Here they come again: Epyx with yet another game to cash in on the Olympics...no, wait! It's California Games II! Have I been waiting for this! I promised never to touch an Epyx game after the Megasports compilation, but something told me to have a go. Well I did (the Ed told me to or I'd get fired), and it was worth it. The screen shots on the hack of the box are dead impressive, and they are more or less true to the game. So, I opened up and stuck the two disks in. I passed the protection screen (to prove I was a "local") by entering the time of high tide on a certain day, and then had free choice of what to do. Epyx have again used the tried and proven system; which is a joystick driven opening screen with a Seagull as a pointer, the bird lands on the respective disciplines, or options.
At the begining all the options are displayed. These are the Configure. Return to DOS (neatly shown as a sign labelled "DOS HIGHWAY") and Sign Up For/Start A Competition. DOS Highway and Enter Competition are self-explanatory: Configure, allows you to see the most excellent dudes in THE HALL OF FAME (or shame, depending on the score!), and allows you to change joystick, graphic or audio mode.
Now to the events......... (Drum roll). First of all, we have Snowboarding the original Californian sport, where you have three objectives on Mount Epyx: Number 1 is surviving the Black Diamond, a treacherous route on top of this glacier. Jump over the huge gaps, or get your head stuck in the snow! Dodge the stones and tree trunks, or fall flat on your face and be known as the Ultimate Dweeb (whatever that may be!). Secondly, perform as many stunts (hand stands....the usual) as possible in the Snowbowl; good stunts reduce your time on the glacier, the fastest down is the champ. Then descend the Obstacle course, on the mud, sand and ice in much the same way as the Black Diamond, and stop at the bottom to a hero's welcome! We then have Hang Gliding, where your aim is to destroy targets with (biodegradeable) water ballons, and perform as many tricks as possible, before landing again. There is a wide selection of tricks, like 540°s, and Loops; things that make skateboarders sick with envy! Then, jump on your Jet Surfer, and skid an' slide at the fastest speed possible through a lane, staying in for extra points! Before you choose your Jet Surfer, look at the course: a fast one on a tight bendy course is impossible to control. The next event is Bodyboarding, which is more or less the same as surfing in the original California Games, but with better graphics and belter control. Here again, we have weird manoeuvres like "barrel rolls" and "double off the lip", etc.etc. Last but not least, you can Skateboard in the Californian aquaduct, performing all the pro tricks, like Ollies, three-sixty-aerials, Hand plants, Corkscrews etc., and get a varied bonus time credit for each manoeuvre, dependent on difficulty. The person with the lowest time is then declared Skateboard Champion of the World (wow!)
Well, haven't Epyx been working hard! They sure have improved almost everything; especially the graphics! The manual is informative, giving hints and strategies, and they've improved joystick control. No more yanking the joystick as fast as possible to increase your speed: just get in rhythm, and you'll be whizzing away in no time. All you have to do is get your timing right, and practise the event enough (know it off by heart), and you'll soon be contending for World Records. The one big super change for me is that the graphics are a helluva lot better than normal Epyx games. There's more detail, and everything's easy to see. There are a lot of nice touches, for example people wagging their feet waiting for the jump off the cliff (hang gliding). A good job has been done here. To sum it all up, it's a real improvement, the events are well thought out (good, wacky American fun), and they're quite realistic from what I've seen on TV. If you're a sports fanatic, then this is one of the best Alternative Sports you re going to get.
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