With exquisite timing, US Gold have released the imaginatively titled The Games - Winter Edition just as weīre all
climbing out of our thermal underwear.
This is the latest in an apparently endless stream of epic sport sims with interchangeable titles from Epyx,
the acknowledged champions in this field. It's officially licensed from the US Olympics Committee, programmed
with 'input' from former US team members, and takes us back to snowy Calgary, the scene of the earlier Epyx
triumph, Winter Games.
Though the similarities with WG are in evidence - indeed some of the seven events (ski jump, speed and figure
skating) cover the same frozen ground - Epyx have introduced enough new elements to keep everyone happy.
The events include three absolute jewels: the beautifully animated Figure Skating, and the TV spectaculars of
the Luge and the Downhill races.
The first of these. the Figure Skating, tests your powers of graceful movement,
artistic temperament and choreography - skills not usually boasted by us hackīnīslash arcadesters - and
consequently this event is probably more difficult than all the others snowballed into one.
First you have to select your own music from the seven tunes on offer (Bolero isnīt included, thank God), and
then you have to design a skating routine to go with it, including all eight of the standard hip-wrenching precision
moves, such as triple axel jumps, layback spins and camel spins. And then youīve got to memorise the whole routine.
The idea is to get your graceful female skater moving round the spotlit ring, doing all the impressive twiddly bits
without landing on her bum. And all in time with the music. Despite hours of practice, my miniskirted beauty spent
most of her time freezing her assetsm before hobbling off to a pattering of polite applause and a score so negligible
that I refuse to disclose it.
Probably most hardened armchair athletes will prefer the exhilarating breackneck acceleration of the Downhill event.
Described in the otherwise excellent manual as 'a free fall in white...A oneness with the mountain herself' (pass the
vomit bag), Downhill features an unusual option which enables you to posotion TV cameras along the tortuous sloping
course. As you take off down the mountainside, weaving crazily between the course markers, the course is seen as if
through your own frosted goggles, but each time you pass a TV camera, you get a chance to see yourself, sideways on.
Real prats can even show off at this point by 'flipping'. Should you hit an obstacle, though you also get to see
yourself tumbling through the air, skidding and sliding until you arrive in a crumpled heap at the finishing line.
Great for a laugh.
As anyone who watched thew Games will know, the Luge isnīt a bowel infection but a type of toboggan that's
technologically designed to assault time' (!!). You lie back on it and shoot down a tube of ice at ridiculous speeds.
This event displays some graphic wizardry, depicting your lightning progress through a series of camera-angle views,
which show you hurtling on your tea tray from one side of the screen to the other.
The remaining four events are a bit of a mixed bag, and graphically not so hot, both the Cross Country Ski Hike and
Speed Skating involve some strenuous and rather tedious joystick waggling, though the latter requires more rhythm than
muscle as you skate against a competitor around the oval track.
The Ski Jump is exactly what you'd expect - a suicidal leap into thin air or, if you timing is out, a humilating
dive head-first into a snow-drift. It's bloody difficult, which goes someway to compensate for the graphics which arenīt
up to the standards of the Winter Games-event.
And lastly there's the Slalom, an event as old as the ZX-81, and one which could have been juiced up with a skierīs
view of the course. Instead we get an overhead view of the parallel tracks, as both skiers dodge back and forth
between the flags. If you hit a flag you go on to complete the course as a snowball. But you donīt get points for this.
The whole caboddle is wrapped up the usual Epyx trimmings- lenghtly opening and closing ceremonies with mounties
and fireworks, an awards sequence after each event, a World Records scoreboard, practice options, and choice of
different courses where appropriate. Up to eight players can participate, choosing from 17 countries of origin, and
each with its own national anthem (so if youīve always wondered what the Dansih anthem sounded like, hereīs your chance.
The frequent disk swapping doesn't hold things up too much (cassette users might not agree) but on the whole
The Games - Winter Edition just scraped a bronze for entertainment.