Action 52 (NES)

We review all 52 games -- including the infamous Cheetahmen.

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  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Also On: Sega Genesis
  • Genre: Compilation
  • Max Players: 1-2
  • US Release: 1991
  • Developer: Active Enterprises
  • Publisher: Active Enterprises
  • Similar Games: Russian Roulette

cheetahmenAction 52 is legendary among gamers, perhaps so much so that I need not delve too deeply into its seedy background details. But there is one point which is universally believed about Action 52: it’s an abomination. It is a collection of 52 smaller mini-games, all of which were so poorly and abhorrently programmed that it is easy to conceive that the development team was either exceedingly drunk at the time or simply pulling off a half-assed Grade 11 computer science project. No matter what the reason, the fact remains that Action 52 exists, and that’s just wrong. And the fact that they wanted $200 for it is simply icing on the cake. Well, let’s take a look at what makes Action 52 so wonderful. *deep breath*

The very first game is Fire Breathers, and it’s a chilling vision of things to come. Surprisingly, it’s actually much better with a second player, provided you can dupe an acquaintance to submit to this lousy game. Apparently, you play as two fire-breathing creatures (possibly pterodacyls, by the look of things) trying to whittle each other’s health bars down to zero. The backgrounds are ugly, the gameplay is hardly exhilarating, and there’s no motivational factor involved here. It IS, however, fun as a single-player game if you like to win: Just fire at the blue creature and you shall prevail.
Star Evil is the first of many space shooters in this collection, and if you begin with this one, you’ll have a bad taste in your mouth before the others rear their ugly heads. You know you’re off to a bad start when you almost immediately hit an obstacle in the first level. The game itself is very repetitive, both visually and aurally. I’m not sure: Am I shooting balance beams? The collision detection is nasty, too; you defy the laws of time and space by actually exploding BEFORE you touch an obstacle. Furthermore, there’s no resting period between stages, so expect a continuous flow of boredom. I don’t know who coded this one, but they deserve a medal in mediocrity. The boss ships move so erratically, but I was still able to pass right through them on many occasions. And Stage 4 is just a gray screen. Sad.
Hey, here’s a stupid idea! Create a game where you wander around four different platforms, using ladders to wander between them. But, just to make things interesting, have the lights constantly burn out. How do you turn them back on? No, let’s not replace the light bulbs. Let’s have the main character shoot other people to make them re-illuminate. Yeah, that sounds good. But let’s not allow the player to see the enemies in the dark. That would be too easy. Let’s have them wander aimlessly, hoping to hit something and not die. I’d rather drown in a lake of manure than subject myself to this. Next, please.
First of all, no, this has absolutely nothing to do with that lousy movie about trained FBI rodents that can talk. This is worse than that, though not by much. You are a pink spaceship flying eternally forward with random ships coming at you (not unlike every shmup I’ve ever played). The trick is that, after a while, you notice that there’s a pattern in which ships approach you, and the pattern is repeated for quite some time until the stage ends. With the game being only three levels long (and looping indefinitely), you can probably memorize the game within a few minutes. It’s still boring as hell. Oh, and bullets from enemies are too damn small.
Oh, this game is “ooze,” all right…like ooze seeping out of a gaping wound! You are a punk child pulled straight from a NOFX concert, running through a green world filled with slime and scary hopping pickles. Ooze begins the nasty trend of awful jumping abilities in Action 52 platformers. I like to call it the “frozen jump,” where, once you begin your jump, you can only move left or right after you’ve jumped. So you’ll jump straight up to the peak of your leap, then press Left or Right to move. It’s a frustrating system, and you’ll encounter it many times in this collection. There are also blue bubbles in the background; you can stand on them, but they really don’t help your plight much. Also a testament to the fine programming of Action 52, if you fall down a pit, you’ll end up at the top of the screen (and still be dead). Wonderful! With lousy controls, cheap deaths, and just ugly surroundings, I don’t know why anyone would want to play this. But Active Enterprises wanted us to, offering big money to anyone who made it to the fifth stage (which is pretty much impossible, unless you hack into there and start at Level 5).
Follow this general pattern: Walk forward across an extensive terrain over grass and puffy cabbages (or are those supposed to be trees?), shoot your throwable sword (yes, sword) against enemies that follow no discernible movement pattern, and you have the formula for a truly deplorable game. Tedium is omnipresent, and you are its peon. Move on.
