Yet another budget compilation for the PSP, but of all compilations, it's a collection of old Atari games-specifically, almost all of Activision's entire Atari 2600 lineup! (sans Commando, Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, Rampage, Kung fu Master, Pete Rose Baseball, and Double Dragon, all due to legal issues) But don't let that turn you away-while at first i was turned off by how archaic the games were, once this compilation "clicked" with me, i was having an absolute blast with these fun oldies. Now let's get into what makes this fine compilation worth your time and money.
Before i go into this review, i have to ask some people here: who here has ever played that Activision Classics PSOne compilation? Remember how slow and bloated the user interface was? Remember how it COULDN'T save your high scores? Remember how lazy and bare bone the presentation was? Remember how dreadfully long those loading times were?
Well, this compilation is what Activision Classics SHOULD have been, and then some! Not only is this budget compilation devoid of all of the previous compilations flaws, it also goes out of it's way to make itself stand out from it by including more games, a bunch of cool extras, a great menu system, great presentation, and thank goodness, you can now SAVE YOUR HIGH SCORES.
The user interface is just fantastic-after the title screen, you're treated to a simple, cell shaded 3-D room, with a table and old fashioned TV seated on top, and to top it off, a good ol' Atari VCS cozily seated next to it. (by the way, i honestly prefer that name over Atari 2600) Nearby is a ring of orbiting Atari cartridges, which you can look through. It's a fast, swift, and very convienient process to pick a game. And whats even more interesting is that they even threw in some cool 80's music tracks that play in the menus and even during the games-thankfully, you can shut it off via options if you prefer not having music in your Atari games. Also, the wait for when the compilation boots up is very brief, and i really like that.
I should also mention that outside of first booting up the compilation and the saving/loading processes, there are virtually NO loading times whatsoever-you can literally just jump right into the games in mere seconds!
Now i usually do in depth reviews of the games these compilations have to offer, but considering this compilation is stuffed with a grand total of 44 games, i'd be here all day trying to review all of them, so i'll just list the entire library below, complete with own personal grade for each:
Barnstorming (D), Beamrider (B-), Boxing (A-), Bridge (B+), Checkers (D), Chopper Command (A), Cosmic Commuter (A-), Crackpots (C), The Activision Decathlon (B), Dolphin (C), Dragster (C), Enduro (A-), Fishing Derby (B), Freeway (C+), Frostbite (A-), Grand Prix (C+), H.E.R.O. (B), Ice Hockey (A), Kabobber (C-), Kaboom! (D-, i'll explain later), Keystone Kapers (A-), Laser Blast (F), Megamania (C), Oink! (F), Pitfall! (A-), Pitfall II: Lost Caverns (A), Plaque Attack (C), Pressure Cooker (B+), Private Eye (D+), River Raid (A), River Raid II (A-), Robot Tank (B-), Seaquest (B-), Skiing (B+), Sky Jinks (D-), Space Shuttle (C+), Spider Fighter (C), Stampede (A-), Starmaster (B+), Tennis (C+), and Thwocker (D+). This compilation even includes three Imagic titles (Atlantis (B-) Demon Attack (B), and Moonsweeper (B-)) for good measure. So there you have it, Lots of fun games, albiet a few duds here and there, and plenty of variety and replay value.
In the games, you can adjust the aspect ratio between two views, pause the game (something you couldn't do on an original Atari!), and change the modes or difficulities! And the game dosen't shut off, even when you go back to the menu, unless say you play another game! (not unlike the Wii's suspend save option for games on Virtual Console) The emulation quality for each game is top notch, although one does suffer from control issues...(i'll get to that later) Also, these games look positively crisp on my PSP, and they no longer suffer from that absolutely dreadful RF interference the plaqued the original versions of these games.
Each game has a "Media" section-a high score table, a well written and detailed manual for each game, scans of the original cartridge and box art, and a few of the games even have unlockable extras! These range from some neat old game commercials to promo materials, but they're well worth unlocking-but the way you unlock them is by beating certain goals in their respective game. (i.e. getting a certain score, getting to a certain point, doing a certain task) Some of these are pathetically easy (lose all of your lives once in Laser Blaster) to insanely hard (get 18,000 points in River Raid). But this really increases the games replay value, and the extras are well worth the hassle you go through to get them.
Options has the sound options (where you can turn off the CD music, adjust the sound volume for the menus and game sound effects) the load/save icon (i'll get to that in a little bit) the option to watch credits (boo frikity hoo) and they even included the timeline of which order each of the games were released called Chronology!
So is there anything wrong with this finely crafted, polished compilation? Sadly, there are a few flaws which slightly hamper the experience.
For starters, while this version has the benefit of saving your high scores (unlike the PS1 Activision Classics and even the PS2 Activision Anthology which had no way of saving them) you have to MANUALLY save the game settings, high score and unlockables data-no autosave whatsoever! And to add insult to injury, you have to LOAD that data manually each time you play the compilation! It's a quick process, but it is really annoying-i really don't see why they couldn't have just added an autosave!
Also, Kaboom-one of Activision's best games, and one of the best games available for the Atari VCS/2600-is nearly unplayable thanks to how overly sensitive the controls are when moving the bomb plates around! (the original game used a controller with a dial, called the "Paddle Controller") Come on! I mean, this is isn't even like Pole Position where the original game had a steering wheel controller, it just had a dial! Could they have at least put in an option to adjust the sensitivity of the controls (not unlike what Taito did with the port of the dial-controlled Breakout clone Plump Pop in Taito Legends for PS2) so we could actually enjoy the game?!
Also, there dosen't appear to be any multiplayer support for the games that original did support them, which is a letdown (if i'm incorrect about this, please feel free to inform me, since i hate spreading misinformation) but at least there's the game sharing option, which i should bring up more since i'm quite fond of it...
At it's core, Activision Hits Remixed is solid gold, plain and simple- it's a well constructed compilation, filled with many timeless, classic games, neat extras and good presentation, and in a sense it's actually superior to the PS1 and PS2 versions, but those few flaws i brought up keep this fine anthology from reaching it's full potential. Nevertheless, it's well worth a look, and it can be easily found for a low price. Be it for the nostalgia, or if you're just looking for a good collection of games for a low price, check this one out. These games, despite their archaic graphics and sound, have timeless, fun gameplay that has stood up well against the test of time. I've said it once and i'll say it again: come for the games, stay for the memories.
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