Review: International Track & Field
All the fun, none of the human rights abuses.
So it’s that time of the decade again where everyone (okay, maybe that’s stretching it a little) goes mad about the Olympics. As always, this year we will not only be bombarded with all the sports coverage we can muster on the TV but they will also be pumping out video games based on the subject like there is no tomorrow.
Konami have my utmost respect when it comes down to this field of video games. This is thanks to the quite frankly awesome Track and Field on the Playstation which happens to be one of my all time favourite games. So hearing that Konami were to release a new title for the DS I literally jumped at the chance to play it and, for the most part, it lives up to the series awesome reputation.
Another thing I should point out before I really get going on this review is that New International Track and Field has a rival on the DS called Mario and Sonic at the Olympics which was a very solid game. Hence I will be comparing this game to Sega’s officially licensed effort.
When the player starts up the game they are given a choice of name and country to represent. Your choice of country has no bearing on your virtual athlete’s statistics though. Instead, your strengths and weaknesses are based on the character you choose. To start with you are given a load of really generic and quite frankly insultingly stereotypical athletic types. I stuck with the old kung-fu guy till I unlocked a load of Konami’s special video game characters.
Yes that’s right folks your dream Olympic event of who would win in a 100 meter dash between Solid Snake, Pyramid Head, Frogger and Simon Belmont can now become a reality. There are plenty of characters to choose from once you unlock them all by doing the game’s career and character related challenge modes (which are good fun I might add!) but until then you are going to have to stick with the boring new characters Konami have created just for the game.
New International Track and Field has two control methods. For the purist there is the original button mashing method then for the DS crowd there is the stylus controls which feel better in my opinion which is strange considering I was brought up with the button mashing control scheme. Saying that though you might want to get some protective screens for your touch screen if you intend to pick this up because it will damage your DS in prolonged play thanks to frantic rubbing, you have been warned!
Konami’s Track and Field series has always been something of a favourite of mine. I mean you can’t beat a good waggler can you? Thankfully, this official update stays true to its roots and even throws in a few Hypersports events as well.
The two control methods (stylus or buttons) work well enough, although it’d be nice to switch between them during events in career mode, but it’s just a bit too punishing at times, especially the stylus method which requires you to move across the whole screen (rather than Sonic & Mario at the Olympics which let you use short, intense strokes â€“ fnarr!).
There are a decent selection of events, although far too many of them rely on the standard waggle, jump, release at forty-five degrees formula and those that don’t often use a horrible circular motion control which is no fun on the already cramp-inducing controls of the DS.
A host of unlockable events and characters, decent presentation (by DS standards) and a rather nicely fleshed out multiplayer component make this slightly above-average game stand out from the usual DS drivel though and will let you get your Olympic fix without supporting human rights abuses (or something).
Secondary Score: 8/10
While the controls are generally very good, Sonic and Mario draws the player in more with the stylus control. While Konami’s stylus methods are kept simple and more retro to keep in with the theme of the game Sega really pushed the boat out when it came to devising the controls. Saying that though the game’s simple interface means if you screw up it’s your fault not the games unlike Mario and Sonic at the Olympics which sometimes can screw you over *cough*Freestyle Swimming*cough*.
The game has twenty-four events including all the old classics. High Jump, Long Jump, Running, Hurdles, The throwing events and so on. The game also includes Hyper Sports events like rowing and shooting. While there are many different types of events most of them play out very similar to each other thanks to the button mashing nature of the game, something that was rectified slightly in the Mario and Sonic games. Saying that there are no really ‘weak’ events’ in this title to speak of. I enjoyed most of them and breaking the world records is going to take some practice, more so than previous titles in the series.
One thing I will give this game credit for is that it does have a lot to keep the player entertained if they are not playing with a buddy. I mean the career mode will keep you on your toes for some time and then there are the challenges which are far more creative than Sega’s effort. These range from Simon Belmont shooting vampire bats with his trusty crossbow to Sparkster and his mighty Jetpack flying across a lava riddled area collecting gems, it’s all very clever stuff.
Then there is the online community. If you do not fancy competing with people face to face or VIA the game’s online function (which work well by the way) then you can just always upload your score to the official site which is pretty easy to do. The site allows you to set up your own sports team with like-minded individuals around the world conquer the score boards together. This works really well and Konami are even hosting competitions and the site based on tournaments that they are holding which will allow players to unlock stuff in the game itself which is cool.
Well now it’s crunch time which one would I suggest you buy? This one purely because of its online component (although you’re scuppered if you use WPA encryption as the DS only works with the inferior WEP type â€“ Ed). This is possibly the best Track and Field game you’re going to see on a portable for some time unless you own a PSP and a copy of the original PSX version of Track and Field. While Sonic and Mario does handle some stuff better than this title, New International Track and Field just pipped it to the post. Either way no matter which one you pick you’ll be delighted because they are both excellent games.