1975’s Jaws might not have been Steven Spielberg’s first theatrical film (it was his second; The Sugarland Express, released the previous year, takes that honour), but it most certainly was the first to put him on the map. The story of a resort-town police chief and his battle against a monstrous killer shark, it set the template for the movie blockbuster and kept a huge swath of the public away from their beaches, bays and bathtubs. While nominated, it didn’t swim away with Best Picture; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest flew away with all the big awards at the 1976 ceremony.
Jaws: The Computer Game was released in 1989 for the Amiga, C64, Atari ST and other systems. Made by developer Intelligent Design, Ltd. and published by Screen 7 Ltd., it is a strange mish-mash of strategy and 2-D platforming. Players take on the role of chief Martin Brody, who circles the island of Amity in his boat The Orca, following reports of shark sightings. He can close beaches to prevent attacks, although keeping them closed too long ticks off Mayor Larry Vaughn and can lead to Brody’s dismissal. Both Hooper and Quint from the movie join Brody on his quest, along with a team of six divers who pilot a submersible vehicle into the depths around Amity. The ultimate goal is to collect pieces of a special gun and a cache of bullets, which when assembled can be used to dispatch the fishy fiend.
Jaws: The Computer Game is actually fun to play. Trying to guess where the shark will go lends a bit of strategy, and the underwater parts are competent if a bit draggy and frustrating at times. The colourful graphics help keep things interesting, along with John Williams’ famous main theme from the movie, which lends tension leading up to the titular fish’s occasional appearances. It’s worth going back into the water for this one.
Here are the rest of the Oscar Week articles on TDE:
For the past two weeks TDE has presented the eight games of the illustrious Epyx Games series, from the 1984 release Summer Games, to California Games II in 1990. All to celebrate the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. As they extinguish the Olympic flame in Russia, we present our own closing ceremonies with the Epyx Fail Reel. Falls, flubs and F-Ups from the furious competitions of the Epyx Games series.
With the thrill of victory, also comes the agony of defeat. A lot of agony.
Our final entry in the Epyx Games series, The Games: Winter Edition was released for the Amiga computer in Olympic year 1988, with the real games held that year in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. You might remember those games as being the setting for the movie Cool Runnings, about the debut of the Jamaican Bobsled team in Olympic competition. Unfortunately, Winter Edition did not include the bobsled, nor Jamaica as a participating country, so players couldn’t recreate the John Candy vehicle. Not even in the Luge. The Epyx Games series did finally get to the big show, however. Winter Edition was an official licensee of the United States Olympic Committee, and therefore was the only game out of the series that contained Olympic branding within. Of course, all use of the Olympic rings imagery had to be accompanied with the USA logo, so the game seemed a tad biased towards the United States.
Along with the Amiga, it also appeared on several other computer platforms, including fierce competitor the Atari ST, as well as the C64, DOS and others. For the Amiga version, the game was made by developer FACS Programming Services, Inc., a subsidiary of Ann Arbor, Michigan-based F.A.C.S. Inc., for Epyx. Programming was handled by Don Sherry, Jonathan Hickey, Larry Ashmun, Alex Popadich and Joy Dorethy. The artist for the project was Mike Snyder. Taking care of the music was Chris Ebert and Chris Grigg.
There are seven sporting events offered: Luge, Downhill (Skiing), The Slalom (Skiing), Cross Country (Skiing) Ski Jump, Speed Skating, and Figure Skating. Rousing opening and closing ceremonies also round out the package, along with a podium ceremony for the victors in each competition. It’s also good to hear national anthems make their return, giving players a good education on the first few bars of every participating country’s patriotic ditty. Speaking of music, the score is not too bad here, with some well-designed and varied tunes to fire up the blood before an event like Speed Skating. Gameplay stumbles, however. Thankfully joystick jiggling kept to a bare minimum, although things start to break down a tad with some inscrutable timings required in Figure Skating and Ski Jump. The former is actually interesting to set up, where you have to build a choreography for a routine before you skate, to a selection of music selections of various lengths and tempos. Then you must take to the ice and skate this routine, making the right moves at the right time in the music. Unfortunately, executing the different moves requires knowing the timing for holding or not holding the joystick in the correct position, which is initially unknowable until you’ve practiced each a thousand times. As for the Ski Jump? I’ll let the attached gameplay video speak for itself, although I will say that I practiced for hours before I recorded the footage. I never did get the hang of it.
Problems with timings can be rectified with intense practice by the player, but nothing can improve the rough and unpolished graphics of Winter Edition. Things like bare blue skies and lumpy athletes make one long for the clever details of the original summer and winter games artwork.
The Games: Winter Edition does slip and fall butt-first to the ice on occasion, but doesn’t completely disgrace its pedigree. Taken as a whole, the grand Epyx Games series of international sports competition deserves a solid gold medal of achievement in computer gaming.
Every game in the Games series will be featured in posts all during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. Here are the links to the other articles:
We’re back to the Olympian playing field with the Amiga version of The Games: Summer Edition, distributed in 1988 by U.S. Gold and developed by Code Monkeys for Epyx. There were versions of the game made for the venerable C64 too, as well as arch Amiga rival the Atari ST, as well as for the Apple II and DOS.
Like the original Summer Games, this reboot was made to capitalize on an Olympic year. The very next summer games, in fact, taking place in Seoul, South Korea. As usual for this series, there was no Olympic branding to be found in Summer Edition, as the product wasn’t an official IOC license. Of course, we all knew what grand, international sporting event we were actually playing in.
There are eight Olympic-style events on display here: Cycling, Hurdles, Pole Vault, Hammer Throw, Uneven Parallel Bars, Archery, Rings and Diving. It’s also nice to see appropriately epic closing ceremonies make a return to the series. Since the game was made on the Amiga, the graphics are a pretty big notch above the previous iterations. The audio quality of the music is also a standout, although the compositions disappointingly generic for a Games title. Where are the groovy riffs? Gameplay is suspect as well. Most of the events devolve into the dreaded joystick waggling contest, and both of the gymnastic events, the rings and the parallel bars, take the gold in “I Have No Idea What I’m Doing”. Trying to play them, with all their complicated joystick movements and contextual timing, one can see why certain Olympic events were left out in the other games. With an Olympian amount of practice, I’m sure people could figure things out and put on a good athletic performance. As for me, I’ll just rest here under the bars and wait for the medics to carry me out.
Every game in the Epyx Games series will be featured in posts all during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. Here are the links to the other articles: