Winter Games Review
Posted by Mat Allen
This is the winter portion of the world's foremost amateur sports competition, matching skills against the top athletes from one hundred countries.
It was inevitable that after two batches of events from the summer side of the Olympic festival that the third entry in the Games series would concentrate on the winter side instead. Offering seven different events, Winter Games features the ubiquitous options of competing or practising each event, or doing the whole tour with up to eight players. While most events require a degree of skill, only one of them sadly offers head-to-head competition.
Starting things off is the Hot Dog, a name perhaps not as well known as the event itself. Competitors ski down a small slope and into the air, whereupon they aim to perform a combination of tricks and spins before hopefully landing upright. Think of it as a cross between the ski jump and high diving. Obtaining decent scores is not that hard, but landing successfully and especially obtaining a perfect 10 will require a certain degree of practice and co-ordination on the controller to execute.
Second comes the Biathlon, an event that tests both skill and stamina. For the most part it is a long-distance cross-country ski contest, as progress is made up and down slopes around the course. Dotted in several places are a series of targets that must be shot at before continuing, hence the rifle slung on the back. Matters are not as simple as that however; the more exertion during the skiing sections, the higher your heartbeat reaches. The faster your heart is beating, the harder it is to hit each target, but it does decrease when resting. With a penalty for each target missed, there is a careful balance needed between haste and accuracy.
As they are so similar, Figure Skating and Free Skating are being grouped together in the same breath here. This is your chance to be the next Nancy Kerrigan (minus the iron bar) as your lithe female avatar takes to the ice and prances about a bit, hopefully not falling down in the process. Figure Skating is the fixed program of moves while Free Skating allows you to pick and choose what to perform, each move such as the camel spin and double lutz requiring timing on both pad and button to execute properly. As per competition rules, scores are accrued and subtracted for faults with the maximum being 6.
Next up is the opportunity to do better than Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards ever managed and soar into the far blue yonder with just a couple of long thin strips attached to your feet. Hurtling down the slope and launching yourself, you need to move the pad to adjust skis and posture in mid-air to maximise the possible distance gained (by reducing air resistance) and to obtain those all-important style marks, as the final score is based on a combination of the two. Needless to say landing properly is rather high up the list of requirements as well.
Speed Skating is exactly what it says on the tin, although for simplicities sake in the game it is carried out merely in a straight line as opposed to the melee-inducing chaos of the oval used in competition. Like the rowing of Summer Games 2, timing is the most crucial aspect of success here as the pad must be moved left and right in rhythmic strokes simulating the actions of the skater himself. Left, right, faster and faster until your thumb develops a small blister or you scream frustration at missing just one action and failing to beat your best time.
Last but by no means least is the chance to go 80mph in a metal can. That's right, you too can emulate the Cool Runnings film by partaking in the Bobsleigh challenge. The controls are fairly simple, just left and right to steer and no braking considerations, but an intimate knowledge of the course helps as differing degrees of steering are required depending on how tight each turn is. Getting the right line keeps the speed up without banking too high and hence keeps the overall time down. The action is viewed from behind the bobsleigh itself, giving you a direct line view as to what is coming up next.
So those are the events, but what about the overall package? If you've played any of the other Games series then it will be very familiar, with the same opening and closing ceremony presentation aspects, the ability to choose the country of allegiance and medals awarded after finishing each event. High scores in each event are recorded for posterity and bragging rights.
To be fair on those aspects it is no better or worse than the other entries, but the range of events is a little limiting to be honest. The fact there are two ice skating events merely compounds that to a degree, especially when they are probably the weakest part. The other five events however are much more worthy of practice and dedication, especially the Biathlon which is probably the strongest. Also as before, the game comes into a different realm when more than one person is taking part. If you enjoyed playing the other games already out on the VC, then you should definitely consider trying this one as well.