 7800 game available on just two cartridges. (Can you guess what game won't work? The ever problematic Pitfall II.)
Now, if you weren't able to get in on the original run, Chad has begun shipping a second run. It's not too late to get one of these, so get yourself over to www.schells.com as soon as possible and place an order! He's still only charging $200, and it's a great deal.
I still can't believe I have over 615 games on this thing! Woohoo!