These Activision games on the Atari 2600 have such fantastic manuals. Rather than a rudimentary guide detailing basic information in a bland format, these manuals have some character in the back stories they lay out and the way they explain the games. Cosmic Commuter is no exception. Its manual is designed as an employee handbook for those entering the Galactic Transit Authority.
It opens with a humorous bit about the visionaries of space travel and their lack of foresight when it came to traffic jams. That’s where the player comes in. Piloting a futuristic space bus, players pick up commuters in sets of eight and blast them off to their next destination.
Even though this game doesn’t offer the mechanically rich gameplay of Pressure Cooker or the repetitive, yet addicting gameplay of Demon Attack, it’s still neat thanks to its zany premise.
Designed by John van Ryzin and released for the Atari 2600 in 1984, scoring 6,000 points will unlock the “Tilt-o-Vision” gameplay mode in Activision Anthology. This is the first, and one of the few Activision games to not have a related patch.
Demon Attack was designed by Rob Fulop and published by Imagic for a variety of home video game consoles and personal computers in the early 1980s. At some point, Activision acquired Imagic, gaining access to their intellectual property and so the Atari 2600 version of this game is included in Activision Anthology.
Like any number of shooters from this era, Demon Attack challenges players to shoot down increasingly difficult waves of enemies that are descending towards the ground. There are generally three rows of enemies whose movement are quite erratic. When it comes down the final enemy, it can be tough to figure out a pattern and nail him. Of these rows of enemies, only the bottom row shoots at the player. Different enemies have different attack styles and farther into the game, enemies break into multiple smaller enemies, eventually attempting kamikaze attacks.
Stages are brief with what seems to be about a dozen enemies per. As such, the pace of the game is stepped up compared to its contemporaries. I enjoyed this quicker pace and liked having to constantly adapt to new enemies. Demon Attack is one of my favorite games included in Activision Anthology.
Released on November 25, 2002 in North America, this compilation collects the majority of Activision’s output on the Atari 2600 and a little more. There are other versions of this game out there on various platforms and truth be told, the PC version appears to be the most complete, but hey, this is what I have. The Wikipedia entry for this game has a wonderful breakdown of what each version includes by the way.
Activision Anthology is nearly over the hill with a list of games that almost numbers fifty. Although many are rather simplistic – requiring the player to learn to uncomplicated mechanics and progressively improve their score – that doesn’t mean these games aren’t worth playing. This simplicity is these games’ selling point. Understanding the mechanics of these games comes quickly, but having a fantastic session and lighting up the scoreboard is something that requires practice.
With the passage of time though, Activision’s games grew more complicated and some, like Pitfall!, revolve more around the experience of a single player. Though sparse here, these games offer a break from the monotony of shooting waves of advancing enemies. Should this offering wear thin after a sojourn with each title, multiplayer should reinvigorate one’s time with Activision Anthology.
One thing the PS2 game has going for it that perhaps not every version does is top-notch presentation. Barking Lizards Technologies and Contraband Entertainment really knocked it out of the park. Be it through these companies or someone at Activision, it’s clear that there was a real affection for Activision’s output in this era. Rather than a list of games to choose from, the “main menu” is instead stylized after a room as it might look in the 1980s. Situated inside are the Atari 2600, a rack of cartridges, and an old stereo among other goodies.
Hands down, the coolest feature has to be the ability to unlock patches for high scores or other criteria. After achieving a specific goal, a player back in the early 1980s could submit photographic proof to Activision in return for a patch signaling the accomplishment. These patches are quite the collector’s item today and spotlight a cool appreciation program from the past. Also spotlighting the past are the cheesy, premise-based commercials that can also be unlocked; these are definitely worth viewing.
The wealth of games to play, not to mention the numerous unlockables have kept me satiated longer than anticipated, and I don’t have a particular fondness for the Atari 2600! After a week or so, I’m still playing some of these games trying to beat personal best scores and to experience new enemies and stage designs. That’s the bread and butter of this package. Despite the wonderful presentation, the games are the reason to pick Activision Anthology up.