Back in 1984, the now-defunct developer Epyx released Summer Games, a superb Olympics game for the Apple II and the Commodore 64. This simple but addicting and enjoyable game offered eight events and hot-seat support for up to eight players. Anyone who's played the game should fondly remember the synthesized national anthems and the challenging but logical control schemes used for each of the various events. If you can get your hands on a copy of this 16-year-old game today, it'll be a lot more fun to play than Eidos Interactive's new Sydney 2000. Eidos' game has flashy graphics, but its gameplay is tedious and completely unenjoyable.
Sydney 2000's 12 events include the 100-meter sprint, 110-meter hurdles, 10-meter platform diving, the javelin throw, and skeet shooting. For each event, you can either compete in an arcade mode, an Olympic mode, or a head-to-head mode against up to three other players. Multiplayer games are unfortunately limited to four players on a single computer, in which one person must use the keyboard while three can use daisy-chained Sidewinder gamepads.
Competing in the game's events is time consuming and often frustrating. The game relies heavily on the back-and-forth motion made famous by the Konami arcade classic Track & Field: You just push two designated keys as quickly as possible without overlapping the keystrokes. This in itself would not be so bad, but because the game forces you to work through three pre-Olympic stages before even letting you compete for a medal, your arms - and especially your fingertips - will probably grow quite tired long before you get to the serious events.
To make matters worse, the computer-controlled athletes get better at each stage of competition, so your best chance of winning a medal comes from having your character train between stages. Each event has three training exercises, and each exercise has three difficulty levels. Completing each of these exercises relies on the same frenetic key-mashing scheme. And when you have successfully accomplished one of these virtual exercises, you still have to run a qualifying heat in the event to earn the improvements in your athlete's abilities that the exercise provides. The exercises themselves include activities such as sit-ups and stretching, which don't make for a particularly exciting simulation. Thankfully, the game includes a save feature that lets you record your progress between stages and events. Otherwise, only real-world Olympic athletes would be able to complete an event and all of its accompanying exercises in top form from start to finish.
Even if you don't mind all the key pressing, you'll probably get tired of the game once you find that the athlete you control doesn't always react the way he or she is supposed to. Even when you're absolutely sure you've gyrated the controls at the proper pace and in the proper sequence, the 3D Olympian on your screen will occasionally do something you don't want or expect. Don't bother turning to the manual for help - all that you'll find there is a skeletal framework of instructions for each event. An in-game coaching mode helps train you to some extent, but even this isn't helpful for all of the events in the game.
But the worst part about Sydney 2000 is that it was apparently developed for video game consoles and was not translated properly for the PC. The 3D graphics do look better on the PC than they do on the PlayStation, but the game has multiple interface problems such as the way it forces you to choose three-letter initials to represent your player by scrolling through the alphabet and choosing the letters one by one. Even Summer Games lets you type in your name. These sorts of problems wouldn't be a big deal if Sydney 2000 were fun to begin with, but since the gameplay is so poor, the game's evident design for use with game consoles instead of PCs becomes more noticeable and more annoying.
Overall, Sydney 2000 just seems like a mediocre console game that comes across as even less impressive on the PC. Though the 3D graphics are quite fluid and detailed, and a handful of the events such as the 10-meter platform diving are somewhat interesting compared to the rest, Sydney 2000 can't even compete against the equivalent Commodore 64 game that's well over a decade old.