This was the follow-up to the successful Summer Games and in spite of Epyx not getting IOC liscensing, it couldn't reasonably be considered anything but an Olympic game. I absolutely love Olympic themed video games. For more evidence of this strange compulsion check out my review of Lillehammer 94 game on the Genesis. In any case, given my weird need to play Olympic games it's no surprise that winter games is in my collection and that I feel compelled to share it with others. It's worth noting that this game was released on several platforms each varying slightly in content and presentation. I choose to focus on the NES version because it's the one I think most people, myself included are the most familiar with.
Controls vary from game to game, most of them are fairly easy and responsive. And then there's figure skating. If you don't have a booklet handy, there is no figure skating (much to my infinite dismay in my younger days). Luckily while playing this time around I found this handy guide to the controls and strategies. Incidentally knowing the controls helps very little in that case, but I'll get more into that later.
Musically there's very little going on, the only event that really has music while you're doing it is figure skating and while the 8-bit rendition of the dance of the sugarplum fairy isn't really that bad, it gets very, very grating very quickly. There's the music after you've completed speed skating and done the aerials but unless you really want to hear it you're not likely to sit on the results screen and wait for it to play so it's not very memorable. The best music is probably the snippets of each counties' national anthem and the fact that you're forced to listened to whichever one you've chosen before stating an individual event kind of takes away from any minute amount of enjoyment they could have given you. The other sounds are pretty appropriate there just aren't very many of them.
First Up Hot Dog Aerials:
Before we get into playing this event, we must first question the name, yes there was a type of freestyle skiing referred to as "Hot Dog" But the term had mostly died out by the end of the 70's so why they'd choose to use it in a game made in 1986 is anyone's guess. For me personally it brings to mind a guy in a hot dog suit doing ski tricks, which would be cool, but that's not what you get at all.
This event is probably one of the most playable of the ones included in this port. You have three attempts to launch your skier off a hill do some fancy tricks and land on your skis instead of your face. You can do back flips, front flips, and splits. The right combination will get you a perfect 10 and a digital roar from the crowd as well as the world record. Though to be fair the world record can be gained by doing dismally as well so long as no one played before you after the game has been turned on.
Next up Speed Skating:
Once you get the hang of it you're all but guaranteed to win. This game is pretty much only fun if you've got a friend to play with, even then it's of limited entertainment value. However there is some needlessly epic music that plays when the game concludes whether you're the winner or loser, which provides a modicum of entertainment.
Then Figure Skating:
Figure skating is just awful, not even good enough for me to bother coming up with some sort of silly analogy. It's just your good old fashioned terrible implementation, pure and simple. Controls are needlessly complex and require very precise timing. You'd think finding out the controls and what exactly that timing is would fix the problem. Unfortunately it doesn't, the controls aren't responsive enough for the timing required. If that's not bad enough there's an element of "artistry" involved meaning you can't do the same trick twice (even if you fail the first attempt) and need to string together a variety of trick types to get a decent score. In all fairness you can teach yourself to play this game if you're really committed to doing so and even get a decent score or two, but really it's not worth the time and frustration involved.
And finally a big finish with Bobsled:
Even my weird love for Olympic games can't make this game legitimately enjoyable. The best events are playable, maybe and the worst are a waste of perfectly good cartridge space. As whole it's not good enough to be good, it's not even good enough to be mediocre, nor is it bad enough to be notably bad. They only way I can see this being legitimately enjoyable is if you're playing with friends while drunk, and given I haven't tested that theory personally, it may prove just as disappointing.
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