Olympic Summer Games


Review by Jeff Cooper

US Gold


Graphics: ?

Sound: ?

Gameplay: ?

Overall: ?

olympicsummerbox.jpg (204919 bytes)Pioneered by Konami in its classic Track and Field, the Olympic style multi-event program has been a mainstay of video and computer games. Most of these programs fall into one of two categories: 1) the button bashers, where you tap the buttons as fast as you can to build up speed and power and then push another button to jump or throw or 2) the timing tests, where success depends more on the rhythm and timing of button pushing or joystick movement. Track and Field and The Activision Decathlon (2600, 5200, Colecovision) fit into the first category, while the various superb Epyx releases (Summer Games, Winter Games, etc.) fall into the latter. U.S. Gold has borrowed from each tradition to put together a satisfying Olympic competition.

OSG features outstanding 32-bit graphics and TV style coverage, and with no less than fifteen events, the program includes plenty of variety. Would-be decathletes can compete in the 100 and 400 meter runs, the javelin, discus, long jump, hammer, triple jump, high jump, pole vault, 100 meter freestyle, rapid fire pistol, skeet shooting, archery, weight lifting, and fencing. Whew! Tired yet? With the obvious exceptions of the shooting, archery, and fencing events, each contest requires the gamer to build up power by pushing buttons and then to time jumps, throws, angles, and so forth. The designers deserve credit for offering two different methods of achieving power. You can bash the buttons furiously in the "arcade" control mode or, in the "olympic" mode, you can build up power by timing your taps properly as a needle moves back and forth across a meter.

There's a lot to like about this program. A great deal of care obviously went into development, and most of the events play smoothly and look great. Options galore are available--you can practice any event, play against friends, compete in arcade style contests, or even compete in a full scale olympics, with all the heats and qualifiers, and with a full array of international opponents. This isn't something you will master in an afternoon. At the same time OSG has its shortcomings. For one, it's needlessly difficult to get into, thanks to one of the most poorly written instruction booklets I've seen in recent years. It's not confusing merely because sentences run together without punctuation. The booklet constantly instructs us to line up this line with that meter on the other bar when it's the proper color. Though in the actual game the bars and meters are various colors, the booklet is in black and white and, frankly, half the time I had no idea what to do. I learned the events only after much practice and help from a glossy magazine.

A more serious criticism concerns the general structure of the events themselves. Notwithstanding all the beautiful graphics and animation, when you are actually playing the game you are mainly just interacting with a bunch of meters and gauges. Remember Summer Games and Winter Games, by Epyx? In events like diving, gymnastics, ice skating, and the ski jump, you had to interact with the athlete--you had to move your joystick in response not merely in response to some bar but to what the figure was doing on screen. OSG desperately needs more events like these. Those ancient, dinosaur Epyx simulations offered decidedly more depth than this 32-bit wonder, and they did it without overly complicating the events. Programmers still refuse to learn a vital lesson: a knowledge of the history of videogames will result in better games. Because of its shortcoming, Olympic Summer Games is a good simulation that ought to have been better.


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Last updated: Friday, October 07, 2005 10:25 PM