Espana: The Games '92 logo

The Olympic Games are over for another four years, and once again we (Great Britain that is, and Eire for that matter) came way down in the league table of medal winners. If you think you can do better than the British team, now is your chance with Ocean's contribution to Olympic fever.

There are more than 30 separate events (disappointingly, it doesn't include synchronised swimming), and you get to choose which country to represent as you compete with the computer for those vital medals.

The biggest portion of the game is the management section where you take a team of 12 athletes to the Olympic Village a fortnight before the opening ceremony. In these two weeks you have to get your motley crew to peak condition by setting training regimes for each contestant, along with making every member of the team practise each of their chosen events at least once a day. So, day in, day out, you take the same people through the same routines: first it's off to the medical room (it's a pity that there's no 'take steroids - then deny it' option). You can implement the doctor's recommendations in the gym, then take the athletes into the stadium to practise the same events that you've got them to practise for the last two weeks.

When the day of the 24th finally arrives you would expect, at the very least, flash graphics at the opening ceremony, lots of flames and scantily clad dancers. No such luck, the big day comes along and you go on doing exactly the same as you did before: medical room, gym, then the arena to either compete or practise depending on the agenda for that day. This goes on until the closing ceremony, when all you get for your efforts is your country's name displayed on an ever so dull listing of who won which medals. Worth all the hassle, I don't think.

Just say no
If you don't fancy the idea of going through all the problems concerning your team's welfare, the Action section enables you to just go straight to joystick-waggling mode. The manual's explanation of different sporting techniques leaves a lot to be desired, as do the rest of the instructions. The Action Section of the game is the same as the practice sessions in the Management part; you are unable to compete in heats against other countries.

Espana The Games '92 is only a single-player game. There is no option to test your skills against friends'; you can only compete against the computer. And the only indication of how well or how badly you are doing is how you compare with past Olympic records (all of which are listed in the compendious reference section). Sports simulations have been around much longer than the Amiga, and Ocean have mad a brave attempt to leap out of the tired 'waggle your joystick as fast as you can' formula. Unfortunately Espana The Games '92 happens to be the most tedious thing I've played in a very long time.


ACTION SECTION
Entering the Action Section of the game enables you to control an athlete in any of the events, but only in practice mode. In action mode you are unable to actually compete in the Olympics themselves, or to practice against other players. If you want to run against anything but the clock, you have to enter the Management section.
MANAGEMENT SECTION
The Management Section is the major part of the game. It enables you to train a team up to Olympic standard, starting from two weeks before the opening ceremony. In your office you will find a diary of all the events that will take place, a file on each of your athletes and a rather inefficient secretary. Push open the doors and either find yourself in the medical room, with your chosen athlete lying provocatively on the couch, or go to the gymnasium and force a member of your team to pump weights for up to three hours a day. And don't forget the 'highly amusing' click-ons around the office - there is nothing funnier than pens rattling in a desk tidy.

Espana: The Games '92 logo

In Barcelona bestimmt inzwischen längst wieder der Stierkampf das sportliche Geschehen, da schiebt Ocean noch schnell einen olympischen Nachzügler hinterher. Aber der hätte sowieso keine Chance auf eine Medaille gehabt...

Immerhin bewies das Team aus Manchester echten Sportsgeist, indem es neben einem Alibi-Managerteil gleich 30 Disziplinen auf Disk bannte: Vom Boxen über Laufen, Schwimmen, Judo und Radfahren bis hin zum Speerwerfen ist theoretisch so ziemlich alles dabei, womit man sich und seine "Freundin" außer Atem bringen kann.

Leider ist die olympische Praxis dann alles andere als atemberaubend. So kann bloß ein einziger Spieler mit einem einzigen Sportler teilnehmen, wobei die zwölf angebotenen Helden der Tartanbahn wiederum nur bei ihren (drei bis zehn) jeweiligen Spezialdisziplinen zugelassen werden. Daß man als Manager seinen Schützling erstmal zum Doc und in den Kraftraum schicken und dann noch einen Blick in den Terminkalender werfen kann, rettet die Motivation halt auch nicht mehr.

Besonders, weil die Steuerung teilweise fummelig, teilweise viel zu träge ausgefallen ist, und zwar ganz unabhängig davon, ob man sich nun mit Maus, Stick oder Keyboard auf Medaillenjagd begibt. Sowohl die Hintergrundgrafiken als auch die gemächlichen Animationen der Athleten und der sporadisch erklingende Sound (Musik und Kümmer-FX) erinnern an die Digiwettkämpfe der Gründerzeit - nur daß man bei Epyx schon damals das Gameplay wesentlich besser hinbekommen hat.

