Super Sport Challenge logo

After a hard day drinking beer, smoking fags and eating chip butties what could be better than a nice, relaxing sports sim?

I have just had some quite remarkable news. It seems that these French lads have come up with a 10-event sports simulation. Errrrrrr... Well done! Given that the bandwagon left town over five years ago, there could only be one reason for bringing out this sort of sports sim now, and that would be to bring it up to date. You know; bigger, better graphics than ever before, amazing sound and a cunning new interface that leaves you gasping at its awesome simplicity. Unfortunately, Super Sport Challenge has none of these.

Eventful, hardly
The game offers you the chance to compete in 10 events, from the athletics field to the swimming pool: 100m, 110m hurdles, pole vault, long jump, shot putt, high jump, triple jump, 100m freestyle, 4 X 100m freestyle relay and the javelin. It does not take a genius to realise however, that the 4 X 100m freestyle relay is the 100m freestyle repeated four times.

Up to four people can compete at a time, each representing a country of their choice, although joystick port limitations means that in race events only two actually compete against each other at any one time.

The controls for each event vary, from the simple to the unusable. In the first category is the 100m where you start running by pressing fire, and push the joystick to the right when you want to run faster. Now this many be less expensive on joysticks than Track and Field-style button bashing, but it is difficult to feel like you are actually involved in helping your athlete win.

In contrast the pole vault requires you to push fire to start running, move the joystick left to increase your run up speed, push fire to plant your pole, pull back on the joystick to bend your pole, press fire to lift yourself up the pole and then move the joystick left to clear the bar. Which is as difficult as it sounds.

The real gameplay comes in the control of your energy level. At the bottom of the screen is a bar display showing the amount of energy you have. This is never enough for maximum effort all the way through an event, and the trick lies in using your energy sparingly. In the jumping events there is little point in arriving at the board at 100mph if you are too tuckered to lift yourself into the air.

Similarly, in the race events there is no point to racing away from the field and leading for the first half if they all catch you up when you are doing a dying fish impersonation down the home straight.

One of the worst points of Super Sport Challenge is that during most events you are forced to listen to the most annoying sample ever heard on a computer game. It sounds like a crowd of 100,000 people chanting 'boring' into a flanger; it only lasts two seconds, but it never stops repeating. Aaaargh! Turn off the sound.

Super Sport Challenge lacks consistency, you get the feeling that different people worked on the different events and nobody co-ordinated them properly. On top of this there is a serious lack of imagination. It does not make any difference which country you select, you will always be the same athlete; there are no female athletes or shots of you on the podium if you win a medal; there is no celebration when you set a new world record and there is unnecessary disk swapping because the individual events are stored in the wrong order.

Player bonding
It is a shame Microids have let these sort of problems spoil what might have been an exciting game. In places the graphics are good and there is an above average soundtrack, which could have been performed by a close friend of Jean Michel Jarre. The four player option encourages even the most pale and wan gameplayer to have some kind of interaction with real people.

Even thoughSuper Sport Challenge does show a lot of promise for the future of Microids, it is let down by poor execution. You can have some fun with it, but it will wear off soon, leaving you bored.



Super Sport Challenge logo A1200 untauglich

Die Sommerspiele in Barcelona sind längst vorüber, die in Atlanta erst 1996 fällig - wie wäre es in der Zwischenzeit mit einer schicken Digi-Olympiade? Prima? Na, dann dürft Ihr getrost weiterblättern...

...denn was Microids hier abgeliefert hat, unterscheidet sich qualitative kaum von jenen dürftigen Multidisziplinen Games, die andere Companies bereits im vergangenen Olympiajahr bereithielten. Trotz der offensichtlich verspäteten Veröffentlichung reichte es schon bei den Optionen bloß für den üblichen Genre-Standard: Jede der 10 Leichtatletik-übungen kann einzeln angewählt und trainiert werden; am Wettkampf dürfen bis zu zwei menschliche Mitstreiter teilnehmen, ersatzweise springt ein Computergegner ein.

Zunächst steht der 100m-Sprint an, gefolgt vom 110m-Hürdenlauf und allerlei Hüpfereien - Hoch- (mit und ohne Stab), Weit- und Dreisprung. Sodann darf man sich am Kugelstoßen und dem Speerwurf versuchen, um abschließend 100m Freistil (auch in der Staffel) im Schwimmbecken zu absolvieren. Bei alledem genügt meist rhythmisches Rütteln am Joystick, um Rekorde aufzustellen, gelegentlich entscheidet auch mal der gut getimte Druck auf den Feuerknopf über Sieg oder Niederlage.

