Hyper Sports certainly had ambition. Instead of diligently retreading the steps of its predecessor, Konami's sequel to Track & Field introduced seven new events. T&F's three-button control system (two for hammering at speed, one to cover jumps/gymnastics/breathing/taking steroids) returned though - as did a familiar requirement for brute force and deft timing. The game also proudly holds the gold for "seediest wink ever seen in videogaming."
However, there's little doubt that some of Track & Field's immediacy is lost in this second offering. Unlike T&F, the disparate events Hyper Sports presents - swimming, skeet shooting, horse vault, archery, triple jump, the torturous weight lifting and the pole vault - lack a logical path of progression, and have less accessible charm as a result of more sophisticated control mechanics. The horse, for instance, needs you to jump at the right time, hit the action button again at the correct moment to vault off, then hammer the buttons to perform crowd-pleasing sky rolls, before perfecting a perfect landing. Even to seasoned arcade gamers, it was far from easy to get to grips with - and the lack of on-screen instructions hardly helped.
And yet, it's still a gem of a game. Accepting that the learning curve is relatively demanding, there's still some clever thinking behind it all. The swimming, for instance, is genius; requiring you not just to mash the buttons to build up speed, but also to hit the breathe button in order to stay on course for the podium. Breathe at the wrong time, and a mouthful of water would quickly hinder your progress. A simple inclusion, but a fair and challenging one.
As with pretty much every game in its genre, Hyper Sports is considerably lifted in multi-player, and found a favourable abode through various home computer conversions. Even now though, it'd be foolish to overlook the sizeable single player challenge. Plus, for those of us of a certain age, it will forever be tangibly linked with the 1980s kids' TV quiz show First Class, hosted by Debbie Greenwood. It'd be foolish to overlook her, too.
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