Epyx have moved away from the hot, sweaty and dizzy heights of Summer Games to those of a far colder, but equally sweaty clime of Winter Games, their third sports simulation to be released in Britain.
The game has a similar format and presentation to the Summer Games bilogy (well you have a trilogy, so why not a bilogy)? The options open to you are the same, with the choice of three competition modes or a practice mode. The former allowing you to compete in either one, some, or all of the events in the form of a one-off, the latter to practice one event as many times as you wish. You can also view the world records and repeat the opening ceremonies as before. Even the act of selecting your county is performed in the same manner. However, there are only seven events in Winter Games as opposed to eight in Summer Games.
Nothing to do with flying sausages, but a test of how well you can manoeuvre on skis whilst flying through the air. The object of the exercise is to score as many points out of ten as possible by performing a stunt, or stunts, during a short ski jump. You are allowed three attempts at proving your worth.
Your skier starts atop a small peak with a mountain range and static crowd in the background. A press of the fire button ejects him from his perch and for the short period of time he is in flight you must perform one or more movements from the six available. You must also land successfully since falls are penalised, as are poorly executed, or 'awkward', movements. Points are awarded by eight different judges and an average is taken for your final score.
This is the first of three skating events and is a timed test of grace, accuracy and coordination. You have one minute (real-time) to perform seven compulsory movements with as much elegance and precision as possible, and without falling over in the process!
The event takes place on an indoor ice rink (where else?) that scrolls from right to left as your skater does her stuff. One can skate either forwards or backwards, depending upon which manoeuvre you wish to execute. Certain jumps and spins can only be performed by skating in the correct direction.
As with the Hot Dog event, you are penalised for performing an 'awkward' movement or falling, so one must time all jumps etc carefully. For instance, spin for too long and you fall over through dizziness! At the end of the allotted minute, eight judges rate your performance and an average for your final score is taken as before. One can score no less than a shameful zero and no more than a perfect six, since the marking scheme used is similar to the real thing.
High atop a man-made ski-run stands a lonesome skier, shivering with cold and anticipation. He crouches low and pushes off with a push of the fire button. Down the runway he speeds, the wind pressing hard against his body and his mind concentrating hard on the jump to come.
On reaching the end of the strip he sails majestically into the air, temporarily at one with elements until he lands, heavily, the snow breaking his fall and a few bones simultaneously. Whoops. Who forgot to adjust his position during the skier's brief flight, then?
The Ski Jump is effectively the next step on from the Hot Dog, although no acrobatics are required. One has simply to jump as far as possible to score points, but style is also of importance. While the skier is in the air he meets wind resistance, and this affects his 'balance'. Therefore one must ensure that the skier is as aerodynamic as possible and that any faults that occur along the way, such as crossed skis and bent knees, are quickly corrected.
Although the Americanism may suggest otherwise, this event is in fact Freestyle Skating and is a sort of extended version of the Figure Skating. Instead of having to execute only seven movements successfully in one minute, you are required to perform them three times in two.
The music played during the event is different, and so is the scoring system used for judging. Greater skill is needed though, as you have to perform for longer, but other than that the game is the same.
This event is very similar to the rowing in Summer Games II, being a head-to-head split-screen race. Each player may choose their lane and after the countdown it's a speedy race down the 250m straight. The joystick is used in Decathlon fashion although it's not frantic speed waggling that is required, but good rhythm in time with the skater's legs. When you first start racing you have to do some swift waggling to build up speed, but once you're cruising it is leisurely strokes that gain the optimum results. Both screens scroll independently with each player. There's a bar so the player can gauge the speed and also a timer.
The Biathlon is a gruelling race on skis over a beautifully drawn country track with only a .22 calibre rifle for company. You have to make your way through valleys and up and down hills between four separate points. At each point there are five targets, and this is where your gun comes into action - load the gun and try to hit the targets. You only have five shots at the five targets and, because each miss will give you a five second time penalty, every shot counts.
