Codex Gamicus

Action 52 is a multicart consisting of 52 individual and original video games, released in 1991 for the Nintendo Entertainment System and in 1993 for the Mega Drive consoles by Active Enterprises (there was also a Super Nintendo Entertainment System version advertised in some magazines, but was never released). It was initially sold for the comparatively high price of US$199 (or "less than $4 for each game"), and became notorious among gamers for the abysmal quality of its games. Many video game collectors value Action 52 for its notoriety and rarity.

The cartridge states that it contains 52 "new and original exciting games". The games cover a variety of genres, although the most common are scrolling shooters and platform games. Examples of scrolling shooters include Star Evil, G-Force, Thrusters, and Megalonia. Some of the platform games available are Ooze, Non Human, Alfredo, and Bubblegum Rosie. All but one of the games are single-player, the exception being Fire Breathers, a simple two-player fighting game.

List of games[]


List of Games[]

Game No. Game Name Notable Errors/Notes
1 Firebreather Two Players Only
2 Starevil Known to crash


4 G-Force FGT N/A
5 Ooze Crashes on Level 2, despite 100k competition for passing Level 5 (Except the Emulated version)
6 Silver Sword N/A
7 Critical BP N/A

Jupiter Scope

9 Alfredo Frequently fails to load (Except the Emulated version)
10 Operation Full-Moon N/A
11 Dam Busters N/A
12 Thrusters Known to crash (Except the Emulated version)
13 Haunted Hill N/A
14 Chill Out N/A
15 Sharks N/A
16 Megalonia N/A
17 French Baker N/A
18 Atmos Quake N/A
19 Meong N/A
20 Space Dreams N/A
21 Streemerz Known to crash (Except the Emulated version)
22 Spread Fire N/A
23 Bubblegum Rosy N/A
24 Micro Mike N/A
25 Underground N/A
26 Rocket Jock N/A
27 Non-Human N/A
28 Cry baby N/A
29 Slashers N/A
30 Crazy Shuffle N/A
31 Fuzz Power N/A
32 Shooting Gallery Known to crash (Except the Emulated version)
33 Lollipops Some music glitches
34 Evil Empire N/A
35 Sombreros N/A
36 Storm over the Desert N/A
37 Mash Man N/A
38 They Came... Known to crash (Except the Emulated version)
39 Lazer League N/A
40 Billy Bob

Known to crash (Except the Emulated version)

41 City of Doom N/A
42 Bits n Pieces N/A
43 Beeps n Blips N/A
44 Manchester N/A
45 Boss N/A
46 Dedant N/A
47 Hambo N/A
48 Timewarp N/A
49 Jigsaw Frequently fails to load (Except the Emulated version)
50 Ninja Assault N/A
51 Robbie Robot N/A
52 Cheetahmen N/A


No. Game
1 Bonkers
2 Darksyne
3 Dyno Tennis
4 Ooze
5 Star Ball
6 Sidewinder
7 Daytona
8 15 Puzzle
9 Sketch
10 Star Duel
11 Haunted Hill
12 Alfredo
13 The Cheetahman
14 Skirmish
15 Depth Charge
16 Minds Eye
17 Alien Attack
18 Billy Bob
19 Sharks
20 Knockout
21 Intruder
22 Echo
23 Freeway
24 Mousetrap
25 Ninja
26 Slalom
27 Dauntless
28 Force One
29 Spidey
30 Appleseed
31 Skater
32 Sunday Drive
33 Star Evil
34 Air Command
35 Shootout
36 Bombs Away
37 Speed Boat
38 Dedant
39 G Fighter
40 Man at Arms
41 Norman
42 Armor Battle
43 Magic Bean
44 Apache
45 Paratrooper
46 Sky Avenger
47 Sharpshooter
48 Meteor
49 Black Hole
50 The Boss
51 First Game [port of Pong]
52 Challenge


Vince Perri of Miami, Florida created Action 52. He showcased the game at the International Winter Consumer Electronics Show. The breakthrough came by accident. "I happened to see my son playing an illegal product made in Taiwan that had 40 games on it. The whole neighborhood went crazy over it," Perri said. "I figured I'd do it legally. It's obvious when you see something like that, you know there's something there."

For the original NES collection, Perri raised $5 million from private backers in Europe and Saudi Arabia. He farmed out the programming to college students and the technical work to Cronos Engineering Inc., a Boca Raton company that does work for IBM Corp. Action 52 may have originally been designed to include 60 games as evidenced by eight menu templates present in the ROM, as well as many unused tiles. However, this may have been cut due to the large size of the cartridge (two megabytes) and a probable increased production cost.

The Sega Genesis version, released two years later, was developed by FarSight Studios, who had also developed Color a Dinosaur for the NES. Plans for a Super NES version of the cartridge were announced, but Active Enterprises withdrew from the video game industry shortly thereafter, and no copies are known to exist.

