30 Game Reviews/1 Post

My Thoughts On: April 15th, 2003

A long time ago I rented Activision Classics, a compilation game of old Activision Atari games, 30 in all. The game was so fun I decided to write a review on my message board of all 30 games. Take a look.

Well, at the local video rental store here in Podun... ahem... Greenville, Michigan, where I hang my pants out to dry, they have a new deal. You can pay $30 to get a unlimited rental pass for one month. I've been using this deal to rent stuff to my heart's content. I recently got a game called "Civilization 2", and got into that game for a week or so up until my nation of Romans, led by "Imperator Phoebus Apollo", got caught in a game glitch and frankly, I gave up. It's so depressing to see the progress of a nation go to waste, even when it's virtual. So I'd had my fill of that game, and today I got the opportunity to go trade it in for a different one. I had my fill of movies as of late too (I've rented "God Told Me To", "To Kill A Mockingbird", "A Clockwork Orange", "Ringmasters - The Great American Bash" and "Ultimate Fighting Championship I: The Beginning" - you can tell by my lineup that I've had too much movie fun for this month), so I looked around for a different game to get.

What do I stumble upon? "Activision Classics" for the Playstation, a game compilation by the early game gurus, Activision. It's basically a bunch of games for the Atari 2600 that they made all rolled into one nice ball. How many games?


Yep, 30. Now, when I seen that figure, I simply had to try it out. I mean, that's a lot. And they're all old, to boot. There has to be SOME gaming experience I can get by playing this.

Plus, I can get a keen post out of it, by reviewing all these games! Since I'm bored and need new material for my message board, here is a review of 30 old-ass Atari games. First though, a overview of the compilation edition.

Activision Classics: Overview

I've gotta note that overall, Activision's package stinks. The games themselves are a little TOO old, and all follow similar conventions (namely, no real levels for most of the games, the Activision logo appears on all game screens, a falling energy bar or time meter, no real substance, and most of them are some form of course that you need to lap successfully to win). However, that's how games were back then, so I can't complain.

For the record, the 30 games are: Atlantis, Barnstorming, Boxing, Chopper Command, Cosmic Commuter, Crackpots, Dolphin, Dragster, Enduro, Fishing Derby, Freeway, Frost Bite, Grand Prix, Hero, Ice Hockey, Kaboom!, Keystone Kapers, Laser Blast, Megamania, Pitfall, Plaque Attack, River Raid, River Raid 2, Sea Quest, Skiing, Sky Jinx, Spider Fighter, Stampede, Star Master, and Tennis.

Also, I've gotta point out a GREAT feature. See, the games are small in terms of their architecture, and the reason the load times take so long is that the WHOLE game is loaded into the Playstation's memory. After you've started a game, you can pause it, take out the game cd, and still play (although you have to put the cd back in when you want to start a new game).

This is a great feature because it means, through a simple cd player it loads, you can play your favorite music while you sit down and munch on one of the many games they've included. Simply pause the game after it starts, press "open" on your Playstation, and take the Activision Classics cd out of the Playstation. Get your favorite music cd (my personal preference: The Amazing Jeckel Brothers, ICP), and pop that in. You can customize the music output by pressing the select button, and going to the Audio menu.

All in all, with the cd benefit, you can actually put up with some of these games. A few, more than others. Although, the main interface is ugly and generally crap.

Regardless, let's get on with the reviews, shall we?


This is the game you won't beat. Of course, not that most of these games can specifically be "beaten", as many lack definitive ends.

Anyways, in Atlantis you get three towers. The one in the middle shoots straight up, the one in the left shoots diagonally across the screen to the right, and the one on the right shoots diagonally left. You hold left or right and press the action button (in the Atari 2600 days you only got one button, so you can imagine how you played this originally), and that fires the left or right guns, and pressing the action button by itself will fire the middle cannon.

You goal is to protect the city, aparently it's supposed to be Atlantis, and the more points you get, the more you rebuild the damaged parts. At first it's deceptively easy, as planes casually fly by, but then, one plane shoots across the sky with a laser, destroying one half of Atlantis and most likely destroying your middle cannon. This plane is too damn hard to hit, with your limited ability to fire (your cannons are fixed in their firing paths).