Wenn Gold dennoch nicht an der Tagesordnung ist, dann hauptsächlich wegen Patzern seitens der Programmierer: Bei den Weitsprung-Disziplinen fehlen z.B. Absprungsmarkierungen, weshalb man nur auf gut Glück einen respektablen Hopser hinlegen kann; zudem verbaut häufig die träge Steuerung den Weg in die Medaillenränge.

Wo wir gerade von Patzern sprechen: Nicht genug damit, daß externe Laufwerke nicht unterstützt werden und man deshalb ständig mit drei Disks jonglieren darf, werden selbst interne Diskettenwechsel manchmal schlicht ignoriert, sollte ein zweites Laufwerk überhaupt nur angeschlossen sein. Den Zweitläufer kann somit vergessen, seinen 1200er auch (außer Ihr steht auf viele schöne Grafikfehler...), und wer weniger als 1 MB in der Kabine hat, muß auf die Hochsprung-Wettbewerbe verzichten.

Angesichts von soviel "Liebe zum Detail" wundert man sich kaum noch über die schlecht digitalisierten Zwischenbildchen oder die eher magere Grafik mit den wenigen Farben und schwachen Animationen. Okay, das meist horizontale Scrolling ist ganz brauchbar, aber das war es auch schon mit dem Lob - sogar eine Eröffnungs- bzw. Schlußzeremonie fehlt, und so was hatte bekanntlich sogar das steinalte "Summer Games" schon anno C64 im Repertoire!

Ob es wenigstens eine Medaillenspiegel gibt? Schon, nur speichern kann man ihn nicht. Und damit nützt er ebensowenig wie der Rest dieser Sportveranstaltung, bei der Masse eindeutig vor Klasse geht. Dabeisein ist halt doch nicht immer alles... (rl)



Super Sport Challenge logo

Why do sports games go and put 'challenge' in their titles? It's tempting fate.

Go on. Admit it. As soon as you turned to this page, read the name of the game and glanced at the grabs you thought, "Uh oh, waggle-frenzy". I know I did when I was given it to review. Sports sims and waggling are inextricably linked in the minds of a generation.

Like buying a second-hand Mini and having to push strart it on rainy wintry mornings. Like watching a US sitcom and cringing at the moralistic bit. Like going to the cinema and finding yourself reciting, "Next door's budgie... The Dog And Duck dahn the 'igh street.." along with THAT ad. Sports sims and waggling are two things that we've come to accept go together.

But get this - there is no waggling in Super Sports Challenge. I would say it again to make it blatantly clear but the beauty of the written word is that you can read it as many times as you like. So go on, then.

Read the first sentence in this paragraph as many times as you like until you're fully convinced that you have come to terms with the concept. Believe me, there's not even the slightest hint of a twitch or mere suggestion of a rhythmical swaying of the joystick from side-to-side.

Yep, Super Sports Challenge has come up with a new system. The quesiton is, does it work? I mean, waggling has been constantly derided over the past decade (and has been the subject of more smutty innuendos than you'd find in a BBC2 repeat season of the entire Carry One series) but the reason it has lasted is because the physicality of it somehow suits the subject - sport.

The system used in Super Sports Challenge's 10 events uses an energy bar which goes down as the athletes do their thang. By pulling the joystick either left or right (depending on which way they're running, swimming or jumping) you can make them gradually build up speed. And pressing the Fire button gives them a short, concentrated burst of energy.

The object is to work out when and how to use each of these techniques to make your athlete perform at the peak of his abilities. For example, in the long jump, the best combination is to start with a slow build-up of speed, then put on a burst just before the jump, but leave enough energy for the jump itself.

So is Super Sports Challenge going to cause a revolution in sports sims? Somehow, I doubt it. The control system works reasonably enough, but it's static and a bit too calculated.

Once you've learnt the best way to get your man to do his stuff, it's fairly easy to repeat the formula. Sure, there are loads of other game formats you could level that criticism at, but in, say, an platformer at least there's loads going on to keep you busy. Here there are basically only 10 different things to perfect, so it robs the game of a lot of its excitement.

To be fair, the system does work better with some events than with others. The Javelin event, for example, is one of the best of its type I've played in terms of control. But with most of the events, especially the races, the control system works against them, with the result that they're about as exciting as a live Radio 4 broadcast from the House of Lords.


There is no waggling in Super Sports Challenge

FOR THE HIGH JUMP
Even worse - rant coming up here - how did the programmers think they could get away with the Triple Jump? It's exactly the same as the Long Jump - your athlete does his skip and jump bits automatically if you hit the Fire button at the correct time to make him do the hop. Very lazy gameplay that makes for a totally redundant event.

