Review by Holy Vercetti

"If I could turn back time..."

As someone who is old enough to have been around at the beginning of the videogame craze, to have played Pong in hotel lobbies, to have anxiously awaited the release of Donkey Kong in the US after hearing through the grapevine just how awesome it was, I’ve always been a sucker for retro videogame anthologies. I have a good collection of them for the PSX, the Saturn, the Dreamcast, the PS2, even the N64. Still, even I am willing to admit that these collections have rarely been worth the prices charged (with the exception of the Dungeons and Dragons Arcade Collection for the Saturn w/4mb expansion card, but that’s another story). The good thing is you get to play the classic games again on the big screen, but the bad news is there simply isn’t enough game play in a handful of retro classics to warrant the expense (especially since many of the titles are readily available in other collections and (god, and the law, forbid) for emulators. The Activision Anthology eliminates that problem by including a ridiculous variety of games coupled with hundreds of Easter eggs and other bells and whistles. It is easily the best such collection to come along yet.

Activision Anthology includes over 45 games from the classic Atari 2600 library right out of the box (with maybe a few others un-lockable). The list of games is stunning and includes all of the seminal games Activision created after bolting from Atari: Chopper Command, Crackpots, H.E.R.O., Megamania, Pitfall, Pitfall 2, River Raid, Starmaster, Commando, and Decathalon (just to name a few!). All of those games were serious time-suckers back in the day, and they hold up surprisingly well.

The ports here are picture and sound perfect. Other than the control pad, playing these games now is just like playing them then, and I, for one, certainly don’t miss the rubbery, non-responsive Atari joystick. In fact, many of these games are far easier and more enjoyable with the modern joystick, even if 90% of its buttons are going to waste.

Tons of games done well is certainly enough to make an anthology worth purchasing, but Activision Anthology has more than that. First, it has a tremendous soundtrack of classic 80’s pop and rock tunes. It is not quite the CD bust’n extravaganza of GTA: Vice City, but what it lack in quantity it more than makes up for in quality. Playing these games with that soundtrack blaring is like jacking H.G. Wells’s time machine.

In addition to the soundtrack, performing well in certain games can open up new modes. Most of these are trivial and some are simply unplayable, but the challenge opening them up is still rewarding. Playing these games originally meant making up your own goals. It is nice to see Activision provide gamers with some scores to shoot for.

The presentation is also top notch. It is set up like a 80’s bedroom with TV, Atari 2600, and the seemingly ubiquitous spinning cartridge rack. The only thing that separates the virtual setup from my 80’s videogame ensemble is that rack is packed with more games than I could ever afford – until now.

If you have even a passing interest in the videogames of the past, Activision Anthology is a must-have title. It is too complete and too well done to pass up. At about fifty cents a game, it’s also great value.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 07/03/03, Updated 07/03/03

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