Over Christmas I decided to take a punt on the PlayStation Classic. This isn’t a review of that, for reasons that will quickly become obvious. Here’s what I did when it arrived: I unboxed it and plugged it in, played each of the games I vaguely remembered for about 10-15 minutes each (confirming along the way that, yes, the introduction to Resident Evil does still make me laugh but unfortunately I also still die about 10 minutes later) before stopping and putting everything away again. It was no fault of the system itself – although I know it’s had some stinky reviews – because it’s a process I’ve been through many times before.

Getting a load of games at once has always been a bit of a personal weak spot, going right back to the old compilation packs on the Amstrad CPC. Memorable collections include Durell’s The Big 4 (Turbo Esprit, Saboteur, Critical Mass and Combat Lynx); The Hit Squad’s They Sold A Million (Beach Head, Daley Thompson’s Decathlon, Jet Set Willy and Sabre Wulf); The In Crowd (a collection of 8 games including Crazy Cars, Combat School, Barbarian and Target Renegade) and The Magnificent Seven (also – bizarrely – a collection of 8 games, including Wizball, Head Over Heels and Arkanoid) from Ocean.

I don’t readily recall it being as much of a fashion in the 16-bit era, although my Atari ST did come bundled with what was known as the ‘Power Pack’ – a collection of 20 games, many of them arcade ports including the likes of After Burner, Outrun and Double Dragon (which all looked great in stills but generally failed to live up to the mark when you played them). And since then I’ve rarely been able to resist a collection, compilation or bundle – from the old 3 for £10 deals on boxed budget games, through to the set-your-own-price digital bundles of the modern era.

The so-called “retro collection” is a slightly different beast, particularly if it affords you the opportunity to experience games from systems that you didn’t own back in the day. The temptation to believe that, despite all evidence to the contrary, you probably do have time to catch up on 30 or so Megadrive games, or even finally get past the first couple of levels of Sonic the Hedgehog, at least, proves difficult to resist.

For those of us who did secretly (or not so secretly) covet a console in the 16-bit era, there came a point when it seemed that it was probably just not meant to be, and over time we learned to love the systems we had, becoming influenced by the types of games that those systems did well and falling out of touch with the ones it didn’t. I’m never going to play Sonic or Mario now, and if I did, I’d probably be rubbish at them. And why were there so many platform games anyway?

Worse still is viewing a collection as an opportunity to revisit titles that you actually did play but didn’t like at the time. One particular pack that I bought for the PSP, EA Replay, featured the likes of Wing Commander (if I didn’t like the PC original with full use of mouse and keyboard, an emulated version of the SNES version with limited controls would be sure to impress) and Desert Strike (technically impressive on my Atari Lynx in the 90s but also, I found, rather repetitive, fiddly and annoying). That’s some solid holiday entertainment right there…or, on second thoughts, maybe I will lie outside in the sun with a book.

And if console games are a bit too hard for us slow-witted computer dunces, then we’re destined to have no chance with collections based on arcade games that revolve around getting some more money out of the player. I guess that could be counterbalanced by those emulated collections allowing you to press a button to insert a coin rather than demanding actual money, but then you wonder what exactly about the experience rings true in that case.

As a kid in the 80s, it would have been great to have infinite coins, but it would have been even better to actually be good at the game. Now, many years later, you could get better, if only you had the time to practice. But you probably wouldn’t, and you definitely don’t.

Excitement about acquiring something and getting it up and running often trumps the reality of playing it in any meaningful way, and honest retro gamers will be familiar with this feeling. My own memories take me back to the shadiest days of abandonware and emulation, where the prospect of getting some free entertainment drove a desire to stockpile downloads and ROMs, much to the consternation of my family as dial-up both cost money and tied up the phone line.

What started as a desire to play International Superstar Soccer without actually owning a SNES soon became a drive to collect anything which might be vaguely of interest. When it came to trying to play them, the performance of the emulator on my machine and imprecise mapping of controls from the SNES joypad to the MS Sidewinder didn’t exactly replicate the experience as I’d wanted, although I wonder now if it’d really have been any different if I’d had the actual console.

Without that spark of interest that drives acquisition of old games, of course, we wouldn’t be here at all. There will always be games we buy but don’t enjoy. And perhaps I will soon fire up the PS Classic and play Resident Evil from start to finish. But in future perhaps it’s worth exercising more caution regarding repackaged collections of emulated 16-bit platform and fighting games. (No, Rik, you won’t play them on holiday, go swimming instead).