"YOU'RE WINNER !" — Victory screen from Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing
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"I CAN'T BELIEVE THEY SOLD THIS SHITFEST FOR $199!! That's about how much it costs for a video game console, pretty much. You could take $199, stand on a bridge and just throw it all away! You'd rather do anything than spend it on a broken down, dysfunctional disaster of video game programming: with games that crash, hideous jumping control, random characters, microscopic sprites, a marathon of mediocre space shooters, dying in mid-air, problems with proportion, misleading titles, misleading power-ups, embarassing weapons, seizure-inducing backgrounds, lack of enemies, games you can't win, games you can't lose, games that make no sense whatsoever, shitty graphics, shitty music, shitty menus, and a fuckton of other things! It should've been illegal for them to sell this rotten shitload of putrid fuck for any price! I feel humiliated to live on the same planet as someone who designed an electronic abomination of this magnitude! Could they have tried making one good game, as opposed to 52 horrible games?! Quality over quantity. That's our lesson here."— The Angry Video Game Nerd
Action 52 is an unlicensed multicart developed and published by Active Enterprises in 1991 for the Nintendo Entertainment System only in the United States. As the title suggests, it contains 52 games in it. A port of the game for the Sega Genesis was developed by Farsight Technologies and released in 1993. A port for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System was planned to be also made, but this port was cancelled. Active Enterprises was legally incorporated in the Bahamas, but the company's offices and development were located in Miami, Florida. Its warehouse was located in Orlando, Florida.
Vince Perri is known for being the boss of Active Enterprises, a game development studio responsible for Action 52 and Cheetahmen II, the sequel to Cheetahmen. History of Active Enterprises began when Perri had bought an illegal game compilation with 40 games built-in on the Nintendo Entertainment System from Taiwan for $60 for his son. Impressed by the concept of the cartridge, he began telling his neighbors about the compilation, causing them to apparently go crazy. Seeing their reactions, he obtained plans to make his own game compilation for the aforementioned platform legally in the United States, however without Nintendo's license.
Perri then researched for various investors in foreign regions such as Europe and Saudi Arabia to increase his profits for developing Action 52 under his own company, Active Enterprises, that he would create in 1989. However, at the time development was almost starting, had no knowledge on how to make a game, and took very long to learn how to do so. Because of that, he had to find another investor to make the game for him, but didn't want to spend too much money on them. Suddenly, he didn't actually need to find an investor that knows how to make games for his company, as Perri went into an office in a recording studio, where he did meetings about his new business ventures. He also ended up meeting a man working in the same studio, named Mario Gonzalez, who happened to finish his degree in video and audio production. In January 1991, Perri met Gonzalez with proposal, and became informed that Gonzalez and two of his college friends had experience in video game design unlike him. Gonzalez accepted to join Perri's job, after he demonstrated his programming skills with his team consisting of Javier Parez for art and design and Albert Hernandes for programming. as requested by Perri. All three members of Mario's team were working on a Tetris clone, Mega-Tris, using the Amiga 500 home computer. Perri became again impressed with the build of the game, causing him to give a demonstration of it to his investors who also made positive reactions to it.
But the development team had no experience with making games for the NES at the time, resulting into an anonymous fourth member joining the group (refered to as Dev4 by YouTuber miiyouandmii2,) being surprised to learn that the developers moved on to Utah, U.S. to learn how to make NES games right after he joined. Upon their return, Dev4 decided to visit them as they started developing Action 52. The recording studio then became their base operations, working from around 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM, but normally until 1 AM, or sometimes 6:00 AM. As the company was a recording studio, every wall was soundproof, meaning that it couldn't be heard from other rooms or outside. With no natural light, it was originally called The Cave. The Cave would become the developers' home for 3 months.
For unknown reasons, Perri stated that all 52 games on Action 52 needed to be completed in about 3 months. Around that time, they had a storyboard design, developed the program and would have tested to make sure that all the games on the multicart would work properly. However, 3 months is quite the minimal time to make an NES game, which could mean that Action 52 had been heavily rushed, resulting in glitches, terrible games, and other flaws, giving the evidence that Perri didn't know how big of a task it was, which could become more obvious as development time passed. He was only in the studio very occasionally, entering it with sometimes coffee, and then leave quickly. As Mario himself puts it, the programming of Action 52 started.
Nowadays, it is unknown where Perri is, and so is what is his current fate. Curiously, a plenty of people have searched for him in various locations due to the infamy of the game, but Perri is still nowhere to be found, so there isn't any pictures of him circulating online.
As the title advertises, this multicart contains 52 games in it, mostly based on action and platformer/vertical shoot'em up genres. Action 52 is notably known for having extremely poorly programmed/rushed games with many glitches, and some games crashing when attempting to start.
