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Olympic Decathlon

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Released: 1981

Genre: Sports

Format reviewed: Apple II

Publisher: Microsoft

Developer: Timothy W. Smith

I remember in the early ’80s seeing Microsoft’s ‘Olympic Decathlon’ in a computer mag for around $89.99 and begging my dad to buy it for me. A hearty chuckle turned into near-hysterical guffaw suggested that this of course was never going to happen, so after coaxing some younger kid at school for a copy, I found that a greater difficulty than procuring it lay ahead : playing the damn thing. Now remember, these were the days when most of the earlier Apple II games were played with paddles, although I would dearly like to ask the programmer just what he was thinking when he designed the shotput event, because after months of trying I could shoot the ball successfully – around 30 to 40 feet – but always BACKWARDS. And that arguably wasn’t even the hardest event! I don’t believe I ever achieved a successful pole vault for example, and the 100-meter dash would usually result in a sprain or torn ligament of some kind beating away on the keys, eventually trying to use my dad’s cigarette lighter like some kids at the arcades did to great effect on ‘Track and Field’ instead of button mashing but only succeeding in breaking two of them. This game did push me to my limits.

The graphics are extremely sparse, and the spot-effects even less so, but the simple silhouetted character animations are quite effective in some events, and some events can indeed be quite fun, like high jump and long jump, where neither paddles nor keyboard violence is required.

Overall though my experiences were not of the more fond kind playing Olympic Decathlon. Hats off to them for including all the major events, but THANK HEAVENS Epyx came along with ‘Summer Games’ a few years later to make things right..