As Lynx owners, hearing that brand new homebrew games are about to be released is pretty exciting. One of the first out the gate was a title that, upon previewing online, looked incredibly impressive; a winter games themed title full of sporting action, which looked like it was set in snowy Canada. With some trepidation and excitement, I ordered what would be the first homebrew Lynx title of my collection. So, here it is: welcome to the Lynx game fold, ‘Alpine Games’!
Before looking at the in-game action, it’s worth talking about how professional this game physically looks as a product, and how well it melds with the “look and feel” of the official game range. I mean, the box looks just like an official title. The manual looks official (mine even has a colour cover). And the cartridge looks pretty good too, although it’s fairly hefty! It’s slightly bigger than a traditional Lynx cartridge, with flashes of orange; but it’s rigid and tough, and slides straight into the cartridge slot with no issue. Beautiful.
So, let’s get to the game itself: what’s the objective of ‘Alpine Games’? Basically, you get to choose any winter event from the get go, and try to complete each challenge for as high a score as possible. Each event is very different from the other (you even get to do figure skating!) Improve your performance in each game, and see if you can better your last results.
The list of events are as follows: Biathlon, Snowboard, Ski-jumping, Slalom, Bobsleigh race, Figure Skating, Aerial Freestyle, Speed-skating and Snowboard Halfpipe. If you think the multi-event structure is sounding a bit like ‘California Games’, you’d be right; there’s a slight similarity in feel between the two games, and that’s a good thing. It’s pretty nice, as a whole package, to be getting both “summer” (‘California Games’) and “winter” (‘Alpine Games’) sports games on the Atari Lynx!
So what are the visuals like? Thankfully, the graphics look great both on the title screen as well as the in-game events. In fact, some events like the Snowboarding event are spectacular. Imagine the perspective of ‘Stun Runner’ while snowboarding down a cool blue half-pipe. It’s actually smoother in its scaling than ‘Stun Runner’. There are nice animated touches in the visuals of other events too, like Speed-skating, and the Ski-jumping event looks similarly good. Admittedly, some events like the Biathlon aren’t as much a knock-out visually when compared to other events, but they certainly aren’t average either. It’s really quite impressive all round.
Sound-wise, ‘Alpine Games’ scores well. It would have been nice to hear more speech in this game, but this never let down ‘California Games’ in the long run. Notably, there are a few digital effects here; the crowd laughing at you when you stuff up a ski jump is actually hilarious. It’s unexpected, but totally funny in an “oops” kind of way. There are also many effects that reflect the sound of equipment hitting soft snow, and it’s all tastefully done. Overall, it’s pretty good and, thankfully, very fitting to the winter theme. And who doesn't love a good digitized soundtrack with electric guitars on the event selection screen?
Control-wise, there’s a fair bit going on here. If you have only just bought the game, note this: ‘Alpine Games’ is not the kind of game you can easily just pick up and play straight away like ‘California Games’. That’s because each of the events have a different control scheme, and you’ll need to read the manual and practice, practice, practice! While it can be a bit confusing to switch between different controls per event, you do get used to it as you play more. And this is where you’ll begin to discover your favourites. Snowboarding is simple to control and is easily my preferred event, but surprisingly, the quick button press combinations required for Figure Skating were actually quite fun to master. It felt like a Super Nintendo ‘Kirby’ mini-game. I also loved Slalom, with its impressive top-down viewpoint and colorful scenery accompanying the easy to play style.
So what's the verdict play-wise? 'Alpine Games' is not quite as easy to get into as 'California Games' due to the different control schemes, but several important things set it apart. For one thing, there's much more variety. For another, you can actually SAVE your high scores. That's right, ladies and gents: and even better, you can email the company that made the game your high score and they will display it on their site. How cool is that. 'Alpine Games' is the kind of game that rewards repeated plays, but it's also one that you don't have to invest huge time into when you sit down with it. Don't want to do competition? Then do a practice session. This is a game for both casual players and those who wish to master it. It's certainly nice to have a game that caters for both crowds! I would have liked perhaps a bit of an easier control scheme for several of these events, I must admit; but when a game is the quality of this one, I don't mind putting in the time learning.
Overall, 'Alpine Games' is certainly a recommended title, particularly for those who love their sports titles. There is just so much going on in this game to explore, from the great graphics to the variety of events. If homebrew games for the Atari Lynx keep emerging of this kind, we can rest assured that the future of this great console is in pretty safe hands. Even in the days of mobile apps, the kind of in-game variety in this game is something that just doesn't exist across many consoles. Big thumbs up to Duranik for giving Lynx gamers what they want: nostalgia, quality, innovation and thoroughly enjoyable gaming. And who can ask for more than that? Grab 'Alpine Games' for a 'cool' trip through the winter games today!Score Card
This review was submitted by Jon Mc from JMac Productions