Solomon's Key for the NES was released in Japan on this day in 1986.

California Games

MobyRank MobyScore
J2ME
...
3.8
ZX Spectrum
...
2.9
SEGA Master System
81
3.7
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Description

California Games was the original "Extreme Games" – what today's generation might call "X-Games in the sun". Players can select sponsors (absent in some versions) and compete in events such as skateboarding, footbag, surfing, roller skating, flying disc (frisbee) and BMX. The surfing event is ranked by judges, which give a score to help the players improve their routine.

The Atari versions (2600 and Lynx) of the game omit the flying disc and roller skating events, while the Genesis version omits only the flying disc event.

Screenshots

California Games Genesis Options
California Games Amiga Running for the flying disc
California Games Lynx BMX
California Games Commodore 64 Title screen

Alternate Titles

  • "Jogos de Verão" -- Brazilian SEGA Master System title
  • "Calgames" -- Informal title

Part of the Following Groups

User Reviews

This radical game is totally awesome dude! DOS Roedie (5226)
SMS California Games in Better than Genesis Version Shocker SEGA Master System Liam Dowds (51)
It's GREAT to be playing CALIFORNIA GAMES! DOS Accatone (5187)

The Press Says

Zzap! Commodore 64 Sep, 1987 97 out of 100 97
Commodore User Commodore 64 Sep, 1987 9 out of 10 90
Joystick (French) Genesis Feb, 1992 82 out of 100 82
Video Games SEGA Master System Mar, 1991 81 out of 100 81
The Games Machine (UK) SEGA Master System May, 1989 78 out of 100 78
Mobile Game Faqs J2ME Jul 24, 2005 78 out of 100 78
Power Play DOS 1989 75 out of 100 75
IGN Lynx Jul 06, 1999 6 out of 10 60
Nintendo Power Magazine NES Mar, 1989 3 out of 5 60
Just Games Retro NES May 02, 2003 21 out of 100 21

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Trivia

1001 Video Games

California Games appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Atari 2600 version

The 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!

Gags

During 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).

Graphics

California 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:

  1. making sure that the graphics had a horizontal boundary somewhere on the screen that wouldn't look funny by a color switch, and
  2. 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. )

Lynx version

  • 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.

Manual

In 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)."

Music

The main theme song is a cover of Richard Berry's Louie Louie, later made famous by Kingsmen.

RAM

When 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.
That's gnarly!

Awards

  • ZZAP! 64
    • Newsfield Reader's Awards 1987 - Best Game (readers choice)
Information also contributed by Apogee IV, Thomas Perl, Trixter and SirOrlando

Related Web Sites

Contributed to by POMAH (33052), PCGamer77 (3028), Kohler 86 (7272), Kabushi (120985), gamewarrior (5066), Terok Nor (18323), Macintrash (2514), Servo (55897), Garcia (4783) and Rantanplan (1711)