International Sports Challenge. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Clayton Walnum
International Sports Challenge is another in a long line of sports simulations that attempt to reduce Olympic-level competitions to joystick tapping, twisting, and wiggling. In this omnibus contest you can compete in six events, including marathon running, diving, show jumping (horses), swimming, cycling, and shooting. Although all events must be played in a four-player mode, your computer will be thrilled to fill in for missing humans.
Unfortunately, International Sports Challenge has little to add to a leisure software market already glutted with superior titles. Fact is, this game is one frustration after another. The hassles begin from the moment you try to install it onto your hard drive, since the manual only includes instructions for running the game, not for installing it. Luckily, typing the usual install reads the needed instructions from the disk.
Installing the game is only half the battle, though. Once you get the title screen up, you have to figure out how the menu screens work. They, too, are not documented in the manual, except in the sentence "Simply follow the onscreen prompts." Too bad the onscreen prompts neglect to provide the information you need.
Once you get the game running, you face some of the most contrived controls seen in a sports game. In many events the controls are impossibly frustrating. In the diving competition, for example, you must first get the diver into the air by tapping the joystick button when a circle-like object expands to its largest size. The circle expands so quickly, however, that the results boil down to chance. Once your diver is airborne, you must try to line up two small balls on the circle in order to execute the dive properly. Forget watching your diver; if you even glance away from the control circle, your dive will be as professional as a belly flop.
The show-jumping event is equally frustrating. Here, you try to keep a horse on course, making its jumps in the assigned order. Although the 3-D graphics are OK, the horse is ridiculously difficult to keep on track, making the event more frustrating than it's worth. The other events suffer equally (I never did figure out exactly how the swimming event worked), with the possible exception of the shooting match, which is nothing more than pointing and shooting.
Finally, although the game claims to support keyboard controls, there is no documentation on how those controls are implemented. If you don't own a joystick, plan to spend an hour or two figuring out which keys work with which events--a nearly impossible task. Having a mouse won't save you, either, since the mouse works only intermittently. You have to wonder why they even bothered to include such meager mouse support.
In summary, this game's overly difficult controls, incomplete and confusing manual, and borderline graphics and sound yield a leisure product that's more work than entertainment. I haven't had this much fun since I had a tooth pulled.