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Video Olympics (Atari 2600)

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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
2.6
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Written by  :  RobinHud (64)
Written on  :  May 01, 2005
Rating  :  2 Stars2 Stars2 Stars2 Stars2 Stars

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Summary

It's just like Pong, with a twist.

The Good

Old timers will remember Pong with nostalgia, as it was the first game video game released by Atari in 1972 for the arcades. This version follows the same principles. With the use of a Controller knob, you move a paddle that hits a ball back to the other side. But Video Olympics has new features that allow you to change the speed or the angle of the ball. Whether you play alone or with up to three other players, the games provide some entertainment. The cartridge mentions 50 games, but you have to keep in mind that a game for one, two or four players, with the option of changing the angle of the ball instead of the speed counts as 8 games. However, the games are inspired by sports such as tennis (or ping-pong, from which the original Pong may have taken its name), soccer, hockey, racquetball (even if the game was called handball, it has nothing to do with the Olympic sport of the same name), volleyball and basketball, or by games such as the Foozball table (also called Babyfoot in some countries).

The handball game is a little bit like Pong, except that instead of a net, the ball bounces on a wall. It's fun for a while, but we soon switched to the other games. The hockey and the soccer simulations are quite alike. They both feature the same variations, namely the number of players, the angle and the speed of the ball (or the puck), the ability to catch it and the number of paddles on the field. The difference is mainly in the layout of the players and in the position of the goal. And in the hockey game, the puck can go behind the goal. Foozpong is quite similar except for the number of paddles involved. Playing one-on-one or in teams is equally challenging because you get to control two rows of paddles. It almost felt like the table version, though there is nothing like the real thing.

I was surprised by Quadrapong. It's a team game that requires four players who try to shoot the ball in one of the opponents' goals. It seemed boring at first, but once you get passed its aspect and start to master the speed or angle button, you may spend lots of hours sharing two square feet with three other people, happily looking at a dot bouncing on a screen.

Finally, volleyball and basketball share some features as well. They can both be played by two or four people. The ball does not move in a straight line, but it bounces up and down from one side to the other. So unlike all the other games, the point of view is from the side instead of top-down and the paddles move from left to right. In both games, you have the option to jump to the ball or, in basketball only (in volleyball, it's forbidden by the rules, of course), you can catch the ball. Again, these two games are better played in teams and have lots of replay potential.

The Bad

Like Pong, you may only move the paddle on one axis, so whatever game you pick, the action is quite the same, but only the Pong game can be played alone.

Even though the movement of the paddles are ridiculously simple, I found that the Jump feature should be smoother so the paddles don't snap up and down. I understand that for a perspective effect in the team games of volleyball and basketball, one paddle on each side has to be smaller, but it can be a little more difficult for the players who get them. And the volleyball game would have been a little more realistic if we were allowed to go on both sides of the screen, but I guess programming had some limitations in those years.

The graphics are extremely simple and only the movement of the ball and the position of the paddles make the difference between each game. If not precisely for the variety of games and for the colors, Video Olympics is not aesthetically very far from the original Pong. As for the sounds, no real improvement either except for the beeps that don't get stuck on a single note.

The Bottom Line

Despite the looks of the game, the different variations provide many hours of fun and can prove to be very addictive. No wonder its predecessor had such success. Who said that simple is bad after all?