ELECTRIC DREAMS has stuffed eight events from the world of the winter Olympics onto a single cassette, hoping no doubt to score with an icy version of Daley's Decathlon. Unfortunately the games themselves are not of remarkable quality, and some are really rather dire.
The first three games are all skiing variants, and loaded in one part. The screen splits into two halves - the left side shows the skier's view, the right side an aerial view of the course, which scrolls upwards as you descend, and on which your course is drawn as a thin line.
The skier's view is pretty, with the Alps in the background, but you won't spend much time admiring it as it's much more sensible to use the plan view to plot your course. You can move left and right, and increase or decrease your speed, and the trick, as ever, is to get the correct angle as you come around a gate, so as to be lined up properly for the next gate.
The three events are Downhill skiing, Slalom and Giant Slalom, and they all work much the same way, and you've probably seen such games many times as program listings in magazines.
On, then, to Ice Hockey, which is perhaps the most interesting of the games. You have a six-man team, and play four five-minute periods. The player nearest the puck is the one you move, and tackling is done simply by moving into an opposing player.
Although the colour clash is pretty gruesome, this is a simple, fast implementation which does play well. Although the controls are kept to a minimum, that is an advantage here, as you can concentrate on passing and positioning, and not have to worry about which of 15 key options you should be using.
Unfortunately, our copy appeared to have trouble keeping time, and the screen clock jammed on the first quarter, making it impossible to actually finish a game. We also found sections of the score table degenerating. According to Electric Dreams, this is a bug which will have to be removed from all copies on sale in the shops. Alas, we did not receive a corrected version in time to include the result in this review.
Ski-jumping is fun but slight - the animation of the jumper is very good, especially when he falls over. First you have to launch him down the slope, then keep him on a straight track, jump at the end, keep his body held correctly in the air, and land without falling over. This all happens in about six or seven seconds, making it by far the fastest event.
Speed skating gives you a choice of five races up to the gruelling 10,000 metres. The skater is propelled by left-to-right joystick pumping, but the graphics of skaters are not particularly interesting and the computer is a weak opponent.
More difficult is the Bobsled, which works rather like the slalom events but with left and right control being determined by the curved banking of the track. Take the corners too fast and you crash - it's more fun than the ski-run games and a lot faster.
Finally there's the Biathlon, a weird cross-country skiing event where you have to stop every so often to shoot at targets. The instructions are rather muddled as regards loading the gun and moving the gun bolt, and the firing sequence is just a question of pressing a button when the moving sights are on target. The endurance skiing is handled again by pumping the joystick, and this time the important thing is not to waste your energy. The graphics show a cycle of screens depicting alpine chalets and countryside together with the firing range itself.
The collection as a whole, bugs or no, is really only likely to gain solid approval from winter sports enthusiasts. As each game is loaded separately, you do get a lot of code for your money, but also the aggravation of finding the right place on the tape and waiting for the game to load. A hi-score table is carried across from game to game, which is fine, but other sports compilations - Hypersports, Daley Thompson's Supertest, and Decathlon are but three examples - offer much more excitement and better presentation.
Winter Sports is only moderate value for money but the implementation of the events is usually so minimal as to render the whole thing one of the weaker compilations we've seen.
Publisher: Electric Dreams
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Sinclair