Action 52 is a collection of 52 games for the NES — well, perhaps "games" is too kind — released by Active Enterprises and advertised in the back of many gaming magazines of the day. It was famously sold for $200, which would be a bargain for 52 games worth playing. However, these games... weren't.The truly amazing part? The folks at Active were apparently big dreamers, and accompanied the grand unveiling of Action 52 with a press release, proclaiming the upcoming release of Cheetahmen action figures and a "Disney-quality" Saturday morning cartoon, and the Action Gamemaster, a portable system that would play games from nearly every console available at the time. None of these products ever came to fruition, as Action 52 wallowed in obscurity, but it has gained a new lease on life in the Internet age as Snark Bait.This isn't to say that Active Enterprises never did anything again; indeed, there was a second Action 52 compilation on the Genesis (which Active farmed out to another developer, who did a much better, though still just barely passable, job), and a third was planned on the SNES (likely scrapped when they couldn't figure out a way around Nintendo's lockout). Additionally, a sequel to Cheetahmen was discovered several years after the game was released, with hundreds of cartridges having been made of the very unfinished Cheetahmen II, but this was never distributed. Then Active Enterprises never did anything again.A history of how the monstrosity came to be is in The Other Wiki. The Angry Video Game Nerd reviewed the game here (part one of two; the second part, covering Cheetahmen and its unreleased sequel can be found here). Even though his review contains some inaccuracies, it still sums the games up pretty well. A more detailed series of all 52 games note including the ones that are only playable on a certain emulator can be seen here.This collection of games is almost universally considered a pile of crap. However, the background music used in Cheetahmen (and reused in Cheetahmen II) is an exception: it is surprisingly well-regarded, with a large number of musical remixes.Action 52 has been given a shot at redemption with two projects: the Action 52 OWNS Project, (in which indie game developers are collaborating to remake each game in the collection) and Action 52 Revisited (which tries to relate all games together). Hey, it's not like they can make the games worse, right? Also, there's plans of a company for releasing an official Cheetahmen 3 game for the Xbox Live Arcadenote They would like to release it for PlayStation Network, but don't plan to due to budget limitations.The games on the cartridge:
Crytical Bypass [sic]
Alfredo (aka Alfred N The Fettuc)
Bubblegum Rosy (aka Bubble Gum Rossie)
Storm Over the Desert
City of Doom
Bits and Pieces
Beeps and Blips
Hambo (aka Hambo's Adventures)
Time Warp Tickers
Robbie Robot (aka Robbie N The Robots)
Cheetahmen (aka Action Gamemaster)
Tropes pertaining mainly to the original Action 52 games:
Action Girl: Haunted Halls and Bubblegum Rosy have female protagonists.
All There in the Manual: The manual summaries for the games appear to be based on the projected versions rather than the final ones. They talk about features that don't appear, or give descriptions of the games that are just flat-out wrong. For instance, the description of Bits and Pieces in the manual makes it sound like a Tetris-esque game, but the actual game involves Frankenstein jumping over monsters. The description of Shooting Gallery describes several different modes of play, but there's just one style with several levels of increasing difficulty.
The summary for Billy Bob reveals that the aim is to escape from a prison and rescue your girlfriend, neither of which are made clear in the actual game. Likewise, the manual makes clear that the Action Gamemaster featured in the introduction to Cheetahmen transforms into the three title characters throughout the course of the game, while the actual game never even mentions him after the intro sequence.
Asskicking Equals Authority: Averted with Apollo, the leader of the Cheetahmen. He's got a long reach but a narrow attack range in the NES version, and the levels where you control him are generally considered to be the hardest in the game mainly owing to this. In the Genesis one his arrows take three hits to kill most enemies, while his brothers can kill any enemy in one hit.
Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: "Satan Hosain," the gigantic version of Saddam Hussein that appears in Storm Over the Desert. Due to the general incompetence involved in the package, it's hard to tell whether his size was intentional, or a screw-up on the part of the developers.
Blatant Lies: According to the box◊, as displayed on The Other Wiki, its creators gave it the "Action Seal of Quality Assurance". What kind of quality they were talking about is unclear, but it certainly doesn't mean what most of us would think "quality" means. Hopefully, it means "We're saving the best for last". Also: the manual.
Cartoon Bomb: The enemies in later Fuzz Power levels. Cartoon bombs are also thrown in Boss.
Cash Cow Franchise: Attempted, but failed miserably. Active was clearly expecting Cheetahmen to become the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or at the very least the next Battletoads. While it could perhaps have enjoyed some success, as many agree that the basic concept was kind of cool if not especially original, having the only way of obtaining it be as part of a $200 cartridge pretty much killed that idea from the word go.
