This cover was composed of bad dreams and poor taste.
PLAYERS: 1-4 alternating
DEVELOPER: Epyx (port by Sega)
GENRE: Sports minigames
RELEASE DATE: 1989 – (EU)
How many times must a man play World Games before you can call him a sucker? Twice, as it turns out. No matter how hard I try to pole vault away from them, Epyx’s series of sports minigames (California Games, World Games, Winter Games, and more) just won’t leave me be. World Games on the Master System is exactly what I expected it would be, and worse: a hard-to-control series of timing exercises that doesn’t want the player to succeed.
I chose the Sega team. They’re impulsive and reckless, but when they focus, they do good work.
Unlike other versions of World Games which feature eight events, the Master System port only has four. For fans of the game, this is a raw deal, particularly as the technically inferior NES received a port with all eight events included. I, however, was pleased to spend half as much time with World Games on the Master System as I did on the NES. +1 for Sega.
You’ll never barrel jump like the bruiser in that picture.
The four events included are: Barrel Jumping, a German skating event where skaters see who can jump over the most empty beer barrels (up to 20!); Log Rolling, a Canadian curiosity where two lumberjacks fight to stay on a log the longest; Bull Riding, an American hoedown where a reckless individual must hold onto a pissed off bull for as long as possible; and the Caber Toss, a maddening Scottish activity where strong men throw a tree trunk the size of a telephone pole. While I applaud Epyx for including a breadth of activities, their inability to accurately portray roller skating in California Games should give you an idea of how well the games are executed here.
The best activity in the bunch.
Let’s start with a positive. Log Rolling and Bull Riding are not wholly terrible, if only because you can control them with some accuracy. In Log Rolling, a meter at the bottom of the screen shows you whether you’re about to fall to the left or to the right. To stay in the middle, mash Left and Right on the D-pad quickly to outlast your rival. This event is over in nine seconds or so, with either you or the other lumberjack taking a spill, and it succeeds in its simplicity. Bull Riding is a little more complex, as you have to push the D-pad in the direction that the bull is facing. If he’s facing left, push Left, facing right, push right, and if he does a twirl, push down. The bull’s movements are fast, so it’s best to button mash. If you stay on past eight seconds, you won’t get a horn in the bum.
“But I meant well, Ferdinand. You must believe me!”
Barrel Jumping and Caber Toss are objectively impossible. In Barrel Jumping, you press Left and Right on the D-pad as quickly as you can to gain momentum. Even as you pound your fingers into submission on the D-pad, it’s tough to gain any sort of speed. If you’re able to move faster than a crawl, you then jump the barrels and press Down on the D-pad to land. Even when I jumped all three barrels (going maybe 10 miles per hour), I could never land properly; my skater’s knees were ruined. Caber Toss has me stymied. To move forward, you mash Left and Right on the D-pad as per usual, and to toss, you hit Button 2. There must be another button press somewhere between the run and toss, though. I never got the cabers to land on anything, other than my thrower’s toe or his head. After a few attempts and a whole lot of pain, I couldn’t put him or myself through anymore.
This caber doesn’t care to be tossed.
Maybe I’m just bad at World Games. Fair enough. The button configurations for Epyx ports don’t feel right to me. Even if the button combos worked – even if I could Barrel Jump like a Bavarian and Caber Toss to the moon – the events are all desperately short. Each of the four events can be completed in less than ten seconds each. Sure, if you’re competing and not just practicing, you play the same event several times in a row. But assuming you’re good or even competent at these events, you could play through World Games as a whole in 10-15 minutes. Not a waste of time, maybe, but not a lot of content for your buck.
Filled with regret, Bob laid on the ice until he couldn’t feel any pain.
If you like Epyx’s other collections of strife and misery, World Games is more of the same with an additional exotic appeal. If you know what you’re in for – unresponsive button mashing and blink-and-it’s-over gameplay – jump on board this bull and get to rolling.