In the end, this game is boring. I can see how someone would like it, but c'mon, the smaller enemies do NOTHING other than rack up points, and the only enemies that do attack are insanely difficult to hit.

I give this game one Jake Jeckel, for being timid.


Did you ever want to fly a old biplane through a barn like a madman?

Of course you did! Barnstorming fullfills this need to insanely mow down birds in a small one-prop biplane. The action button speeds you up, and you move up and down. There are two obstacles, windmills (which you must always go over to advoid) and birds. Well, you can throw in a third, being the barn roof. The object is to stay high enough in the sky to advoid the windmills and while up there, miss the birds. Then, when the barn approaches, you need to fly back down, go right through the barn, and then come back up before you hit the next windmill. The challenge comes in not knowing what's coming next - a barn or a windmill. When you hit a windmill, bird or roof of a barn, you slow down. There is a timer, giving you some point to this barnstorming race. Clear the given number of barns, and you're done.

I'm saddened, though, that there aren't cows, and that you can't crash or something. You BUMP the birds when you hit them. They just bump up. That's just not right. They should splat into a bloody mess, like they do in real life.

I can imagine all the kids who played this game out on their uncle's farm, and then took the biplane for a spin through the ol' barn, only to find out the poor, poor birds don't bump off that propeller.

These games are deluding our children's minds!

The least Barnstorming could've done was have a cow obstacle. It could moo when you collide into it.

I give this game three dented windmills.


Frankly... I love this game.

It's so simple. So pointless. Yet, so beautiful.

Here's the lowdown on Boxing. You are in a simple ring, one 10 times less sophisticated than a MS Paint portrait. You are, on the screen, two arms and a head. One arm always on top, the other arm always on bottom, and the head in the middle. You move around the ring, and the goal is to swing (by pressing the action button) and hit the other guy in the face. The game decides what hand to swing with (whichever is most likely to land a blow), you can't swing the left or right independently. Remember, one-button back in the days of Atari. If you swing and hit the arm or glove, it won't count. After 100 blows your opponent is KO'ed. The timer counts down, and the person with the most blows (or who's scored a KO) wins. Not that there is some sort of indicator that says "X wins". No, you presume you've won. It's an assumption. Remember the age these games where made in.

One boxer is black, and the other is white. Not just black and white as in, two black and white guys standing there. No, one boxer is ENTIRELY white, as in, no shading, no rendering, just a bunch of #FFFFFF squares lined up next to one another, and the other is black, as in #000000. Black. Don't you love how I used hexidecimal descriptions of color just then?

Just think of it as the video game version of "The Great White Hype". That'll put things into perspective.

So, while you can barely make out any intelligable "person" out of the boxers, you still get the impression that you are boxing, by the manner you throw the blows. You know when you are ringing him on the ropes. Even though the ropes are just a solid orange line. You know it. You can feel it. It's like when Mike Tyson lays in the fury and bites off an ear. It's good.

The computer is always different, no two matches are the same, and the learning curve is good. This game "feels" good. There is nothing special about it, and you would probably hate it. However, it's just a game I could play over and over again.

I give this game five bloody ears.

Chopper Commando:

Those of you who do know about classic video game history know about Williams Entertainment, who made games like Joust, Robotron, and Defender. Defender, specifically, is what I refer to here. Activision's Chopper Commando has nearly all of the elements of Defender, leading me to believe that Defender was a natural progression from Chopper Commando. Let's note the similiarities...


In Activision's Chopper Commando, the goal is to destory all the other aircraft, were you progress to the next wave of aircraft.

In Williams Entertainment's Defender, the goal is to destory all the other spaceships, were you progress to the next wave of spaceship.


In Activision's Chopper Commando, you fly around a linear map that connects at both ends using a helicopter.

In Williams Entertainment's Defender, you fly around a linear map that connects at both ends using a spaceship.


