GC '07: New International Track & Field Hands-On

Konami's new sports game for the Nintendo DS may look cute, but it's still going to murder your wrists.

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LEIPZIG, Germany--Hot on the heels of the arcade classic Track & Field's rerelease on Xbox Live Arcade, Konami has announced a new version of the game for the Nintendo DS. Called simply New International Track & Field--after all, that tactic seems to have worked so well for New Super Mario Brothers--the game will present a cutesier, more anime-styled approach to Konami's set of athletic contests. But if you've ever worn out your button-mashing finger or joystick-waggling wrist on the old Track & Field, you'll be pleased to know that the developers have used the touch screen here to destroy your manual dexterity in totally new ways.

In the Leipzig Games Convention demo, we could choose from three characters--lithe female Yoko, wise old man Oolong, and burly, Zangief-like tough guy Kang--before jumping into the sampling of career mode on offer. All of these characters bore measurements for their speed, strength, and so on, though we couldn't tell exactly how those ratings would affect their performance. At any rate, we were able to put the game through its first paces in three events: 100-meter dash, long jump, and hurdles.

In all three events, we had to run by quickly scratching the stylus back and forth across a touch screen-width horizontal arrow, as fast as we could. Our speed was reflected not only by our onscreen, superdeformed character's tiny little pumping legs, but also a meter below the track that filled up as our speed increased. In the hurdles and long-jump events, we were able to flick the stylus up to jump, but we found it easier to simply use the D pad to jump, since we were trying so furiously to run as fast as possible. This is definitely classic Track & Field in spirit; we got a little sweaty just trying to beat our opponents in the series of foot races, though in our defense, it was pretty warm in the convention hall. You'll definitely have to get into a good stylus rhythm with this game if you want to compete.

Did we mention that, because our career-mode events accommodated four competitors, the fourth athlete to join us was none other than the poster boy for disturbing survival horror enemy designs, Silent Hill's Pyramid Head? Yeah, it's that kind of game. In addition to that weirdness, we were able to try out one of the game's challenge modes, the Sparkster challenge, which tasked the sword-wielding mammal with running along a metal walkway, jumping over a big pit of lava, attempting to collect some green gems floating in the air, and then landing on the other side. In practice, this mode played out exactly like the long jump, but given that we kept landing in the lava, we decided we were having more fun with the pure tests of athleticism and quickly returned to career mode.

Finally, we got to try a local multiplayer game against a second player, which was just like the career mode except that we were competing against a friend instead of computer-controlled athletes. We couldn't confirm if the game will have multiplayer via the Internet, but we do know it will have online leaderboards where you'll be able to upload your best scores for fame and glory. Considering the intensely competitive atmosphere New International Track & Field inspired when we played it with a couple of coworkers for just a few minutes, that feature will be welcome indeed.

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