It also has a number of great ’80s songs, starting on the main menu with Quarterflash’s Harden My Heart and Men Without Hats’ The Safety Dance, but the songs can be changed. At first, it was just like putting the radio on in a GTA Vice City game which is fantastic, but I wish there was an option for them to stop while the game was playing though as this is only possible by turning the volume right down in the main menu. Also, there’s only around 15 songs which play on a loop so they soon get repetitive.
For each game there are additional features such as being able to check out the original cartridge and the box, read the manual and access some unlockable content such as the original TV trailers.
Classic games featured here include Demon Attack, one of the games from Spectravideo with their shiny-looking cartridges, plus HERO, Laser Blast, Pitfall, River Raid and Starmaster.
Wi-Fi multi-player functionality using the PSP system’s WiFi capabilities is also possible on some games where players can experience the multiplayer classics by either alternating turns or gaming simultaneously with friends. I haven’t tried this myself, yet, but when I’ve tried going online with mainstream PSP titles I’ve rarely found others online to play with, so trying it on 40+ retro games may prove a little more difficult.
Additionally, a Game Share feature allows two players on two PSPs to play together using one copy of the game.
Also, as well as enjoying these within a 4:3 window on the PSP screen, each game can also be played almost fullscreen.
Going through each game in turn, alphabetically:
Atlantis: this is a straight-forward shooter from the ground up as your three turrets take shots at the planes and other things flying overhead. Occasionally, they’ll shoot back and wipe out your turrets, thus rather knackering your chances of firing back.
Barnstorming just has you, rather simply, moving your plane up and down (not even left/right in any way) to fly through barns and over pylons, and that’s about it.
Beamrider is a bit like Space Invaders but with you only being able to move across the screen so you’re ‘riding’ the beams, so to speak, as aliens appear from above and wind their way down the screen. I guess it was different for the time, but does come across as incredibly dated now.
Boxing: Oh dear, where do begin with this? Two sets of head-and-arms, one black and one white, moving round the screen from above, trying to make them look like they’re in the heat of battle, but looking morelike they’ve got something wrong with their limb movements.
Bridge: the classic card game. Your parents might’ve played this in the ’80s and then shown you how to play, but if they didn’t, or you weren’t listening then, like me, you’ll have no idea how this one works.
Checkers or draughts, as we know it. Very simplistic, and for some reason the screen goes blank while the CPU is making his move.
Chopper Command: Activision’s equivalent of Defender, where you’re a helicopter and the enemy choppers you down will attempt to drop their payload on the trucks below (similar to the humanoids) before you’ve blasted them out of the sky.
Cosmic Commuter: One of those oddities I’d not heard of before, where you land a spacecraft and then, it seems, pilot it off to take them to work, although it just looks like an average shooter where you’re picking up Fuel pods or shooting bitesize Shredded Wheat that are in the way, collecting passengers who are blocks on the ground and doing that until you’ve got them all.
Crackpots: Another game I hadn’t heard of before. This is the kind of thing you used to get with a game-and-watch handheld. Spiders are crawling up the outside wall of your house and you have to push flower pots off six windowsills to land on the spiders and kill them otherwise you lose lives and eventually they’ll knacker the foundations of your house. Does seem rather drastic given that the average person will, apparently, unwittingly ingest seven spiders overnight throughout their lifetime.
Decathlon: 10 events on one cartridge and a forerunner to the Daley Thompson version on the Spectrum. However, the trouble with running events on a handheld is that only frantic left/right button-bashing will result in getting anywhere on the leaderboard and while you’ll risk a cheap controller for that, you don’t want to ruin the only D-pad your PSP will ever have. Hence, this one is best given a miss, and not only because the graphics aren’t great.
Demon Attack: A wonderful and colourful shooter that I remember enjoying playing, as the creatures come together in a swooping motion that really takes me back. This one gets quite difficult after a while, not only because they fire loads of bullets compared to your one-at-a-time, but also when you get a few levels on and shooting them just results in them splitting and then it’s double trouble.
Dolphin: Even after reading the instructions for this one I’m confused. It involves catching waves and leaping out of the sea briefly to eat a seagull while avoiding the ever-pursuing squid. A bit too bizarre for me and there are far better games on this compilation.
Dragster: Created by Pitfall’s David Crane, this one takes a bit of getting used to and for some reason I could never get it off two-player mode. It was good fun a couple of times once I’d got things going but since player 2 would never move I couldn’t actually complete a race, which was very frustrating.
Enduro: A straight-forward into-the-screen racer that takes you back to the days of zooming along the road, attempting to avoid the cars being overtaken or you’ll get slapped back down a bit. Go through several different locations (well, the background changes) and attempt to get past 200 cars. Old school!
