Eidos Summer Athletics
Go for gold
- Career and character-creation modes, excellent graphics
- Sports nerds may complain about definition of 'athletics', unevenness, disappointing multiplayer mode
Fans of licensed products will be better served by Sega's official Olympics game, but Summer Athletics is a simple, low-cost alternative that will provide hours of old-fashioned fun, with the bonus of excellent graphics and career modes.
Price$ 49.95 (AUD)
If the success of our Australian team at the Beijing Olympics gave you a taste for sporting glory, 49Games's well-timed Summer Athletics could be right up your street.
Conspicuously lacking in official Olympics branding, Summer Athletics is nevertheless a fun, varied game that evokes the spirit of the event in a cheap and cheerful way.
A sports nerd in the PCA offices (who shall remain nameless) insists that diving and archery don't count as 'athletics'. Thank goodness, then, that the developers took a wider view — these fringe disciplines are the most enjoyable parts of the game.
The fiendishly tricky diving in particular pushes things into the currently more fashionable realms of rhythm gaming (you have to hit sequences of buttons at key moments to pull off the moves, as in Guitar Hero), as opposed to the straightforward button bashing that drives most of the running and swimming.
Not that button bashing is entirely a bad thing. There's nostalgia value here, for a start. Fans of old-school track-and-field simulations will be pleasantly familiar with Summer Athletics' general principles: hit the left and right keys as quickly as you can to go as fast as possible. They'll also know how surprisingly addictive these techniques can be. Chuck in some superb graphics, an impressive range of sports and the variety offered by the more complicated events mentioned above and you have a winning formula.
There's some unevenness in Summer Athletics, however, as tends to be the case with portmanteau sports sims. The swim races, for instance, are very easy indeed — we sliced 17 seconds off the world record in our first, wrist-destroying attempt at the medley relay.
The team cycling, on the other hand, is bafflingly hard — as with several other events, the instructions make little sense. But you can adjust the difficulty levels in Summer Athletics, and it's actually nice to have a couple of events that are immediately accessible and others that reward prolonged practice.
A more frustrating issue is the disappointing multiplayer mode, which could have been the game's trump card and the saviour of the track events. What you want here is for all parties concerned to be allocated two buttons on the same keyboard and then tap away at once — hey presto, you've got a nicely raucous party game. Instead, with Summer Athletics you have to take it in turns.
Finally, the long-term appeal of Summer Athletics is improved by the inclusion of career and character-creation modes, allowing you to edit your athlete's name and appearance, gradually improve his or her athletic skills and unlock achievements.
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