Remember Ocean's original Daley Thompson game? I certainly don't: it was back in the days when we still printed listings and a fresh-faced Julian Rignall had just become C&VG arcade champion. Pudding basin haircuts had never had it so good.
Yes, a lot of water's passed under the bridge since 1984, and Daley's pre-eminence as an athlete has grown in almost direct proportion with Jaz's barnet. Now Olympic year has rolled around again, and with Daley still the great black hope of British track and field Ocean has presented us with a new attempt to represent the ten gruelling Decathlon events on your home computer.
So is it any good? Well, yes it is: there is certainly no comparison with the old game. No more pink-skinned sprites with straight hair masquerading as our hero, no more ludicrous bugs that meant with five friends bashing away at different buttons on your computer you could get enough energy to run a three-second 100 metres! In 1988 all the high scores for the various events have been worked out with the aid of Daley's own logbook, meaning that with a perfect performance in every event it should still be impossible to beat the 9000 points top Decathaletes strive for.
There are similarities, however. The basic structure of the game is the same, as you work your way through 100 metres, long jump, shot putt and the rest towards a gold medal position. The whole button-bashing syndrome that wrecked so many Spectrums in the early '0s is back too, though this time the punishment is transferred to your joystick. Echoing the recent resurgence in the arcades of finger-strength over skill, Olympic Challenge sees almost a return to the heady days of Hypersports and Track And Field.
One of the really nice things about the game is the attention to detail. As you take part in the field events on the Commodore, the crowd in the background does the Mexican Wave. Not only that, but other contestants do press ups and train, while a pack of runners jogs around the outside track.
On the Speccy the training room scenes feature a little bod in the background who wanders around in a comic routine trying to pick up various weights, on the C64 Daley looks out the screen at us and sweats. There is no need for these - they are totally unnecessary to the game but they are a nice touch.
The system of play is this. To begin with, we see Daley in the weights room, striving to achieve overall fitness. Though the Spectrum sprites are still only monochrome in these scenes they are of a fair size, and at least bear a reasonable resemblance to our hero. The idea here is to waggle your joystick back and forth at such speed as to fill up each of three bottles of a well known fizzy glucose drink within a time limit, and so be in the ideal state of body for the two days' events. If you succeed you now have some reserves of energy to draw on when the going gets rough.
This over with, it is straight into the events, and there is more than enough frantic jiggling of the joystick here to keep even the most hardened basher with a smile on his face.
First up on the load (Day 1) is the hundred metres, ten seconds or so of frantic joystick action which only pales into insignificance next to the 400 metres and the - oh my God - 1500 metres in the second load.Not a lot more to be said about the running events really. The motion is quite nice, the backgrounds are nice and details and (on the C64) moving, and your lower arms take a lot of punishment. One thing especially vital here is to make sure you chose the correct pair of Adidas training shoes from your menu for each event, or you'll really be making unnecessary work for yourself. There's no easy way to do this I'm afraid: on the versions I played, finding out which shoes to use is a case of trial and error. The packaging may make this clear.
Adidas also get mentioned on the posters that aurround the stadium, though there are fewer of those than there are on, say, Peter Beardsley's Football. See what you can get if you cough up the dosh, Lucozade?
Next up is the Long Jump - pretty tricky in that you have to jiggle the stick to build up your power, release the fire button to get the jump, and then control the angle of the jump with your joystick to get a good length to it.
The three throwing events - Shot Putt, Discus and Javelin - are quite close to each other, each one relying on the build up of power - very difficult, on my first attempt at waggling my stick that fast I got roughly nowhere - before the vital angle selection and the release.
The hurdles make an interesting variant to the running events, and then it is on to the high jump and pole vault. Possibly the trickiest of the lot, the skill is in timing the jump to the last possible moment, especially hard in the vault since you must guess the length of the stick in front of you.
If you've done well you get to go on the winner's podium, something you well deserve; after all that wrist action building up power you'd be as fired as Daley himself.
All in all, a very good looking game that recreates both the man and his sport well. My only real reservation would be that the manic joystick use could become somewhat painful after a while.
Definitely one to pick up if you're into compilation sports simulations though I don't think it's special enough to earn the Golden Joystick its illustrious predecessor did. We've just seen too much of this sort of thing since then.