Although there were arcade conversions of classic multi-event sports games on the 8-bit systems, there were a surprising amount of original games based on sports, too. Many of them were quite successful, meaning that when we weren't out kicking a ball around in fields or the streets, we had plenty of athletic activity to keep us busy in front of the TV screens. I probably can't cover everything in detail, but hopefully you'll enjoy this look at our computerised world of sport.
|What's an Olympic Games without an opening ceremony?|
Once computers became more commonplace, we were treated to more sports games than we could ever have imagined. I remember the time I went to a friend's house and found he had Daley Thompson's Decathlon for his Spectrum. We must have practically battered those rubber keys into submission that afternoon. Featuring the ten traditional decathlon events, it used the usual waggling control method to build up power, helping you to run faster, jump further and be more awesome.
|Not showing the greatest technique, there.|
The first game I played of this type on the Commodore 64 was the much less-well-known Brian Jacks' Superstar Challenge. If you're anywhere around my age, you'll remember Superstars... it was a TV show featuring top sportsmen and women of the era competing against each other in a number of sporting disciplines. You'll probably have three main memories of it... the theme tune, Kevin Keegan falling off his bike and getting gravel rash, and judoka Brian Jacks destroying all opponents. He was simply awesome.
|This would be a strange sight in the Olympics!|
Speaking of Brian Jacks, he came to renown as a judo expert, and his sport was represented on the 8-bits by Martech's Uchi Mata. This was another game I owned, having bought it at a second-hand shop after reading the enthusiastic review in ZZAP! 64. Now, judo is not like karate or boxing, or any other fighting, really. You don't punch, and you don't really kick. Instead, you throw. You might think that this would be difficult to get across in a computer game, but Uchi Mata handled it surprisingly well.
|Early series of Strictly Come Dancing lacked pizzaz.|
Tennis is now an Olympic sport, for better or worse, and it's been served by video games since the year dot. Of course, everyone is aware of Pong, and who didn't have some kind of variant console in their homes? Again, it was Activision to the rescue on the Atari, with their Tennis providing epic battles in households across the land and the world.
|Look everyone! Tim's winning!|
Heading back down the "obscure Olympic sports that you wouldn't expect to play on a computer" road, the next game I played was one that, again, I owned courtesy of the local second-hand shop... Gremlin's Water Polo.
|Pah. There's even an action replay to confirm how rubbish you are.|
Now, I know you probably won't believe me here, on any counts, but there was actually a sailing game available. Well, there were a few as it happens, but the most prominent was Sailing by Activision... and I owned it! Yes, really. It was another four quid special from my favourite second-hand shop. I must have spent so much pocket money at that place!
|Shouldn't this game have been released by Ocean?|
One of the most popular Olympic events is boxing. In parallel to that, we've always loved a good scrap on our computers. I don't think there are any Olympic boxing games, so I've played the one that was always my favourite... Barry McGuigan World Championship Boxing.
|'Ave some of that, Ramirez.|
You always have a choice of opponents, and once you've picked your fight, you can allocate the amount of time you spend training using various methods. This determines your abilities in the ring, such as strength and endurance.
|And it's a sweet left from Morrison...|
One of the more intriguing Olympic events is table tennis. The players get so pumped up and the games are really intense. The games can make for some spectacular viewing... you can't quite believe some of the shots those players can pull off!
Table tennis is represented here by Konami's Ping-Pong, a conversion of the obscure arcade game of the same name. I've played the arcade version before, and it's not a bad little game. I'd never played a home conversion though, so I played Spectrum and C64 versions. I have to say, the Commodore version looks and sounds a lot like the arcade version... I was pretty impressed. As for gameplay, well, I was rubbish at both. It's not exactly a top-drawer game, but it's a fun way to pass half an hour or so.
|There's no body here. What?|
A couple of games get a mention here, from opposite ends of the quality spectrum. One of my favourite budget games was Richard Darling's BMX Simulator. A variation on the Super Sprint genre, this game gave you a number of BMX tracks to race around, either against a computer opponent or a friend. The tracks were well-designed, and looked really nice, with ramps and raised bends all being effective obstacles which could help or hinder. It was well worth the £1.99 asking price.
|I'm doing about as well as the Team GB racers here.|
|"FOUL" is right...|
|Go! Go! G-G-G-Go!|
|Oh toss, I've failed.|
|I expect the American coach might have something to say about this.|
But the daddy, or daddies of the multi-event games were Epyx' classic Games series. I'm not kidding, I couldn't believe my eyes the first time I saw Summer Games II. The animation in the triple jump was astonishing. The games themselves were stunning, with intelligent control methods linked to very enjoyable events. There weren't too many mis-steps in these games.
|A bit of over-rotation early in the dive. That'll cost him.|
Good though it was, it was improved upon to a massive degree for Summer Games II. Right from the opening triple jump event, you're hooked by the presentation, graphical brilliance and sheer playability. Being a triple jumper at school, I loved this event, and would play it over and over, attempting to get further and further. I never got tired of it, even when I'd more or less maxed out the distance.
|Good form there. A good attempt is on the way.|
I've missed many games out of this, of course. Epyx released a number of other Games which featured all kinds of varied events. There's Track and Field and loads of games inspired by it, along with alternative Olympic-style games. I could have sat here for a week and not finished, if I'd wanted. You have to draw the line somewhere, and here it is. Hopefully there are some happy memories for everyone in here... I've played about fifty Olympic events, and had a great time putting it together.