Atari 2600

Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 6

Sound: 4

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

I find it rather amusing people actually oppose the death penalty, claiming it to be cruel and unusual punishment. Let me tell you people this: you don't know what cruelty really is. Ask a death row inmate if he would rather get a lethal injection or play "Decathlon" for two hours. I'll guarantee he won't pick the latter.

Developed by "Pitfall" king David Crane, "Decathlon" is to the Atari 2600 as "Dance Dance Revolution" is to the rather dry current arcade scene. Not even future games in the button-mashing Olympic genre can compete with the pain, exercise potential, physical abuse, and wild fun of this 2600 classic.

Competing in a surprising number of events for such a small cart, players are required to slam the clunky 2600 controller in either a circular or left to right motion in order to gain speed/power. A few events like the high jump and javelin throw require a button press before stepping over the line. Up to 4-players can compete, controlling the same basic sprite while alternating turns.

Playing this game solo is obviously the biggest challenge. Rest periods are short so endurance and a high tolerance for pain is a must. You simply have to scoff at the nine-year olds who think "Mario Party" is excruciating. The games most muscle killing event is the 1500-meter death.... err, dash. Though the control is set up in a way that the controller doesn't have to be pushed as fast (until the final 200 meters that is), after taking on so many other events before, it's one of the grueling experiences in gaming history (even worse than playing a 24-level horizontal shooter without auto-fire). The only real complaint is the inability to select an event. You have go through the game to find the event you're looking for.

Our nice little video athlete, well versed in a variety of sports, is animated nicely. Of course, he is just a step up from a stick figure, but it's nice to see separate animation routines for nearly each of the events. The static backdrop is obviously the trade off since you'll play each event in the same stadium at the same time of day. Sound effects are, well, nonexistent. Only the opening music theme (in which your little cyber-athlete carries the torch) is notable.

I wonder in the sue-happy world of the early video game industry someone got the bright idea to set up a lawsuit against Activision? What if you developed some serious wrist condition while playing? I never have seen a disclaimer. With our wonderful legal system, someone would probably win that case as well. Regardless, if you enjoy watching friends make idiots out of themselves playing something like "DDR," set 'em up with this one. Their faces will contort in ways no human face should. Just make sure to bring a camera.


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Last updated: Sunday, September 26, 2004 12:02 PM