Monday, July 4, 2011

California Games (NES Game)

California Games is a fantastic NES title. The game has been ported on a dozen other systems over the years, but I prefer the NES version. California Games is actually several games in one nice little package. It would be impossible to review this game without doing a breakdown of each of the games, so that's what I'll do.

Half Pipe- As the name implies, the half pipe competition involves riding a skateboard and trying to get some air and throw a few tricks. It actually takes quite a bit of practice to get to the point where you can pull off some of the tricks. Despite the steep learning curve, I'd line the half pipe portion of California Games up against any similar competition in any other NES game. It's very well done, but might be frustrating at first.

Foot Bag- Also known as hackey sack by almost everyone who has ever played it. In this game you are a dorky hackey sacker in short shorts who can shuffle from side to side and turn around as he tries to keep his hackey sack in the air. There are various tricks you can perform that will net you different amounts of points. One of the more fun things to do in this game is hit the seagull that flies across the screen periodically. Foot bag is quirky but very charming and easy to learn.

Surfing- Surfing is a very simple game. You are riding a wave and trying not to wipe out. You can perform a couple different jumps, which are simple to learn. You can pick up speed by zig-zagging, which is necessary because you have to outrun a tube as you go. If you get too far into the tube or too low on the screen, you'll wipe out. There's a funny graphic where after certain wipeouts, a shark will appear and the Jaws theme will play. Surfing is a whole lot of fun.

Skating- In this game you are a girl on roller skates heading down the boardwalk. You must avoid beach balls, vines, sand, ice cream cones, and other obstacles along your way. This game has the best wipeout animation by far. Your girl will do a very satisfying face-plant directly on the pavement. It's pretty funny to see. Skating is another charming little game that's as fun to lose as it is to win.

BMX- This is by far the worst animation in California Games. Your biker looks stiff and very unnatural, especially when performing complex tricks like backflips. The BMX track is also poorly animated. Some things that look like obstacles aren't, and some things that don't look like obstacles are. There is a fairly high learning curve on this game. Basically the only way of mastering it is memorizing every inch of the track. This is the weakest part of California Games.

Flying Disk- This is a game I would play as a stand-alone. It's incredibly simple, but very addictive. You throw the frisbee by trying to reach the center line on two meters, speed and angle. It's like kicking a field goal in Madden. Anyway, once the frisbee is thrown, you have to try and get the other person to catch it. This takes a little practice. There is a dive feature where the second character will sacrifice their body to make a catch, but I have never actually caught anything this way. If your player does catch the frisbee, they'll stand arrogantly spinning the frisbee in the air. It's a whole lotta fun.

You can play each of these games in a few different modes. You can compete in all the events as sort of a California hexathlon. You can compete in some of the events, choosing your own circuit. You can also practice a single event, which is handy with events like Half Pipe and BMX. If you choose a competition, you will be asked to enter your name and pick a sponsor (companies include Ocean Pacific, Santa Cruz, and Kawasaki are featured among others). This makes it sort of an early X-Games.

The scope of California Games makes it a very enjoyable game to play, and its replayability is very high. It's astounding that this game has appeared on systems such as the Atari 2600 and the Apple II. The NES version is my favorite, as I have stated before. Because there's so much about this game that I love and only a couple things that bother me, I'll give California Games...

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