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Beijing 2008 • Page 2

Olymping over the finishing line.

If the diving events prove mildly irritating, though, they're works of genius next to the abhorrent ring event in the gymnastics, which has to be one of the most thumb-achingly awful mini-games ever concocted. Again based around matching rotational movements, this time you have to rotate both sticks at once - an evil feat of co-ordination that will have the left side of the brain screaming at the right for mercy. The button-matching floor exercise is pleasantly straightforward, but like much of the padding, it's fun on the first couple of attempts but quite dull thereafter. Other problems emerge chiefly through plain bad design, though. On the game's shooting events, enjoyment veers from almost zero in the appallingly inexact skeet event to the instantly appealing pistol events, while one of the surprise highlights of the package comes from an unlikely source: archery.

The remainder, however, is almost a complete write-off - a hotchpotch of unrelated disciplines with the developer perhaps spread too thin. Judo is just an absolute joke and completely unplayable (with unintentionally hilarious animation), kayak's controls are dense, and the rotational marathon that is cycling seems to be little more than an exercise in endurance than anything (surely the role of the actual marathon instead?). To test your stick-rotating hatred even further, weightlifting tasks you with rotating each stick around in opposite directions while patting your head, rubbing your tummy, hopping on one leg and crying. If you haven't had enough by that point, then an awkward, flimsy attempt at table tennis has been bolted on as well for good measure. It's not completely terrible, but it is a bit half-arsed, and is made no more enjoyable by ensuring that your player obscures the view of the ball for most of the game.

3
No "breathe" speech bubble, I'm afraid.

Within the murky mire are a clutch of decent events which are a great deal of fun in multiplayer, which is where games like this have always held their appeal, but taking some of them online can be a real mess. The ones where you take it in turns - like javelin, long-jump and pole-vault - work just fine, although are a bit long-winded with eight players, but simultaneous contests like 100m sprint, or the swimming races, can be as glitchy as hell.

A special mention, as well, to the controls. As many veterans of the joystick-waggling scene will know, attempting to get good scores on a joypad is a dark art. Put simply, they're not designed for such games, and if you happen to be lucky enough to own a Fighting Stick (or similar) you'll stand a far greater chance of success than haplessly mashing a pad into submission.

Anyway, as much as I feel like setting fire to Beijing 2008 with its own Olympic torch, it's not an unmitigated disaster. At least a quarter of the 38 events available are mildly enjoyable, especially if you're a retro-head who actually gets excited at the prospect of going online and taking on like-minded buffoons in their 40s. Nine or ten enjoyable events isn't actually a bad return on the face of it, but in the context of the other 20-odd spirit-crushing non-entities, I'm inclined to slap a 5/10 on it and advise caution. Fortunately, by the time the Olympics kick off for real on 08/08/08, it'll already be in the bargain bins.

5 /10

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About the author

Kristan Reed

Kristan Reed

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Kristan is a former editor of Eurogamer, dad, Stone Roses bore and Norwich City supporter who sometimes mutters optimistically about Team Silent getting back together.

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