FOR THOSE OLYMPIC MOMENTS
AFTER getting the Spectrum sports scene fit with chart-topping compilation Game Set And Match, Ocean has jumped on the Olympic bandwagon with ABC Sports Winter Olympics — a £19.95 ‘interactive VCR game’ for two to six players. Ocean claims it’s the first of its kind in Britain and points the software giant toward CD games.
Winter Olympics uses a board for play and a video for illustration — no computer — in a race through nine events from the real-life Winter Olympic Games, held this February in Calgary, Canada. Ocean Chairman David Ward describes it as a breakthrough in video board games, pointing out that in previous games ‘the pictures on the screen had nothing to do with what’s on the board — in them it’s kind of coloured wallpaper.’
But, says Ward, Winter Olympics — developed by California-based specialists Three Star Group — is different because you really play rather than just watch. ‘It’s a halfway jump to an interactive laser disc. What it brings to the marketplace is the answer to psychologists’ principal criticism of TV — that it is a passive process, that you sit there and don’t do anything about it.’
So in Winter Olympics you sit there through a ten-to-15-second clip from award-winning ABC Sports television coverage of past Winter Olympic Games, and then take your turn on the board. At the end of the clip a grid of numbers appears on the screen, changing rapidly like the frame-counter on a video film, and when the player pauses the video it comes to rest with two numbers displayed — your pause button takes the place of dice.
Those two numbers indicate points and spaces for each of the three coloured trails — red, blue and green — on which players move across the board. Depending on what colour he’s on, the player takes the appropriate number of points for the sport he’s just watched and moves the appropriate number of spaces.
Each player accumulates points in every event and the game continues until all nine gold medals have been won — the first player to get 500 points in an event and pass over the appropriate gold space on the board wins that medal, the next takes the silver medal, the third the bronze medal. Medals add to the final score, and the highest score when all gold medals have been collected wins the game.
The nine events are slalom, speed skating, figure skating, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, ski jumping, bobsled, hockey and luge (solo tobogganing),
On passing over a medal space (or one of the ‘snowflake spaces’) you collect an Olympic Moment card, which can give you extra points or turns, make you miss a turn or take you via a ski lift to another of the three trails — named after recent real-life Winter Olympics sites, Calgary, Sarajevo (in Yugoslavia) and Lake Placid (near New York). But disaster spaces can break your skis...
Ocean’s Ward explains the new-style game’s appeal. ‘In the past VCR-based games were completely linear, with results that never varied. Once a tape was put together, there was no way to change it. The only variables in first-generation VCR games came from the cards which players picked up.
‘But with this new technique, the video tape in effect changes each time the game is played. Unlike other games Winter Olympics MUST be played with the video tape, and will have a much longer playing life span simply because results are different each time.’
Still, Winter Olympics is a game of chance with very little strategy involved, and with good luck a single turn can earn you up to 10,000 points, probably enough to win the game. (At the London launch, former Miss Great Britain Debbie Greenwood beat Canadian-born David Jensen, presenter of ITV’s music show The Roxy, 14,000 to 11,000 in an hour-long match — commenting coyly ‘I’ve never won anything before’!)
Ocean hopes to attract computer-owners who recognise the software house’s logo on the packaging. David Ward sees it as family entertainment, describing the TV as a focus of family life, a ‘cool fire’ to gather around in the evening.
With Winter Olympics Ocean joins Gremlin Graphics in the move to board games — Gremlin plans more to follow its recent Gary Lineker Footballer Of The Year. And the next interactive VCR game on Ocean’s launch list is MISL Soccer Shootout, an indoor-soccer game with over 150 video clips (Winter Olympics has some 180), scheduled for release in March or April.