Review by Emptyeye
"6 games in one...what more could you want? Well..."
California Games was released by Milton Bradley in 1989. I don't believe there was a story to this game--if anything, it was ''You're a California dude trying to win 6 events''--but it had 6 different games in it--Half Pipe, Foot Bag (You may know it as ''Hacky-Sack''), Surfing, Skating, BMX, and Flying Disk (AKA ''Frisbee''). So how does it stack up?
Graphics: 6/10- Some of the events take place against famous California backgrounds--you skateboard in the Half Pipe near the Hollywood sign, and work the Foot Bag with the Golden gate bridge behind you. The problem is that none of these are very well drawn, in particular the yellow(!?) Hollywood sign. The rest of the backgrounds are basically like this too. The characters you control actually have mouths, but they don't move. There isn't much in the way of animation, but I find it funny when the skateboard hits your skater after a wipeout in the Half Pipe, or when you do a slow-motion faceplant into the ground in the Skating event.
Sound: 7/10- Some of the tunes are famous songs that remind you of California--In particular ''Louie Louie'', which plays on the title screen, and ''Wipeout'' during the Surfing event. I don't know about the rest of the songs, however--maybe I'm not old enough to remember them. In any case, the music is upbeat, per the California mood. It's pretty much rock based, with some old-time rock n roll coming in too (''Wipeout''). Sound effects? Nope. Maybe Milton Bradley ran out of money for sound after getting the famous tunes, but in any case, except for the short theme that plays after every event, there's nothing in the game that would be called ''Sound effects''.
Control: 5/10- It's good in some events, and bad in others. The Half Pipe has three tricks--Kick Turn, Handstand and Aerial Turn--but the Aerial Turn is too difficult to pull off consistently, and the Kick Turn will probably slow you down enough to end your run. Basically this means you'll be pulling Handstands for the full 1:15.
In the Foot Bag event, the character moves too slowly, and again, most of the tricks are too difficult to pull off (And without the instruction manual, you won't know how to do them anyway, except for the obvious ''Half Axle'', ''Full Axle'', etc.).
Surfing is pretty fun, and one of the better events in the game. You do various rotations and things (These can be sped up by holding the A button), while avoiding a monster wave. Your run is scored by 5 judges on a 1-10 scale. Probably my second favorite in the game.
Skating--ugh. A classic button masher in that you need to rapidly tap the A button in order to move quickly. This while dodging various obstacles such as sand and sneakers. You skater just doesn't jump quickly enough (You have to press and release B in order for the jump to happen). A chore at best.
BMX: Another button masher, but this one fares much better. You bike through a course in the desert, and can do tricks by jumping in the air (This time you need only push B to pull it) and pushing a direction on the control pad. Because it's fun to do backflips through the entire course, this is probably my favorite event in the game.
Finally we have Flying Disk. You have to hit the directional pad left and right when the bar is in the green, then take control of your partner to catch the frisbee. You can try to dive and grab it, but you'll probably fail. A cool concept, but really should have been executed better, perhaps by letting a second player try to catch the frisbee.
Story: N/A/10- Nope. Play the events. Have fun playing them. Isn't that what California is all about anyway?
Challenge: 8/10- The games are really uneven. On some--Half Pipe, Flying Disk--all you can really do is try to beat the high score. On others--Skating, BMX--you have to make it to the end of the course. BMX's course is manageable, but Skating's? Forget about it. On the scoring events, again, some are ridiculously easy to beat--Half Pipe--and others are near impossible--Flying Disk.
Replay Value: 6/10- It's not really a very good 1-player game--Surfing and BMX are the only games I can imagine playing multiple times--but it has party game potential, with several people (Up to 8 can play alternately) trying to beat each other's high scores. I suppose it really depends on how many friends you have. Because you can choose to only play in some of the events, or just practice one until you get really good at it, that helps the Replay Value some, but it's just not enough to make up for the ratio of good games to um...not-as-good ones.
Overall: 7/10- It has its flaws, especially in the Control department. It also only has two really good games to boast of (Again, Surfing and BMX). But if you want an old-school multiplayer experience, give this game a try. It's a nice way to liven up those gatherings of you and your friends. It doesn't really make a good one player game however, so keep that in mind.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 04/26/00, Updated 04/26/00
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