Activision Classics

by Grant Sanborn

Land of the Lost
I’m having flashbacks again. I haven’t been asleep and no drugs are involved, but I’m experiencing some very powerful, mind-altering flashbacks. First, I see my youth bathed in a black and white pong world full of blips and beeps. Then suddenly my vision becomes bathed in the basic palette from the Atari 2600. Of course, the Atari’s unique sounds start to float through my head and my hand begins to flinch all by itself. I’m back – way back. I’m trapped in the world of the 2600 and I can’t get out. Oh, what the hell, why would I want to get out? All praise Activision for pushing me through this wormhole of memory.

I have to admit it’s great to remember a time when joysticks broke after a few weeks and when games caused seizures and it was still blamed on Mother Nature – those were the days. The flashbacks are almost too much with the return of classic Activision Atari games on my souped-up PlayStation. Is this sad? I’m not sure.

Activision is currently the king of everything that’s old is new again. From the revamped Asteroids to rumors of a new and improved Space Invaders, Activision is trying to grab the gamers who began their illustrious careers in the arcade playing the likes of Pac Man, Dig Dug, Xaxxon and Joust. Now, to try and capitalize on their own place in the historical record, they’ve compiled 30 of their “classic” Atari 2600 games on one PlayStation disc. Not new and improved versions, they are exact replicas of the games that appeared on the bulky black cartridges so many years ago.

As a former addict of the 2600, these games are really weird to revisit. Some are truly cool and ingenious, while others simply make you go “hmmm.” Of course, there is the original Pitfall (another throwback that’s been revised), River Raid, Skiing (which used to be my fave – it seems a lot slower these days), a boatload of driving games, Chopper Command, a lot of primitive sports games and a bunch of strange (yet somewhat fun) titles such as Fishing Derby and Stampede.

Unfortunately, some of these titles just don’t live up to my memories of them. On the other hand, a lack of action in gameplay is clearly made up with the sounds that spring from my TV again! Oh man, my wife was begging me to turn the TV down as soon as I started hopping on crocodile heads in Pitfall (OK, the sound that really bugged her was when I was snapped to death by those little buggers). The beeps and squawks must have driven many a parent insane, and I can totally understand their wish to stay away from video games at all costs. But for me, the sounds have proven to be the best part of this collection. Is that a good or bad thing? You’ll have to decide for yourself. Maybe you will get a thrill playing Kaboom!, but I’m not sure I do anymore. Of course, this is the ultimate party game to pull out and show off!

Of course, if you want to transport yourself back to a wistful youth (it really feels way too literal and real for me sometimes), just pop in this cartridge, I mean disc, and let nostalgia take over. You do get plenty of bang for your buck – but don’t expect too much beyond that. Boy, I’m sure glad we’ve come a long way, baby!

The complete list:
Atlantis, Barnstorming, Boxing, Chopper Command, Crackpot, Cosmic Commuter, Dolphin, Dragster, Enduro, Fishing Derby, Freeway, Frostbite, Grad Prix, Hero, Ice Hockey, Kaboom!, Keystone Capers, Laser Blast, Megamania, Pitfall, Plaque Attack, River Raid, River Raid 2, Seaquest, Skiing, Sky Jinx, Spider Fighter, Stampede, Starmaster and Tennis.

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