Every four years, a small event called the Olympics arises. Almost every single games company fights for the ultimate Olympics licence. The money that floats around must be incredible. Unfortunately, International Sports Challenge is not the official Olympic game, but it is really rather good.
A bit of history for you. Anyone reading this remember Daley Thompson's Decathlon on the good old Sinclair Spectrum? Yes, of course you do, it was the start of something big and it would revolutionise athletic games for ever and ever. Amen.
Yes, the one game that would be responsible for the end of an era. As you may or may not know, Daley's Decathlon involved tapping two keys as fast as you could. This undoubtedly led to the N and M being worn out before any of the other keys. This, among other things, led to the death of my Spectrum, so with a tear in my eye I waved goodbye to the good old Speccy and said a big hello to my brand spanking new Amiga. Hurrah, hurrah and thrice hurrah.
Being a sentimental and thoughtful sort of guy (you've got to be joking - Ed) I still look back to the days when Daley ruined my micro, but in some way maybe it was a godsend and I was meant to receive an Amiga on that fateful day.
Since Daley, sports games have come and gone, but as I said a few seconds back, it is the time of the Olympics and sports games are big business to these software companies. For starters, most sports games are dead easy to produce - all you have to do is produce a simple joystick waggler, or that is how it seems to me, which is unfortunate for you the punters, yes you, the ones who have to fork out £25 or more a time for such software.
It is your decision and with tons and tons of Olympic games software available, it is you the punters who will make or break these companies. Whoops, I've just realised. I have made a major error. This is not an Olympic Games game. It's only got six different sports in it, so it's got nothing to do with the Olympics.
Blimey, that was almost a catastrophe. It's easily done though, especially with the images that cover the box. There are six events - diving, cycling, shooting, swimming, show jumping and the marathon.
The marathon is the "key" event. You start with the marathon and in between you travel to all the different events. After the event has finished you return to the marathon to check on how your runner is doing. You can alter his rhythm and speed, plus you can tell him what to take on the refreshment stand. You have a choice of glucose, water or steroids. Oops, I mean a sponge. Don your swimming togs because the next event is diving. Yes, you too can dive like the pros or you could be a complete amateur and bellyflop, but at least it will be a flabtastic bellyflop. To be honest, it is not a bad diving event. For starters you can actually do a proper dive and yes you do feel quite happy when you do an inward reverse double piked somersault.
Show Jumping is next. Now this is the only event in the whole game that is guaranteed to raise a smile. For starters, it is all in 3D. It does not actually feel as though you're riding a horse, it is more like driving a car. I found this out when Dobbin kept on doing three point turns and especially when he got pulled over by the cops and had to take a breath test to see if he'd been riding while under the influence. To keep you entertained, there are several different courses. Back to the baths for the next part, it's swimming. The competition allows you to chose between four strokes, three different distances and three different competition levels. This is an almost straightforward waggler.
At the bottom of the screen there is a stroke bar which displays the speed and rhythm of your stroke. A heart will appear on the bar each time you need to breathe.
The only other waggler in the whole package is cycling. As in the Show Jumping, the cycling is a 3D-Vectory-type thingy. This is one of the more exciting events. You start waggling your stick and for the first couple of laps you have to either take the lead or follow the other cycle, then the bell rings signalling the final lap, then you go into a waggle frenzy until you hit that finish line. I know it sounds crap on paper, but believe me it is really exciting when you're waggling away.
Right, last event before the end of the marathon and it's the shooting. There are four different shooting events. Rapid Fire pistol shooting involves you shooting at five revolving targets which are marked with five scoring zones - the closer to the bull's eye, the more points you're awarded with.
Running Game target shooting that you have to shoot running game, but thankfully these days the "game" are just moving targets with pictures of wild boar painted on them. Clay Pigeon and Skeet shooting I expect you're all familiar with, so I won't waste my breath explaining it all to you. After you've completed all these events, you go back to the marathon to guide your man home to the finish line. Unfortunately I always ended up about fifth and still haven't won it, but I'm sure you'll be able to do it tons better than me.
Right, that's another review done and dusted - all I need to tell you now is what I think about it. Overall International Sports Challenge is a very polished product indeed. The 3D bits add a new dimension to the genre, plus the fact that you have the marathon running all the way through the game - another idea that works well.
I can't really compare it to any of the other recent sports games, simply because I haven't seen any of them. The graphics are good and the sound is fairly average, but the playability is excellent.
I think you will probably come back to this one even after all this Olympic business has died down. I liked it, but it does not last too long which is probably its only major fault, mainly because there aren't enough events.
Also, £30 is a bit expensive, but if you're feeling in a particularly sporty mood then I would recommend that you buy this.