Ja, der Gesamteindruck ist hier sogar noch etwas schlechter als bei der PC-Version, was Oceans olympisches Großereignis am Amiga endgültig zur zweitklassigen Provinz-Veranstaltung deklassiert. (pb)


Espana: The Games '92 logo

We want more than joystick waggling in our sports sims these days. Games '92 tries to supply the extra but hasn't got it right.

The Olympics is upon us again (well, it'll be long gone by the time you read this, but bear with me). For those of us not caught up in the mass-media coverage of disappointment and glory, there's no getting away from the commercial abduction of what used to be a purely amateur get-together. These are the '90s, when sports heroes also make a buck, selling milk or endorsing Amiga games. But that's enough about - we're here to talk about Espana Games '92.

My first thoughts questioned how a game could successfully capture all the Olympic events - 'over 30 events, team management, a hall of fame and extra contests', as the game claims. Even the Carl Lewis game covers only five events.
'Perhaps I better sit down and study the manual for a day or two', I thought. It was just as well I did.

The structure of the game is divided and sub-divided into ten different sections. A category selection screen gives you a choice of track and field; swimming and diving; or boxing, wrestling, judo and fencing. Once you've selected which events you wisth to take part in, a disk prompt tells you which of the four disks to insert. A further selection screen is divided into an action section, a statistics section, a reference section and the management section.

The Games '92 sets out to be a strategy-cum-action arcade game - it's impossible to compete in any of the Olympic competitions unless you've been into the management section. This is because all events take place on specific dates, exactly the same as the real life Olympic games in Barcelona. Unless you advance the date (manualy, using an on-screen calendar), all you can do is practice.


The graphics are mediocre to say the least

The practice level gives you no idea of the Olympic competition - in the 100 metres for example, all you do is run by yourself against the clock. (At least the separate arcade level in The Carl Lewis Challenge puts you into Olympic competition with other names athletes).

Clicking on the management section eventually brings up the office screen. Among many other things you'll find the diary, a clock, the calendar, and the team file. Open this to bring your fictitious team on screen, then click on any athlete to peruse their athletic statistics.

Now select an athlete for each event. You must train and exercise them. By clicking on the diary you'll find out the dates and times of all activities leading up to and including the Olympics, with a training timetable already laid out for you.

Once exercise is complete and you're happy with the training output of your athlete, you may advance the calendar and take your athlete to the first heats. It's important to remember that only when you've trained an athlete and consulted the diary for dates and times of heats, can you enter for Olympic competition. By comparison to the more fluid Carl Lewis, this aspect makes the game both frustrating and long-winded.

To begin competition, select the action section. If you've selected the right date and time, you can begin entering heats. Make the wrong selection and all can you do is practice. Frustratingly, that means working back through all those sections to the office. It's completely inflexible.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this game is its control system. Timing is the key. In track and field events for instance, you must co-ordinate the button clicks with appropriate footalls. You'll find that this applies in some form to all the events, but once you're in the boxing, fecing and judo it really does get complex.


A real marathon to struggle through

You'd think that a game with so much complexity had got the basics right first: Wrong! The graphics in Games '92 are mediocre to say the least - they look like something from yesteryear. Even Track And Field, the 1984 coin-op that started the whole thing off, blows this to pieces visually.

The backgrounds are atrocious too - there's no animation in the crowd at all, for a start, Carl Lewis, by comparison, features animated faces and parallax scrolling, as well as some different angles on the competition action.

The so called 'fun click-ons' in the office are utterly irrelevant. Yes, you can fiddle around with a desktop Newton's Cradle. Big deal. Games '92's creators would have been better employed putting more effort into event action and crowd animation.

There are signs of scope, but the game is limited to one player (unlike The Carl Lewis Challenge which takes up to four), which at a stroke wipes out the thing that's most fun about sports games - getting a few chums round and having a competition.

Games '92 tries to combine management strategy with arcade action, and that's where the game falls flat on its face - there are too many sections. There's nothing in the statistics and reference section, for example, that couldn't have been put in a book or in the manual for that matter. Training and coaching is all the player really needs. What I'm interested in is getting athletes to the games, and for all its faults, Carl Lewis Challenge helps you do that quickly.
Games '92 is unfocussed and sprawling, and combined with the incessant disk swapping and interminable accessing, that makes this a real marathon to struggle through.


