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Winter Challenge

Genre: Sports Developer: Mindspan Vancouver  Publisher: Accolade Players: 1-10 Released: 1992

Ever since the days of the Atari 2600 Olympic sports games have been a staple in the gaming industry, and almost every console has at least one version of a summer or winter Olympics challenge. There are several versions that succeeded in being quite fun and playable, such as the Activision Decathlon, released on several pre-NES consoles and Epyx’s Summer and Winter Games for the Atari 7800. Then there are the ones that failed pretty badly, like Accolade’s Winter Challenge, released for the Genesis in 1991 that I’m about to review now.

When you turn the game on, you have a practice mode, a competition mode and options menu. The options menu offers nothing useful and the practice mode lets you individually select an event to practice on without competing for a score. The competition mode still has you choosing events one at a time but this time with scoring and placing. The only difference between practice and competition is that one keeps track of your rankings after each event and the other doesn’t, so you might as well just practice in the competition mode since there’s not much difference between the two.

Winter Challenge is comprised of the following eight events; luge, downhill skiing, cross country skiing, bobsled, speed skating, giant slalom, biathlon, and ski jump. I really can’t seem to enjoy any events other than the bobsled and the biathlon. The game is loaded with too many flaws to be even remotely enjoyable for more that about ten minutes or so at the most. I will actually start with the game’s high points; actually, there aren’t any high points worth knotting.

The game is played from the third person behind the shoulder view during each event and the control actually works very well on most events other that the luge or bobsled where it’s far too easy to wipe out for no reason even on a straightaway due to poor game mechanics. The cross country and biathlon has you maintaining your stamina to avoid tiring. The biathlon is my favorite event just because you get to fire a gun at several targets. Speed skating simply has you pressing alternating buttons as fast as possible while keeping your skater as close to the inside of the track as possible and is one of the more tolerable events in the game. The ski jump is the least fun for me due to tricky controls but it’s manageable with practice.

The problems come in with the frame rate, which is far too low. The Genesis does FMV on the Sega CD somewhat well, so I know it could’ve done better here if the programmers spent some more time fine tuning it. It refreshes very slowly and it is most evident on the skiing events when you need to make a turn and the screen refreshes to a new angle after the turn and misses all the frames during the turn and then you are stuck with trying to overcompensate and get back on track or crash into a tree of a snowdrift and being disqualified. The game has a map of the run during each event on the left side of the screen and you need to follow it closely to avoid unexpected wipeouts due to the low frame rate.

Winter Challenge is also very ugly to look at, the graphics are quite grainy and repetitive, and it all becomes pretty grating on the eyes after more than a few minutes. There’s no music during the events either leaving you to put up with the awful sound effects, some events last four to five minutes and listening to generic and poor sound effects for that long again becomes grating this time to the ears.

I tried one last time to enjoy this game by asking a few of my gaming buddies to play this in multi-player to see if it became fun to compete, we made it through two or three events and turned it off. There’s no simultaneous two player modes making each player compete in each event individually, and at four to five minutes each for some events, who would be able to sit through that?

If you are even going to try to drudge through this game then do it alone and don’t ask another player to go through the torture with you because in moves along faster with only a single player. When I first played the game, I thought the game had some promise but the more I think about it, the game’s a disaster and not worth playing much at all and it’s probably one of the worst sports games on the Genesis/Mega Drive in any region of the world.

SCORE: 3 out of 10

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