If Eidos had their way there’d be a sixth Beijing mascot: a disturbing clothed monkey who appears every few seconds to cartwheel in front of the athletes during the world’s most important sporting event. Quite why the annoying simian has to prance about Summer Athletics’ loading screens and events we don’t know, but what we do know is this: the game would be infinitely better if he ran about the javelin field instead.
Anyway, they can’t fool us. Summer Athletics’ very existence is a cynical ploy to tread on Sega’s toes. The Olympics licence cash-cow is so sought after that 49Games – a previous licensee – has crafted the most knocked-off of knock-off games to groom sports fans. So imagine our shock when Summer Athletics made Beijing 2008 look like a science camp’s sports day. It wasn’t too difficult – the official button-basher is a head-bashing nightmare – but if any sports game deserves the Olympic Seal of approval it’s this monkey-loving rip-off. Unlike the impenetrable Beijing, Athletics gets the basics right. You don’t need to be a nimble-fingered octopus to run the 100m, although you’ll develop a few blisters.
The sparse front-end of SA doesn’t try to mask a game lacking in content and polish. There are no Live features, fewer events than the competition and the graphics are so astonishingly poor perhaps the back of the box should say 72P instead of 720P. Plus there’s that sodding monkey… But the real testing factor, the games themselves, works well because they’re neither complex nor simplified. The various difficulties cater to both extremes, and the choice of inputs is sensible. A healthy mix of stick-waggling, stick-circling and button quick-time-events describes all 26 events, apart from the extra-tricky pole vault, it’s well designed and enjoyable. Ultimately though the lack of substance is Summer Athletics’ undoing. It’s good to see the price is in line with other budget games, but given the lack of content – especially online – we’re just disappointed it wasn’t slightly… budgetier.
Aug 22, 2008