Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Nerdicus NES Review #110 : California Games

Title : California Games

Publisher : Milton Bradley

Genre : Sports

Players : 1 / 2 Player

Release Date : 1989

Estimated Value (as of today's date) : $3-$5

You know you're in for a real treat, when you pop in an NES cart, and the first thing you hear is a chiptunes rendition of Louie Louie (whether it's supposed to be the Kingsmens version or the original Richard Berry version). But when you're talking about one of those track and field type games, who knows. They're usually garbage.

This was one of those games that I played a lot when I was a kid. The main reason is because my sister always had to take part in a little competition against me to see who could do better at certain events. Then again, half the time we played this game we were always trying to figure out how to play the stupid events. Don't get me started on hackey sack. I still don't know how to kick that damn bag of beans.
I can't recall who won those competitions, but it was something that did bring me and my sister closer together. Okay, maybe not. I do happen to remember the arguments that ensued. The hair pulling. The punching. The screaming for mom and dad that the other one cheated. Not like we could actually cheat. Like I said, we had no idea how to play.

Now it's over 20 years later and I'm revisiting this game that plagued my childhood. What will my 30 year old self think of this game now? I can tell you, I'm not looking forward to it. 

*shudders* Sorry, I just thought about the surfing mini game.

That is very California-esque...a license plate....

You're given a few options right off the bat as to how you want to take part in the games. It's pretty much the same as any other Olympic or track and field game you've played before. You could play them all, play one at a time, or just take part in some practice runs. And let me suggest you do try them all out in the practice area first. You won't know what you're doing otherwise, because they don't explain anything in the game.

You'll then be able to select your team, which are basically X-games styled teams. it doesn't matter who you pick, as it doesn't do anything for you. I think it might change your clothing...I don't even know. I didn't pay attention. The names were dumb anyway.

Now on to the good stuff. The events...oh boy....let me list out what we got going for us, and then I'll go into a bit of detail as to what we're going to suffer through.

  • Half Pipe
  • Roller Skating
  • Surfing
  • BMX
  • Footbag (hackey sack)
  • Flying Disc
Could there be a more boring selection of sports?

Half Pipe is self explanatory, if you know what a half-pipe is. You skateboard back and forth on a curved ramp, and you earn points by completing tricks. Either grab tricks or jumps by gaining more height. Have fun trying to land anything...I still don't know how. I'm lucky enough to rack up maybe 1000 pts in a minute. I'm always falling.

Roller skating is even worse. You don't even do anything. You're just avoiding obstacles on the road. It's a side-scrolling version of Paperboy and Back to the Future skateboarding segments. At least Paperboy was fun.

Surfing...dear God, don't even get me started on surfing. I don't think I can even stay on a wave for more than two seconds. I don't even know what the hell i'm doing. I think you gain points for staying on the wave a longer time, but hell I wipe out in the first five seconds. I go with the wave, then I just fly off screen. Yup. That's it. Once again, no clue how to do this event. Maybe I just suck at this game. Bad memories of my childhood are creeping back.

BMX? Ha - this is just as bad as roller skating. It's the same damn thing, just with hills and on a bike. NEXT.

Footbag. This was my favorite event as a kid. I always tended to get really lucky with being able to track where the little white ball (which was the bean bag) was going to land. You basically shuffle your character back and forth while kicking the bean bag into the air, and spinning around in circles to gain points. You can also bounce it off your head, and into a seagull that flies over head. I actually think you get bonus points for that. Seriously though, this is the only event I actually score well in. Completely by accident. But damn, does the guy you play as scare the crap out of you, or what? He's one creepy looking California dude.

Last event is the damn Flying Disc. You throw a frisbee...yup that's it. see how far you can toss it. Wow. Exciting.

Does this game play as well as it did when I was a kid? Well, it didn't play well back then and it doesn't play well now. Graphics are decent, but some areas such as surfing just make your head hurt to look at. But, the one thing that makes this game so horrendous, is that it just doesn't tell you how to play the events. It's up to you to figure out what to do, and you know you're not going to be able to find an instruction manual.

Besides the irritation factor, it is enjoyable if you are playing it with a friend (or a sibling). You'll get a laugh just watching your opponent suffer just as much as you are. If you're up for some joint-torture, give California Games a shot.

Final Score (out of 5) :

Until next time. Keep on gaming!



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