Fishing Derby: Easy to get into, but a pesky shark will attempt to intercept the fish you’re trying to land as well as the catch of your opponent. Fish from the deep will attract a larger score but they take longer to bring back up.
Freeway: Basically, Frogger with a chicken or, since you can’t jump onto the backs of cars, more like the opening section of Horace Goes Skiing with the inability to move left and right and get knocked down by a speeding ambulance and then be charged $10 to be patched up.
Frostbite: Bit of an odd one, this. Jump on ice blocks in the cold water to somehow build an igloo on the side of the screen. Once built you can enter it and then it’s onto the next level. However, you have to avoid birds and fish heading towards you as, for some reason, they cause instant death.
Grand Prix: Like Enduro but sideways. That’s about it, really.
HERO: Now, this is one of my favourites from the ’80s and when I was at school I used to imagine that I wished I could pause the bobbins lesson I was in, have a blast on HERO for an hour and then, reluctantly, continue the lesson. Of course, I couldn’t, but this cavern adventure where you have to avoid creepy crawlies or shoot them, blow up walls that are in your way, and avoid shooting out the lights which sort-of puts you in a blind spot, all in order to rescue someone with a jetpack thing on your back was just so addictive. It’s certainly one of the main reasons to buy this UMD.
HERO stands for Helicopter Emergency Rescue Operation, by the way… and now I wish I could escape from work for an hour to play this 🙂
Ice Hockey: The state of the graphics and sound in this outing make it no more effective than a vertical game of pong with two moveable bats, although here they’re meant to look a bit like people.
Kabobber: Pardon? Exactly. I got the idea there was something going on along the lines of being able to self-reproduce but it made no sense even after I read the instructions and, in trying to play it, I felt that life was too short.
Kaboom: Man drops bombs from above. You try and collect them in one of your three trays. Miss one and they all go off and you lose a tray. Keep going until you run out of trays, or patience.
Keystone Capers: Over three floors on the one screen, you have to catch the robber. Jump over the bouncy ball that’s coming towards you, collect the suitcases and other things that give off points and go up on the elevator when it lands at your floor unless you really want to run to the end of the floor to go upstairs and risk losing the baddie as he escapes to the roof. It sounds like it makes no sense but it does come together.
Laser Blast: I spent many a happy hour on this one back in the day, and it took a little bit of time to get back into it here but I did in the end. Time your shots well at the three turrets below, and don’t forget that when one of them does eventually strike you down, you can still manoeuvre yourself so that you can land on the one who shot you. Ha! 🙂
Megamania: I remember this one, too. Another space game where you sit on the ground while firing into the sky at the baddies crossing the screen, and the first wave of baddies always reminded me of custard cream biscuits for some reason.
Moonsweeper: An into-the-screen game that has you shooting at what looks like the sun and everything that flies off it, initially, before you hit something and then start to fly over the moon instead, also shooting at things. Sooner or later you toggle back to where you were to begin with. Turns out, it’s the sun around Star Quadrant Jupiter. Oh, of course(!) There’s mention in the manual of rescuing the miners, but if you can make out who they are then you can pick them up.
Oink!: Times have advanced and wolves are now able to fire weapons, and this particular one is trying to destroy your house with a gun rather than by huffing, puffing and blowing your house down… and now contrary to that, I see that he is indeed huffing and puffing and not using a firearm, but it looks more like he’s got a laser beam shooting out of his mouth. Who does he think he is – a Jedi master? That said, it’s not a great game to play, so on to the next one.
Pitfall: Easily one of the biggest classics on the Atari. I played this game until the cows came home, had been milked, gone to bed (or straw) and got up again for their next day out on the grass. Run along, jump the logs, jump across the lakes on the vines and avoid the crocodiles biting you. And all in 20 minutes to get from A to… er.. well, probably back to A again as it circles back on itself although you’ll never make it.
However, try you must in order to collect treasure to increase your score (you’ll start not on zero but 2000), losing some of those poinsts as logs hit you or you fall down a hole. It’s incredibly addictive, but also very frustrating once you realise how precise you have to be on those lake jumps when you need to steady yourself on a croc’s head because he’s about to open his mouth and hope you’re his lunch.
Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns: Two years later, in 1984, Pitfall Harry was back for more. It’s more of the same but rather than just have the main ground and an underground level, this one goes deeper. However, if you get hit by a baddie Harry runs back to the start or to the last checkpoint, losing points as he goes. This is a real pain if you’ve gone down about 10 levels and get taken back up again.
