Track & Field

Athletic endurance, pre-Wii.

Saliva isn't a particularly common ingredient in videogaming, yet it proved to be a damn-near essential component for some of Track & Field's most successful participants.

Faced with a coin-op control system that invited gamers to repeatedly beat two buttons in order to replicate the exertion of running a 100-metre race, a few resourceful types would use the liquid content of their mouths to lubricate said controls - then slid their hand across them in a manner that boys ordinarily weren't supposed to discover until their early teens. Who says video games lack educational content?

Track & Field was, then, the archetypal coin-op button grinder. An arcade-slanted athletics simulation which aimed to recreate the strenuous participation in six distinct events, using just three buttons. The Olympic-standard disciplines it demanded were the classic mix of brute speed and delicate timing; the former achieved by alternately hitting those aforementioned (hopefully clean) sprint buttons at alarming speeds. Timing, however - particularly with the brutally hard hammer throw - utilised the third button. This needed pressing for the correct duration of time and at the precisely required moment, or it was game over.

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The concept behind each of the six events - 100m, 110m hurdles, long jump, high jump, javelin and hammer - was devastatingly simple. The demands of the game were 70% physical and, blended with one of the most competitive multi-player modes ever seen in a videogame, still retain an impressive ability to damage wrists, devastate buttons and joyfully entertain. Speech was used as a fairly integral part of its mechanic, expressing long jump distances (for instance) in a recognisably computerised, yet strangely beguiling, dialect.

Replicated and emulated many times, Track & Field has never been convincingly decamped from the top spot in the genre it helped to create. It's a rare case of getting the gaming mechanic pretty much spot on first time (the comparably unfair hammer event excepted) - leaving imitators and sequels to pretty things up, add new events, but ultimately tip their hats to a bona fide arcade classic.

10 / 10

Read the Eurogamer.net review policy Track & Field Simon Brew Athletic endurance, pre-Wii. 2007-10-26T11:38:00+01:00 10 10

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