Amiga Power1st August 1992
Published in Amiga Power #16
International Sports Challenge
Empire sprints ahead with the first of the Olympics games
Arghhh! Just as the dust was clearing after the stampede of footy games, it's time for the Olympics and the inevitable onslaught of athletics games. Lucky for Empire, their International Sports Challenge has two things going for it - it's the first one out, and it's got some weird events in it. Sure, it's got the usual dose of joystick waggling (in the swimming and cycling events), but among the six events (okay, so it's not exactly a full Olympic sim) are showjumping, and - yes! - skeet-shooting - always one of my faves on the sports games of yesterday.
It's possible to play each event individually, but of course these games are all about doing the entire thing, preferably competing against a friend or two. The formula for the whole lot goes something like this - diving, shooting, cycling, swimming and show-jumping are all played as in-between events, with a strategy-based marathon event enveloping them all. This marathon doesn't require a single joystick waggle, instead requiring players to balance rhythm with speed, top-up energy, avoid dehydration, all that kind of stuff. It's a mixture of balancing performance with endurance, with the occasional reaction test (i.e. when fine-tuning the rhythm) thrown in for good measure. Not rivetting stuff, but it works nicely as an interlude between the shorter, sharper events. Puty about the runner's animation though.
Of the events, the two water ones really let the side down. The diving event is a nice idea, with a novel control system, but it just doesn't work. Graphically, it's pretty lame too. The swimming is just downright tedious - a wagglefest with the added attraction (?) of needing a good rhythm, and breathing control which must be timed so as not to fill the swimmer's lungs with water. I kept getting the urge to let the little jerk drown!
The waggle concept is used again in the cycling event, but here things actually look exciting (solid 3D vectors are used), and there's no rhythm to worry about. Sometimes the simplest things in life work the best, y'know? Skeet shooting brings hand-eye coordination and reactions into the equation, with some pretty fast skeet flying around the place. Again, it's fairly simple event, but it works well (particularly when competing with other players - raising that tension level even higher).
Finally, then, we come to the showjumping - another solid 3D thing. I must confess to hating showjumping on TV, and I've never had the urge to ride a horse in my life. But this is funny and fun. Guiding a horse's head round the course, trying to find the next fence without crashing into everything else is just a little bit surreal, but it's laughter all the way (smashing straight through all the barriers is a real hoot).
The lack of events is partially compensated for by the game's flexibility, with several variations in each event upping lastability and game time. Empire reckon there are 2,000 event variations to try out, and while I doubt you'd want to try out every single combiantion, International Sports Challenge offers a decent amount of fun for yer money, for a team of players at least. I've got my doubts about its value as a single player game though, and the water events really are tedious. But at least it tries to be a little different, and anyway, I'm a sucker for multi-player games.
The Bottom Line
A laugh without being too laughable. I'm surprised how much I enjoyed this. Not really recommended as a solo game, otherwise it's good clean fun.