"Not So Gnarly"

Over on the west coast of America lies the gigantic state of California, home to legions of beach bums. And if I know beach bums, which I don't, they love to play weird hippie games like surfing, hacky-sack, and roller skating. Milton Bradly‘s California Games takes this theory and puts it into one simple party game for the NES.

After choosing a corporate sponsor and entering your name, get ready to compete in up to six different events ranging kicking the crap out of tiny ball to grinding up the cement with a pair of roller skates. Unfortunately not every event is a total blast. The Half-Pipe event is the first one up, and it just plain sucks. You automatically move back and forth on a half-pipe, so you mash the d-pad to execute unimpressive 8-bit tricks. Next up is the rad Foot Bag. Here you'll flawlessly kick a hacky sack up into the air with your feet, knees, and even your noggin'. But watch out for the flying sea gulls; hit one with the ball and you'll lose points. Bummer, man! Soon after you'll be sporting speedos in the ultra lame surfing competition. Here you just fumble with the d-pad to start your board off just right. If you manage to maintain a steady balance, you'll be forced to wait and watch your buff body stand atop the board. And you'll wait. And wait. And wait. Finally a poorly drawn wave will creep up and knock you down.

Thankfully after that dreadful surfing event, you'll come to the best sport in the game: roller skating! Don't scoff this one off because I'm dead serious. While controlling a foxy red head (Hey, this 8-bit! Being a red head was as foxy as they came!), you'll have to avoid perils lurking upon the sidewalk such as spilt ice-cream cones, weeds, or bouncing beach balls. Avoiding these objects is quite simple: either jump over them or weave out of the way. But hit one of the obstacles and you'll fall to the ground, and if you fall too many times, you'll break a nail and go home. But then we'll take control of a manly man in the BMX game. Just mash the buttons to pump those legs and move throughout the course. You can even execute amusing tricks like mid-air spins, but it's all in vain thanks to the bike's annoying physics. Lastly there's the frisbee game, which thankfully provides mild enjoyment. Just use the direction button to select the proper degrees of “speed” and “angle” from a bar on the bottom of the screen, and watch that sucka' fly. While not as “action-packed” as some of the other events, the frisbee event is consistently easy to play.

So as you can see, some of those events are real lemons, so it's a great idea that you can choose to just skip those crumby ones. But going back to the bad, California Games is also strictly a party game. To really acquire any enjoyment from this collection of simple games, you'd better invite three of your buddies over (and they'd better be willing to play an NES game too). The terrible visuals and sound by NES standards don't help the game either. Pretty soon you'll be ready to retire this old mare for a new sleeker and sexier game for the whole gang to play . . . . maybe HALO. Still, if you and your friends need some activity to go with your nachos, it doesn't hurt to try out California Games.


Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 09/28/04

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