Each game is given a short description in Action 52's manual, but some of these descriptions cover games from the early development of Action 52 that were very different from the games of corresponding titles; for example, Jigsaw is claimed to be a puzzle game, but the game titled as such on the final product is a platformer involving a construction worker avoiding construction tools.
The Cheetahmen is the featured game on the compilation, and was intended to become a multimedia franchise with an accompanying line of merchandise. A Cheetahmen animated television series, a comic book series and T-shirts were planned. An advertisement for comic figures including concept art came on a comic book packaged with Action 52. However, this was never put into practice due to the bad reviews the Action 52 game received.
This 16-bit port grabs most of the NES version's games back into itself. While many titles have been retained from the NES port, all of them are remade from scratch for the most part. Each game is coded with colors: green for "Beginner", purple for "Intermediate", yellow for "Expert", white for "Challenge" games, and blue for multiplayer games.
Many glitches and technical issues from the NES version have also been fixed on the Genesis port. There is also a Randomizer that selects a random game once selected, along with a music demo mode.
List of games
Why It Sucks
- The entire game is riddled with extremely poor games with generic to terrible gameplay, casts of characters, controls, and other countless flaws. Even with the 52nd game of the compilation, The Cheetahmen, which looks decent compared to all other games, is still very bad and didn't even make Action 52 for the NES worth it due to having practically the same issues.
- Strangely, in platformer games, you will die and lose a life if you stay too long in mid-air, which is absolutely non-sensical and illogical compared to other games' physics. Good platforming games didn't even do this, even at the NES generation.
- The Cheetahmen has the infamous infinite jump glitch in the majority of levels that is very easy to perform. To do this, the player has to jump then use an attack to jump again, since attacking will reset the player's vertical velocity to a value that always allows them to jump, regardless if they're in mid-air or on the floor. This is however not recommended, as most of the enemies fly in the air rather than staying on the ground, and can potentially hit the player to death.
- Absolutely horrendous and really ugly graphics, that might even be as ugly as an average pirated game on a Famiclone. They are so atrocious with ugly colors, that you might refuse to look at the game for even more than 2 minutes. Flickering occurs a lot mostly due to 2 sprites appearing on the same screen being on the same layer, and the animations are very ugly and stiff that is made worse by the still horizontal and vertical velocities when you move/jump. In addition, the backgrounds are mostly solid colors with no style whatsoever, and even the other backgrounds that actually have patterns aren't better.
- In games that scroll horizontally and vertically, the colors will change when their respective tiles appear or disappear.
- There are even seizure-inducing backgrounds, notably the one that consisted of tiles with random black and white colors in Critical Bypass. This can literally cause the players' eyes to become tired after playing this game for too long, due to being flashy.
- Very crappy and hideously laughable sound effects. The jumping sounds mostly sound like buzzes that look like an Atari 2600 game and aren't even fitting, and most of the sounds in this port are really poorly composed.
- The collision detection is so poorly programmed, as most of the time, you can go through walls in platforming games or sometimes fall through them like in Crybaby. These don't really allow the player to cheat in a game by passing through all platforms and enemies while walking on the ceilings, however.
- Most of the game names are very misleading and non-sense, and they have nothing to do with the aspect of the games whatsoever. To quote in the Angry Video Game Nerd's review for example, "Who would think Boss means a frog running around with a gun being ambushed by falling bombs?" "Boss" in a video game is the term given to an enemy normally more powerful than the others that the player has to beat in a level, a section, or in another environment, so why give that name to such protagonist of a game like that? Also, Slashers sounds like it's a horror game (mentioned by the Angry Video Game Nerd), but it's actually a beat'em up.
- Even despite the quality of the game, it is very disgustingly overpriced, at $199, which means that each game on the system would cost about $4 on average, and even such a price for a single game in Action 52 isn't worth it. In fact, there were even computer games stored in floppy disks that often cost almost less than $3, but still, perform much better than all of Action 52's games.
- In some games, like Star Evil, the boss doesn't show up sometimes, meaning you have to die in order and replay the level from the beginning until the boss will finally decide to show up. This is pretty annoying, especially since you will have to lose a life if you want the boss to appear. If it doesn't, you have to do the same thing again until the boss will finally show up to progress to the next level.
- A lot of games crash, mostly for stupid reasons. Here are examples.
- Alfredo and Jigsaw are impossible to play. This is due to the fact that they always fail to load, even on emulators. This will force you to restart your NES. No matter how much you will restart the console, they will still not work. The only way to slightly lower the chances of a crash are if you have a Rev B cartridge or play in some emulators.