Copy And Paste Environments: It even goes so far that some sections of levels in many games are repeated over and over with the same enemy placement (if it's not random).
Damn You, Muscle Memory: The "jump" and "attack" buttons are B and A respectively, the opposite of the vast majority of similar games on the system.
Deadly Walls: Most of the Shoot 'em Up games. Poor collision detection kills you before you actually touch them. Star Evil is the worst offender, as you can get killed less than a second after starting it up due to the speed of the level scrolling.
Dummied Out: Seeing as the game crashes on most cartridges when trying to play Alfredo and the Fettucini (also known as Alfredo or Alfred n the Fettuc) or Jigsaw, the two games are effectively Dummied Out and can only be played with an emulator. Same goes to later levels in some of the games (Thrusters, Shooting Gallery etc.). Ooze even had cut level 8 and a screen for the Unwinnable contest. Additionally, ROM hackers have discovered art assets for yet more games that didn't make it onto the cart, as well as a title screen for French Baker.
Dungeon Bypass: It's possible to skip most of levels 1 and 3 of Cheetahmen by finding the secret exits. This should also be possible on level 5, but a Game-Breaking Bug causes the game to break if you try to do that.
You can also skip level 2 of Slashers by walking into one of the doorways.
Early Game Hell: The first two levels of Billy Bob are noticeably harder than the rest of the game.
Also applies to Fuzz Power, as the first section is nearly impossible to do with pure skill but the rest of the game is fairly manageable. (At least until the insurmountable wall in level 3)
Engrish: The manual. Very surprising because it was made in the US.
Endless Game: Most of the games loop around from the last level, if they don't crash first.
Enemy Summoner: The spider bosses in Haunted Hill/Halls shoot baby spiders at you, which are standard mooks from level 2 onwards.
Follow the Leader: According to The Other Wiki, Action 52 was conceived when the creator observed his son playing a pirated 40-game multicart from Taiwan. As the cart itself was popular in his own neighborhood, he decided to create such a cart legitimately.
If this article is to be believed, the programming duties were done by college students.
The Genesis version is a lot less buggy...but somehow manages to find a way to still suck.
Some games don't even load at all, unless you're using certain emulators.
Cheetahmen II has a particularly cruel example. If you take too long to defeat the second boss, the Ape Man, then he'll eventually walk off the screen and never return, forcing you to restart the whole game. If you actually do defeat Ape Man however, the game fails to load the next level, leaving you no better off than you were before.
Goomba Stomp: In two of the games, you can do that. Namely in Mash Man and Bits n Pieces.
Graffiti Town: The odd-numbered levels of Boss take place in this.
In some games, enemies appear in random places. In some games, a bad enemy placement means death, or an Unwinnable situation, eg in Under Ground. Hambo is probably the worst offender for this, as not only do you start the game with just one life, it's possible for enemies to spawn right on top of Hambo, killing him as soon as the level begins. Stuart Ashen, who played the game as part of his second "Quickest Game Overs Ever" video, managed to die in 0.4 seconds (the quickest Game Over he found for the video) and had this happen twice in the five times he played the game.
In other games, enemies which are able to shoot, do it at random times. Sometimes they don't shoot at all while other times they shoot several bullets at you, resulting death.
Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Possibly the crowning achievement of Ninja Assault: big-nosed, coonskin-wearing hillybilly ninjas. Strange indeed are the ways of the Zin-Zan.
Nintendo Hard: Games with enough coherence to begin with usually wind up in the worst excesses of this.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: The evil "Satan Hosain" from Storm Over the Desert. Running over him gives you an extra life. In Cheetahmen, he becomes an easily-dispatched midget.
No Ending: Most of the games. In some you just keep doing the same level(s) over and over, and in some youcan'tevenreach the ending (if they DID program one) forvariousreasons. Another thing is that a lot of the levels have no proper indication for when they end; they just end abruptly.
Sometimes averted with Ooze, which has an ending screen telling you to enter a code and send it to Active Enterprises. Pity a lot of the cartridges have it crash after level 2.
Not the Fall That Kills You: Falling can kill you, and you need not actually touch the ground from a long jump for a character to begin his death animation.
Billy Bob is a notorious example of this. If he drops off a ledge, not only does he die before he hits the ground, but he stops in mid-fall, lies flat on his face, and stays there levitated in mid-air.
Obvious Alpha: Some games are worse than others, but at one point or another, it becomes clear that most of them were just getting started, especially when compared with the way they are described in the manual.
Cheetahmen 2 was an Obvious Pre-Alpha, and they still programmed it into cartridges. Did they really intend to distribute it in that state?
