September 2: Action 52

Action 52September 2, 1991 saw the release of an exciting new video game for the NES: Action 52. It was sold for the ridiculous price of $199, but don’t worry about the price Mom and Dad because this cartridge has 52 games, so really that’s less than $4 per game! With such exciting titles as Firebreather, Haunted Hill, Non-Human and Micro Mike, Action 52 sounds like it could be an absolute blast. There was only one little problem, Action 52 is one of the worst video games ever made.

The infamous cartridge was the brainchild of an investor named Vince Perri, an investor who was inspired by a bootleg video game cartridge. According to Perri, “I happened to see my son playing an illegal product made in Taiwan that had 40 games on it. The whole neighborhood went crazy over it.” Seeing how gaga the kids went over the multi-cartridge, Perri decided to do the same thing legally and hired several young game designers to quickly create new games. Unfortunately, they were universally terrible.

I’ve had the “pleasure” to witness a play-through of Action 52 and believe me, it’s worse than you could imagine. I honestly don’t know how to describe how bad this game is. Let’s see, for one thing, most of these games are unplayable: Take for instance the game Starevil. In Starevil, you pilot a spacecraft and the game is designed so that immediately after you start the game, you’ll crash into a wall. Now, after a bit of practice you can learn to dodge that particular obstacle, but you need exceptionally good timing.

That’s only the beginning of the horrors of this game collection. In the game Manchester, you can fall down a pit (an action that would kill you in most normal video games) and just keep scrolling along the level. Your character won’t be able to do anything, but you can still see what the rest of the level looks like. At times the Action 52 designers bizarre artistic choices make the games resemble particularly bad acid trips. For example, there’s the game Timewarp, in which you play as a pair of fingers and your enemies are worms. Don’t ask, just don’t.

Other games have weird programming errors like inescapable dead ends, unmoving enemies, microscopic characters and frequent bugs. Seven of the games will crash while you’re playing them, and two other games can’t even be played. They’ll crash the cartridge the minute you select them from the menu. Amusingly enough, prior to the release of Action 52, Active Enterprises, the makers of Action 52, had announced a contest where anyone who could complete the fifth level of the game Ooze would be entered in a prize drawing where the grand prize was $104,000. There was just one problem with this contest: Ooze always crashed on the second level.

Action 52 was advertised as “The Ultimate Challenge,” but I believe the word “challenge” implies a difficult thing that someone actually has a chance of winning. Action 52 isn’t a challenge, it’s impossible, and to quote another very strange video game, “Impossible doesn’t mean very difficult. Very difficult is winning the Nobel Prize; impossible is eating the Sun.”

So, what’s the most appropriate cocktail to pair with the impossible Action 52. Well, the most ironically named choice would have to be a drink called Easy Action. I haven’t a clue where the name comes from, but let me tell you this is an odd little drink. It’s a rather dry cocktail that’s more like something you’d find in an upscale cocktail bar than something that would have a goofy name like Easy Action. Hmm, weird ingredients, goofy name? Yup, sounds like the right kind of cocktail for honoring Action 52.

Easy Action

  • 1 ounce Dry Vermouth
  • 3/4 ounce Apricot Brandy
  • 1/2 ounce Scotch Whiskey
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Shake with ice and then pour the drink and ice into an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon slice.

Tomorrow: Eleven days that never happened.


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