Crytical Bypass is unpleasant to look at. See this screenshot? Those aren’t domes you see there. Those are boils on the ashy bottom of an unhappy elderly citizen whose hidden shame in life is that he has an awful space shooter on his backside. What does that even mean? I don’t know. But I do know one thing: Crytical Bypass is unpleasant to look at. That, we have determined. You are a flying blue and orange orb crossing the surface of the moon, avoiding or shooting down moon rocks and strange colourful boxes that home in on your ship in hopes of defeating you and preventing you from achieving your goal of not perishing. It’s as dull as watching grass grow. And why is it called “Crytical Bypass”? Ridiculous.
Contrary to the title, I don’t believe this game has ANYTHING to do with Jupiter. It looks more like the horizon of New York. You’re in an extremely generic rocket ship, shooting down flaming used cigars that descend from the sky, thus saving the otherwise uninterested metropolis from potential ruin. You know, in theory, you could just sit there in one spot and shoot. Actually, no; eventually, one of those cigars will come down just outside of your absolutely minimal firing range and kill you. Forget I ever mentioned that. So…who loves single-screen shmups?
Alfredo, also known as “Alfred N The Fettuc” (probably short for “Alfredo and the Fettucine”), isn’t actually playable on the cartridge. That’s right: if you select this on the menu, you get a blank screen. So, really, now we’re down to Action 51. If you WERE able to play this, however, you’d be a crazed chef whose goal is to swat rampant sausages and pastas that are menacing your kitchen. The aforementioned “frozen jump” is in full effect here as well, making for a convoluted experience. I’d rather jam an uncooked sausage in my ear than play this. Heck, I’d rather play BurgerTime…and BurgerTime is awful. Admit it.
Operation Full Moon is a snail-paced vertical shooter, but you may be surprised to learn that I’m not going to bash this one as hard. It’s not that bad, though it IS quite primitive. One (meaning me) might consider this to be the easiest game to work with in Action 52. Even though bullets are pretty hard to see and you start right in front of a blockade à la Star Evil, the game has its positive points. Turrets only fire horizontally, making your journey slightly less troublesome. And you may not even die from being hit due to poor collision detection. That leads to a shmup I can love: an easy one. Oh, granted, each level is just a palette swap of the previous, and the game locks up after the eighth level, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have 15 minutes of fun, right? RIGHT?! Oh…
You’re a beaver just trying to make his way forward (possibly to bust a dam, as the title indicates), but you have to deal with other murder-intentioned rodents and a maze-like structure that you can actually get permanently stuck in. The programming is awful: Animals just pop out of nowhere in the middle of the screen. I haven’t seen too many nature programs, but I imagine that beavers don’t just appear at random. If this is a real occurrence, I am frightened, as you should be as well. The graphics remind me a bit of StarTropics, only without a hero with a cowlick. Still, it’s just not fun to play, considering all the weird walnut projectiles flying about and the magic rodent appearances. Dam this game.
I must warn you: This game is boring. Actually, most of them are, but the level of boredom exuded by Thrusters is more pronounced. This is another slow shmup featuring boring enemies that only travel in straight lines. There are only four levels that repeat ad nauseum until I become ad nauseous. Again, levels may start with your ship right in front of an obstacle. Not cool. You’d think that with a name like “Thrusters,” there would be more turbo, but no, no turbo.
Haunted Halls sounds spooky, and it is, but it’s only spooky in the terms that it’s frightening to think a developer would allow such a monstrosity of a videogame to escape the bowels of his computer terminal and reach the public masses. I really don’t understand the storyline, if in fact there is one, but all I can see is a lady with impressively large mammaries sneaking her way through a dark cavern shooting ghosts and other creepy crawlies with miniature crucifixes. At least they fixed the jumping mechanics somewhat, but there are still problems, such as death in mid-air or losing a life when you touch the edge of a platform (it will be another few decades before equality truly sets in and women can fall down pits just as easily as men). I’m not sure about this one; if you like thicker women in red jumpsuits with gigantic chestal bags, it could be right up your alley. As a side-note, in my original review notes, I had written down the following: “no, not a Hank Hill Halloween episode.” I have no idea what that means now. Kids, don’t do drugs.
