Back in the day, Epyx was the originator and most popular pusher of mini-game style titles. Most were based on Olympic style competition, while others strayed into
other types of multi-player combat like California yuppie style games. The 7800 Summer Games was a harder title to find as opposed to its cousin, Winter Games. This is probably a good thing, because Summer Games misses out on medalling in every event it tries to get us excited about.
Graphics: The strengths of Winter Games and Summer Games are the excellent background and arena graphics. They both feature the identical opening ceremonies, as well as the very impressive country select screen that features several countries' flags, each rendered well. Unfortunately, it also features the lame yellow on baby blue game menus as Winter Games. The visual problems really heat up when the athletes appear. The divers/ swimmers look like match stick men, and the runners' animations tend to look very choppy and blob like. The grandstands during the running events event feature the crowd flipping cards that spell out USA...even if the participants are from Russia and West Germany (Remember those days?). The graphics during the gymnastics portion of the game are actually pretty good, but "Gymnastics" is really just"The Vault", and the lady looks like she is running in slow mo. BUT! it looks like an actual human being is participating in an event....not some kind of short circuiting robot.
Sound: The opening ceremonies feature the Olympic Theme, which is the highlight of the sound department in Summer Games. This game could have really benefited from ballistic crowd noise. Somewhere during the 4X400 swim relay, I begin to drool from immense boredom. A crazed and encouraging crowd would have helped me finish the event with mild interest. Since most of these games featured are "low action", the sound effects are appropriate. But of course, they didn't exactly put themselves out by rendering "splash", "thump", and "splash once again".
Gameplay: There are "6" events included in Summer Games (wink wink). Honestly, there are actually only four, with the 2 most boring events (running and swimming) featuring less-exciting and more mind-numbing longer 4 man relay events. Four times the drool. Four times the cramps. Get used to deception while playing this game though. The box actually features a man aiming a shotgun. This is either to mislead us into thinking skeet shooting is included, or this is a kind man putting the people who bought this one out of their misery. In terms of joystick action, most of these events are similar to what you have to do while playing the easier games in the Mario Party series. Nothing is particularly hard, but some events require very repetitive and annoying motions. While the required motions of the joystick and buttons simple to do, each event is confusing and difficult to figure out without the instructions. This kind of bleeds into the other main problem of the game: none of these events are fun. The running and swimming events are joystick jiggling/ button smashing fiascoes, while diving and gymnastics are joystick wrestling matches. But honestly, even with perfect game mechanics, how fun could those events be anyway? They couldn't have picked worse summer Olympics games. Boxing? Judo? Baseball? Basketball? Archery? Volleyball? Mountain Cycling? Fencing? Ruby? Skateboardin? Soccer? Surfing? Hell... even Modern Pentathlon (Look that up).
Interpretation: The amazing fact of all of this is that the 2600 version of this game simply blows this version away. Sure, the graphics are better here, but the events are much more fun in that title. The greatest facet of the 2600 version was the medal standings list at the end of all events, which determined the overall winner and settled small side bets. Not included here! This game is not nearly as fun as Winter Games, and in my opinion, both titles get completely crushed by the Atari 2600 version of California Games...which features actual summer games that are fun to play: mountain biking, skateboarding, surfing, and a hacky sack game that is actually intriguing.
Value: Because the game requires others to enjoy the actual "competition" aspect of this title, chances are absolutely "zero" people will be excited about sitting down with you on your sofa to spend a Saturday afternoon watching a matchstick man swim a 4X100 relay. If you do get 8 people to play this with ya, ask yourself this question: "How many of us have girlfriends?" Decades after this game was released, I think the abuse your ancient controllers endure during these events is ridiculous and playing these games is irresponsible, especially since replacing Proline joysticks will be annoying and expensive.
Overall: There was a British Ski Jumper named "Eddie the Eagle" who was not a very good ski jump... um... man(?), but he would compete and finish in last place every Olympics... by a lot. I mean he was a million times worse than the Jamaican Bob Sled team. Now, I can't ski jump at all, so my hat is off to him. But he still sucked. He got praised by the "try your best, your dreams can come true" sect, and would receive thunderous applause when he would land and not break his neck. Quite frankly, I'm surprised he never hurt himself.. He was so bad in fact, (and this is true) that the Olympic committee made a rule because of him and his future ilk. It became impossible for someone so bad to compete in the Olympics again. They achieved this by implementing certain score and time thresholds in qualifying. "Eddie the Eagle" could not score anywhere close to those thresholds and he was never seen again on international TV. My point? "Eddie the Eagle" just finished higher than Summer Games by 12 points.
I would like to thank Mitch Orman of www.Atari7800.org for the use of his screenshots in this review.