Review by Retro

"Video Olympics/Pong Sports spells variety"

Pong fans rejoice! Pong was the first video game that millions of people instantly got hooked on and one of the first games to ever hit the arcades, if not the first. Video Olympics/Pong Sports (same game; some cartridges are named Video Olympics and others are named Pong Sports) for the Atari 2600 has the original Pong and much more!

The original Pong was one of the most simplistic and one of the most addicting video games of all time. It was like this: You have a paddle, or line, on one side of the screen that you can move up and down, and your opponent has a paddle on the other side of the screen. There's a ping pong ball too. The object of Pong is to use your paddle and try to hit the ball past your opponent's paddle on the other side of the screen. Every time you get the ball past your opponent's paddle, you score a point.

Pong Sports has that game, plus a lot of other variations that use paddles, lines, or whatever you want to call them, to knock the ball past your opponent and through an open space or into a goal for points.

For each kind of game, you have to use the paddle controllers for your Atari 2600 VCS. In Pong Sports's version of ordinary Pong, you can keep hold of the firing button when the ball hits your paddle to speed the ball up, if just slowly hitting it back and forth gets old (it will). There's also another variation where you can press the button after you hit the ball and make it curve in an upward or downward direction. The first person who gets 21 points wins the game. And that rule holds true for all of the games in Pong Sports.

In all, there are 50 different variations of games included in the small cartridge labeled Pong Sports, or Video Olympics. The five main categories of games are Pong, Hockey, Soccer, Volleyball, and Basketball. All of the games have their own variations. First of all though, I'll give a brief explanation of each different sport.

In the hockey games, both you and your challenger have a block of open space on your side of the playing field that serves as your goal. All the way around the two goals is a solid wall that the ball will bounce off of. To score, you just have to knock the ball into your opponent's goal. To hail yourself as the winner, score 21 points.

The soccer variations are my favorite games in Pong Sports other than the regular Pong. When you and your opponent play soccer, you both have a goal that is shaped like [ or ], depending on which side you're on. The soccer games are usually more fast paced overall than the other games in Pong Sports. There's also a small space behind each of the goals that can speed the ball up for a nice twist.

Volleyball is also a lot of fun. The playing fields have a weird look to them, but luckily, looks can be deceiving. In the bottom-middle part of the screen, there are four squares stacked vertically on top of each other. These four squares act as the volleyball net. Your paddle and your opponent's paddle are both on the bottom part of the screen instead of the sides. When you serve, your paddle will move up to where it's right over the 'net', and it will shoot the ball toward your opponent's side. To score in these volleyball games, the ball has to either land somewhere at the bottom part of the screen on your opponent's side, or your opponent has to knock the ball into the net.

Last, and least in my opinion, but still fun, are the basketball games. In basketball, you and your opponent's paddles both reside on the bottom, and since basketball is a contact sport, your two paddles can overlap a bit. At the top-left and top-right of your television screen, are the goals, or in this case, squares. Scoring is a little different in basketball. You have to make the ball go real high in order to try and make it go inside the top part of the goal. To do that, you must ricochet the ball off the bottom part of your paddle, which quickly propels it upward.

There are a couple of other variations that Pong Sports has to offer.

One of them is just like racquetball. Your paddle and your rival's paddle are both stationed on the right side of the screen. When the game starts, the ball will be on the left side. What you and your adversary must do in this game is take turns hitting the ball. Upon hitting the ball, your paddle will flash. Then, it's your opponent's turn to hit the ball. If either of you let the ball get past your paddle while it's your turn, your opposing player will score a point. Also, you must keep from hitting the ball while your paddle is flashing.

The final variation is a lot different from all the other games for one reason: you and your opponent both have two open places, or holes, in which to score, instead of the usual one goal. One of your paddles will be at the top of the screen, while the other is on the bottom. To score a point, you must figure out which two of the four holes score a point in your favor. Knock the ball into the wrong holes and you'll be helping your opponent get closer to their temporary destiny: to win.

Like a few of the other great Atari 2600 gems such as Space Invaders, Pong Sports has several different variations that extend from its basic gameplay that makes its replay value and overall value soar to the extremes.

In many of the games such as Pong, soccer, and volleyball, you can choose from several variations. You can have it where you and your opponent can each control two or more paddles, games in which there are stationary squares that serve as blockades in order to make it a little harder to score, have chalked lines in which the ball just bounces off of them in a different direction, and many others! For the volleyball, Pong, and soccer games, there is about ten variations to choose from.

All the games that call Pong Sports their home will start off with somebody serving. The last person who scores will always get to press the button to deliver the next shot in all of the games.

While you play any of the variations in Pong Sports, you can develop your own skills and schemes to get better. For example, if you're playing a game in which you get to control two paddles, you can hit the ball with the paddle that's closest to your goal and then make the ball literally go through your other paddle to direct your shot at your opponent's goal.

Pong Sports is one of the best overall games for the Atari 2600, and it's definitely one of the premier multiplayer games for the system. It's fun to play whether you're going up against the computer in regular Pong, or whether you're playing against a friend or two, or three. If you or your friends ever want an even greater challenge, you could always flip the Difficulty switch on the back of the Atari 2600 console and make the paddles just half of their normal size.

If you possess the right equipment, Pong Sports/Video Olympics can be played by up to four players simulataneously. Unfortunately, only some games of Pong are available to play against the computer. All of the volleyball, soccer, basketball, hockey, etc. games are only available to play in 2-4 player games.

Pong Sports might not be anything spectacular in the sound, graphics, or most other departments, but when it comes to fun and replay value, it's packed with classic fun. Whether you're old school or not, you can have a lot of fun playing this game.

So why didn't I give the game a 10? Well, I wanted to, but I have to admit that a small amount of the games, basketball in particular, aren't as fun as the others, or they take too long to finish playing an entire game.

GRAPHICS - Pong Sports's graphics are about as basic as graphics could be. The only things you'll see the whole time are the paddles, other obstacles such as the small blockades (squares), the goals, and the ball, or dot, itself. There's always a number for both you and your opponent at the top of the screen that represents your scores. The backgrounds only consist of a single colored palette. Even though the graphics define simplistic, they're not ugly by any means.

SOUND - The sounds in Pong Sports are well done for what sounds there are. There are only sounds for serving the shots, the ball hitting the paddles and other items, the ball bouncing against the sides of the wall, and when somebody scores. The ball makes a different sound based on how fast it's traveling through the air, when it bounces off of objects. By the way, there is no music in the whole game.

Also, the sounds of the serves and the scores change dramatically. When the score is 0-0 and the first serve goes up, a dark and low-pitched sound occurs. The higher the score, the higher pitched the sound will be when the ball is either served or scored. Once somebody's score is around 20, the sound becomes real high-pitched. I've always thought that was neat.

CONTROL - Just like with all the Atari 2600 games I know of that require using the paddles, Pong Sports has great control. All you have to do is turn the paddle's wheel to move up, down, left, or right, and press the button to serve the ball or to do another effect, such as speeding the ball up.

REPLAY VALUE - Without a doubt, other than Combat, I've played Pong Sports more than any of the other multiplayer games for the Atari 2600. It has so much variety that you'll never run out of options, and most of the games are a lot of fun.

OVERALL - If you ask me, I would say that Pong Sports is one of those games that every Atari 2600 owner should have. It might not have flamboyant graphics or any music at all, but it does have years of fun packed inside it. If you have anybody around that you enjoy playing video games with, do them and yourself a favor by adding Video Olympics/Pong Sports to your collection.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/04/01, Updated 05/20/02


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