California Games Trivia (Atari 2600)
1001 Video GamesCalifornia Games appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.
Atari 2600 versionThe Atari 2600 version of California Games, released in the later years of Atari's dominance in the Home Video Game market, was one of a handful of games that used 16K of memory. The Atari 2600 had been designed to only run cartridges of 2K and 4K in size. Games that were written to exceed that 4K memory limitation required the "bank swapping" technique in order to access 8K, 12K, and even 16K game cartridges.
Memory was still expensive in the 1980's, yet the public wanted more and more advanced games, especially since it had been several years now since the release of the many popular 8-bit home computer systems that had been flooding the market and reducing in cost. And with the Nintendo Entertainment System having just been released, the Atari 2600 was beginning to look very dated. In order to satisfy the public’s craving for games requiring increasing amounts of memory, creating a bigger game for the Atari 2600 was the only way to do it.
In order to handle the expansiveness of their games, Epyx released all three of their Olympic-based games with multiple ROM chips equaling the necessary 16K. Using bank-swapping, the various ROM chips could be accessed and swapped as needed. And all of it was embedded within a standard-sized Atari 2600 Cartridge!
GagsDuring the flying disc event, if you leave the controls alone for long enough, you will see an alien abducting your partner on the radar, along the top of the screen (see screenshots).
GraphicsCalifornia Games was one of the handful of games released that pushed CGA to its limits by using a timing/hardware trick to get more colors on the screen. It called this trick "MORE-color" mode (as opposed to the normal "4-color" mode), and it achieved 7 different colors on the same screen by switching from one color palette to another at a particular scanline. The switch was masked fairly well by:
- making sure that the graphics had a horizontal boundary somewhere on the screen that wouldn't look funny by a color switch, and
- switching from the red-green-yellow palette to a tweaked red-cyan-white palette and using the common red color to mask the switch.
You can see how much better these screens looked by going to the Screenshots section of the California Games entry and looking at the shots marked "CGA MORE-color". While not as good as EGA, they were definitely much, much better than what CGA could normally produce.
While this technique has been used in other games (like Jungle Hunt), none did it so well as in California Games.
This technique will only work on 4.77MHz machines, as the timing required to change the palette is very exacting. Also, there is no way to capture, with a program, these screenshots; they had to be captured normally, then changing the used colors where the split occurred. They are identical to what's displayed on the screen, however, down to the additional color split in the names at the bottom of the title screen. )
- While the rollerskating event was taken out of the Lynx version of the game, you can still see the rollerskating girl skate by during the high-score screen.
- While the Lynx version of the game only officially supports 2 players, you can ComLynx up to four if everyone turns on their Lynxes simultaneously. It may take a couple of tries, but it is possible. Gameplay is slightly slower in this mode whenever more than two players are onscreen at the same time.
- In the Lynx version, the wave in the surfing section moves from right to left. In all other versions of the game, the wave moves from left to right.
ManualIn the Lynx version's manual, it reads: "Score an extra 50 points for hitting the seagull in the beak with the foot bag (but only in this game -- be kind to the birdies in the other events)."
MusicThe main theme song is a cover of Richard Berry's Louie Louie, later made famous by Kingsmen.
RAMWhen you play California Games on a PC with enough RAM, you'll get a message like this:
You've got 167K RAM more than you need, Dude.
- Commodore Format
- February 1991 (Issue 5) - listed in the A to Z of Classic Games article (Great)
- March 1994 (Issue 42) Heaven – The Path to Righteousness: 20 Essential Games
- ZZAP! 64
- Newsfield Reader's Awards 1987 - Best Game (readers choice)