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File:Action52 2475.jpg

"The Ultimate Challenge" here would be to convince yourself that this was actually worth $200.


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 recently discovered, 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. Even though his review contains some inaccuracies, it still sums the games up pretty well. A more detailed series of all 52 games [1] 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.[2]

The original Action 52 tropes (of which there are not actually 52):
  • 1-Up: Some games have 1-up pickups. Games with these include Evil Empire, Dam Busters, Crazy Shuffle, Cheetahmen and more.
  • Action Girl: Underground, Haunted Halls and Bubblegum Rosy have female protagonists.
  • All There in the Manual: Largely averted. The manual talks about features that don't appear in many of the games, or descriptions of games that are just flat-out wrong. 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. This probably results from the developers having bigger ambitions than they had the ability to realize.
  • Anachronism Stew: Sometimes. Look at Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot.
  • 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.
  • Bedsheet Ghost: Present in Haunted Hill/Halls.
  • Big Boo's Haunt: Haunted Hill/Halls takes place in that setting.
  • Blackout Basement: Illuminator.
  • 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.
  • Blob Monster: The enemies in The Ooze.
  • Boss Rush: Sort of. The last game Cheetahmen uses an array of Palette Swapped enemies from previous games. A few of them are actually based on bosses, but they don't put up any more of a fight.
  • Bottomless Pits: There are many of them. Some cause unintentional vertical Wrap Around.
  • Carry a Big Stick: Aries likes to use clubs in combat.
  • Cartoon Bomb: The enemies in later Fuzz Power levels. Cartoon bombs are also thrown in Boss.
  • Cat Men: Cheetahman.
  • Chest Monster: Money from Streemerz.
  • Cinematic Platform Game: Attempted with Billy Bob, a Prince of Persia clone.
  • Cloudcuckooland: Time Warp Tickers.
  • Collision Damage: Collision damage, came-within-two-feet-of-it damage, whatever.
  • 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. Starevil 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.
  • Dem Bones: Skeletons from Bits and Pieces.
  • Demoted to Extra: Cheetahmen was the main attraction of the NES version, but it's just another title in the Genesis version.
    • Likewise, the bosses from the NES version of Cheetahmen show up in the Genesis one, but are just generic one-hit-kill enemies.
  • Denial of Diagonal Attack: Extremely noticeable (e.g. Stage 5 of Cheetahmen).
  • Department of Redundancy Department: From the intro of Cheetahmen: "The Cheetahmen ran off.... ....and now.... The Cheetahmen."
    • May also be a case of Epic Fail because the text is trying and failing to imitate an energetic announcer reading off a card, so this is like shoving that card in the player's face.
  • Directionally Solid Platforms: Some of the platform games have them.
  • Doomy Dooms of Doom: City of Doom.
  • Down the Drain: Some levels in Cheetahmen take place in sewers.
  • 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). The Ooze even had cut level 8 and a screen for the Unwinnable contest.
  • Endless Game: Most of the games loop around from the last level, if they don't crash first.
  • Engrish: The manual. Very surprising because it was made in the US.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You:
    • The classic example: the clearly-marked bags of pain sitting on the floor in Streemerz. Not to mention the deadly bouncing balls and clowns.
    • Haircare products in Fuzz Power.
    • Chains in Haunted Halls.
    • Windows, bowling balls, insects and rubble in City of Doom.
    • Candy products in Lollipops.
    • Some weird...things in Spread Fire.
    • Pasta in Alfred(o) N The Fettuc(ine).
    • Food, file cabinets and envelopes on wheels in French Baker.
    • Child toys in Space Dreams.
    • Weird...things in Timewarp Tickers
    • Utility tools in Jigsaw.
    • Green Elton John heads in Non-Human.
  • Excuse Plot: Most of the games that have them.
  • Fake Difficulty: So many examples...
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: The player character in Sharks.
  • Funny Animal: Most of the characters in Boss.
  • Game Breaking Bug: So, so many.
    • 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.
  • Goomba Stomp: In two of the games, you can do that. Namely in Mash Man and Bits and Pieces.
  • Guide Dang It: Mostly on account of laziness on the part of the developers. A few of the games become surprisingly playable once you know some horribly uninituitive trick to them. For example, Streemerz requires the player to step off the side (and it has to be the correct side) of the top platform in order to progress to the next level. Meong could be considered an extreme case, as learning to play it seems to be almost impossible without help.
    • Similarly, a pillar in the first level of Bubble Gum Rosy can only be cleared by standing, so you're just barely hanging onto the edge of the previous platform, then jumping, with pixel-perfect timing that convinced many people it was impossible.
    • Also, the guide was often flat out wrong on what games were on the cartridge, which takes this trope about as far as it can go.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: Very severe in some of the games.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Johnny Jawbreaker from Lollipops uses a large lollipop as a weapon.
  • Inconveniently-Placed Conveyor Belt: They're present in Cheetahmen.
  • Interface Screw: The life bar in some levels of some games isn't visible. In a few others, the life bar isn't visible at all.
  • Invincible Minor Minion: A lot, including the bouncing enemies in Bubblegum Rosy.
  • Jump Physics: Many games will only let you move in mid-jump while you're descending.