Plaque Attack: An apple a day won’t help you win this game as you play a tube of toothpaste shooting at the food that’s heading towards the teeth and rotting them away. For once, you don’t get killed if the baddies (food) hit you (a tube of toothpaste), but if they reach the teeth they’ll start eating away at them until you shoot them away. And then keep going until all your teeth have gone. It’s another game that’s good fun for a while but it won’t be the reason you buy it.
Pressure Cooker: This one plays like an early version of Burger Time and takes a bit of getting used to, but once you get the hang of it you can easily make the burgers requested but only if the right ingredients come along. If they don’t, and you’re not able to deflect them back from whence they came, you’ll end up making burgers you don’t need and will lose points as a result. Lose points all the way down to zero and it’s game over. Once the correct burgers are made, you can pop them into the correct chute on the next screen down but, again, you’ll be wasting your time if it’s the wrong one and points will be lost, making overall for a very frustrating game.
Private Eye: Overall, this becomes a bit of a bizarre obstacle course, with the hindrance that the hurdles you need to jump your car over are impossible to negotiate, thus meaning you don’t get far at all.
River Raid: Ah, what can be said about this that hasn’t been said already. It’s one of the most fantastic shoot-up-the-screen games ever made and one I played for more hours as a kid than I can remember. Blast away at the ships and helicopters, fill up at the fuel dumps – slowing down to get maximum value out of those, blow up the bridges and avoid the low-flying planes. It never ends – well, until you run out of lives – and it’s bloody wonderful.
River Raid II: I can’t say that the inevitable sequel followed because such things weren’t inevitable when they were only just beginning. It appeared, and was playable, but it didn’t have the heart of the original which is the one to stick with.
Robot Tank: a poor man’s Battlezone. So poor, in fact, he must be destitute.
Seaquest: You play a submarine who has to shoot the fish, other subs, pick up swimmers and don’t forget to come up for air, unless by then you’ve had enough of this rather lacklustre effort.
Skiing: Looking like a man from ‘Pages From Ceefax’ it’s downhill all the way, in more ways than one, as you slalom between the posts and get to the end of the course, the change in difficulty levels only increasing the speed of the game, and even then it’s not a great challenge.
Sky Jinks: Fly your plane to the right of the red pylons and to the left of the blue, avoiding everything else along the way. That’s about it, really.
Space Shuttle: I never played this one back in the day as it always seemed overly complicated. It’s still the same, so I’ll give that one a miss.
Spider Fighter: This is more like it – although it wasn’t one of the games I played in the ’80s, it’s a good fun and frantic shoot-em-up.
Stampede: A bit of cattle-rustling that’s rather too simplistic as you run along the field towards your herd, pressing ‘X’ to lasso them, but if you overtake 3 cattle in total then it’s game over. Not a great game.
Starmaster: A classic game from the time that I would play for days on end. Teleporting to an area on your chart that has some enemy ships and then take them on one at a time, although often they’ll fire off a few shots, some of which are unavoidable, before you can blast them back. Trouble is, when their shots hit you end up losing your shields, laser guns, etc, which causes obvious problems and soon you’ll be dead. One strange thing, though – the ‘chart on’ button (triangle) doesn’t work when you’re viewing the game fullscreen, so you have to go back to the normal display, then show up the chart and go back to fullscreen again (the chart can be cancelled while fullscreen so the button *does* work then).
It’s also possible to refuel and repair your craft at the appropriate stations marked on the map.
Once a mission is successful, the game ends but at least you get a happier tune (the first few bars, sort-of, of the 2001 Theme) rather than the funeral march.
Tennis: A very ‘cheap and cheerful’ representation of the sport, the games of which probably reached a peak for me with Match Point on the ZX Spectrum in terms of playability. Since then, there have been better-looking versions by a considerable margin, with named players actually looking like who they’re meant to be, but gameplay-wise they’re still much of a muchness. The 2-player version in this is an oddity as you play both sides as if they’ve got a stick guiding them at the same time. Best to stick with the 1-player.
Thwocker: I have no idea what’s going on, but I’m bouncing a smiley-faced creature around a screen going down and down until I hit something and then I stop… On further investigation, I seem to be losing a life each time I hit something. Then, the penny drops further as I see I need to hit certain musical notes, which are spaced few and far between in terms of the particular one that I need. In the end, it’s a stupidly-hard game so that’s me done with it.
So, a big selection but, overall, a number of the games do come across, sadly, as rather dated.
Time hasn’t been particularly kind to many of the old Activision games, and many can be downloaded for free online anyway, but it’s worth a look if you have a hankering for the old days of the early ’80s and want to play them on the move.
I’d like the old classic, Video Pinball (albeit made by Atari themselves), on the PSP. I once played that for three days solid on the same set of balls back in the day.
Activision Hits Remixed is available now on Sony PSP.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.