#135 California Games

Posted: 21st August 2019 by Jeroen in Games
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808th played so far

Genre: Sports
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 1987
Developer: Epyx
Publisher: Epyx

Out of all these replay games, California Games is the one I’ve probably known longest – even in the full list there are a few (like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man) that could match it. I played it, in part, on a keyboard that was slowly dying, and not having a shift-key made some of the minigames a lot more difficult to play, but somehow I spent hours on figuring out the hackysack game and bmxing around.

I’m well aware of its limitations, but I hope some of that magic has carried over and I can still find my way around. Why else would I have spent this much time on the game?

Our Thoughts

The upsides, playing California Games after I’ve played more conventional games like Track & Field and Summer Games II, is that it brings a number of games to the table that feel quite different from the standards. There’s no awkward button mashing running game and although something like BMXing is quite similar to Excitebike, there is actually a nice bit of variation in the scenery and it feels like quite a different game (even if roller skating is quite similar – though with a more ice cream defined endpoint).

What was vaguely reassuring is that I still had okay skills with the ones I used to be good at, and still don’t get the games I never got. I’m not sure I quite understand surfing – although I remember learning a few tricks for it 25 years ago, getting up on the board seemed difficult enough. I got back into Footbag easily enough – kicking the bag up is easy enough to time, and it comes down to the tricks you need to learn – and frisbeeing is probably the closest to the other games, with the standard golf hit bars and a trickier catching sequence at the end.

The controls remain flakey, even with a full keyboard, and somewhat inconsistent feeling between mini games. That impacts the games and makes it more difficult to learn it, holding back this feeling like a coherent set of games. It’s easy to jump between games though, not requiring a certain order if you don’t want to, and that on its own feels comfortable – you can do what you want.

Final Thoughts

California Games‘s strength in this group of games lies in its variety of games, it feels different and unique, which not all games like this seem to do. Sadly the games aren’t all that consistent – at least in controls and feel, even if the quality is similar enough – and it feels like a bit more care could have solved that. It’s a fun way to waste some time, but didn’t entirely hold up in my mind.