Music plagiarism[]

Several of the songs from the NES version of Action 52 were plagiarized from example tunes included in Activision's The Music Studio for Atari ST. The games with plagiarized music include Fuzz Power, Silver Sword, French Baker, Streemerz, Time Warp Tickers, and Ninja Assault. Those songs were composed by Ed Bogas. In addition, the intended theme of the first level in Lollipops was taken from Somethin' Stupid by C. Carson Parks (though only when not accessed from level 3, as the music programming malfunctions on that level due to one of the many glitches plaguing the compilation).

In addition, the music playing in the intro slideshow then the game starts up is the beginning of It Takes Two by Rob Base.

The Cheetahmen[]

Released on the Action 52 cartridge, the Cheetahmen were Active Enterprises' attempt to compete with the success of franchises such as Battletoads and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Action 52 was released along with a twelve page comic book providing the Cheetahmen's backstory. The game is noticeably superior to most of the other games on the cartridge, contains considerably fewer glitches but, objectively, is still very poorly-made.

Further levels in the game reveal that like many of the titles before it, "The Cheetahmen" was not completely finished before release: One of Apollo's stages, level 5, is very hard to complete due to poorly programmed enemies. It is made worse because many of Apollo's foes can not be lined up with the limited areas the player can shoot his arrows. The game consists of six levels, each of the three Cheetahmen getting two levels, the second of which includes a boss battle. Other than the bosses, all of the other enemies in the game are characters from the other games, including Saddam Hussein parody Satán Hossain from Storm Over the Desert, a simple overhead tank game where running over Hossain, who appears very frequently, causes one-ups.


The backstory of the Cheetahmen was given in a 12-page comic book included with Action 52. Mad scientist Dr. Morbis kills a mother cheetah while on safari in Africa, then takes her three cubs for his genetic research. Subjected to his experiments, the cubs grow into half-cheetah, half-human creatures. Once they learn of Morbis's evil plans, they turn on him, and he in turn creates an army of half-animal humans (known as "Sub-Species") to stop the Cheetahmen once and for all.

The NES version of the game had an intro sequence that told a story as well, where a boy called the "Action Gamemaster" is at home playing a video game when a robotic arm reaches through the screen and pulls him into the game, probably Cygore is the villain who dragged him. He meets the Cheetahmen, who then run off. The Gamemaster does not appear in the rest of the game, although the manual summary implies that he transforms into the Cheetahmen one after another.


The three Cheetahmen are:

  • Hercules, named for the Hercules the Greek god, son of Zeus and a mortal woman. He is by nature a pacifist, but will fight with deadly force when the situation demands it. He does not use a weapon, but has great physical strength.
  • Aries, named for the astrological sign Aries that is believed to dictate impulsive behavior (as the group's combat expert he was probably intended to be named after Ares). Aries learned martial arts from movies shown to him by Dr. Morbis. He wields two wooden clubs.
  • Apollo, named for Apollo, the Greek god. He is the leader of the Cheetahmen, and was the first to question Dr. Morbis's intentions. As his name suggests, Apollo is an archer and a scholar versed in many fields. He uses a crossbow.

The Cheetahmen's enemies included:

  • Dr. Morbis, an evil geneticist. His ultimate goals are never made clear.
  • Cygore, Dr. Morbis' assistant with a robotic arm. Sketches of him showed a number of weapon attachments, including a hammer and buzzsaw.
  • White Rhino
  • Scavenger, a Sub-Species based on a vulture.
  • Hyena
  • Man-Ape (or Ape-Man), allegedly the most powerful of Dr. Morbis' Sub-Species.

Cheetahmen II[]

There were plans for a sequel to The Cheetahmen. Although mostly completed, Cheetahmen II was ultimately left officially unreleased. However, in 1997 all 1,500 known copies of the game were located in a warehouse, and eventually put on sale on the secondary market. All copies of the game were reused Action 52 cartridges with some having a small gold sticker reading "Cheetahmen II". The cartridge is very hard to come by, though numerous ROM images exist on the Internet.

In Cheetahmen II the player assumes the role of one of the three Cheetahmen (Aries, Apollo and Hercules), and upon defeating an enemy boss at the end of the second level, they switch to the next Cheetahman for the following two levels as in the Action 52 version. Due to a bug, it is impossible to gain access to the levels in which one assumes the role of Cheetahman Aries without altering the ROM image or being the lucky recipient of a glitch that very rarely starts the game on these two levels.

Cheetahmen II is famous for its music and its lack of quality in all other domains; it is reputed by many in the gaming community to be nearly unplayable, and was rumored to have been produced extremely quickly, with no debugging attempted. Like Action 52, it was not licensed by Nintendo.


Among NES fans, the two Cheetahmen games are renowned for being among the all-time worst games ever made for that system, though the characters themselves gained a huge cult following afterwards. Cheetahmen II in particular is buggy, incomplete, and widely regarded as virtually unplayable.

Many users are arranging Cheetahmen II's in-game music for various kinds of music. These postings on the website amounted to more than 100 works within a few days after the first one.

External links[]