Control is a fluent left/right movement to make your skier move across the ice surface. If you go too fast then he just slips (like running on ice), too slow and it takes ages to build up speed. When you go downhill use up and down on the joystick to dig your ski sticks into the snow to send you zooming down the slope. When you reach a hill it's swift left/right movements that are to get you to the top.
At the end of the race your time is shown and any shooting penalties incurred are taken into account, the winner being the one with the fastest time.
This event has very basic controls - just steer the bobsleigh left and right as you hurtle down the ice track. The difficult thing is trying to find the best tactic to allow you to gain speed and yet not end up careering down the course like a drunken driver.
The display shows three separate screens. The biggest one shows a plan of the whole course. Once you start racing a red line creeps down the course, indicating progress; a quick glimpse at this shows you exactly where you are and what sort of bend you can expect to encounter next.
The second screen shows your current time and the third a 3D rear 'Pole Position' style view of your bobsleigh and the track as you whizz down it. This is the screen you have to watch the most so you can gauge when you should steer left or right to negotiate the corners. If you don't steer at all then your sled will go right up the banking and tumble over.
The fastest time wins the race, and just like real life 0.2 of a second is a long time, allowing no room for error.
The amount of people that have asked for information about Winter Games... well, it's arrived and I'm glad to say that for me it offered no disappointment whatsoever. Some of the bit-mapped backdrop screens are absolutely superb, especially the ones on the biathlon. The sprites, animation and sound are up to the usual Epyx standards of excellence, in some cases the animation, although not as smooth, has more variety than Summer Games II.
This program only has seven events, but each event requires massive memory, the biathlon for example with its four bit-mapped screens. My personal favourites included the bobsleigh (brilliant) and both the skating events (these both require a hell of a lot of practice before anything like a proficient score is achieved). I think that Winter Games is a little harder than the others in the Games series - the two skating events offer a lot more challenge than just about any other event in SG II. Get your furs on and have a go, if it doesn't grab you than you're intangible!
If you thought that winter consisted of cold, rainy days, mugs of hot chocolate and long dark nights you were *wrong*. How about having a shot at ski jumping, taking a bobsleigh down a twisting ice course or trying to ski your way across some of the most beautifully detailed landscape your Commodore has ever seen? Well, you can now courtesy of Winter Games, the best sports simulation since Summer Games II.
The graphics and sound in my opinion are even better than those of SG II, if you doubt that, then take a look at the Hot Dog event - the animation is fabulous. Some of the events need a lot of practice, ones like the two skating events and the Ski Jump will keep you going for weeks before you get anything like a decent score. I can see myself playing this a lot more than both SG and SG II, there's a lot more challenge and a lot more gameplay! Another excellent sports simulation from Epyx and yet another that you just can't afford to miss.
On seeing Summer Games for the first time over a year ago, I thought it was brilliant in all respects - graphics, sound and especially gameplay. When you see the sequel, Summer Games II, however, you realise just how much programs have progressed over that year. The same holds true for Winter Games, although the time scale between its release and that of Summer Games II is considerably less.
I was initially disappointed, nay disgusted, by the fact that this game was very similar in appearance to its predecessors, and Epyx should have made some effort to change this. The same can be said of the seven 'new' events.
While they contain some of the best graphics yet seen on the C64, the gameplay on a majority of them is too close to previous Epyx events for comfort. Still, this didn't stop me enjoying the game immensely as a whole and this is an excellent addition to the Epyx sports range. But I do feel that if they are to release further games of this ilk, then they ought to buck their ideas up a bit and go for something a little bit more original and varied in gameplay.
Meticulous attention to detail with some good options, but marred by a lack of restart facility.
Photographic backdrops and life-like sprites, with incredibly realistic use of colour and shading.
Plenty of superb tunes and sound effects.
The stunning graphics, sound and unusual game-play instantly draw you in.
Constant challenge of beating records is ever present.
Value For Money 95%
Lots of cool game for a cool price.
Another classic sports simulation from Epyx.