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, Farsight Technologies, 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, several years after the game was released, a very unfinished sequel to Cheetahmen on the Nintendo Entertainment System was discovered. Cheetahmen II had been programmed onto hundreds of crudely relabeled Action 52 cartridges, but was never officially released. 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 Arcade (maybe)note They would like to release it for PlayStation Network, but don't plan to due to budget limitations.The games on the cartridge (NES version):
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)
Action 52 includes examples of:
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.
Non Human. The title refers to the abominations the player faces, not the player himself.
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.
Catchphrase: The Cheetahmen comic attempted to give the trio a pair of these. "Let's sink some subs!" being their battlecry (the villains being mutants called "sub-species," you see), and "Livin' large!" as their version of "Cowabunga!", apparently.
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.
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.
In some games, enemies appear in random places. In some games, a bad enemy placement means death, or an Unwinnable situation, e.g. 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.
Sadly Mythtaken: The Cheetahmen, the characters of Active's flagship property that never was, consisted of Apollo, Hercules, and Aries. Considering Aries is supposed to be a master of martial arts and the group's combat expert, he was probably supposed to be named after Ares.
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.