Activision & Aspyr give us a portable 2600!
By Gregory D. GeorgeJanuary 24, 2005
Select from many many games!
Notice the "broken" lines on the field.
Lost game Kabobber.
When I first started The Atari Times
newsletter in 1996, I swore that I would never review a game that was on
a system other than Atari. However, with the release of Activision
Anthology for the Gameboy Advance, things are beginning to change...
The reason these games look and play so close to the originals is
because they are emulated. While I'm not a game programmer by trade, I
understand that getting the GBA to believe it is a 2600 is no small
All of the classic Activision games (and some Absolute games too) are
here. However, there are a few notable omissions apparently due to
licensing problems. Pete Rose Baseball was retitled Baseball
while Ghostbusters, Kung Fu Master, Commando, and Rampage
are no where to be found. To counteract these omissions, several
homebrew and "lost" games were included rounding out a very nice
collection of games.
How are the graphics? Really, these are 2600 games. What kind of
graphics did you expect? The Activision graphics were always good (for
the most part) on the 2600 however this emulated collection suffers from
one tiny problem. Because the resolution on the GBA is lower than that
of the 2600, graphics had to either be compressed slightly, and,or have
the Activision logo removed. I can only guess how they removed the logo
without destroying the code itself (maybe the game is stretched beyond
the playfield?) but it's not a big deal.
The stretching isn't that big of a deal either, but it does cause the
graphics to "twinkle" a little bit as they scroll. One clear example of
this stretching problem is in the game Baseball or Enduro.
Check out the sometimes fat and,or broken lines in either of these
One quite understandable omission to the graphics are updates. Many of
the other collections of classic games include revamped graphics to the
games. But as this is true emulation, I highly doubt updating the 2600
graphics would be possible.
Gameplay is terrific, but again, that was to be expected. Many of these
Activision games, if they were newly created today, would be nothing
more than mini-games you might find on some far-flung website. But these
are Atari games, and they generally don't have much depth. But therein
lies their charm. If there's any knock against the gameplay it is that a
certain few games, such as Pitfall!, H.E.R.O., or Ice Hockey,
are bit slower than the real thing. But I'm willing to overlook this
just to have a portable 2600.
Controlling the games is another matter entirely. Sure, the joypad is
fine for moving your character and the A button works great as the red
fire button on the famous Atari joystick. But how do you map the GAME
RESET, SELECT, COLOR,B&W, and DIFFICULTY switches? Logically, you'd
think that the GBA's Start button would act as the Atari GAME RESET
switch and the Select button would be the Atari SELECT button. Maybe the
left and right shoulder buttons would act as the L,R DIFFICULTY
switches? Makes sense, right?
Well, apparently, Nintendo would not allow Aspyr to map the buttons this
way. Why? Well, the GBA Start button also has to act as the Pause
button. Arrrgghh... Just shy of greatness. Starting a game requires you
to press the GBA Select button, which has cost me more than a few great
scores on Robot Tank... Changing the DIFFICULTY or the COLOR,B&W
switches requires you to be a hand contortionist. You must press the
left shoulder button and either up (for Atari SELECT), left or right
(Atari LEFT or RIGHT DIFFICULTY), or down (Atari COLOR,B&W).
All in all, this is a worthy addition to your growing collection of
classic compilations for your GBA. If you must play Atari on the road
and can't afford one of Ben Heckendorn's VCSp's, then this is the way to
Here's a list of games: Barnstorming, Baseball, Beamrider, Bloody
Human Freeway, Boxing, Bridge, Checkers, Chopper Command, Cosmic
Commuter, Crackpots, Dolphin, Dragster, Enduro, Fishing Derby, Freeway,
Frostbite, Grand Prix, H.E.R.O., Ice Hockey, Kaboom!,
Keystone Kapers, Laser Blast, Megamania (A Space Nightmare),
Oink!, Pitfall!, Plaque Attack, Pressure Cooker, Private Eye, River
Raid, River raid 2, Seaquest, Skiing, Sky Jinks, Spider Fighter,
Stampede, Starmaster, Tennis, Titlematch Pro Wrestling, The Activision
Decathlon, Skateboardin', Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns, Robot
Tank, Space Shuttle: A Journey Into space, Tomcat: The F14 Fighter
Simulator, Venetian Blinds Demo, Unknown Protype #1, Unknown Prototype
#2, Kabobber, Thwocker, Climber 5, Vault Assult, Okie, Oystron,
Skeleton+, Space Treat Deluxe, Video Euchre.
Buy yourself a copy from Amazon.com!