In Activision's Chopper Commando, you have a radar at the bottom of the screen showing you enemies in the immediate vicinity.

In Williams Entertainment's Defender, you have a radar at the top of the screen showing you the enemies in the immediate vicinity.


In Activision's Chopper Commando, you shoot a long, thin laser beam out of your helicopter.

In Williams Entertainment's Defender, you shoot a long, thin laser beam out of your spaceship.


In Activision's Chopper Commando, there are two main enemies in all levels, helicopters (slow and easy to hit), and rapid jets (thin and hard to hit).

In Williams Entertainment's Defender, there are two main enemies in all levels, generic round alien spacecraft (slow and easy to hit), and rapid generic alien spacecraft (thin and hard to hit).

You get the point. If you've played Defender, you've played the third youngest son of the ancient Chopper Commando. Chopper Commando is simple, follow the path left or right to destroy all the enemies, and keep a watchful eye on the radar so you know what's coming up ahead of you.

I did anticipate, however, there being people or something of some sort to pick up along the way. There are vans, but if you run into those, you die. So it lacks one of the central factors that Defender had. However, if you play Chopper Commando, it's obvious where Defender came from. Especially that cool laser.

I give Chopper Commando three lives, since that's all Chopper Commando gave me.

Cosmic Commuter:

The name of the game is simple. First, land on the planet by adjusting your thrust. Then, take your spacecraft around the world, picking up people along the way. Then, land your spacecraft back on the pad that makes up the rest of your craft, and zoom back up into outer space. Advoid objects along the way.

Decent game.

I give Cosmic Commuter two weird floating yellow blocks of stuff, whatever in the hell those things are.


In the name of short reviews, this will be thusly so. You knock flower pots off of a building to flatten spiders as they crawl up your walls and raid your house.

I give Crackpots one can of bug spray, that way the poor guy on the roof doesn't have to waste a few hundred flower pots to get rid of those spiders. Just call the Orkin Man, for goodness sakes.


This game has a interesting note to it. You are a Dolphin perpetually chased by a Jellyfish. You run to the left or right, and must go through small holes in coral reef walls to get through. Little echos come through the holes, so you gotta bound back and forth, staying away from the Jellyfish, and follow the echos through the hole. The game's point, I guess, is to stay away from the Jellyfish.

Good. Pheh.

I give Dolphin one tuna fish net.


Okay, you gotta win a drag race with the computer. Only, I don't see the computer DOING anything.

Either way, you've got to rev your engine without blowing it, and you've got to steer the dragster (in higher levels, at least) to go higher speeds. If you rev too much (holding the action button down for a second or two) you blow the race.

Otherwise, I don't know, because I didn't play it that long. It's just too damn boring.

I give Dragster nothing. If I can't play the damn thing without blowing up my engine or at LEAST getting a finish line so I know when the race is over, then screw it.


Here we go! This is a behind-the-car racer (your viewpoint is set back behind the vehicle). Unlike most racers of this kind, you don't crash or blow up. You just get slowed down. And bumping other vehicles slows you down a lot.

This game surprised me. The rate other vehicles pass you by and the rate the game plays at is astounding. You've got to have the sixth sense to truly beat this. The changes in the days, from midday, to foggy in the evening, to dusk, to night, to pitch-black midnight, and back to morning, is a great transition. The fog is psychadelic. Overall, even though your car looks more like a spider than a racer, this game is very good. The object is to start at midday/dawn, and work your way up 300 spots to 1rst place. When daytime goes back to dawn, the places reset, and if you aren't first place, your game is over. It's one big game of endurance (hence the name, Enduro).

If you ever get a chance to play this, do so. The race is insane. It's simple, but insane.

I give Enduro five epileptic seizures, due to it's fog racing scene.

Fishing Derby:

You are sitting on the left. Your rival is sitting on the right. Use your lure to catch fish. watch out for the large shark that somehow got into your fishing shallows. The shark shakes loose all fish that come it's way.


I give Fishing Derby the same thing I'd give Roller Derby, jack shit.


Why did the chicken cross the road?