If Donkey Kong and Ice Climbers ever were to engage in the act of reproduction, Chill Out would be their illegitimate love child. Basically you play as an Inuit lad (in blue) who must defeat other Inuit people (the gray ones). As you defeat them, more will randomly spawn and the level will continue until you defeat a predetermined number of enemies. Be forewarned: If you choose not to use the ladders and jump down a level, you will die earlier—in mid-air. And here’s an odd point of order: Based on my sad experiences with this, enemies will only shoot to the right. Is something wrong with this? Chill Out is pretty boring after a few seconds, so it’s best to chill out with lemonade instead. No, wait…limeade. Yeah.
I’m glad I don’t have this guy’s job. You play as a diver, searching underwater for sharks. But here’s the kicker: You’re not there for research purposes. You’re no Matt Hooper. Instead, your quest is to kill them with some sort of laser ray! How ecologically friendly! Only after destroying an unknown number of sharks can you progress to the next equally tedious level! Jellyfish also show up later on, but who really cares? You want sharks, lots of sharks! Gray ones, white ones…I think that about covers all you’ll see there. But they take too long to show up, and occasionally, an underwater foe will pop up very briefly on the right side of the screen and then promptly disappear. Plus, your laser spends more time grazing the enemy than anything else. What a crappy game. That’s right: crappy! …isn’t that a type of fish?
Another space shooter, huh? They must be extremely easy to produce. This one chuffs you up at high speed as a U.S.S. Enterprise knockoff, fighting in a post-apocalyptic happy Candy Land. Sadly, this one’s fairly glitchy in the graphics department; by the third level, you can tell that the game’s falling apart like underwear in its final run. Heck, by that point, even the score box starts to glitch. The bosses are frustrating; they just fly around the edges of the screen in a random pattern. You can really only shoot them when they’re perusing the right-hand side. At least there’s a lifebar. I once said, “My kingdom for a lifebar!” Action 52 delivered.
French Baker boasts the whitest factory I’ve ever seen. And no, I don’t mean that in a racist way. As the top chef in this baneful boulangerie, you’ll have to interject in the apparent mutiny caused by partially-eaten bagels, eclairs, filing cabinets, and photocopiers. How can you save your bakery from utter destruction? By tossing pies, that’s how. I know, you’re asking what kind of insane bakery IS this? Surprisingly, even though you can’t fall a distance without succumbing to death, it’s actually playable and/or mildly enjoyable. Though only four levels are available, it has the potential to be the best bang for your buck on this otherwise depressing compilation.
If there was ever a digital adaptation of a yawn, this might be it. Welcome to another vertical shmup, this one emulating a snail’s pace. It’s as easy as you could possibly imagine, and although the game tries to switch things up a bit in the fourth level by providing a bit of a winding maze to navigate, there’s still very little challenge. The programmers sure had no interest in offering a complete game, though: Level 5 is terribly glitchy and unfinished, which is why you die within the first couple of seconds no matter where you go (or, alternatively, you’re taken back to Level 1 for more mirth and diarrhea merriment). And what kind of awful name is “Atmos Quake”? It’s, like, just… *explodes*
Meong: the sound a cat makes when it’s hungry right after a frontal lobotomy. But Meong is also a pathetic puzzle game, akin to Minesweeper but with even less of a chance for success. You, as a purple turd, move around in a field of mystery squares, trying not to step on a landmine. You really can’t effectively tell what’s a bomb and what’s not (except they occasionally open and close). To make matters worse, the mines have a mind of their own because they move around the board of their own accord. Even if you were to just stand in one spot, a mine could shuffle its way underneath you and explode. I don’t like these hu-mine-oids. It makes the game entirely dependent on luck, which is something most people, including myself, lack. If I had such luck, I would be living in a gold house with three Ferraris and busty maidens serving me lemonade. No, wait…limeade. Yeah.
As a child, I was pummeled with messages from Concerned Children’s Advertisers on television, most notably the great song, “Drugs, Drugs, Drugs: Which Are Good? Which Are Bad?” Whoever designed Space Dreams should have watched that a bit more closely. Picture yet another vertical space shooter, but this time, imagine you are a pacifier shooting teddy bears (or rats, I’m not entirely certain), dolls, the number 1, bassonettes, letter blocks, rattles, balloons, safety pins, and electrical plugs. Are you scared yet? Then please, add fried eggs and booties (or male genitalia, depending on your frame of mind) and paste all these elements over a wacky black-and-purple background. Now you have Space Dreams! The end of each level is quite arbitrary; you never know when the level will end, but it just does, immediately, without warning. Sadly, your pacifier buddy can only manage one bullet on the screen at a time, making for some sluggish action. Should you play this? No. Also, don’t do drugs. You won’t be a winner that way.
