Back in 1983, Track and field was released into arcades. The button mash-tastic game was responsible for many a bruised finger. So has International athletics for iPhone hopped, skipped and jumped into the future of gaming, or been left in the sand of mediocrity?
Let’s break down each event separately.
Comprising of 100m, 400m, 1500m and 110m hurdles these games pretty much are the same but different lengths of race. To control you swipe the screen furiously side to side to get the runners speed up. In the shorter races it’s all about speed, but in the longer 1500 you have to be careful not to use all your runners stamina to early and risk running out of steam before the finish line. Hurdles requires tapping the screen before each hurdle, while still sliding for sprint. For added style in all running events you can pull down on the screen just before the finish line to make you runner lean into the tape.
Comprising of shot put, hammer, discus and javelin. Javelin requires you to rub left to right to build up speed, then set the angle of your throw and then tap to release. The others feature similar controls, except with discus and hammer requireing circular finger motions on the screen to build power before releasing at the correct angle. These require a little more skill than the repetitive movements of the running.
Long jump, high jump and Pole vault are the orders of the day. These require more swiping for speed, then tap and release for desired angle and with the high jump an added bend angle is required. These are by far the most challenging of the events, especially the pole vault, requiring some skill in timing… and because of this, they are the most rewarding and often quite fun.
The game gives you three options to play. A quick event option to play a one off event to better your score. And decathlon and tournament options which combine events depening on location. The tournament is a best of 4 events, and once you are successful in one tournament, you can move on to the next stadium and participate in 4 more events. Decathlon, as it suggests, requires ten events to be completed, that’s if your fingers can take the wear and tear! The results of both these campaigns can be viewed in your trophy cabinet
Overall the graphics are a mixed bag, but one thing that does stand out are the motion captured animations of the athletes. Combined with some great camera work and replays, with a squint of the eye you could be fooled into thinking it’s real. However, the visuals are not quite up to par. This game is also available on DS and PSP, but it seems the graphics were developed initially for the DS version and then upscaled for PSP and iPhone. This results in both low quality textures, looking both muddy and blurrey, and low poly models which look blocky. The runners facial expressions don’t look good at all and their body textures look as if they have all soiled themselves. Not a good look on the international sporting stage!
Presentation and graphics
Well presented with some great motion capture and an awesome replay system, unfortunately the game looks like a DS game with low quality textures and models.
Crowd sounds are good, which adds to the atmosphere. But no music to speak of. The options menu suggest there is, but I don’t hear it!
While some of the event require some skill in timing, mainly the jump events. Most simply require repetitive movements which in this day and age is a little backward. Occasionally the device will mis-read your movements.
3 difficulty levels and an awards cabinet will ensure some replay-ability. But where is the multiplayer? If there was one element you would expect from a game like this it would at least allow you to share your score, to brag to your friends and challenge them to best you.
So is this a revolution in virtual athletics? Well, sadly no. While the presentation has come a long way from that 80s arcade classic, the input for controlling the game hasn’t. Yes, there are some good use of touch screen controls, but the majority of the games still require repetitive movements, and for me it’s just not that fun. A fresh approach to this kind of game is needed, perhaps looking towards the music genre for inspiration. Why not bring in the note tapping mechanic of Tap Tap where you must accurately hit all the notes in order for your runner to sprint consistently.
Having said that, if you are a big fan of the 80s track and field then there will no doubt be something here for you to enjoy. And if you are a PSP or DS owner too, then you’ll definitely want this version as it’s way cheaper at £3.49 ($5.99) versus the PSPs £30. For that lowered price, you are missing out on Rifle shooting, Rapid Fire Pistol shooting and Archery.