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International Athletics Review

International Athletics LogoFans of Olympic-style gameplay will find a lot to like in International Athletics. This game features more than ten track and field events to master, familiar controls that are well-adapted to the iPhone/iPod Touch platform and a fully 3D cinematic presentation.

International Athletics offers Quick Play, Tournament and Decathlon modes, allowing for short or lengthy play sessions depending on your situation and features multiple difficulty levels so that players of all skill levels can reach for gold in this port of a 2008 PSP and DS game. Read More…

When you first launch International Athletics, you will be asked to create an athlete. This allows you to choose the gender, build, nationality and look of your athlete and provides a decent amount of customization, though I did not see any difference in performance based on an athlete’s build or gender. I should also note that the nationalities available to choose are quite limited and though the game includes a Canadian stadium, I was unable to create an athlete from my home country.

After creating your athlete you can choose what type of game mode to play. Quick Play allows you to practice any of the 11 events found in the game at three difficulty levels; Rookie, Pro and Advanced. Decathlon is a more traditional mode that tallies your score across events and will test your endurance for about 20-30 minutes. Tournament lets you compete in a series of four events at first, but a six event tournament and one that  sees you competing in all 11 events can be unlocked as well. Should you need to exit a Tournament or Decathlon, the game will save your progress and you can resume later from the beginning of the event you were playing.

One of Many Camera AnglesThe events included in International Athletics are split into three categories. Track events are the 100m Sprint, 400m Sprint, 110m Hurdles and the 1500m. Jumping events are Long Jump, High Jump and Pole Vault. Throwing events see you competing in Discus, Hammer Toss, Javelin and Shot Put. The original PSP and DS version of the game also included three shooting events. Though omitted from this package, they were ported to the iPhone/iPod Touch platform separately in the form of Triple Shot Sports.

As long as I can remember, controlling Olympic-style games has remained virtually unchanged and has consisted of some pretty hardcore button-mashing. From Konami’s seminal Track & Field to the Beijing 2008 from SEGA, gamers’ arms have been worn out, controllers have been broken and their blood pressure raised.

International Athletics does a great job of translating this familiar gameplay to a platform that has no buttons, tough I must admit that some of the intensity does get lost along the way. Instead of frantically mashing buttons to run, you will be swiping back and forth across your device’s touch screen. Throwing and jumping events use swirl and tap inputs to trigger actions and you are assisted by meters that should be very familiar to those that have played this sort of game. The only drawback with the controls is the lack of tactile feedback inherent to the hardware which can cause a few missteps when trying to trigger jumping and throwing actions.

Control techniques are explained before each event using a simple static screen and should be easy for anyone to compete in a Rookie level Tournament or Decathlon after just a few practice runs. Mastering the controls in order to compete at the Advanced difficulty can be quite a challenge, but also very rewarding. Out of all 11 events, I found Pole Vault to be the most difficult to master.

The Stadiums are Very DetailedInternational Athletics’ retail game roots shine through in its presentation. The game runs in a fully 3D engine and sports several uniquely detailed stadiums, multiple camera angles for each event, instant replays,  and a few nice touches like officials‘ activity. The ambient sound effects are also quite well done and include dynamic crowd noise based on your performance.  The game also features an achievement system in the form of an Awards Cabinet and of course, it tracks all of your records in each event.

The game performs well and carries a constant frame rate throughout play. The only real issue I had with International Athletics was that it crashed on me a few times, even after resynchronizing the game rebooting my device. Most of the time I’d experience a crash when backing out of a menu, but I did suffer one at the very end of a Decathlon. I reviewed this game on an iPod Touch 2G running OS 3.0.

While it is obviously not for everybody, International Athletics is a worthy choice for Olympic-style gameplay fans and it is easily the best game of that type on the iPhone/iPod Touch platform at this time. In a sea of apps that cost less than $2, the current asking price of $5.99 may seem steep at first, but it still represents a great deal considering the overall quality and production value of the title. The Code Monkeys Ltd. And Ghostlight did a fantastic job of translating the classic gameplay and controls of Olympic-style video games to a very non-traditional platform.

Editorial Note: Since this review was published, an update to International Athletics was released. This update fixes an audio bug and clarifies the instructions for the hurdles event. Also, to celebrate the 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Berlin, Ghostlight Ltd. has dropped the price of International Athletics to $2.99. I already felt like the title was good value at the original price of $5.99, so the new price point seems like a steal for track & field fans.


Positives:

+ Great Graphics and Presentation
+ Translates Classic Gameplay and Controls Well


Negatives:

- No Multiplayer
- Limited Athlete Nationalities


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Game Forward Score: 4/5

Brian J. Papineau > Game Forward

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International Athletics (iPhone/iPod Touch) Quick Facts:

Genre: Sports
Developer: The Code Monkeys Ltd.
Publisher: Ghostlight Ltd.
Release Date: April 16, 2009
Price: $2.99 US/CAN
iTunes Rating: 4+