If Bionic Commando and Rainbow Islands met in a bar, had a one-night stand, and Ms. Islands subsequently became pregnant, this would be the cutesy love child. I’m not exactly certain how I am defeating enemies, but I imagine it involves using my strange…extendable…body part. There isn’t much to say, except that this gets quite boring quickly. Oh, and I was killed by a bag of money. Who says money isn’t the root of all evil? Well, actually, Action 52 is the root of all evil.
At this point, I just want to bury my face in my hands. It has become apparent that no one at Active Enterprises gave a flying fig about quality here. I know I should have picked up on that little tidbit about 20 games ago, but it is drilled into my head more and more with every new adventure. Take Spread Fire. Please, take it; I don’t want it. Why would I want to play a lousy Space Invaders wannabe starring a giant space lobster? Why would I want to endure a game where not all enemies take damage at all times? Why do some enemies move to your level at the bottom of the screen and you can’t move UP any, so you’re left to die? Why do some blue enemies just disappear on the sides? Why am I playing the same level over and over? Why is Bad Company still touring? All these questions…it hurts my brain.
Bubblegum Rosy (spelled on the bland title screen as “Bubble Gum Rossie”) suffers from the same problems as the other platformers thus far: awful jumping controls. You must press the jump button and then a directional button once she reaches her peak before you can move left or right. I don’t know what this one’s about. It’s just some doll on an acid trip. This, too, is an incomplete game: Rossie can stand on/in spikes without any injury. Oh, correction: SOME spikes still work, while others do not. Because you can’t tell beforehand, perhaps it’s best to just avoid the spikes altogether. Better yet, avoid this entire game altogether.
What the?! OK, now this is messed up at breakneck speed. You are a worm (or possibly whatever Kirby defecates) zooming through a lengthy corridor as quickly as the NES is capable, trying not to get stuck on the walls or touch the random floating technology. That’s pretty much it. And you WILL hit something. It feels inevitable. Oh, wait…I get it. Micro Mike. He’s extremely small. Maybe that’s what this worm is. Whatever it is, there’s little motivation to prevent him from slamming into a crusty wall at 100 miles per hour. There’s no goodness in my heart keeping me from defeating this tapeworm of unhappiness.
Well, well! If it isn’t a clone of Lode Runner! How good of you to come! Anyone who bought Action 52 probably screamed with girlish glee when they discovered a different type of game on the cartridge. I know I did. And the game’s not an entire failure. You are a miniature explorer wandering throughout mysterious caverns with the seemingly primary goal of killing anything in your path. Well, you should at least try to destroy the mushrooms, because those things immediately kill you upon contact. That doesn’t sound like poison; that sounds like axe-murderousness. At least you can fall a distance without succumbing to death in mid-air.
I could say something dirty here about that title, but I’ll hold back, as this is a respectable website! You are flying through crimson space as a cowboy on a missile, brawling against vicious astrocows and other space individuals. It could have been a decent game if not for two things: There are only two levels, and you can last infinitely by simply flying at the bottom of the screen where no enemies dare go.

Oh, I wish I could stop here. I really do. But alas, I’ve only touched upon half the games in this miserable collection. For more impure goodness, check out Part 2…


  • GameCola Rates This Game: 0 - Worthless
7 votes, average: 7.57 out of 107 votes, average: 7.57 out of 107 votes, average: 7.57 out of 107 votes, average: 7.57 out of 107 votes, average: 7.57 out of 107 votes, average: 7.57 out of 107 votes, average: 7.57 out of 107 votes, average: 7.57 out of 107 votes, average: 7.57 out of 107 votes, average: 7.57 out of 10 (You need to be a registered member to rate this post.)

About the Contributor

From 2009 to 2014


  1. I commend you for surviving the expirence that this piece of crap gave you. But I have just one question. What were you thinking!?

      1. Yes, I saw AVGN’s video of Action 52 a couple of years ago, and I suppose it was an inspiration, but at the same time, I just wanted to get that game out of the way, so I can now review good games.

  2. this game reminded me of a food eating contest. You know those impossibly large hamburgers that will win youa free tee shirt for eating.

    1. Greg Pabich currently owns Active Enterprises, the company that originally put forth those IPs. He owns the rights to Action 52 and Cheetahmen.

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