Bruce Jenner's World Class Decathlon
Windows - 1996
Description of Bruce Jenner's World Class Decathlon
Just in time for the Olympic's! It's Bruce Jenner's World Class Decathlon! If you thought it would be hard to simulate the sport of basketball or football on the computer screen, what about running, jumping and throwing? Rather than try to create an action title from the world of track and field, Interactive Magic takes a strategy approach with Decathlon. Action sequences have a part in this game but it really is the overall strategy of the virtual decathlete which will win or lose the gold medal. But first things first...
Decathlon was designed for Windows 95 and as such installation is a breeze. Besides having to restart my computer in 256 colors mode, installation was quick and easy. The game design on the other hand does have some annoying "windows" features such as overlapping windows and the heavy reliance on mouse clicks. Reminds me of Microsoft's Golf game with all of it's "look at me I'm a Windows game" features. Programmer's take note, yes we gamers like the easy installation of Window's games but we hate moving windows around the screen just so that we can see what is going on.
Bruce Jenner and the Decathlon
What's a Decathlon? The Decathlon is a two day event in which athletes compete in 10 events. The events cover every aspect of track and field. These include 100 meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400 meter race, 110 meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and the 1500 meter race. The Decathlon is a grueling event which challenges the decathletes endurance, stamina, and strategy. In the decathlon it is not enough to be good at one event, you have to be good at all of them.
Bruce Jenner, the last American to win the gold medal in the Decathlon (1976 Montreal games) and Wheaties box cover star, provides commentary through out the CD-ROM. Jenner introduces each event with a random tip and let's you know when you've broken a personal record. Track and field fans will enjoy the multimedia interview with Jenner.
Decathlon is part strategy and part action. The strategy involves creating an athlete who will perform well in the enough events to win the decathlon. Athlete creation is kind of like a RPG (role playing game). You have a set amount of skill points and endurance points which you can allocate among different skills such as sprinting, weight throwing, coordination, jumping etc. You can create athletes with superior running skills at the expense of throwing skills or an athlete which will excel at jumping hurdles or try to create a well rounded athlete who might not excel in any one event but do well in a few. Like in a real life athlete, yours will be better at some events than others. During the two day event you have to watch your endurance level because at the end of each day is a long race which will use up what ever endurance you have left.
The action part of the game is the actual events. Overall, the action part of this title is rather unexciting as you might imagine track and field events on a computer screen would be. All of the events are controlled by clicks of the mouse. Running events require a click of the mouse after the starter's pistol to start the race. Holding down the mouse accelerates your runner and a click of the button makes your runner lean into the tape at the finish line. The hurdle event requires another click at each hurdle to make the jumps. The 1500 meter race is the most tedious. This is the last event of the entire decathlon and once you use up your endurance and thus your ability to accelerate, you are basically just watching the scenery go by for the remaining five minutes or so.
Throwing events require simply a click of the button at the optimal time to release the discus, shot put or javelin before fouling. You can also position your athlete before the attempt. The farther back you position your athlete the farther he can potentially throw the weight but it will cost you in endurance points. The long jump is similar, click the button to start your run, click to jump and click again to fall forward after the landing. The most interesting events are the high jump and the pole vault. The action is a click to jump and a click to throw you legs over the bar. It's not the action but the strategy that is interesting here. In these events you are allowed to pass. After making an easy jump early on to ensure some points, you can pass until you are ready to make a crucial jump. This way you can conserve energy and put the pressure on your opponents. When playing with a few friends this can be the most fun part of the entire game.
There are a few different modes of play. Practice allows the players to practice any of the ten events. Single decathlon is the Olympics simulation. Also included is a campaign mode in which the players competed in a series of meets. After completing a decathlon, players will gain skill points as they gain more and more experience.
Up to eight players can play Decathlon although no online support is included. Players create their own individual athletes and then take turns on the events. Athletes can be saved and used in future games. In Multi player mode the running events occur in heats with each player runs in a separate heat.
I played a final gold version of the game (final version prior to release) and found a few bugs, some which were flaws in the software, other just flaws in the design. Bugs in prerelease software are not uncommon but since this version was received just days before the release date of July 1st, I don't see how they can be fixed before the release.
Software bugs include frame skips in the running events, a timer that keeps going after your athlete crosses the finish line in the 1500 meter race, poor mouse tracking and invisible opponents who pass you on the overhead view but are no where to be seen on the track view.
Design bugs include the lack of any time clocks on the running races (when playing against other human opponents wouldn't it be nice to see if you are running the right pace?), no full screen mode and overlapping windows which block crucial events such as the firing of the starter pistol. I would have also like to see some kind of commentary during the competition. The only commentary included besides Bruce Jenner's introduction to each event is Bruce congratulating you when you beat your personal record. How about some score card commentary between events?
Interactive Magic classifies Decathlon as a "sports simulation". If this means that action is downplayed in favor of strategy, then that is what we have here. (There is even an option to bypass the playing of any or all of the events.) If you are looking for a fast paced, high twitch value sports title then look elsewhere. On the other hand if you are a track and field/sports strategy fan looking for something a little different to hold your attention before the games begin on July 19th in Atlanta, you might want to give Decathlon a try.
Review By GamesDomain
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