Review by jup

""Louie Louie. Oh baby. Me gotta go. Yea-yea-yea-yea-yea..." - Title song to California Games."

The game starts out filling the screen with a California license plate, stating California Games on it. Also, that ''Louie, Louie'' song plays in the background while a few credits pass by at the bottom. The song completes and the game moves on.

Next comes the ''not so'' basic joystick driven menu screen. (About time. As all the EPYX Games series til this point recycled the same, bland screen.)Instead of that tired old bar across the top, the options are now surrounded in a blue box with little stylings overlapping it at two edges. And the selection cursor is flashing in all kinds of colors while a short tune loops in the background. Which is a very welcome improvement over the original menu look that EPYX was holding on too for way too long. Your options are:

+ Compete in all the events: Play through the game, as you are suppose to.

+ Compete in some events: Play only the ones you want to and avoid everything else.

+ Compete in one event: Play only one game.

+ Practice one event: Great for learning how to do things.

+ View high scores: About the only true goal of the whole game.

+ View title screen: That Louie, Louie screen, again.

Next, you get your choice of which sponsoring company you will play for. (No more of that recycled country selection screen. Yea! But, man...the advertising was certainly hip with EPYX in this game.) There are eight different sponsors and the in-house one, EPYX, who made the game. Each one is identified with both the name and a full color picture. The game supports one to many players, each taking turns. (Unless the specific event supports competition.)

For games, there are:

+ Half Pipe: This event takes place in Hollywood. Visually, the game looks great...even if there is too much green grass taking up the scene...with the Hollywood sign and palm trees up on the hill. The idea is for the kid to skateboard back and forth in what is called a half pipe, (Which is a sort of specialized ramp that is wide on the bottom and curves into a straight up direction on both sides.) where the kid performs various tricks, designed to wow the viewing audience and judges with areal acrobatics of a sort.

+ Foot Bag: This event takes place in San Francisco. Graphics wise, this game has a lot to look at. There is the guy who is doing tons of limber aerobics on the grass, preparing to work (play) with the Foot Bag. There is the grass under his feet. The bushes to his right. The seagull that flies over his head at times. The pathway behind him. The ocean's expanse behind the path with a boat sailing around in it. The Golden Gate Bridge that crosses the ocean to reach the many mountains shrouded in a fog bank, way in the background. And, I think that is Alcatraz all the way on the right side of the screen. The idea is for the guy to do many different tricks to score points and impress the judges within the time allotted. (By the way: Try to nail that seagull, if you can.)

+ Surfing: This event takes place in the Pacific Ocean. Visually, it's just your well drawn surfer and a whole lot of blue. (With a powerful amount of small dots doing their best to give the illusion of movement by blinking or moving. So many, I can't even try to count them. (Could be 200, easy. It's actually an amazing feat for a Commodore.) And, they just get wilder once the curling wave catches up with you.) Then, there is the very colorful judge display screen (Almost looks like a cartoon.) with eight very large people and palm trees & various beach gear and other such visible stuff in the shot. The idea is to do various tricks on the water to impress the judges while avoiding a wipe out or getting slammed by the wave curl. The background music that plays while you surf is that Wipeout song by The Beach Boys.

+ Skating: This event happens along some beach side sidewalk. The idea of this game is to get the skating woman safely through the course. The backdrop looks really nice with sidewalk, (complete with graffiti) wooden log railing, sandy beach front (with chairs and people & plants and other things) and the ocean. (Of course.) There are many graphics that wizz by as she moves along. But, there are many things that attempt to block her path. Things like cracks that will trip her, beach balls that bounce in front of her path, grass, sand, shoes, leaves, ice cream cones, banana peels, breaks in the path, etc. Basically, she just has to move up, down or jump to avoid all of those obstacles.

+ BMX: This game takes place in some sort of desert atmosphere. The graphics are really nice throughout the track with background plants and the occasional watching person. (There to give you a bad time when you wipe out.) The idea is to get as far as you can on this manufactured track that is full of hills, curves, bumps and filled full of junk to avoid crashing into.

+ Flying Disk: This game takes place on some sunny park grounds. The idea is for the man to throw the Frisbee at just the right speed and angle so that the woman at the other end can catch it. The background graphics are a little bland, when compared to the other games. But, there are lakes and signs that pass by as the Frisbee is in flight. First, you control the man to throw the Frisbee. There is a bar at the bottom that works like one in a video golf game. Let the bar go one direction to set one factor. Then, let the bar go the other direction to set the second factor. Then, your control goes over to the catching woman (Who is off-screen, by the way.) as the Frisbee is in mid-air. (The camera view will constantly stay focused on the Frisbee.) There is a Defender-type radar at the top to keep track of the man, woman and the Frisbee. (Hence the joke that happens if you hold on to that Frisbee for too long.) The game isn't very demanding of the interface and is mostly for fun. Simply get that Frisbee as far as you can and catch it for maximum point value. And, the background music reflects that light and playful environment.

Which makes a total of six excellent games to represent the games that Californians play in California Games for the Commodore 64. (Expect most games to take 30 seconds or less to load.)

Graphics: 10 out of 10.

A nice graphical award is given to the winner of each event. (That's a big step up from the former approach. Which was to list the winners names, show the player's chosen country flag and play that country's song.) Visually, this game usually goes where the other Olympic Game series did not. Everything usually looks excellent. All the animations look nice and smooth. (EPYX always made those great.) And, even the menu screens had been updated.

Sound: 10 out of 10.

Each event has a few sound effects for certain things. However, many of the events have background music that do not quit when you start the event. And, this game breaks all the standards set by the former Olympic-style games.

Controls: 6 out of 10. (A mixed bag.)

Each event has its own set of joystick controls. Some are easy and understandable. But, others will always suffer from those guessing or steep learning curve factors. EPYX gives you no in-game instructions about what does what. You're going to want the manual...or just a whole lot of practice. It's just about the only true flaw that EPYX never really fixed, but needed to.

Overall: 9 out of 10.

Just like with the Olympic Games series, this game is best played with friends to compete against. The best scores will always be there (Saved between gaming sessions.) to use as a goal if you can't find any friends willing to play this old game. The computer does not provide an AI player to compete against. If you are the only human player, you will always win the 1st place trophy...no matter how badly you did. Visually, this game is usually fantastic, no matter which system you play it on. It's just those ever altering controls between games without in-game instructions that force this game to lose a point. And, what is up with all the commercialization inside the game shots? Did EPYX take sponsor money to make this game instead of shelve sales?

It is also worth noting that EPYX really tried to sell this game to everyone. As there are ports to all kinds of systems. Commodore, Sega Master System, Atari Lynx, Atari 2600...probably IBM and Apple versions. (Was there an Nintendo Entertainment System port, too?) And, I can't help but wonder which came first? EPYX's California Games or The X-Games?


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 03/07/02, Updated 03/07/02


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