Review by discoinferno84

"I ran so far away..."

Once upon a time, the country of Greece thrived as one of the most important locales in the known world. The foundations for modern logic, philosophical thought, and all other facets of a modern education were created and developed during the era. Sure, that society would never know the kind of technology or wealth that we wield in our times, but we still owe the Greeks for their fundamental contributions to ours. While we hardly ever think about those ancient times, there are a few lingering reminders of that bygone age. Every four years, the nations of the world put aside their differences and come together for an epic competition that outshines all others. As in olden times, the greatest athletes gather to see who is the best damned competitor on the planet. While Greece may have faded from glory, the pride and excellence of its Olympic Games still stand strong.

Chances are, you'll never get to participate in the Olympics. Don't let the disappointment get to you, though; this competition only caters to people who are at the absolute pinnacle of athletic performance. It takes years of training to even reach the seemingly supernatural caliber that these men and women possess. In case you lack the motivation drop and do some pushups, the Activison Decathlon provides a decent Olympic simulation that can appeal to gamers and slackers alike. The time of the Decathlon has come, and it seems that only Pitfall Harry of the legendary Pitfall series has shown up to prove his mettle. Utter lack of competition aside, it's up to you to help him through several different Olympic events in an attempt for worldwide fame and a decent high score.

You'll be subjected to a series of events during the Decathlon, each one a faithful rendition of its Olympic counterparts. Harry will have to endure Pole Vaults, Discus and Javelin throwing, the Shot-Put, Hurdles, the Long Jump, and multiple hundred meter dashes.All of these events are designed just like the real thing; Harry will have to run at extremely fast paces to get a short time during the Dash events, get enough momentum to get a high score in the Long Jump and make it over the bar during the Pole Vault, time his leaps over countless Hurdles, and focus all of his upper body strength during the various throwing competitions. If Harry's performance up to par with the Decathlon's rigid standards, you'll be justly rewarded with some hard-earned points that lead to an overall high score. Who knew that jumping over pitfalls and dodging jungle wildlife would lead to Harry's Olympic prominence?

However, the majority of the hero's success won't be because of his previous training. Not only is this game designed around the real Olympic events, but it requires plenty of physical exertion as well. In order to move Harry across the screen, you'll have to jam the control stick left and right, eventually maxing out his speed and his overall performance. While this may seem easy on the first Hundred Meter Dash and a few of the throwing events, it'll prove much harder once you take a shot at completing the Hurdles, 400, and 1500 Meter Dashes. Needless to say, moving the control stick back and forth won't seem like much fun after a few sittings. Your hands and arms will eventually begin to cramp, forcing you to stare in wonder at Harry's dwindling performance. Like the real Olympic athletes, you'll have to work on your personal endurance if you hope to ever attain some semblance of success in this game. Considering that up to four people can participate, it can also reveal who is truly the most able gamer in your group of friends.

While the Decathlon may be all about competition and personal glory, it falters a little once the presentation is taken into consideration. There's a brief intro tune when the game starts up, as well as a little jingle once you've set a new record. Other than that, the stadium is silent; there are no spectators to observe Harry's athleticism. The majority of the screen is taken up by a thick block of green, a bland and ugly feature that supposedly represents the grassy center of the stadium. All of the events take place on a long strip of blue surface that lacks any notable detail whatsoever. At least the majority of the event items, like the Pole, the Hurdles, and the meter markers look something like their real world counterparts. Also, you can see the bleachers, lights, and dusky sky in the distant background. While this setting lacks the necessary spectators, the effort for realism is still appreciated. Harry looks as blocky and non-descript as ever, from his guacamole green shirt to his bare runner's legs. At least this once Pitfall-jumping hero gets to carry around the Olympic torch, complete with Harry's tiny shadow to add a tiny bit of detail.

The Activision Decathlon is one of the more interesting titles for the Atari 2600. It doesn't fit the mold of any other game on the system, with the possible exception of Track & Field. It doesn't mimic baseball, football, or any other conventional sport that the American public knows so well. Instead, it tries to recreate the greatness of the Olympic games, faithfully portraying several events with excellent accuracy. Okay, so it's just a bunch of blocks and colors on the screen. There are no crowds cheering you on, no snooty judges, and no worldwide coverage. It's just you sitting in front of the television, gripping the Atari control stick in one sweaty palm and a soda in the other. While this may not capture the glory and inspiration of the real thing, the Decathlon does have one thing in common with its Olympic sibling: it forces the competitors to train themselves to a higher level of skill, thus impacting their overall performance and rewarding those who strive to be the best. So many of today's games cater to the lazy gamer; this game actually makes you work to get to the top.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 01/30/06

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