It is now customary to expect that each set of Olympic games will
inspire a plethora of gaming titles on a variety of platforms. Salt
Lake 2002 is an officially licensed Olympic game that brings half a
dozen Olympic style events to the GBA. Up until now, I've found most
Olympic-themed titles, on any platform, to be fairly transient and
temporal. Like Olympic paraphernalia, once the rush of Olympic fever is
over, I'm not quite sure what to do with Sydney 2000 hats or Salt Lake
2002 jerseys. The same feeling goes for games and unfortunately, Salt
Lake 2002 is not memorable either.
Part of the reason is because of the number of events involved.
Naturally, the Winter Olympics is smaller than the summer games. Sports
like snowboarding or luge have added a multitude of events, but the
choice between events is small. Variety in Salt Lake 2002 is
frightfully in short supply. Slalom and downhill ski events share the
exact same setup. In fact, even snowboarding turns into a
pseudo-downhill affair, with a few jumps sprinkled here and there.
Whether these are faithful to the sport or not is not really the
question. My question is why all three revolve around starting off at
the same gate and proceeds down similar slopes in the same fashion.
Despite the fact that Salt Lake 2002 features four gameplay modes on six
events, giving a total of twenty-four variants, most of the modes play
out the same. You can compete against static pre-established rankings
in hopes of winning gold, silver or bronze. If you link up with another
GBA or play the game hotseat, you'll actually get some competition.
However, if you choose to play alone, you'll merely compete against a
set of static statistics. The actual gameplay is rather bland. For
example, in ski jump, you spend more time looking at the screen than
really interacting with your persona. Bobsled features some realistic
snow textures but the controls make it feel like a racing event on
rails; at least more than it should really feel.
There are no judging controversies in this game. Its events are all
based around time or measurements. There is, however, something
controversial about the view you have in the game. During the downhill
events, whether you ride down slalom, skiing or boarding, the top down
view is too restrictive, so much that you can often run outside of the
two flags and get disqualified without even knowing it. A behind the
back third-person mode would have worked much better. As it stands now,
you rarely are able to see the left and right boundary flags while
skiing/boarding down the center of the course, so the restricted view is
particularly hampering on performance. Perhaps a view with less zooming
is in order.
Each successive Olympic Games brings a hitherto little-watched sport to
the foreground. At Salt Lake, this goes to the game of curling.
Before, I noticed the media and fans paid very little attention to it.
Coincidentally, the best game out of the half dozen you get in Salt Lake
2002 is curling. The only unfortunate thing about it is its lengthy
playing time and the inability to save your game while in progress. You
can save your statistics after you complete the game but if you've ever
watched curling, you know a full tournament can take quite some time to
My experience with athletic games is that they usually revolve around
one or two well-defined control tricks to fully convey the feeling of
athleticism on the controller pad. In Salt Lake 2002, this athleticism
is completely absent. Along with the anemic overhead view, Salt Lake
2002 became a vapid title for me, ultimately devoid of any fun. On
paper, it appears to be a decent handheld game. The execution,
unfortunately, was not as flawless as how the actual Salt Lake games