The Atari Lynx was the first portable, full-color video game platform. Capable of supporting multiple players and containing a huge palette of 4,096 colors, the Lynx expanded the previously imagined limitations of the handheld game system.
The Lynx system was called "Handy" when it was developed in 1987, and was designed by Commodore Amiga (and future 3DO) developers, Dave Needle and R. J. Mical. They designed it at Epyx, a video game software company. In need of financial assistance, Epyx sold the rights of the Handy system to the Atari Corporation.
The name Lynx was chosen in obvious reference to the multiplayer capabilities it provided. Up to eight players would be able to interact during one select game. The advantage offered was that they would not be tied down to a home system; Lynx could be played anywhere. When it was released in 1989, included with the Lynx "Deluxe Package" was one ComLynx cable. For two-player operation, Lynx requires two cables to be plugged into two respective systems.
Lynx games are programmed onto portable wafer-thin cards, and each Lynx unit requires its own game card for multiplayer use.
The Lynx is powered by an 8-bit microprocessor, which has become the standard in handheld systems. Where Atari rises above the competition is in its graphics. The Lynx comes equipped with a 16-bit graphics engine, enhancing portable games with previously unknown detail. It features a 3.5" color LCD screen; the largest size of any portable system (the next closest being the Sega Game Gear screen at 3.2").
Attached to the side of the screen on the Lynx system is a reverse-compatible joypad. By pressing PAUSE and OPTION 2 at the same time, a player can flip the image on the Lynx screen upside-down and use the joypad with whichever hand he or she feels most comfortable. Some games, like Klax and Raiden, utilize the vertical length of the screen and require the system to be accordingly rotated.
One drawback to the Lynx system is its power consumption. It requires 6 AA batteries, which allow four to five hours of game play. The Nintendo Game Boy provides close to 35 hours use before new batteries are necessary. For the purpose of conserving battery power (and money), the Lynx does includes an AC power jack for plugging an optional adapter into a wall socket. There is also a headphone jack which, when used, disables the speakers.
The Lynx II is a slightly modified version of the original system. The new model is smaller and lighter than its predecessor. It is also designed to automatically turn off the LED screen during PAUSE to conserve battery power. The Lynx II headphone jack also provides stereo sound to players.
Notable third-party software manufacturers for the Lynx system are: Telegames, Inc. (Double Dragon, Qix) and Shadowsoft, Inc. (Joust, Robotron: 2084).
The best Games available for the Lynx system are: Checkered Flag, Joust, Steel Talons, Klax, Rampage and S.T.U.N. Runner. ~ Dave Beuscher, All Game Guide