- One of the games, Shooting Gallery crashes the game when you try to quit it by pausing the game and hitting "Select", so you have to painstakingly restart your NES by pressing its Reset button, similar to pausing a game on the Master System that's done by pressing the Pause button which is also situated on the console.
- They Came from Outer Space also crashes the game. It crashes if you die, just to force you to restart your NES which quickly becomes annoying.
- Ooze also isn't safe from crashing. Every time you will finish level 2, the game crashes, making it impossible to complete.
- Many of the games are repetitive. A notable example is that a majority of these games are mediocre space shooters, just with different backgrounds, level design, enemies, music, and other stuff. This is just to prove that Active Enterprises, the developers of the game were just unoriginal, since it contains a lot of space shooters, like if you would say that this should have been called Shooter 52 since there's a lot of space shooters in it.
- No games on the compilation allow you to continue playing after getting a Game Over. Many NES games allow players to continue playing from the level they got Game Over'd without having to start from the beginning or use passwords for game checkpoints, but Action 52 doesn't will players to do so. To make it worse, there are even games that are so hard to complete that it requires luck to get past a level sequence, making it irritating as players would have to start from the first level of each game again if they get a Game Over.
- Speaking of Ooze, there was going to be a reward if someone would beat it in a contest, which is $104,000 ($52,000 cash, and a scholarship with the same value), but since it crashes once level 2 is completed, as mentioned above, it was impossible to claim the reward. This just proves that the developers have no mercy for people who played Ooze on the NES.
- The game has grammar errors and typos, despite being made in the United States; Critical Bypass is misspelled as Crytical Bypass, Alfredo and the Fettucinis is misspelled as Alfred n the Fettuc, Bubblegum Rosie is misspelled as Bubble Gum Rossie/Bublgum Rosy, Storm Over the Desert as Storm Over Desert, and Cheetahmen as Cheetamen.
- The Cheetahmen recycles characters from the other games to make them into enemies, including Saddam Hussein and the protagonist of Haunted Hills, mostly due to Action 52 being rushed to be finished in only 3 months as proposed by the game's director, Vince Perri.
- Pathetic manual. It only has very short descriptions of each game, which most of the time are misleading, like Bits and Pieces, for instance, is described to be a puzzle game when it's actually a platformer. Speaking of the manual, while it's nice that it's translated into multiple languages, which are English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Arabic, it seems pointless as the game was only released in the United States.
- Plagiarized music: The "Yeah! Woo!" drum break, used for the game's title screen, is taken from It Takes Two by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock. Since this is a copyrighted song, this can result in Active Enterprises getting sued by the copyright holders. Also, several songs were stolen from The Music Studio for the Atari ST.
- The introduction screen is so laughably bad, as it's nothing more than a "lights, camera, action!" type of intro, except that the text is replaced with "Lights! Camera! Action 52." Also, this intro is so poorly animated, and it will glitch up a bit when trying to change backgrounds.
- The games in this port have many of the same problems present in the NES port, with some of them going even worse: terrible and generic with unresponsive controls, bad and ear-bleeding music, constant non-sense, misleading titles, dying from falling hard into the floor in platforming games (similarly to dying in mid-air in the NES version, but actually more visually appealing), etc. Since this is ported on a console from a later generation than the NES, all of the problems could have been easily fixed in this port of Action 52.
- Despite this port having the same title as the other existing one, there are actually 51 games (or 50 if 1st Game is not included, which is just an average port of arcade game Pong) along with a Challenge mode whose goal is to finish the most difficult levels of every game of the compilation, which is false advertising. Knowing how lazily made the game graphics and sounds are, it might also be a possible reason as to why the developers did not add the 52nd game.
- Some games don't even qualify as games at all. There's a coloring program as the 9th number called Sketch, which just doesn't qualify as a game. All you do in it is just draw, and nothing else. This also looks like an inferior version of Microsoft Paint.
- And on top of that, you have to draw with the D-pad, since it doesn't have the mouse at all. This is pretty awkward, especially for people who used Microsoft Paint with a mouse.
- Many games, like Cheetahmen, Depth Charge or Mousetrap have the exact same levels as level 1, just with more enemies and different music, which is just to prove how the developers were too lazy to make a different level, just to make another level the same as level 1 with more enemies and different music.
- Some games are just reskin on other games. For example, Spidey is just a reskin of Mousetrap, just with a spider as a protagonist, blue spiders being enemies instead of cats, different backgrounds, and cheeses being replaced with flies. This can make people say that there are actually less than 51 games on this port due to the reskins.
