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Publisher: MacPlay    Genre: Arcade
Min OS X: 10.2.8    CPU: G4 @ 400 MHz    RAM: 128 MB    Graphics: 16 MB VRAM

Activision Anthology: Remix Edition
April 16, 2004 | D.G. Chichester

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Feathered hair. Members only jackets. Molly Ringwald and mullets. Get your mind around the eighties, boys and girls, because that’s where we’re going back to with the Activision Anthology Remix Edition.

Nowadays, you see “Activision” on a game box — and if you notice such things, you most likely consider them a well-regarded publisher of a variety of games for any number of platforms. But there’s more to the story, young Jedi...

Back in 1980, Atari was the top of the gaming mountain. Its Atari 2600 console system didn’t just dominate video gaming, it defined it for gamers and the general public. But not everyone was thrilled. A group of employees unhappy with conditions at the mothership left Atari to form their own company — Activision — and became the premier third party publisher of games for the 2600. Between 1980 and 1988, Activision would release more than 50 games for the Atari — and you’ll find the majority of them accurately and affectionately reproduced in this very fine collection. (The missing exceptions are licensed titles, like Ghostbusters or Double Dragon.)

What’s in the box?

Here’s the kind of eighties value you get for your 21st Century dollar:

(Take a deep breath...)

Atlantis, Atlantis 2, Barnstorming, Baseball, Beamrider, Bloody Human Freeway, Boxing, Bridge, Checkers, Chopper Command, Climber 5, Commando, Cosmic Ark, Cosmic Commuter, Crackpots, Decathlon, Demon Attack, Dolphin, Dragonfire, Dragster, Enduro, Fathom, Fire Fighter, Fishing Derby, Freeway, Frostbite, Grand Prix, H.E.R.O., Ice Hockey, Kabobber, Kaboom!, Keystone Kapers, Laser Blast, Megamania, Moonsweeper, No Escape, Oink!, Okie, Oystron, Pitfall!, Pitfall II, Plaque Attack, Pressure Cooker, Private Eye, Quick Step, Riddle of the Sphinx, River Raid, River Raid II, Robot Tank, Seaquest, Skateboardin', Skeleton+, Skiing, Sky Jinks, Sky Patrol, Solar Storm, Space Shuttle, Space Treat Deluxe, Spider Fighter, Stampede, Starmaster, Star Voyager, Subterranea, Tennis, Thwocker, Titlematch, Tomcat, Trick Shot, Vault Assault, Venetian Blinds, Video Euchre, Wing War — plus and 2 unnamed prototypes that were never released to the public.

Several of these games — Baseball and Beamrider, for example — are available for the first time since they were originally released in cartridge form (Not counting other versions of this collection for other platforms, natch). I haven’t done a direct comparison, but I’d wager a guess this is probably the largest “classic game” collection of its kind.

Playing Around
The Anthology's main interface is a typical young teen’s bedroom from the era: small TV, Atari game console, and a spinner rack jammed full of Activision game cartridges. Simple left/right arrow keys let you spin the rack, while the up/down arrows move you through the cartridges in each column. Once you’ve selected a particular game, it visually “pulls out” of the spinner in a quick motion. You then have some initial “take me back” options: look over the original cartridge and label, the original box art, and a reproduction of that particular game’s original manual.

If you want to save that part of your nostalgia trip for later, you can just jump right into a game itself. “Plugging” the cartridge into the console starts the game — and from there you may as well be running an actual Atari 2600, with all its original pluses or minuses.

These are simple games. On the one hand, their uncomplicated and formulaic patterns may have you switching from one cart to the next every few minutes. On the other hand, since you now own almost every game Activision put out for the platform, why not do just that? These games are easy to get in to and out of, so enjoy the distraction for as long as it — oops, sorry, got distracted there. The point is, “simple” here does not mean “boring.” The formulas behind each title — avoid the moving obstacle; blast the enemy; leap from platform to platform — are the very basics that keep any video game interesting.

Detracting from the casual nature of the games: a copy protection scheme that requires the game CD to be in the drive while playing. I fully understand the need for anti-piracy measures, but you’re far less likely to return to this collection for a fast game if you have to dig out the CD every time.

It’s important to keep in mind the differences in gameplay between “now” and “then.” Atari games do not have dramatic conclusions. You are not going after a final boss. You will not rack up your character’s experience, and you will not learn secrets of his dark past. Survive and score points: that’s it. When you die or get to a finish line, the game will just end. It has not crashed. You are then supposed to restart and try to beat the high score. Keep all that in mind and you won’t feel you’re being gypped out of power ups or secret levels.

Controls are very straightforward:

•Space= Fire
•Arrow Keys= Movement
•F2= Reset
•F6= Toggles between black and white and color for select games.

Games can be played full screen on in a reduced window. Some titles offer 2 player modes, but you must assign the controls before you begin a game (otherwise you have to quit/restart to get back to these option selections). Keyboard and mouse are the default controls for player 1 — you’ll need an additional joystick or gamepad for player 2.


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