If you have read my review of California Games, you will know I am a massive fan of this game. It is quite possibly my favourite game on the Atari Lynx. While looking to expand my collection I came across Alpine Games. From the title you can guess it's going to be the opposite of surfing the waves in a sun-drenched California, this game is all about winter sports mainly in the snow and ice. This is the only equivalent type game on the Lynx. It's going to be an interesting sun vs snow battle!
Alpine Games is a very professional release (remember it is a homebrew title). Standard size Lynx box with great artwork capturing the images of what you would expect to see on a ‘Winter Olympics’ type of game release. The manual is very impressive, full colour with plenty of instructions on how to play the game. The back of the box shows a number of impressive looking screen shots. The best bit there looks to be 9 events to compete in. That’s a massive 5 more than California Games.
Could this be the game that steals the crown from my most played Lynx game? Will I be swapping my shades and shorts for skis and gloves.......let's find out and snowball into Alpine Games.
After loading the cart and moving through the opening screens you are met with a menu (the menu has a nice winter theme but I found it difficult to read even with an upgraded LCD installed). The interesting thing I can see straight away is that there are different modes. You have competition mode where you compete against other athletes or practice mode where you can pick which event to practice at. This is a huge step forward over California Games, as you know there are only 4 single events with no competition mode available.
There are 9 events to choose from and I'll briefly go over each one below. It’s a great start from Alpine Games - Competition mode, Practice mode and 9 events to get through.....will this leave California Games out in the cold?......Lets find out below......
If you don't know what this even is, it is basically very slow skiing, almost walking and stopping at certain points to shoot at a target. It has a side on view, you control your player by tapping A or B buttons and the D-pad. You do this while looking at a moving power bar. You need to keep the bar in the right spot to make the best progress. There are a number of laps and you will stop every so often. When this happens, the screen will nicely change to show 4x targets which you need to shoot. This is a slow but fun event. It looks quite nice but I feel you spend most of the time looking at the power bars, rather than looking at how your player is progressing.
On the 2nd event you are behind the player as he races downhill on a Snowboard. This is a fantastic event. The graphics are very good, it has really nice scaling effects and this would have looked very impressive back in the Lynx era. The aim of the game is to race down the hill passing flags either to the left or right and avoid hitting them. The controls are easy, it’s A or B to start your run and just press the D-pad to navigate around the flags. It's fast paced, looks impressive and a lot of fun. Great pick up and play value.
The 3rd event is short and fun. As the title suggests you need to do freestyle jumps in the air, off the end of a small ski slope. Graphicly it's very nice. You have the slope with mountains in the background, a large scoreboard, a crowd with flags being waved and a few advertisement boards. The purpose of the game is to perform tricks in the air after leaving the ski slope. You press A or B to start your run, A or B again to leave the jump then the D-pad to perform a selection of moves, depending on which direction you press. It’s a quick event but enjoyable. It's quite easy to get to grips with.
Event 4. This is a side-on view event. You race on ice while obviously wearing ice skates against a computer opponent. It is a straight race to the finish, fastest competitor wins. The graphics are again very nice and a beautiful bit about this segment is, surprisingly, the advertisement boards. They display names such as ‘Lynx’ and ‘Jaguar’ to make any Atari fan happy. The controls are simple enough once you get the hang of it. You just hit the A or B button along with the D-pad in a rhythm to match the movement of the skater's arms. You will build up speed this way and race to the finish line! Another enjoyable event that you can pick up and play for a few minutes of fun.
The 5th event along with Snowboard Rush are my favourite events. On the Slalom your view is above your player. You must navigate a course going through sets of gates as fast as you can. The graphics are impressive and everything is crisp and clear to see. The controls are simple - A or B to increase your speed and the D-pad to move left or right. Arrows appear on the screen to give you an idea of where the next gate is going to be, miss too many of the gates and you will be disqualified! A very fun event that can be played over and over again.
Moving onto the 6th event, the Bobsleigh. I was looking forward to this event but didn’t really enjoy it. It feels too slow to really feel like you're speeding through the course. The graphics are ok but not as good as other events. The controls should feel simple enough as it's just the D-pad to control the sleigh, but I thought they feel a little sluggish. The aim is to complete the course without crashing the sleigh. It's listed as the most dangerous event on Alpine games and maybe I expected a little more from it. It might just be me and the fact that I'm not very good at it - but I didn’t really have a lot of fun with this event. I'm hoping overtime I will enjoy it more.
The 7th event is something we have all heard of – the Ski-Jump. The view is set behind the player on this event. Graphics are good. It sets the scene of your player being at the top of the jump, with the long view down to the end of it, a crowd of people is watching at the bottom. You have 2 attempts at this event. You start the countdown of your jump by pressing A or B and press them again to begin the run down the slope. There is a wind gauge you should take note of to get the best possible conditions for the jump. You must press the D-pad to leave the track and A or B to make a timely landing. Again, this event is short and sweet but is good fun while it lasts.
Another Snowboard game for event 8. Think of a skate ramp made out of snow to visualise this event. The graphics are nice and clear. The snowboarder has good colours although he looks a little stiff, maybe he is cold! The layout is a halfpipe made of snow and a big screen TV in the background. The big screen TV captures your moves, this is a nice touch. The purpose of this event is to go up and down the halfpipe doing tricks. The controls on this event are much like the next event – different. You press A or B to start your run. You must then look at a colourful gauge bar, each colour represents a different selection of tricks. As you get to the point where you will jump off the halfpipe you need to press the A or B button. Depending what colour is selected when button A or B is pressed, a selection of arrows will appear on the screen. You must press the D-pad in the same direction as the arrows to perform the tricks. The faster and more accurate you are, the more points you will score. It’s a nice event and can be quite addictive, although I would have preferred being able to press the D-pad and hit A or B to perform the tricks.
The last game I will cover and the 9th event is Figure Skating. This has the same type of controls as the snowboard halfpipe. You play as a figure skater and must perform moves by following the arrows that appear on the screen - after pressing A or B. The graphics are nice, there's not a lot on the screen bar the skater and a few advertisement boards. The game is slow / relaxed and easy to follow. You seem to have more time to perform the moves compared to the halfpipe game. I find it less enjoyable than the last event. It's not an event I would choose to play regularly but others may enjoy it more.
If you have made it this far thank you for taking the time to read this review. Please note this is just my personal view. You may have a totally different experience with the game and which events you like! Either way you will have a lot of fun!
This is a great game. It's very well presented and has a host of features. There are multiple modes to choose from, high scores that can be saved and uploaded to a website and a whopping 9 events. This is by far the most on any Lynx game of this genre. Some of the events do only last for a few seconds though, but this is good pick up and play fun. The game plays well and some of the graphics are seriously impressive showing off the raw power of the Atari Lynx. The music in the game is nice when it's on. Most of the events just have sound effects. With there being 9 events there is something for everyone to enjoy. There are hours of gameplay within this game, it’s a game you can come back to and never really be bored with it. The option to pick certain events to fit your mood is a real plus. A great purchase and valuable addition to any Lynx collection.
The big question is does it beat California Games?
On paper Alpine Games has it all. Competition mode, practice mode, 9 events and high score saves.... but to me it's just not as replayable as California Games. The pumping soundtrack and pure pick up and play fun of CG outweigh the 9 events of the more in-depth Alpine Games. So, the crown firmly stays in California for me with Alpine Games being a very close and respectable competitor.