uting invites you to the Sole Olympics. [That's fintastic - Ed]
This latest (and hopefully last) of this year's multi-event joystick waggling sports sims is one that takes a bit of a different approach to the previous efforts. Unlike Carl Lewis Challenge and Espana: The Games '92 (both reviewed in Issue 17, with 56% and 38% respectively), The Aquatic Games isn't an o-fish-ial licence of [Hold it right there! One more piscine pun in this review and you're fired - Ed]. Ah, Er...
1. The 100 Metre Splash As James Pond, waggle that joystick like crazy (you're actually running across water, so go too slowly and you'll sink!) and, er, that's it. If you can avoid knocking the seagull out of his boat early on, he'll fly along and give you a speedy lift towards the finish line.
You're in competition with F-fortescue Frog, but he's useless so don't worry about it. You can also headbutt the toucans which perch [Right, that's it, you're fired! - Ed] on the bunting along the course a few times for bonus points, and getting all three brings the seafull back even if you sank it earlier.
Fishy Fun Factor: ***
2. Kipper Watching You play Ceceelia the seal, and you have to avoid having your sleepy seal friends woken up by the beach balls which some unfriendly swine's chucking at them (you can just see it, can't you? Some callow youth wandering along a tropical beach, spots a load of seals sleeping, thinks "Hey, wouldn't it be a great laugh if I scared them all off? Bloody other species, should all go back where they came from anyway", and starts lobbing a convenient nearby infinite supply of large beach balls at them. I love plots, e.).
You do this by leaping around and nutting the balls before they hit your mammalian pals and wake them up, at which pint another hit before they drop off again will send them scurrying off the beach in fear.
Occasionally some swine will set off an alarm clock which wakes all the seals up and makes things really hard for you, so you should stop him (by jumping into the clock) if you possibly can. Lose two seals and it's all over, and you win medals by surviving for as long as possible before it happens. You can also grab bonus points by leaping into the angel fish which appear at the edges of the screen occasionally, yielding increasing scores from 100 points up to 10,000. The toughest thing about this event is trying to avoid falling asleep by about halfway through, especially in multi-player mode when it can take over quarter of an hour to play to the end.
Fisky Fun Factor: *
3. Hop, Skip And Jump This is a triple-jump contest straight out of the Hyper Sports coin-op. Waggle the joystick like crazy, hit fire when you get to the 'Jump' sign, continue to waggle the joystick like crazy, hit fire again shortly afterwards to determine angle of jump (the game stops and a little graph moves up and down at the appropriate moment), and hope you've managed to propel F-fortescue frog far enough to qualify. Pretty easy, really, but it's nice to get back to a bit of good old honest frantic joystick destruction after the repetition and boredom of the last event.
Fishy Fun Factor: ***
4. The Bouncy Castle Time for a spot of gymnastics now. You (as James Pond himself) have to bounce up and down on the sponges (by way of a simple rhythmic combination of joystick moves) to gain enough height to execute various mid-air manoeuvres.
There are six different ones (including some tricky combination moves), each of which you have to do six times within an overall time limit to win a medal, preferably without falling off the trampolines and smashing your head in. It's pretty difficult to tell whether or not you're going to land safely on the sponge after you've done a move, and the mysterious jack-in-the-box which sometimes shows up in the middle of the screen and propels you miles into the air without having to bother with all that tricky joystick stuff seems to appear and disappear completely at random, which is a bit disconcerting. Some of the combination manoeuvres are a bit too awkward joystick-wise for my liking, too.
Fishy Fun Factor: **
5. Feeding Time The most manic event in the game, Feeding Time sees you playing Freddie Starrfish as he tries to save some of his sweet-toothed aquatic buddies from the clutches of some nasty fishermen.
Freddie's job is to tip tasty titbits from his bucket in order to stop his comrades from being tempted out of the water by the sugary confections lowered on the end of the bad guys' fishing rods. As the bucket empties, he has to rush from side to side to fill it up at the dispensers at the edges of the screen, but while he's doing that, the liquorice allsorts are getting closer and closer... When two fish are caught, the event is over, so keep 'em out of trouble for as long as possible.
Fishy Fun Factor: ****
6. Shell Shooting This is the most co-ordination-testing and potentially frustrating event of the lot. Again, you play the part of sub-aqua superhero James Pond. You have to jump on the edge of limpet shells as they meander across the screen (slightly faster than in real life - limpets aren't generally known for their fleetness of foot or whatever it is they move about on) flip them up into the air, catch them as they come down and then throw them back up the screen to burst a series of balloons.
Tough enough, without the spiky limpets which you can't jump on, and the fact that if you let a limpet walk into you on the ground, it knocks you over and stuns you for a while (at which point another one runs into you, then another one, then etc, etc). Quite tricky and very frustrating.
Fishy Fun Factor: ***
7. Tour De Grass After the Shell Shooting, the next event is a bit of a relief. You play Mark The Shark (an ex-circus unicycling shark from Finland) [Of course he is, how foolish of me not to have thought of that myself - Ed] and your task is simply to get to the end of an obstacle-littered horizontally-scrolling course against a time limit.
The difficult stuff comes in when you realise that to keep him cycling, you have to keep rotating the joystick in a clockwise direction, which is trickier than it sounds when you have to co-ordinate fire-button presses to jump obstacles and collect bonus point objects as well. Still not all that tricky, though.
Fisky Fun Factor: **
8. Leap Frog The 100 Metres Splash with obstacles to jump. A bit of a doddle, and something of an anti-climax after everything else.
Fishy Fun Factor: **
If you qualify for a silver medal or better in an event, you also get the option to take part in a bonus event. You have to sacrifice a few points for the chance to enter, but if you succeed in the bonus event you get a lot more points back, as well as a Shield Of Merit. The ultimate aim in The Aquatic Games is to complete the whole thing with eight gold medals and six (the maximum) Shields Of Merit.
The bonus events give F-fortescue Frog an encore appearance in a long-jump contest that't just a simpler version of the Hop, Skip And Jump, and bring the previously unseen PJ Penguin into the action as a juggler in another time-survival event, and while they're a nice extra, they're both too easy to provide much interest after the first try.
The Bottom Line
Uppers: Cute graphics, lovely bouncy tunes, lots of statistics (although some of them are a bit confusing - how can you have a lead of 1200 somethings in the 100 Metre Splash?), some funny bits (try standing still at the start of the same event), um...
Downers: The same failings as every other joystick-waggling sports game, i.e. it's super-repetitive, and it's dull and pointless if you're playing it alone. Some of the events drag on for too long. And as with the original James Pond, the area of the screen used for action is pretty titchy.
It's the best joystick-waggler of this year's crop by quite a way. It works reasonably well, and it's nice to pick up every now and again, but there's only about half a day's entertainment (three-quarters if you've got your mates round!) in this at best.