Video gaming’s preliminary forays into replicating The Games were a mixed bunch. Joystick-waggling sprint-to-the-finish Olympic events from the 1980’s were one of computer-gaming’s early clichés.
But as the decade wore on, such conventions soon gave way to more creative approaches, thanks to the likes of publishers Tynesoft and Epyx. Soon, with 8-bit machines giving way to the more graphically advanced Atari ST and Amiga, gameplay scope improved and 100m events soon gave way to oddities such as bull riding, while the circus and even Saturn were fair game for venues from imaginative game designers.
Here are eight of the best multi-sport games on the Atari ST and Amiga that were unleashed in the 1980’s.
Tynesoft’s tie-in – in all but copyrighted name – to the Seoul Olympics in 1988 was a fun take on the greatest sporting event in the world, even if it did stretch the realms of believability. After all, the joystick-rattling 110m hurdles did saw competitors stretch off so far into the distance that they first became miniature versions of themselves before disappearing entirely.
The diving also saw competitors fall from a height of seemingly hundreds of metres before splashing down apparently unharmed. A great, challenging Skeet shooting round and the originality of the two-player fencing round, which also featured pretty decent AI rivals for the time, did salvage things somewhat though.
Another Tynesoft title, this time seeing the big top the site for a hair-raising multi-event competition based on timing and a fair bit of button-bashing. The lack of events – only four – was a letdown. However, their originality – tiger training, trapeze, tightrope walking and trick horse-riding – was a bonus for this 1989 game.
Purple Saturn Day
An out-of-this world variation to the Games, Epyx explored the stars in 1989 with this sci-fi adventure. With B-movie cover art, aliens species gather around the Solar System’s second largest planet for an interstellar celebration.
Again, with only four events to pass the time, but at least they all differ in scope wildly. Ring Chase is a fast-paced slaloming racer; Tronic Slider is a shoot ’em-up-battlefield hunter gatherer trial, which is as confusing as it sounds; Brain Bowler is a bizarre puzzler that takes a fair few attempts to make sense of and get to grips with; while Time Jump is a game of reactions that sees your Astro-Olympian flung off into the distant galaxy with seemingly no way to return home, which feels like a galactic gold medal isn’t enough compensation for. One for esoteric gamers to explore rather than the true sports fans.
Epyx followed the success of its Summer Games and Winter Games titles with the 1986 launch of World Games. The publishers put their focus on non-Olympic sporting events and set them at various global stages, ensuring some memorable passages of play, as well as some educational facts about each sport and location.
On what other game can you challenge for barrel jumping, log rolling and caber tossing crowns? It also downplayed the frenetic joystick waggling of other games, instead linking success with keeping in rhythm with your athletic sprite’s movements.
Another 1988 Tynesoft release – this time for Calgary’s snowbound games – that challenged the vibe for realism purists. The downhill race featured the death-defying challenge of evading random trees and boulders strewn across the course, while the bobsled challenged players’ proprioception with a staggeringly high double-sided wall of icy top-speed death.
The ski jump and slalom events were infuriating but fun. But Winter Olympiad’s blue-riband event was the biathlon – a mini-game worth repeat playing that invited gamers to be patient in accruing speed and waiting for the right moment to shoot on target.
The Games: Winter Edition
Winter Olympiad’s 1988 market rival from Epyx saw the publishers take the experience made from its previous Olympic titles and run downhill with it. An eight-event monstrosity with vastly improved graphics and gameplay from previous titles, plus opening and closing ceremonies that enhanced the feeling of celebration – well, on the Atari ST version at least, which had the rare achievement of besting the Amiga port on all categories.
Tthe downhill’s mechanics might have felt a little ropey compared to Tynesoft’s course (despite the lack of rocks), but the risky inclusion of figure skating demonstrated no lack of ambition. The head-to-head qualities of cross country and slalom skiing events added to the sense of jeopardy.
A commercial success with 300,000 copies sold within months of release in 1987, Epyx’s West-Coast caper is still commercially available today on various ports, emulators and platforms. Sure, the seemingly never-ending roller-skating round might have been as tedious as the deliberately excruciating Janey Thompson’s Marathon, but the lovely BMX, out-of-place footbag and thrower-and-catcher flying disc more than made up for things in the fun stakes.
California Games II might not have replicated the original’s entertainment but its very existence was a demonstration of first title’s lasting appeal.
The Games: Summer Edition
Epyx’s Seoul sister to Tynesoft’s effort was the 1980s apex of multi-sport gaming – and the last ever made for the Epyx Games series. Another eight-eventer, sprint cycling in the velodrome kicked things off nicely as players judged their pace and track position to avoid running out of puff at the finish line.
Archery was a superb shooter with wind and bow-tension elements meaning a bad shot was always in the offing, no matter how good you got. Gymnastics events added to the ambition of the winter edition’s figure skating and were well executed, rounded off by a nicely done springboard diving event with a decent array of routines to choose from.
Humorous touches – such as a rogue hammer throw ‘destroying’ the player’s computer monitor and local wildlife being troubled by a loose arrows in the archery. One retro downside was the ST version never seemed to save the world records – a huge part of the appeal this sort of game garners. But with such variety to choose from, going for gold really felt like it matter more regardless.
So, there we have it, our pick for the best video games set in France through the years!
What do you think of our picks? Do you agree? Are there any notable omissions? Let us know in the comments below!