Sinclair User19th November 1987
Published in Sinclair User #71
Oh for heaven's sake! Don't these Californians ever do any work? They seem to spend all flaming day down on the beach, 'hanging out' or whatever it is you are supposed to do whilst wearing a pair of shorts so loud they could jam the radio signals of nearby aircraft.
Take California Games, for example. No sign of checking out the old newsagent for any part-time vacancies here. Nope just lazing around in a variety of leisurewear, being moderately sporty and topping up their tans. And I must say, it's really rather good fun.
There are six pseudo-sporty events on the tape, most of which you won't have seen anywhere else, owing to their exclusively Californian bent (ooer) They are - in horrific multi-load one-event-at-a-time order - Half Pipe Skateboarding, Foot Bag, Surfing, Roller Skating, BMX Racing and Flying Disc.
On loading, a menu will ask you to plod through a fairly lengthy set of procedures where you can name each player (up to eight) and decide who is to sponsor each one. (Quite how this affects the game is beyond me, but I guess it's nice to know you have a meaty conglomerate on your side.) Then there's the joystick/keyboard options and other fiddly little bits that you have to endure in order to get on with the games.
First off, skateboarding is wonderful. You can pick up speed by pushing the joystick up and down, so you are eventually nearly running off the edge of the enormous concrete arc. The idea is to perform as many stunts as possible, in the 75 second time limit. There are around six stunts in all, and trying to string them together in the most time effective manner is quite exciting.
The graphics throughout the games are more workmanlike than 'pretty', but they're very effective and incredibly smooth.
The Foot Bag, or Hacky Sack for those in the know, is easily the most laughable event. Not because there's anything actually wrong with it. but because you manage to look so utterly stupid, contorting your legs into absurd positions in order to keep a tiny white dot (your hacky sack) in the air. It's just like keeping a football in the air, except you look more silly. Again, you're on a time limit.
Surfing is the most enjoyable event on the whole tape. You start at the top of a wave, and must surf down it, picking up speed, and then turn and glide up the wave before reaching the bottom of the screen. just as you're about to reach the top, hit the fire button, jerk the stick right, and you'll take off. Completing perfect dives is tricky, though very rewarding. This is the most relaxing event and totally enjoyable.
Roller skating and BMX Racing are both a bit iffy. They're side-on, and involve picking up as much speed as possible whilst avoiding obstacles in the road. While roller skating, you appear to suddenly turn into a girl (just as well I'm confident about my sexual orientation, eh)? These sections really aren't very good. You can't really get up enough speed to make them exciting, and the limited acrobatics possible make both events a trifle dull.
The Flying Disc is actually the Frisbee. Epyx have managed to get a very good feel for the event, although visually it's not very exciting. You've got to set both the strength and the angle of your throw. This is done by trying to stop a wavering line on the correct position on a bar. It's actually quite tricky, as the wavering line shoots along, and you have to be very accurate in your timing as to where you're going to stop the thing if you're going to achieve anything other than a totally pathetic throw.
Once launched, you can follow the progress of the disc on a monitor at the top of the screen. The next stage is to catch the frisbee. You move another character left and right, and by judging when the frisbee is going to be at hand height, you should be able to intercept it. If you misjudge by a long way, it's hopeless. Only a short way out, and you can make a sprawling dive which may or may not be successful.
California Games is great value for money. Admittedly graphically speaking I've seen much better, and the multi-load aspect is a definite pain, but there's enough variety and it's programmed well enough to redeem much of this.
One of the best sports-sims around. 4 great events and 2 iffy ones. Definitely worthwhile.