Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Summer Challenge: Athletics Tournament

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Electronic Theatre Image             Up-and-coming UK publisher PQube are set to launch their latest title across multiple formats this week, the unassuming Summer Challenge: Athletics Tournament. A celebration of the World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea, Summer Challenge: Athletics Tournament is a by-the-numbers videogame athletics presentation with an inviting arrangement.

            Forgoing the temptation to unnecessarily incorporate motion-controls on high-definition (HD) systems, Summer Challenge: Athletics Tournament is built on the same aging template that Konami’s Track & Field established more than twenty years ago. Players take part in more than twenty five events, each of which has been Electronic Theatre Imageadapted from a challenging physical exercise to a challenging virtual one, and it’s clear that a degree of though has been applied as to how each event is most suitably recreated on a control pad: while it’s true that the bulk of the design involves rapid button presses/analog stick waggling, it’s an appropriate summation of each different event.

            Some events are much more challenging than others, and some unnecessarily so. The 200m Sprint is an easy case of stick wiggling for the first few attempts, whereas the Hammerthrow event offers a well designed interpretation of the activity before placing targets for success that can take a dozen retries to achieve. A little extra leniency would have gone a long way in the Career mode, though the Single Discipline and Cup modes offer progressive difficulty settings. There are more successful events, such as the precision targeting of Archery and the Diving event, which breaks down accuracy, ability and landing into three digestible chunks.

            While players can engage in one-off events, it’s the cleverly designed Career mode that will be the biggest draw. Unfortunately things don’t start off too well: after telling the player theElectronic Theatre Image best way to succeed is to use the training option the game then presents you with the interesting payment system for these sessions, before demanding you compete in an event with a difficulty that really feels as though you could do with some training prior to being able to begin a session. Once the player has struggled past this awkward beginning, becoming a competitor is a simple case of examining the requirements, training for the event and then surpassing the allotted time/score for success. Achieving a bronze medal in any event will unlock those touching it within the honeycomb structure, meaning that not every event needs to be completed to progress, though the cups within can only be accessed once all the adjacent events have been successfully completed.

            A second progression mode is offered in the form of an online league. Though not offering any direct competition – that honour is reserved for friend within the same room only – the online league charts your progression across a number of events, seeing your level rise from one to ten with successful attempts at events. Your results are compared to those of your friends and other players online, creating a unique take on the traditional leaderboard systems.

            Though not leading the field in terms of technical accomplishment, perhaps hamstrung by its Wii sister title, there’s a pleasantly surprising amount of detail in the events themselves and also in the environments. From the umpire running onto the field of play and measuring the distance of your throw to the back-flipping costumed mascot tripping over his own feet, the incidental detail isElectronic Theatre Image astonishing for a title that is typically offered at a significantly lower price than Vancouver 2010 – the Official Video Game of the Olympic Winter Games and Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games. It’s not groundbreaking by any means, but there is certainly a degree of satisfaction from noticing some of the minute occurrences that have been programmed into the game for that very specific reason; a light-hearted distraction in a sea of tense dexterity challenges.

            Summer Challenge: Athletics Tournament doesn’t rewrite the rulebook for sporting titles, but it does go someway towards modernising the template. A traditional gameplay experience wrapped-up in a mostly well designed series of game modes makes for a compelling experience, and one that may surprise many with juts how intensely entertaining the challenges are. The numerous events, commendable virtualisation of their intricacies and the charming incidental details, Summer Challenge: Athletics Tournament is a game that belies it’s humble roots, and is ultimately a game that shouldn’t be ignored by anyone anticipating the World Athletics Championships, or indeed the 2012 Olympic Games.

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