  • Kid Hero: In Illuminator and Bubblegum Rosy.
  • Kill Screen: The second-closest thing to an ending. Particularly frustrating in Ninja Assault: the cave is right there, and moreover, it's actually been pretty decent so far.
  • Ladder Physics: Work as ladders in video games do (unless they're glitchy), except in Lollipops where you can go up the ladder only by jumping up them.
  • Leap of Faith: Made worse with jumping controls.
  • Level Ate: Lollipops is entirely level made out of food. French Baker and Alfredo have food themed levels.
  • Living Toys: Many of the enemies in Space Dreams.
  • Luck-Based Mission: So many:
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • Mind Screw: Non Human, Spread Fire, Time Warp Tickers, among others.
  • Minigame Game: Ideally, Action 52 is supposed to be this.
  • Night of the Living Mooks: Bits and Pieces.
  • Ninja: Ninja Assault.
  • 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, you can't even reach the ending (if they DID program one) for various reasons. Another thing is that a lot of the levels have no proper indication for when they end; they just end abruptly.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You: Averted. 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 II was an Obvious Pre-Alpha, and they still programmed it into cartridges. Did they really intend to distribute it in that state?
  • Palette Swap: The hero of Mash Man is the "defeated" sprite from Fuzz Power with clothes.
  • Plagiarism: Most of the songs are lame ripoffs of other musics from the Music Factory on Atari ST.
  • Platform Hell: Some of the games fall right into this. Unusually, this seems to be unintentional.
  • Poison Mushroom: Money bags kill you in Streemerz.
  • Power Glows: According to the manual, Rocket Jockey was supposed to have a lasso which would glow brighter as it gains power. The idea was scrapped. It was added in the Action 52 Owns remake though.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: Jigsaw uses "Long, Long Ago". Cry Baby uses the Alphabet song.
  • 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.
  • Rocket Ride: What you and some of the enemies do in Rocket Jockey.
  • Rolling Attack: The main character in Fuzz Power can do that.
  • Save the Princess: You have to rescue your sister in Illuminator and a woman in Billy Bob.
    • And Princess Lolli in Lollipops.
  • Schizophrenic Difficulty: Many examples, but in Billy Bob, it's extremely noticeable where the game goes easier each level.
  • Sentry Gun: Some games like Robbie Robot have these. Sentry Guns are sole enemies in Operation Moon.
  • Shifting Sand Land: Some levels in Storm Over the Desert.
  • 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.
  • Space Is Noisy: Many space shooters in this game collection.
  • Space Western: In Rocket Jockey.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Rosy, Rosie or Rossie?
  • 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.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Aries in Cheetahmen.
  • 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! Action 52 will make you obsolete! What's more, his name is Satan Hosain. Because subtlety is for wimps.
  • Technical Pacifist: Hercules in Cheetahmen doesn't want to attack unless provoked, as backstory tells.
  • Title by Number
  • Trap Door: Meong has a lot of them.
  • Trapped in TV Land: The plot of Cheetahmen, insofar as some kid called the Action Game Master is pulled into the game. Then the Cheetahmen show up, tell him not to worry, and run off to fight things. The Action Gamemaster never sees them again.
  • Trial and Error Gameplay
  • Underground Level: Underground and Dedant are entirely that for obvious reasons, but some other games have underground levels as well.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change:
    • Bubblegum Rosy and Ninja Assault both fall victim to this, for the worse.
    • Cheetahmen has more of a non-indictive first taste of gameplay: its first level is an isometric 3D sidescroller a la Battletoads, but after that, all the levels are strictly 2D.
  • Unwinnable By Mistake and Unwinnable by Design:
    • Many of the games contain tough, nasty and cruel examples. Most famously The 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.
  • Very Definitely Final Dungeon: The last level of Cheetahmen takes a stab at this.
  • Very False Advertising: The TV commercial.
  • 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.
  • Wrap Around: 2-directional horizontal variation is present in Chill Out, Cry Baby and Dedant. There are unintentional examples too.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: Streemerz and Lazer League.
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.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: 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.
  • Badass Spaniard: The protagonist of Sombreros.
  • 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.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: The hero in Jigsaw, most likely because he killed her.
  • Easy Mode Mockery: Non-Human has a "now go play on hard mode, it's cooler" ending if you beat it on easy mode.
  • Fan Remake: The Action 52 Owns project is attempting to make good versions of all 52 games on the cartridge.
    • Action 52 Revisited does things a bit differently, tying all the games together tighter to form a cohesive Crisis Crossover plotline, with the Cheetahmen still in the forefront.
  • Fan Sequel: Streemerz 2, which is to Streemerz what Bionic Commando Rearmed was to Bionic Commando, but with a lot of dick jokes for some reason.
  • Flunky Boss: The True Final Boss of Non-Human.
  • 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.
  • Giant Mook: The large cat-head cyclops things in Non-Human, which can attack with a Shockwave Stomp.
  • Good Ending: In the Mash Man remake, if you don't mash any of the blob things, the Cheetahmen save Mash Man's life.
  • Gravity Screw: Present in Streemerz 2.