One Hitpoint Wonder: The vast majority of player characters are this, the main exceptions being the Cheetahmen, the leading lady in Haunted Hills, and the tanks in Storm Over the Desert
1-Up: Some games have 1-up pickups. Games with these include Evil Empire, Dam Busters, Crazy Shuffle, Cheetahmen and more. In Beeps 'n Blips, the 1-Ups don't increase your life count but rather give you more hit points.
Recurring Boss: Most bosses reappear from level to level with minimal variation.
Recurring Riff: Space Dreams and Dam Busters use similar melody at some points. Also, you can hear the level 1 motif of level 3's theme in Lollipops sometimes.
There's also the theme for They Came and Beeps 'n Blips, which uses the same melody from level 2 of Haunted Halls.
Recycled Soundtrack: They Came and Beeps 'n Blips have the same music, while the themes from Fuzz Power and Cheetahmen end up being reused in Cheetahmen II. (and Syobon Action, in the case of the latter)
A lot more noticeable in the Mega Drive version, where the entire soundtrack (bar the title and menu themes) is used in multiple games.
Save the Princess: You have to rescue your sister in Illuminator and a woman in Billy Bob.
And Princess Lolli in Lollipops.
Schizophrenic Difficulty: Level 3 of Sharks is much harder than the rest of the game, due to the sharks being replaced with jellyfish which are hard to hit.
Secret Level: Level 9 of Cheetahmen (a single room containing a 1-Up), which can be accessed by a secret exit in any of the odd-numbered levels. However, doing this in level 5 will cause the game to go level 10 where the game completely glitches up.
Sentry Gun: Some games like Robbie Robot have these. Sentry Guns are sole enemies in Operation Moon
Skippable Boss: The bosses in Megalonia can be skipped by shooting down enough ships.
Some Dexterity Required: To move while jumping in most of the platformers, the B button has to be released - it can't be held down. However, the B button is also a jump button. In 4 of the platforming games, the player can jump only when moving. It makes it HELL trying to jump across pits.
Averted in Haunted Halls, Bits 'n Pieces and Cheetahmen which don't have this problem.
Spikes of Doom: Bubblegum Rosy features some which won't work at all. In Mash Man, spikes have much larger hitboxes than it seems. And in Underground (where these take in form of mushrooms or spears) it's safe to fall on top of them but not safe to walk past them.
Take That: The Saddam Hussein analogue in Storm over the Desert can be killed in just one hit. As a double Take That, he is basically a slightly modded sprite from Super Mario Bros.. Yeah, take that, Mario! What's more, his name is Satan Hosain. Because subtlety is for wimps.
Also worth noting that the Iraqi tanks are pink and that running over Hussein gives you extra lives.
Technical Pacifist: Hercules in Cheetahmen doesn't want to attack unless provoked, as backstory tells.
Many of the games contain tough, nasty and cruel examples. Most famously Ooze, which was part of a back-of-the-box competition where anyone who beat said game would be entered into a raffle. Since the game is impossible to beat, this raffle saw extremely few entries.
In Starevil, when too many sprites are onscreen when it's a boss time, the boss itself doesn't appear at all.
The fifth level of Atmos Quake is unbeatable since your ship always randomly explodes.
It's possible to get stuck at a dead-end in Dam Busters thanks to the game's Ratchet Scrolling. If that happens, your only option is to reset the game.
Variable Mix: Unintentionally in level 3 of Lollipops where walking and hitting things changes the tones.
Violation of Common Sense: There are MANY of these in Action 52. But one that stands out is in the game Sombreros. The first level requires you to walk down a very narrow street against the flow of traffic and avoid getting hit by cars. For some reason, it's completely impossible to step on the clearly visible sidewalk where there are no cars!
Wackyland: Where Time Warp Tickers takes place. Also, Manchester. There are unintentional examples too. Like Micro Mike, due to tiles chosen for the level.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Cheetahmen: So what happened to the Action Game Master? Granted it contradicts what the opening cinema shows, but according to the manual he transforms into each of the Cheetahmen.
A Winner Is You: In Cheetahmen you don't even get a "Conglaturation!" screen for your troubles. Beating the final boss instantly returns you to the title screen.
Sharks and Dedant will give you Game Over screen when the final mission is completed.
Zero-Effort Boss: Ironically applies to the Recurring Boss in Boss, where you can just go to the left and shoot constantly because he never goes beyond the right-hand side of the screen or attack.
Tropes present in Action 52 Owns or other remakes:
Adaptation Expansion: Given how insubstantial the original games are, every remake of them is going to have this to some degree.