Okay, I'm sorry. I lead off the review for this game with the OBVIOUS question. Yes, in Freeway you lead a chicken across a road. It's essentially frogger, only you move up and down, and the freeway makes for a good challenge. I still have yet to figure out the point of this game. Although, that remains true for nearly all the other games on this edition.

Good time waster.

I give Freeway three traffic violations, because that's what our federal government would give us if we drove at speeds as high/low as the cars on this screen do.

Frost Bite:

You're a eskimo, and you've got to build a igloo. How do you do it, you ask? Simple! Just jump on ice flows, watch them turn blue, and there you go, a brick of ice!


Anyways, you've gotta jump from ice flow to ice flow, and it builds up your igloo. When your igloo is complete, you've gotta jump in it, and get your points. Do it before the degrees (timer) drops too low, or else you'll freeze out there. The problem with this game is that the enemies always kill you. When you hit a seagull, you are held back, and the seagull pushes you off the ice. Same for all the other enemies. Fish garner extra bonus points, and polar bears await you at higher levels on land, keeping you from travelling just anywhere on the shore. You can use a brick of your igloo to change the direction of the ice flows. You've got to advoid these things all while advoiding hopping in the ice water.

I give Frost Bite four points for creativity, but I take one point away due to the fact that I thought the seals where people that where drowning, promptly making me lose a life trying to save them.

Grand Prix:

Basic race. Four "lanes", you can move up and down in any manner you want, just advoid collisions at all costs. Pretty straightforward.

I give Grand Prix three waste disposal experts, so they can clean up those fucking oil slicks on the roadway and find out what that buzzing flashing crap is when you hit them.


Your job here is to save the day, by using your helicopter backpack, laser eyes, and sticks of dynamite. You blow up walls, and float down cave shafts. Do so carefully, as you can die easily in this game. Down in the lower recesses are lost mine workers, one for each level, who you have to save.

Straightforward, simple, fun.

I give Hero two passes to the local eye clinic, so he can get that whole laser eye problem fixed.

Ice Hockey:

Hockey at it's best.

It's 2 on 2.

And your team only has one stick.

... well, it's better than watching a Red Wings game, at least.

The game is simple, move one player at a time into position to vie for the puck, and then score. Not much more to say than that. Oh, you get to trip your opponent if you swing enough times at their feet. Besides, that's it.

I give Ice Hockey two Colorado Avalanche jerseys, and Patrick Roy - these teams need a goaltender that doesn't wander around with no stick half the time.


A escaped convict is dropping bombs randomly. You're a three tier block of dinner plates (I guess, that IS what they look like, after all) which are supposedly capable of taking the blast of high explosives. Just block the bombs.

I give Kaboom! one Ted Kazincsky and one Timothy McVeigh. I have a feeling those two would get along with the mad jailhouse bomber in this game.

Keystone Kapers:

You play the part of one of those funny little British cops. You know, with the goofy hat and no gun? You've got to run up a building after a escaped convict. You go up floor after floor using escalators and elevators, and you've got to pin the suspect before he flees off the roof. He gets a major head start, but you're a fast runner.

Beat the clock and get the suspect. Over, and over again.

I give Keystone Kapers four of those little whistles those Brits use. I can see him, the whole way, leaping over couches and shoving people out of the way blowing on a whistle the whole time. I mean, what's he going to do, shoot the convict? With what gun? I'd run too!

Laser Blast:

You play the part of a spaceship attacking a generic planet, your job is to blow up as many units as you can, and survive the firefight. Ground units, in pairs of threes, come to confront you with random laser fire, and you don't know which one of the three will fire at you next. You do get some degree of control over your laser fires, but frankly, it's very hard to advoid the enemy laser blasts.

Thankfully, if you're hit, you get to kamikaze your dying ship into the foe. Good game. Hard game.

I give Laser Blast four stars, for reminding me of the Japanesse circa WW2.


