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Winter Games

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Winter Games

Epyx / US Gold (1985)

Synopsis

Become the greatest athlete in the world, competing in events of varying wintry difficulty. Can you complete a triple-lutz instead of landing on your bum and becoming a klutz?

Slipping over in a Winter Wonderland!


Graphics

Pros:

Detailed backgrounds and smooth-as-usual character animations!


Cons:

The colour palette is far too subdued.





Sound

Pros:

Music within the skating events is pleasing.


Cons:

Remaining sound events are basic.





Gameplay

Pros:

The Commodore version is more inclusive with intros, flags and national anthems.


Cons:

Things get a little tiresome once you've mastered an event.




Graphics

Pros:

Beautifully constructed and vibrant backdrops.


Cons:

The player sprite in the biathlon event looks like 'The Fly'... with cramps.





Sound

Pros:

Ah, the sound of skis against the snow and ice.


Cons:

The sound of skis against snow and ice gets very boring, quite quickly!





Gameplay

Pros:

In most events, the gameplay is as good as the other platforms.


Cons:

The biathlon event is so slow it will have you throwing your skis in the corner.




Graphics

Pros:

Great backdrops once again, and nice map on the bobsleigh event.


Cons:

Nothing much to report here.





Sound

Pros:

The gentle breeze and the wind blowing in your hair.


Cons:

You don't get to hear any of that!





Gameplay

Pros:

Each event presents a decent level of gameplay.


Cons:

Certain events can become monotonous after a few tries.



Get yer skates on!




And there I was, a child in nineteen-eighty-something on a chilly December's day, sat down cross-legged on my grandparents' living room carpet beside the faux fire with my head craning up to watch the telly, the screen size of which was about the diameter of an iPad! As we all gathered around waiting for the next programme to come on, I checked outside and, yes, the snow blizzard was still as strong as it had been four hours previously. I imagined being able to get out into that thick snow with a pair of skis and slide all the way down the steep road close to us.


For anyone who hasn't been in the UK prior to 1995, it would probably seem like a ridiculous notion that it could snow in December. And I don't mean a small scattering of snow. I mean the type of snow that could stop trains and hide large vehicles. I remember snow so deep it would make grown men wear moon boots. This was a time where you expected it to fall so heavily in December that you had your sledge already prepared. It was still an age where you associated such blustery winter chills with Christmas as much as you did the traditional James Bond movie.


A quick lesson on gravity!

And then my imagination kicked into hyperdrive as the Ski Sunday music punched its way through the telly's speaker! Even though it was freezing cold outside, this upbeat and infectious music somehow got us into the mood of watching incredibly brave people whizzing down a fantastically tall ramp in arctic conditions. It was because of programmes like Ski Sunday, and the climate actually reflecting its official season, that helped propel the success of games such as 'Winter Games' by Epyx.


Not that Epyx really needed an enormous deal of help with finding success. They were absolute legends at providing quality games that had great promotion and packaging. Just look at the gorgeous cover design for Winter Games, similar in keeping to the cover for Impossible Mission, to understand how professional an outfit they were.


It's all about choice in Winter Games because you can decide to take on either an individual event, a selection, or all events. In the Commodore 64 version you're welcomed with a nice intro animation of a torch bearer lighting the Olympic flame while doves fly away just high enough to escape a roasting. You also get a smart looking screen displaying national emblems. Selecting one of these plays a snippet of the flag's respective national anthem, meaning Americans can sing whilst holding their hand to their heart, whilst the British can customarily forget their lines. But no such joy with the remaining platforms, I'm afraid. It's just a case of entering your name and skipping straight to the job at hand. You can select from either the ski jump, bobsleigh, hot dog, skating (free, figure, or speed), or biathlon events.

I remember snow so deep it would make grown men wear moon boots

In the ski jump you've curiously elected to ski down and jump off of an impossibly high ramp at a terrifying speed in order to traverse the greatest distance, after which point you and the Earth are on a collision course (spoiler: this usually ends up with the Earth winning). However, with your trusty skis, you can position yourself mid-air in such a way that you leave yourself a faultless landing. This is easier said than done, though, but becomes simpler with a little practice. All versions play similarly well in this event, and the Amstrad's graphics are a standout in colour and design.


This looks quite painful!

Onto the bobsleigh event, which was something I always dreamt of doing when I was a kid until I watched "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". Unfortunately, this event takes the same route every time, so once you've mastered it then that's your lot, and it's not overly difficult to begin with. You'll not really want to play this any further unless you're competing with a friend to see who can get the best time within milliseconds of each other. Gameplay, again, is alike on all versions, with the Commodore offering some extra outdoor furniture on the run, such as bridges and a finish line. The remaining versions provide a more punchier, colourful map.


In the skating section, there's a choice of figure, free, and speed skating. The latter entails you tapping your left/right keys (or waggling your joystick - matron!) at a cramp-enducing rate, very much in the style of "Daley Thompson's Decathlon", to get you speeding towards the finish line. The other events in this group get you pirouetting and triple-axeling to your heart's content as you make a certain amount of moves during a limited period of time. You'll need to hold your nerve if you want that 'perfect 6' Torvill & Dean moment! The Commodore is the better version here with music that suits the scene, and the skater having a shadow that accentuates the ground position.


Bobby the ice sleigher!

The hotdog event sees you boarding off of a snowy ridge where you must somersault your way onto the scoreboard. This is, perhaps, the most uninteresting part of the game with a narrow field of moves to employ. The biathlon event involves you skiing across snowy terrain, on flats and gradients, with a rifle strapped upon your back. Once you've navigated to the range, you get to shoot five rounds as your sighting runs vertically across the disc-shaped targets. Once done, repeat until twenty targets have been shot at. Each miss of the target loses you 5 seconds, which is valuable if you're competing against a friend.




Graphics

The Commodore offers the best animated player in each event, and a nice intro animation. Overall, the Amstrad's background graphics far surpass the rest.


Sound

The Commodore's music is easy-going within the skating section, otherwise there's just a small smattering of noises here and there overall.


Gameplay

There's very little to pick between all of the platforms. The speed skating leaves something to be desired, and the Amstrad's version of the biathlon is also beyond sluggish. In the main, however, the game plays very well.


Overall

Winter Games is fun, and even more so as a multiplayer event where you compete against friends. This is its only saving grace though, because, once you've mastered an event, there becomes little return value.



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Platform Winners

Overall Ranking

69

12th Place

Our 4th best game of 1985

Our only sports game review

Screenshots

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ROMs

Amstrad: download
Commodore: download
Spectrum: download

Video Review

Pixel8Games'pick of 1985