The control system might have had more chance to make an impact if the presentation of the game had been a bit more thrilling. Instead, we get pretty standard fare for a sports sim. The 10 events have all been used hundreds of times before (just for example, say, why do we never get to try our luck at the discus, the speed-walk or the steeplechase?) and the competition mode, which allows up to four people to take part, is the usual format.

It's a shame, though, that the shirt colours of the players' athletes are dictated by the player number and not by the team you choose to play as.

The graphics are variable. The swimming events look impressive, and some of the athletes are well animated, but the majority of the graphics are at best uninspired while perspectives in the High Jump make it look like a Picasso had a substantial hand in the design. The score tables are also vile - I reckon they're supposed to look like they're supposed to look like they're set in marble, but they look more like that really cheap lino you get in DHSS waiting rooms instead.

It's also incredibly slow. In competition mode you're swapping disks like a DJ who's only got one working turntable and the game seems to access the disk every time an athlete transfers his weight onto a different foot - ultra yawnsome.

SSC isn't so much bad as dreary. There are one or two bits that work fairly well, but despite the new control system, it ends up more like being forced to watch your little brother take part in the school country finals in midwinter than a top class international sporting occasion.


FOUL JUMPS, EARLY STARTS AND FALLING AT THE FIRST HURDLE

Super Sport Challenge
The 100m sprint, which is a rather sedate event in this game.

Super Sport Challenge
The long jump - or is it the triple jump. It's difficult to tell.

Super Sport Challenge
It's all a matter of getting the breathing right in the swimming.

Super Sport Challenge
The high jump is all a matter of not sniggering at the perspectives.

Super Sport Challenge
The over-the-shoulder technique for the shot-put doesn't work.

Super Sport Challenge
In a break with tradition you don't press fire to jump the hurdles.


GO TAKE A RUNNING JUMP

Super Sport Challenge
1. Start your run up by pressing Fire. Then pull your joystick to the energy bar is about a third of the way depleted. This gets your runner all the way up to speed, then let go.

Super Sport Challenge
2. Wham your joystick to the right again when you see the edge of the sand to get your athlete to top speed. Make sure that you still have some energy left for the actual jump.

Super Sport Challenge
3. And now it's just matter of pressing Fire to jump. Don't press too late or it'll be a foul jump and your athlete'll have a tantrum. Touchy touchy, as A-ha once said. (What Where they on about, eh?)



Super Sport Challenge logo In the Bin: Worst Amiga game of September 1993

MICROIDS OUT NOW £25.99

Why do I have to review this sort of rubbish? This sad piece of software is probably the worst sports sim I've ever had the misfortune to boot up. After last year's crop of dire Olympic cash-ins (Games Espana, etc.), I thought we might be spared similar travesties this summer, but Microids have put paid to such wishful thinking!

There are 10 different sporting events to participate in, ranging form the 100m sprint, through the shot putt to the 4 x 100m relay swim. Up to four players can take part against computer-controlled opponents, although only two human players can compete against each other simultaneously (and only in certain events).

The overall aim is to compete in each event and collect the most gold medals, although it's possible to pick and chose which events you want to enter.

Rather than opt for the traditional joystick trashing techniques as used in aging classics, such as Daley Thompson, Microids have come up with a number of different control methods, each one specifically tailored to individual sports.

For instance, in the 100m sprint the player has to draw upon a limited store of energy which enables his on-screen sprite to either speed up gradually or make a sudden burst of acceleration. This is achieved by either pulling the joystick to the right or stabbing the fire button repeatedly.

In another event, the high jump, the controls become much more complicated and require a series of joystick and fire button combos to make your competitor twist his body through the air and over the bar.

Unfortunately, the on-screen action fails to set the pulse racing. For starters, disk access times are horrendously slow. It's not much fun staring at a static screen while listening to the disk drive whirring away! Another drawback is the poor quality animations - linking frames have been skipped so that competitors jump about the screen as if they're having an epileptic fit.

Sonically, too, things are disappointing. Sound effects are kept to a minimum, although there's a choice of opting for a rather grating in-game tune if you so desire. Where's the roar of the crowd, the grunts and groans of the competitors, the inane banter of David Coleman...?

The biggest drawback, though, is the control system. Merely tapping the fire button at the required time, or making a series of tugs on the joystick, is hardly taxing stuff. Because there's no joystick waggling involved, the on-screen action seems remote and detached, as if you're merely watching the proceedings rather than having any influence on them.

Things also get impossibly hard later on in the game. The pole vault, in particular, requires pin-point positioning of the pole if you're not to land flat on your face.

All in all, a complete stinker of a game, and outrageously priced at that. This is one to avoid at all costs.