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The Activision Decathlon for the Atari 2600
Activision Decathalon is a very interesting game. One that has so much going for it and yet one looming large problem — a problem that if you have played this game before, you MUST remember (some trauma cannot be forgotten). Let me start off by talking about some of the positives of this exciting title by Activision.
1. The game looks great. Colorful and exciting to look at. The main athlete in the game looks just like a real athlete. The little guy is packed with 4..count em 4 colors, people. They did not skimp. Nosiree Bob.
2. The sound is decent and even has some music. VCS audio is almost never something you write home about, even in the late stages of its life (1983), but this is decent (decent is good when it comes to VCS sound).
3. The game allows up to 4 people to play it. That in alone would have made me stop and read the box a second time back in the day and would have made me buy it if I had the money or 3 friends.
4. The game is called Decathlon and they ain’t lying. This game has 10 events in which to compete. The events are 100-Meter Dash, Long Jump, Shot Put, High Jump, 400-Meter Race, 110-Meter Hurdles, Discus Throw, Pole Vault, Javelin Throw, 1500-Meter Race.
5. The game is actually really forgiving on the number of attempts, so you can get pretty good at each event pretty quickly.
6. Best of all, you can pick and choose what events from the Ten that you want in your competition. This is really a good thing, because…
1. OMG!! My wrist is killing me! I forgot how much of a joint churning, joystick busting titles this was. This game is fine in the non-running events and even for the 100-Meter Dash it is cool, but when you get to the 400 or the 1500 you can kiss your fave joystick goodbye. The problem is to get running you need to move your stick back and forth and with the 1500 it goes on for minutes of this repetitive movement. In one playing session, I quickly developed a blister from the rubber joystick cover and remembered why I liked to use sticks without the cover for this title and I cannot verify this, but I think when I was a kid, I had a joystick with a giant red ball on the top that I used to use JUST for Decathlon. It has very little give on the stick, so you only needed to move it a little to get running. I wish I still had that joystick because after an hour of gaming my wrist and hand are aching and raw.
Decathlon is impressive. It is sort of a prototype for all the joystick wiggling, button slamming games that would follow, and Activision did a great job building it. I do wish they could have come up with a more elegant and equally challenging control scheme, but for the life of me, with this hardware, I am not sure if they could have come up with anything else. That is why, despite the pain I am living right now, I am giving The Activision Decathlon, 4 Stars.