Joe: Somehow I freaking broke gravity.

  • 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.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: 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.
  • Intentional Engrish for Funny: Any remakes that pay homage to the poor English in the manuals has this, especially Streemerz.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Enemies in Non-Human die like this. There's a setting that allows you to turn this up further!
  • Made of Explodium: Chilli pepper field in Sombreros.
  • Made of Iron: The player character from Non-Human was changed from a One-Hit-Point Wonder into one of these.
  • Malevolent Architecture: The dungeon in Meong, in spades. Eventually, the protagonist realizes from the riddles that the entire dungeon is actually a living creature.
  • Malevolent Mugshot: Satan Hosein's base in Storm Over the Desert. Full stop.
    • Also seen on the computer screens that light up in Non-Human at the bottom of the screen, in a reference to the original game.
  • Man Versus Machine: The plot behind Mash Man. Mash Man used to mash the grapes to make wine, until a grape-mashing machine was introduced, making him obsolete and having the townspeople chase him out.
  • Medium Awareness: Joe from Streemerz 2.
  • Mexican Standoff: Happens a few times in Sombreros.
  • More Dakka: Bubblegirl Rozy fires out a rapid stream of bubbles by default, with even more possible with the various powerups. One of them causes her to recoil.
    • The player in Non-Human can do this if he gets enough fast-fire powerups.
  • Nintendo Hard: Sombreros, Starevil and Streemerz are good examples.
    • Meong also qualifies, easily.
    • Non-Human on hard, as well.
  • Oculothorax: Many of your enemies in Non-Human are one-eyed head monstrosities.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: The player character of Streemerz was changed into one of these. The original player could take four hits.
  • One-Winged Angel: The Big Bad of Non-Human turns into a giant caterpillar-thing after being defeated in Hard Mode.
  • Overly Long Tongue; The mouth enemies in Non-Human use it to whip your character.
  • Poison Mushroom: Averted in Streemerz; the bags of money are used to unlock a hidden mode.
  • Puzzle Boss: Many of the bosses in the remakes:
    • 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. Obvious examples are the City of Doom remake, which looks exactly like an old Game Boy game, and Streemerz, which has in fact been ported back to NES.
  • Shout-Out: The remake of Streemerz is a clear homage to Bionic Commando down to the Blind Idiot Translation elements in both sources, playing off the fact that the original had a vaguely Bionic Commando-esque primary mechanic.
    • 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).
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Bubblegirl Rozy doesn't help in regard to this trope.
  • Survival Horror: Illuminator only gives you a flashlight to fight off enemies in a pitch dark house. Its not rare to get swarmed by the undead or getting pinned in a corner with no battery left.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Video Game 3D Leap: Dedant has 3D graphics.
  • Villainous Harlequin: Streemerz takes the harmful clowns in the original and runs with it, making them a very potent threat by way of Collision Damage and Pie in the Face.
  • Weakened by the Light: The enemies in Illuminator.
  1. Including the ones that are only playable on a certain emulator.
  2. They would like to release it for Playstation Network, but don't plan to due to budget limitations.