The Action 52 Owns version of Meong is the most extreme case, changing it from a featureless tile puzzle into something of a dungeon crawler with a Gentleman Thief protagonist.
AI Is A Crap Shoot: In Mash Man, the grape masher machine used to replace Mash Man goes rogue, so Mash Man goes back to the town to destroy it.
Asteroids Monster: The regular zombie Mooks in Non-Human can split up into even more annoying Mooks in the hard mode.
Body Horror: The Zombies in Non-Human transform into other grotesque creatures, while the final boss becomes an evil caterpillar-thing.
Buried Alive: Happens to you in Sombreros. You have to suck your sombrero back to you while blowing smoke at ants that are out to eat your head.
Call Back: In the Alfredo and the Fettuccine remake, the final boss is the original Alfredo.
Captain Ersatz: The Action 52 Owns remake of Streemerz turns every character into an Ersatz Bionic Commando character - from making the playable character "Superb Joe" to including a fake Hitler as the villain.
Defeat by Modesty: Every time the hero of Fuzz Power takes a hit, he loses some of his hair. Once he is naked, he falls down and loses a life.
Deus ex Machina: The Cheetahmen saving Mash Man in the good ending of his game.
Fun with Acronyms: The Action 52 OWNS remake of Streemerz justifies its name by making hero Superb Joe an agent of Super Strength Emergency Squad-Zeta. Roger, STREEMERZ Command!
Gainax Ending: Jigsaw is a puzzle platformer where you have to save a girl. But upon reaching the final area, you are treated to a small cutscene showing a silhouette of said girl suspended from a rope, with nails sticking out of her body, dripping with blood. Beside her is another silhouette of your character holding a hammer which is also dripping with blood. Then you return to the title screen.
Half the Man He Used to Be: Happens to the second boss of Sombreros, after he gets pulled apart by two donkeys. He somehow survives, and appears as a boss who can split himself into two halves, each of which can attack separately.
Huge Holographic Head: Remember the giant green heads in the NES Non-Human? The remake justifies those by making them appear on computer screens at the bottom of the level.
The final boss of Non-Human has to be shot in the stomach so that he will bend down, after which you will have to shoot his mouth to push it backwards into a meat-grinder machine, and then activate the switch to damage him. You have to do this about 6-7 times to beat it.
The second boss of Sombreros has a metal vest, and will fall down and get up at full health if you try to beat him the conventional way. In order to defeat him, you have to make him fall down on each of the nooses tied to a donkey, and once you do so, shoot both donkeys to make them rip him into half.
The final boss of Sombreros has you killing his minions, but his diplomatic immunity makes him immune to you shots. You have to shoot off his white hat, then go to the red hat and throw it onto his head. This makes a bull come and pulverize him.
The stomping machine boss of Mash Man is aided by beserk robots, to beat it you have to hit one of the small robots, and make the boss jump on top of the electrocuted wreckage.
The boss of Fuzz Power cannot be hurt normally, you have to wait for it to shoot out hairballs and bombs from its hat. Roll into the hairballs to hit it back at the boss and damage it.
The mechanical bull in Rocket Jockey attacks you from behind, making you unable to attack it directly. You have to force it to line up with an asteroid so that it crashes into him and does damage.
Recurring Riff: Rocket Jockey and Sombreros have the main theme notes played in most of their songs. The final area of Non-Human also plays the main theme, while the stage looks very similar to the original game.
Retraux: Some of the remakes deliberately emulate old-school game music and graphics.
An obvious example is the City of Doom remake, which looks exactly like an old Game Boy game.
The Flash port of Streemerz adds a "Streeeeemerz Mode" inspired by VVVVVV, right down to the player having the same face as sad Viridian. The playable character is Dr. Tary, the lead scientist on Project Cavanagh, the codename of a secret weapon "V6-15D".
Bubblegirl Rozy looks like it could have been made by Studio Pixel.
Ditto for Fuzz Power.
Non-Human has a Super Metroid feel to it, with a similar interface. There is an enemy that attacks like the mini-Kraids, and the final boss is reminiscent of Crocomire (it advances towards you, and you shoot into his mouth to push it backwards).
Trick Boss: The first few bosses of Non-Human start out as a regular zombie Mook... then when you kill them, they transform into a grotesque creature.
Ungrateful Bastards: The ending of Mash Man. Mash Man destroys the grape-masher machine that went rogue. The townspeople are pissed off with by this despite being saved by Mash Man, and they decide to hang him.
Video Game Caring Potential: You get the good ending in Mash Man if you do not mash any of the innocent eyeball things. Easier said than done, though, as they tend to be on top of another platform which you must jump on (and may accidentally squash them).