Activision Classics


Review by John Hardie



Graphics: 6

Sound: 2

Gameplay: 4

Overall: 2

Anyone who knows our fearless editor, Mr. Santulli, knows that he is very liberal when it comes to keeping our articles related to each month's theme. You might then think that I'm stretching it by reviewing Activision Classics for the Playstation, because it happens to contain a couple of 2600 shooters. Actually, I decided to review this product because it should be taken out back and shot (not a bad fate for the people who authorized it's release either).

Upon first hearing of the Activision Classics Package, I rejoiced! Images of the old Activision games swirled through my head. The magic was back! "Finally", I thought, "Activision was going to make up for the horrid 3-volume Action Pack series that they released for the PC". I excused their previous blunder; "Damn PC's are so quirky anyway!". Now at last they could atone for their sins and utilize the raw power of the Playstation to bring us picture-perfect translations. No more wondering if it would run on this system or that. Now there was a standard, and I was confident I would soon be tossing out 30 of my old Activision carts (NOT!) since I could now possess them on a single-disc.

Upon release, I obtained my treasure for a paltry $30. How could I lose at that price?? Look at the gems they bestowed upon us: Atlantis, Barnstorming, Boxing, Chopper Command, Crackpots, Cosmic Commuter, 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 II, Seaquest, Skiing, Sky Jinx, Spider Fighter, Stampede, Starmaster, and Tennis. Oh what a glorious day! I returned home and popped this baby into my PSX. I was greeted by a cool intro sequence with some good music and various game screens flying around. So far, so good. I pressed start and was greeted by a sampled sound of Pitfall Harry jumping onto a vine. What's this? A T.V. with a block of wood on top (whoops that's a 2600) hooked to a Romscanner-type device on the right with all the carts in it. We were smoking now. What presentation! Redemption was almost here! I quickly selected Pitfall and heard the digitized voice say "Activision Classics" as it loaded. Here we go!


I was speechless. In what should have been a room filled with comments like: "Yahoo!" "Alright!" "Yesss!" "Wheeeeee!" there was a deafening silence. My feelings ranged from wonder and dismay,"How could this happen?" What had gone wrong?" to vengeance, "Wait till I find out who was responsible for this!"

Enough of the play-by-play, let me tell you what is wrong with Activision Classics. The first and most annoying problem is the sound. After being teased with some sampled sound in the intro, you are treated to a muffled overture of in-game sounds. I kept looking to see if my wife had thrown a sheet over my speakers. It's so bad, that it forces you to spend most of your time looking for some type of in-game audio adjustment that corrects the problem. The accuracy of the sounds is off also. Using River Raid as an example, in the original version, flying over fuel tanks makes a "ding ding ding!" sound that goes off as your fighter flies over them and refuels, but in the Playstation CD, it's just a continuous, solid sound effect. It's really disappointing after hearing the opening sequence sounds.

The emulation is simply horrendous. Why they can't emulate a 2600 on a PSX is beyond me. The choppy frame rate and sluggish controls are most noticeable with River Raid, Pitfall!, H.E.R.O. and Spider Fighter. The choppiness is particularly magnified in H.E.R.O. and River Raid. These two were smooth as butter on the original Atari 2600. Collision detection is not accurate either. Perhaps in trying to speed things up, they fouled up the collision detection. If you try shooting the fuel tanks or helicopters in River Raid and you'll see what I mean. Lastly, the colors are off on several titles compared to the originals and many just had a fuzzy look to them.

There are also some minor annoyances which maybe I'm being too picky about. The most notable things are the fact that when you exit a game, you go back to the main title screen where you have to press Start to get to the game select screen. This gets old real quick as does the digitized voice that says "Activision Classics". I also have to wonder why they chose to exclude other games like Decathlon, Private Eye, Space Shuttle, Pitfall II, Robot Tank, Beamrider, Oink! and the other Imagic games.

Activision also overlooked a few things that might have helped to salvage this disc. The first oversight is the lack of analog controller support. Kaboom! needs to be played with a mouse, NegCon, or the Namco Paddle Controller. It just doesn't work properly with a joypad (although the frame-rate is so bad that it probably wouldn't have mattered anyway). The second saving grace that they overlooked is in the documentary department. There's no video footage, interviews, scans of various memorabilia, or any other type of archive information on the disc.

Overall, this was a big disappointment. One of the programmers even posted on-line saying how Activision was more concerned with rushing the product out to make a quick buck, than having it be true to the original. This is at least the second time Activision has shanked us, and I've gotten to the point where if I drop something and have to bend over to pick it up, I nervously glance behind me to see if some guy with an Activision name-tag is running towards me.

Honestly, I'm the first person to support any effort at classic game compilations. I'm always the first in line to buy. But this is one time when $1 a game is too much. Hopefully they won't try and screw us out of another $30 bucks by putting the titles they overlooked along with later releases (Double Dragon, Commando, Rampage, etc.) into Volume 2.


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Last updated: Sunday, January 04, 2004 08:12 AM