I read some other reviews of this compilation and Megamania got high praises. Basically, you take control of a Enterprise-like spacecraft, and just fire at tons of foes. They advance in weird patterns, the first wave flys around exiting the right of the screen and entering in on the right, and the second wave comes down in a maze-like pattern. Very difficult shooter. Finish the level before your energy runs out.

I give Megamania four weird floating yellow blocks of stuff, whatever in the hell those things are. I think Activision has a penchant for floating yellow blocks.


Yep, the old classic, 256 screen jaunt. You've got 20 minutes. Explore as much of the land as you can. Take the high road (with alligators, logs, snakes, vines and pits), or the low road (with scorpions and the occassional wall, forcing you to backtrack).

Get all the goods you can, if you don't die first.

I give Pitfall five stars. Because it's Pitfall. C'mon. Pitfall.

Plaque Attack:

Yep, you are a bottle of toothpaste defending the teeth of some chap's mouth from all forms of bad foods.

I give Plaque Attack nothing, for sending positive messages to children.

River Raid:

You play the part of an attack plane swooping on into the harbor for a raid. Go straight up the river, and attack helicopters and ships as they sit in the bay. Run over fuel strips to refuel. This game is somewhat fun, although there isn't much innovation. Just generic fly straight.

I give River Raid two points if you don't like travel shooters where you advance upward through a linear map, and four points if you do.

River Raid 2:

The concept is the same as the first River Raid, fly upwards through a map, but now you've been given much more control and management with your aircraft. You've got to actually fly it, keep it's attitude, fuel and speed in check, and fight in it.

Only that much better.

I give it River Raid 2 three points if you don't like these kinds of shooters, five if you do.

Sea Quest:

In sea quest you are a submarine, and you need to save some divers from sharks and other hazards. Just go down, do the saving, and come back up for air periodically. Save a prerequisite number of divers and you advance.

I can't say much more about this game, there isn't much to say. Rival subs and boats make your day saving scuba divers that much harder.

I give Sea Quest two points. It'd get three if those sharks actually ate those little swimmers.


Just as the name says.


I give Skiing three points for being a decent Atari 2600 skiing game. If that says anything to you.

Sky Jinx:

Okay, this game is a little difficult. The object is to duck and weave around several poles. You gotta stay on the right of red poles and on the left of blue ones. Don't hit the trees, balloons, poles, or other objects. Get a fast lap time, pat yourself on the back, and move to the next game.

I give Sky Jinx a two.

Spider Fighter:

What impressed me with this game was the manner of blaster fire and the sheer challenge of the enemies. You play a ground alien craft fending off invaders. I don't quite get the spider part yet.

I give Spider Fighter four, it would've got five if I actually got what the "spider" thing was about.


Those damn cattle are on the loose! Your job is to rangle them up with your pert lasso and your trusty steed. Your lasso is slow, but the rest of the controls are fine.

I give Stampede three pounds of ground beef from chuck.

Star Master:

Here you play the part of a space craft, first person. All you get is a target on your screen. Now, here's what I don't get - you press square to open a menu to "hyperspace" to that part of the map. What I don't get is why do you shoot, as I've not seen yet a result from shooting any enemy spaceships, and what is the point?

Oh well.

I give Star Master a one, only because someone else might figure out what the hell the point is.


This is the last game in the 30-game pack. Thank goodness! My hands are going crippled over here, and I've got another article to do in less than 15 minutes.

Tennis is simple. Just play. The computer swings your racket for you, so just manuever yourself into the path of the ball. It's a lot more fun than it sounds, truthfully. The computer tends to be too good, though.

I give Tennis 30-love.


All in all, if you don't like the nostalgia or appreciate the general old-ness of these games, don't get this pack. Out of these 30, I would only play a few. Pitfall is fun. I'm sure a lot of people would get into the River Raids. Spider Fighter, Enduro, Freeway, Frost Bite, Cosmic Commuter, Hero, Keystone Kapers, and Megamania all deserve a good play. My personal favorite though is the senseless Boxing. That's just me, however, I suppose the average human being would hate such a game.

Either way, thus sums it up. I must go do my Olde Timey Tape Review in less than ten minutes, so until then, adios!