- Many of the games, including those in an arcade or survival style, use "levels" to try to make themselves look like "adventure games". They are, however, completely pointless because they instead force you to wait for so long before getting on the next level while reading a pointless message showing your current score which was instant in the NES version. The level difference is also bland as it just mostly increases the speed of enemies, or sometimes doesn't affect anything at all.
- 2-player games also use "levels", when these also clearly look rather like rounds since they are mostly focused on two players fighting against each other using the same weapons.
- The graphics still are extremely ugly, have stiff animations, and lack many colors even when compared to the NES version and despite being on a 16-bit console. In addition, the developers even had the nuts to recycle the graphics from a game to another as well, like Sky Avenger which has the exact same background as Bombs Away.
- Many of the sound effects in this port such as the grunt, collect and scream sounds are recycled to most of the games on this port much like some of the graphics, which is beyond lazy for a multicart. Not even animal characters in this game get different voice actings despite obviously having different voices than humans, and still reuse the recycled sounds despite the screaming and grunting noises clearly sounding like they're from humans.
- They are also poorly made just like the graphics. Some of them are even ear-bleeding like some of Action 52's music, like an unfitting explosion-like sound that plays if you land on the floor on platforming games.
- Sunday Drive uses the word "Segaville" on every single endlessly appearing panel as you scroll through the game. The problem with it is, since Sega is also the name of a Japanese company that works in the video game industry and that this game is published on their Genesis console, it might mean that Sega can easily sue Farsight and Active Enterprises for unauthorized usage of such word.
- An incredibly awful and gross gory theme, with most of the death animations being just characters blowing up with rotten-looking blood showing up, no matter what species they are: even the Tank in Norman explodes into blood despite clearly being an object.
- On Freeway, a clone of an Atari 2600 game of the same title where you control a dog instead of a chicken, if the dog gets crushed by a car, they get cut into pieces and their organs are visible!
- In Norman, the soldiers even have yellow blood rather than red, which makes absolutely no sence, since humans have red blood, not the yellow one, like if a yellow paint covered them.
- Speaking of the Challenge mode, it's also horrendously broken. It has false advertising as well, as it says that it brings you to beat the last levels of each game, but you actually have to beat the non-existent 9th levels of every game which, to make it worse, are practically unplayable. These games are so fast that you might be so slow to kill/dodge the enemies to finish each game. Also, the biggest problem with the Challenge mode is that Bonkers is the game that makes it totally impossible to beat, because the ball is so fast that it can't even pass between two gray blocks, making it not able to destroy all of the other blocks which is the normally the goal to beat a level in this game.
- Just like on the NES version, players cannot continue from a game's level after getting a Game Over. Again, the games are very hard due to the poor level design and controls, which makes them extremely tedious with always going back to the beginning after getting Game Over'd in all of the games.
- While the NES version brings you back to the menu after quitting a game which makes sense, the Genesis port brings you back to the title screen, which becomes annoying over time. This basically forces the player to press a button to get past the title screen before actually selecting a game again.
- The game contradicts itself in the first screen after booting up, as it claims that it was licensed by Sega, but on the next screen, it states that it was not licensed by that company. It is obvious that the game is unlicensed by looking at its awful quality, which wasn't even good enough for Sega to actually give the license to Active Enterprises to be authorized to publish the game for their console.
- The numeration is broken in the sound test mode found below Challenge, as it first goes into numbers, then letters, symbols, glitched tiles, and finally black letters from F to J. This should actually work properly as the game scores, but for some reason, it doesn't.
- Despite the music's terrible instrumentation, it still has good composition such as the Cheetahmen theme from the NES version, which it became both a meme and a memorable song on the Internet. It was famously used in Syobon Action (mostly referred to as Cat Mario), a hard/unfair Super Mario Bros. fangame designed by Chiku and released in 2007 for Microsoft Windows.
- The concept of making a legal multicart which was based of Vince Perri buying his son an illegal multicart was pretty cool, but it was horribly executed due to the problems mentioned.
Action 52 received overwhelmingly unfavorable reviews from critics and users. It is considered to be not only one of the worst NES games, but also one of the worst games of all time and became featured on Wikipedia's article on the list of video games notable for negative reception.
AllGame gave it 1/5 stars, describing: "An unlicensed but legal multicart containing NES games of extremely poor quality". The Angry Video Game Nerd deemed on the first part of his review that it should have been illegal to sell a game with such quality at very high prices. Action 52 is featured in the orange/severe level "Stay away, don't even think about it" on his Shit Scale.
It is a rare game and despite its horrible quality, it is valued among game collectors. Copies of the game can go for hundreds of dollars, even more if the box is included. Because of its infamy, there have also been attempts to create polished remakes of the games, including a complete remastered version of it titled Action 52 OWNS (development is possibly currently in hiatus as of now).