Game Over Online ~ Pocket Athlete

GameOver Game Reviews - Pocket Athlete (c) ZioSoft, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Pocket Athlete (c) ZioSoft
System Requirements Microsoft ActiveSync Desktop, Windows 95/98/Me/2000/NT4, PocketPC device
Overall Rating 90%
Date Published Saturday, September 1st, 2001 at 01:45 AM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

A cursory glance at Pocket Athlete will stir up feelings of the classic track and field "button mashers". It was decided a long time ago, that the only way to simulate the rigors of track and field would be through incessant smashing of buttons on joysticks or other gaming peripherals. Certainly, they did nothing to prolong the life of these devices and I'm sure in these ergonomic sensitive days, this type of repetitive action is all but frowned upon.

Pocket Athlete takes a different approach to presenting the typical track and field game. Its concept is still based on pressing buttons but they introduce a variety of "timing" related reflex tests. For example, instead of pressing two buttons to simulate faster running, the developers have opted to have you time your input to a steadily increasing bar. When the bar nears 100%, a tap will generate 100% strength at running. Successive taps close to 100% will give you maximum throughput. Other effective ploys include having left and right targeting scopes for skeet shooting. Instead of using the stylus to aim (a tough proposition if you are in a moving vehicle), the projectiles move towards your target area. It takes some getting used to the different styles of play, but needless to say, it reduces wear and tear on the more expensive PDAs while overcoming inherent button issues, like with the iPaq.

Using a variety of these, you will compete in a healthy selection of track and field events including: hundred meter sprint, hundred ten meter hurdles, long jump, javelin throw, hammer throw, skeet shooting and archery. All the events use a variety of timing/reflex based puzzles in combination or alone to play. Hence, only two buttons are really used, making it even suitable for single hand play. It is true though, some events will overlap with each other. The sprint and hurdles share the same visuals and gameplay with the added exception that the latter requires you to press a button to jump every so often. Archery has you shooting arrows at a moving target while skeet shooting has the clay targets move into your sights instead. Similarly, the javelin event shares the same characteristics as the long jump. Perhaps one of the more interesting ones is the hammer throw event. This event has the player swinging a hammer around inside a circle. Each successive pass makes your hammer go farther but your window of opportunity to release the hammer at the correct angle becomes increasingly small.

A mix up of these different methods makes this game less of a chore and more fun to play. Unlike say, a game like The Mark, you are constantly challenged in different ways. In Archery, you may be able to time yourself perfectly to hit the moving bullseye. However, each game features different wind speeds for which you must compensate for accordingly. Pocket Athlete is no sports game. It's more of an action game but its charm lies in its way to throw different repetitive reflex puzzles at you, rather than use one and run with it the whole nine yards.

Developer ZIOSoft is fast becoming one of the more prolific developers in the Pocket PC entertainment arena. It comes to no surprise that Pocket Athlete has a professional touch on it that a veteran developer can offer. Beginning with titles like ZIOGolf and Metalion, we have all come to expect a certain polish and visual flare. Pocket Athlete is certainly no exception to this trend. The upbeat music during the menu screens, the flashy animated menu shell art justifies the premium price ZIOSoft is charging for these games. With support for Pocket PCs on the MIPS, SH3 and StrongARM, there really are no compatibility problems to speak of. What's more is the incredibly small footprint size for such a game. It takes up less than two megabytes and with the value it offers, it will definitely stay on my PDA for quite some time.

Pocket Athlete features a tournament mode and allows you to practice for each single event. In fact, you can submit your times/scores to the ZIOSoft's website by downloading a program to carry your player data on to the net. Although, this isn't multiplayer action, it's a welcome sight to what has been a mostly solitary gaming experience on the PDA platform. The visual graphics are colorful and the sound effects are plentiful as well. My only complaint for the audio is perhaps the crowd cheers during the skeet shooting or archery events when none seem to be present or necessary. Admittedly, the graphics are not realistic at all. They resemble the visual style of the C64, NES and other vintage systems. Despite that, Pocket Athlete comes across very well. My experience with it has been nothing but positive even though I am not too interested in sports games in general. Pocket Athlete was definitely designed with mobility in mind. Not only is there a minimum number of hands/fingers engaged to play the game, it comes with what has become standard for ZIOSoft titles. You can turn off music at a touch and quitting the game is just as easy.

With titles like these, it is hard not to believe the ZIOSoft is incapable of translating big name PC franchises like Simcity 2000, Ultima Underworld and Need for Speed to the handheld format. This title is, without a doubt, proof enough of that. One can only find this encouraging for the ever-growing pressure for mainstream PDA games.

[09/10] Addictiveness
[18/20] Gameplay
[14/15] Graphics
[08/10] Interface/controls
[09/10] Program Size
[04/05] Sound
[05/05] Discreetness
[14/15] Learning Curve
[ N/A ] Multiplayer


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