AND THIS IS WHERE YOUR QUEST FOR MEDALS BEGINS.
Espana: The Games '92
  1. Advance the clock and calendar to get to the Olympic heats.
  2. The secretary isn't one of the fun click-ons.
  3. But the animated Newton's cradle is - big deal.
  4. Your team is squeezed into this tiny filing cabinet.
  5. This door takes you into the medical room...
  6. ...and this door takes you into the gymnasium.
  7. If you get bored, you can play with the bin and rattle your pens.
  8. You'll need to consult the diary to get anywhere in this game.
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Espana: The Games '92 logo

With his cycling shorts stuffed with fruit, Tony Dillon reckons he can do better than the British Olympic team...

PLAYER MANAGER
Olympic fever has returned, and with it comes the usual wash of multi-event sports sims. Ocean have also dully jumped on the bandwagon, and have released something almost completely unlike anything seen before. Sure, it has its similarities to others within the genre but, in general, this definitely isn't a game for Epyx fans.

You take the role of a country's player/manager, looking after the entire squad both training-wise and competing in the games themselves. And there are more than enough of them to keep you busy - over thirty in all, ranging from the standard 100m sprint and relay swimming events to the more unconventional Judo and Olympic Wrestling. Oddly enough, classic events like archery and gymnastics haven't been included, but I think there are enough sports here to keep most people happy.

The focal point of the game is your office. From here, you can select an athlete, train them up, check their medical details, scan the events on your agenda, advance the date, and, of course, take each athlete out to their chosen events. So far so good - but for one thing. You may have noticed that I said 'you' in the singular sense. I'm afraid to say that this game is solo only. Although you and your mates can all control different athletes under the same national banner, you can't actually compete against a human opponent at any time. That in itself takes most of the fun out of the game.

Virtually every event is played by moving the joystick in time with the on-screen moves - for example when running, you swing the joystick in time with the runner's feet. This isn't always a regular speed, however. Runners in particular are graced with curious limps. You don't have to control the players, though. If you fancy a managerial slant to the game, you can train the runners and leave them on automatic, and watch their progress from afar. Needless to say, this is very dull.

CONFUSING
The thing that really winds me up about Espana is the layout. Everything is presented within a hierarchy of menu screens, and part of the challenge of the game is remembering to go to certain screens at certain points. For example, on one day you have the javelin, the discus and the 100m freestyle. The order of play goes: go to office screen, leave office, go to action screen, do event, and so on...

This makes for a very confusing system made frustrating because the machine accesses the disk drive every time you go to another screen! The other real problem is tat at no point are you told who you are competing against, which completely kills the game's competitive aspect.

Dull lifeless graphics jerk along the same old bit of track used in every game, while you spend your time wondering what you are supposed to be doing and why the loading times are so long. Even the inclusion of a full reference library on the Olympics does little to raise the standard of this appalling sports sim.


OLYMPIC TRIVIA On the reference disk included with the game you will find two sets of information. The first contains the names and achievements of all the competitors in this year's Games, along with full details on all the stadiums (plans, descriptions, etc). Accompanying this is a full history of the Games complete with topical and interesting stories about each. For example did you know that in the 1972 Games, thirteen people were killed as a result of terrorist action? You would if you bought this...

Espana: The Games '92 logo

Ocean/A, ST (£29.99), PC (£34.99)
DAVID MCCANDLESS hates Carl Lewis, gets 'annoyed' when some spacker tells him Britain are good at rowing, thinks Ben Johnson probably took drugs to escape having to listen to Carl Lewis going on and on about God and detests everything the Olympics stands for (which, lets face it, is money). The perfect person to appraise all the tie-in games (The Carl Lewis Challenge, Espana '92 & International Sports Challenge), we thought.

At first look, this seems the most promising of the bunch. No blatant sponsorship by a trite sports 'personality', a FREE data disk containing Norris McWhirter's brain for Olympic trivia fans, 30 events (mixing track and field, water sports, boxing, fencing, wrestling and judo), and an involving managerial side - a real Olympic simulator. Not! (© Wayne & Garth.)

Management comes first. Enter an office with a buxom wench doing the tradition buxom wench thing - typing. Click on her boobs to no effect. Click on a filing cabinet and an audience awaits you - it's your squad.

Pick a team member who specialises in the event you want to play. Go to the weight-room and pump for a couple hours. Then send your squaddie out to the stadium. Now in the stadium, choose an event for your athlete. And then pop out onto the stadium. So far so good.

This is where the game falls down. Well, drops down dead with a heart attack more like. The actual events are rubbish. Basic wagglers or joystick and fire button combos with poor graphics, awful animation, dire sound, massive disk-accessing and unspeakable playability. (Not very good then, eh? Ed.)

After the national anthems and all the build-up, the events are limp. Not even a little shnogy cuteso bit of humour to resurrect them. Very poor and very boring.