Activision Anthology Review

Anyone with an interest in classic gaming will find plenty of reasons to pick up this compilation.

Classic gaming compilations have been making their way onto home consoles for quite some time now. Long-established developers such as Namco, Midway, and Atari have been putting together collections of some of their most famous and well-loved games for a number of years, and now, Activision has done the same with a comprehensive compilation of more than 40 games that originally appeared on the Atari 2600. These are brought together in a package that actually has some surprisingly impressive production values, including a soundtrack that features many recognizable '80s songs.

Pitfall Harry, the original platform-jumping hero.
Pitfall Harry, the original platform-jumping hero.

Compilations such as this rely on hardware emulation that enables these games to work in their original form on modern consoles. Some earlier compilations, such as the Namco Museum series for the PlayStation, came pretty close to re-creating the look and sound of the classic games they included, but didn't really offer much else. This package, on the other hand, offers more than any other compilation to date. Scans of original box art and instruction manuals are available for all the games featured here, along with a slick interface that looks like an old game library. You can also unlock various goodies by attaining high scores in certain games, the highlight being the original television commercials that aired back in the early '80s.

Anyone with an interest in classic gaming will find plenty of reasons to pick up this compilation. Even a relatively small selection of these games--which includes River Raid, Pitfall!, and H.E.R.O., to name a few--would arguably have been worth the price of admission. Aside from those, there are dozens of other games at your disposal, ranging from other great games like Kaboom! and Keystone Kapers to far less exciting games like Checkers or Bridge. Yet nearly every game included is worth taking a look at, even if for nothing more than to see (or recall) what early console gaming was like. For posterity's sake, there are even two unreleased games included, Kabobber and Thwocker. Even many years later, a great deal of the games included here are still just as fun as they were way back then. Those who never had the pleasure of experiencing these games when they were first released will find that many of the conventions of today's games were around 20 years ago, which is a testament to what Activision was able to do with the Atari 2600.

The graphics and sound of these games are very rudimentary by today's standards, but the compilation does a good job of staying true to how they originally looked and sounded. Granted, if you're in the market for a collection of old-school games, you're probably already well aware of this fact. Activision also took the idea of the retro experience a step further by including a licensed soundtrack that features famous songs by the likes of Twisted Sister, Blondie, and others. Hearing this music might throw you for a loop the first couple of times you play, but after a while, it just seems to fit in very well. If '80s tunes aren't really your cup of tea, the soundtrack can also be turned off in favor of the simple sounds of the Atari 2600.

Who can ever forget River Raid?
Who can ever forget River Raid?

The compilation also features several different video modes that can be unlocked by attaining high scores in various games. These can range from a spinning cube that displays the game you're playing on all six faces to a wash of colors over the screen, similar to what it would look like if you placed a magnet near your television set. Honestly, these video modes are just a novelty and don't really add to the gaming experience at all.

If you're looking for a game to relive the past with, you need look no further than Activision Anthology. The sheer number of playable games and unlockable items and the slick production values make it a great value for any gamer with an interest in the roots of console gaming as we know it. While the games might be extremely primitive by today's standards, there's still plenty of playability left in these relics from the past.

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The Bad

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