Activision Classics is a video game flashback that'll knock older gamers back to puberty. Those who grew up worshipping the original ruling home system, the Atari 2600, will immediately recognize such classics as River Raid, Pitfall, and Kaboom--plus 27 more, all faithfully reproduced with their flat graphics and tinny sound effects.
Without the rosy glow of nostalgia, this title equates to flickering images, simplistic gameplay, and clunky controls. The games are painfully basic in comparison with even (ancient) 8-bit games. Ultimately, Classics' modern appeal is worth a peek if only to appreciate how far the art of home video gaming has come.
- Gaming 101, Pitfall-style: Everything has a rhythm and a pattern. Timing Is key.
- In Kaboom, mirror the mad bomber's movements to stay ahead of the falling bombs.
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Back when I was just a wee little gamer, Activision was the hottest thing going. You knew that if your Atari 2600 game had Activision's name on it, it was going to be great. They just really had the whole package when it came to developing games. I can't tell you the number of hours that I have personally sunk into some of these classic games when they were new. So what have the nice people at Activision done? They have packaged up 30 of their "classic" games and released them on one single disc. I will say that 30 games in one is quite a good deal!
Okay, let me take a deep breath ... here goes. Atlantis, Barnstorming, Boxing, Chopper Command, Cosmic Commuter, Crackpots, Dolphin, Dragster, Enduro, Fishing Derby, Freeway, Frostbite, Grand Prix, H.E.R.O., Ice Hockey, Kaboom, Keystone Kapers, Laser Blast, Megamania, Pitfall, Plaque Attack, River Raid, River Raid 2, Seaquest, Skiing, Sky Jinks, Spider Fighter, Stampede, Starmaster and Tennis. Whew. There you go, 30 games all on one disc.
Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a friend of mine about the good old days. Now to be honest, I never had an Atari 2600. Before you fly out of control, let me explain. We did not have an Atari 2600, but we did have an Atari 800 PC. Yeah! Anybody else remember that? It was a PC with a full keyboard and you could get a disk drive so you could read 5.25" floppy disks. It also had a cartridge slot and four joystick ports in the front of it. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I realize how far ahead of the times Atari really was with that machine. Anyway, the point is that I did have an Atari but just not a 2600. Most of the games that I got for the Atari 800 were programmed to take advantage of the power of the PC, but we also got the Atari 2600 ports as well. Okay, back to the conversation I was having with my friend.
I was looking back at the old days of video games, making the comment that video games used to be about fun and not flash. You know, the originals may not have been great to look at, but they were a hell of a lot of fun to play. Who needed cleavage to get people to play the games? Who needed gore to get people to play games? Who needed true driving physics to play games? Who needed incredible AI to enjoy games? These were all questions that I was asking my friend. I thought the old school games were the best thing and maybe games today were a bit more flashy, but when it came to gameplay, today's games couldn't even compete.
I had my eye on Classics for quite some time. Now I could play all of these games just the way I remembered them. After playing a few games of each of my favorites, a funny thing happened. I got this feeling way down deep inside my stomach. The feeling was a mixture of disappointment, disgust, childhood and boredom all mixed into one. As I played each game I could not help but think, "How could I have ever enjoyed playing this?" Remember all the questions that I asked my friend? Well, I now have the answer. Me! I need cleavage. I need guts. I need true physics and I need AI to challenge me. I sure as hell don't need pixel graphics any longer.
Once I got over the initial disappointment of the games not being as fun as I remembered, I did start to enjoy a few of them. Out of the 30 games (of which I had only ever heard of half), I probably played three or four more than twice. What I remembered as being so much fun just really did not even come close to being fun at all. I don't know if it was because life was so much simpler back then or if we just accepted this as the best it will ever get. One thing is for sure, these games are really not what I remembered them to be.
Now in all fairness, Activision is not trying to promote these games as being the latest and greatest games to hit the streets. They know that they are pretty basic, so they give you 30 of them to play. For $30, people who used to play these games will get a bit of a kick out of them. Like I said, there were about three or four games that I played and actually had fun at. It is cool to have all of these games together in one place, but it just really shows you how far technology has come.
Are you serious? Why are you even looking here? If you are looking at this section for information on graphics, then I suggest you stay very far away from this game. Let's just say that the graphics will make your Gameboy look great. But it was not about graphics back then.
I guess technology is really a great thing. I thought that I would love playing these games because games were fun back then. As it turns out, I just didn't know any better. Today's games are much better than I give them credit for. Now you can't beat the fact that you get 30 games for 30 bucks, but the thing is, you will never play all 30 all of the time. You basically get a handful of games that are still mildly enjoyable. One more thing: if you graduated from high school in the '90s, don't even bother looking at this collection. You will not get it, and it will just give you more ammunition when you are making fun of your older brother.
Atlantis: pretty tough, pretty mediocre. Barnstorming: really lame. Boxing: slightly fun. Chopper Command: Defender wanna-be. Cosmic Commuter: retarded. Crackpots: fun, but tough. Dolphin: he's no Ecco. Dragster: never saw the fun in this one. Enduro: mindless. Fishing Derby: hard to control. Freeway: still fun today, I gotta admit...but Frogger's better. Frost Bite: really stupid. Grand Prix: boring. Hero: a pretty deep game in its day; a pretty shallow game today. Ice Hockey: no longer fun. Kabooml: would be awesome if I had a PS paddle. Keystone Kapers: so-so. Laser Blast: hard. Megamania: too sluggish. Pitfall: was cool. Plaque Attack: pretty intense. River Raid: was great, now dull. River Raid 2: not as good as RR 1. Sea Quest: very average. Skiing: boring. Sky Jinx: crap. Spider Fighter: silly. Stampede: sillier, but more fun. Star Master: serious crap. Tennis: worse than Pong, and the CPU is too good. A lot of these games were great in their day, but truth be told, they're no longer fun. 99% of you will play each game for about 60 seconds, then store this disc away for good. The price is reasonable, however, and this compilation provides lots of mindless action where nothing matters but the high score...so if you're still die-hard old school, this disc isn't a bad investment. Buy it just to have it.
I couldn't wait to fire up these classics. Then I played 'em. Man, I can't believe these are the same super-crude libergames that absorbed so much-of my time when I was a wee lad. Now, few of the 30 games here hold my interest for more than five minutes (River Raid and Star Master are notable exceptions). Still, Activision Classics packs so much nostalgic charm that it nearly had me weeping from all the warm, fuzzy feelings.
Activision Classics may make a few die-hard 2600 fans happy for a couple of days, but for the rest of us it serves only one purpose: to remind us that 95% of the games released before the big crash (of 1983) have one thing in common-they suck. Pitfall is easily the best game on the disc, and a couple of others stand out, but overall the games on this disc are mostly garbage. Some things are better left as memories.
I honestly don't know why anyone would want to buy this for anything but nostalgic reasons. Maybe as a videogame history lesson or something. Technically the games are perfect to their original forms. Chunky pixels, a few colors and some blips and bleeps for sound effects--incredibly boring stuff! It's like going back to first grade. If you're young and curious about the old Atari days, then buy it. Otherwise run away. Fast.