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CONSOLE: PlayStation DEVELOPER: Learning Technologies Interactive PUBLISHER: Activision
RELEASE DATE (NA): September 30, 1998 GENRE: Compilation
// review by SoyBomb

A fond trip through video game hell...

Before Nintendo took its grand step into the video game market with the NES, life was much simpler. Consoles didn't boast fancy graphics, top-notch orchestral soundtracks, or epic gameplay. They were just bare basic games (though sold within the same price range as today's games) with a simple goal: to do something meaningless to pass some time. Among the key players was Atari, with their famed Atari 2600 machine, released all the way back in 1977 and having a lifespan of around fifteen years (perhaps the longest lifespan of a video game console to date). But this new generation of gamers missed out on the classics, so Activision has graciously brought back thirty of its most beloved Atari 2600.

But I can't think of a better way to say it: by today's standards, these games are terrible, and any nostalgia that tries to filter through is muffled by the playability of these titles. It's obviously a collection meant for those who grew up with the Atari 2600 in their living rooms, but for the rest of us, Activision Classics is a bitter reminder of how far video gaming has come in such a short amount of time.

And while I say that the games are about as fun as shooing flies off a manure pile, I can also report that some games in this compilation are clearly better than others. Among the more playable are such hits as Freeway (think Frogger, except with a chicken), Keystone Kapers, and River Raid. Surprisingly as well, games such as Skiing and Ice Hockey actually kept my attention as well. But I was also subjected to some real stinkers, including Spider Fighters, Dragster, and Laser Blast. The legendary titles Pitfall! and Kaboom! (both written with exclamation points at the end to make my writing appear more enthused than it actually is) are also present, but no, they're not quite the joy-filled donuts they may have once been. Controlling them with the PlayStation controller isn't the authentic experience you might be looking for, but at least there's an analog stick to simulate that weapon-like erect joystick of the 80s.

Featured here: Pitfall! and Frostbite

By completing certain tasks in some games, such as achieving 10000 points in Frost Bite or playing every game once, you get... nothing. There is no bonus material here whatsoever. Unlike most other classic video game collections, you don't get to read about the history of each game or hear from the game designer in a special interview. You don't get bonus art collections or remixed music. You know what you get? Nothing. Absolutely nothing extra. And I doubt they really cared about the collection much at all because the overall design is horrible. The menu visuals are unpleasant and amateurish, the weird sound effects between the title screen and the game menu are a bit arrhytmia-inducing, and even the introductory developer logos are awful. And if you haven't seen the demo, don't bother: it is so low-resolution and low-quality, you'd think it was a sub-par YouTube video. It's sad when the most visually enticing part of your game collection are the parts from 25 years ago.

This is a glorified blast from the past that I doubt any gamer who did not initially experience this back in the heyday of the Atari 2600 will appreciate. Add to that the absolutely dreadful presentation of the collection, and it's pretty easy to understand why ANYONE may not want to try this one out. New generations of gamers won't be amused by Atari 2600 games, and older generations will be insulted by how their cherished memories have been treated. Don't play this collection; eat a jar of mayonnaise instead. The fun will be far more pronounced after heart failure.

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