Winter Games is an ambitious port of an 8-bit Epyx computer game. The featured sports include Slalom, Bobsled, Ski Jump, Biathlon, Speed Skating, Hot Dog, and Luge. Some events have better graphics than others, but all are colorful, detailed and push the limits of the hardware. Sound is middle of the road, being neither exciting nor annoying. You can play the events in order, or practice them individually. The controls can be quite different for each event and not all of them are intuitive, so you'll want to look them up before playing.
Slalom, while certainly more detailed than Activision’s Skiing, is just not as much fun as the prior game. It’s nigh impossible to not miss several gates while traversing the course, and the whole thing feels like it just needed more fine tuning.
Ski Jump is decent. You need to tap the joystick button just before your skier reaches the end of the ramp, and then press in different directions to keep your skier in the correct pose for a smooth landing. It’s more challenging than it sounds, and the “crash and burn” tumble animation keeps it from becoming too frustrating.
Biathlon reuses the Slalom course, but the gameplay is more about mastering the flow of cross country skiing in between the firing ranges. Once there, you’ll need to shoot a series of targets with timed button presses. It’s not bad, but if you’ve played the excellent 8-bit computer version, this is really bare bones in comparison.
Speed Skating, like many of the events in the ‘Games’ series, is mostly a game of learning the left-right rhythm to keep your speed up. It’s somewhat basic, but it does feature two player split screen play.
Hot Dog is actually pretty cool. Once you get your skier into the air, you can perform a surprising number of tricks by holding the joystick in different directions or by pressing the button. It’s a decent challenge to see how many tricks you can perform while still landing safely.
Bobsled and Luge are my favorite events and feature an impressive warping effect for the turns in the course. Both are very similar, the main difference being in Bobsled you ‘bob’ to pick up speed, but in Luge you brake to keep your sled from going out of control.
Striped down compared to the 8-bit original, the Atari 2600 port is impressive, if uneven. Ultimately, like all games of this type, Winter Games is best suited to competing with more than one player, but some of the events are enjoyable in and of themselves.
- Ben Langberg