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:
The Epyx Games: Summer Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: Summer Games II on the C64
The Epyx Games: Winter Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: World Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: California Games on the C64
The Epyx Games: California Games II on PC (DOS)
The Epyx Games – The Games: Summer Edition on Amiga
The Epyx Games – The Fail Reel
For more information on Epyx and the Games series, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.