The system required its owner to also have a VCR, as the console did not have a way to play tapes itself. Using a light gun (or two for 2-player games) players would shoot at the screen. The gaming was strictly point-based and dependent on shot accuracy. Players could not truly "lose" or "win" a game. This, along with the fact that the only real genre on the system were light gun games that played exactly the same way every time, greatly limited the system's appeal and led to its quick downfall.
The Action Max had a very limited release outside the US and only one PAL game is suspected to have been made.
Before playing, a red sensor had to be attached to the lower right corner of the television screen. This corner contained a circle that was usually black, but would flash rapidly whenever something on the screen was shootable. At the same time, targets would be highlighted by rapidly flashing panels, for the player to shoot at. The Action Max console used the corner circle and light from the targets (picked up by the guns) to determine when something had been hit. Flashes in sync with the corner circle would count as 'enemy' hits, and would earn points for the player. Flashes out of sync with the corner circle counted as 'friend' hits, losing points.
With this implementation, the unit can function with copies of the original VHS tapes, including those on more modern formats such as DVD-R. The console can also work with any filmed footage properly formatted to function with the console's light gun.