Release Date: May 1989
Hey look, another port of one of Epyx’s Commodore 64 mini-game compilations, California Games! Winter Games was one of the most abysmal titles I’ve played, yet. World Games was better, but not by much. How about the games we might play near the Pacific Coast? There are six games included. You can set your number of players from 1 to 8, the more, the merrier. Then set your names and sponsors. I hope Epyx and Sega made some money with the inclusion of all these. You can play all of the events, some of the events, or one event at a time.
You start with the half pipe. Speed is built by pressing down as you are moving down and up as you’re moving up. There are three tricks you can pull off, though I could only do two. The hand stand occurs when you press Button 2 at the top of the pipe. You can do an aerial turn by pushing the d-pad in the opposite direction of ramp. Don’t hold the button, it won’t work. I only got it to work when I started tapping crazy fast. You’re also supposed to be able to do a kick turn on the ramp, but I couldn’t get it to happen. Whether or not this is better than Skate or Die comes down to your preference.
Then you move over to foot bag, AKA hacky sack. The goal here is to do tricks to earn points. Button 2 is your striking button, choosing your head, knee, or foot based on the proximity of the ball. You can jump with Button 1, and do a half turn by pressing down. Linking strikes and turns really racks the points up. This was my favorite mini-game when I was a kid. Look out George!
The third event is surfing. Let’s go ride a gnarly tube, brah! You turn your board by pressing left or right and if you hold Button 2 your turns are tighter. In order to gain points, you need to play it dangerous, staying as close to the crest of the wave as possible. You can also do a sweet jump if you stay ahead of the wave, you’ll probably take a lot of dives before you get a good score. Way better than T&C Surf Designs.
Event four is skating. You move by alternating your presses of up and down. The sidewalk you’re on looks like it hasn’t been maintained in forever, so you need to avoid weeds, grates, cracks, puddles, trash, beach balls, uneven sidewalk, and sand by jumping over them with Button 2. You can do cool spins by pressing left. Way better than T&C Surf Designs.
Up next is the BMX event. You pedal by mashing Button 2. Wheelies are accomplished by pressing left on the d-pad. Jumps can be activated with Button 1. If you get some sweet air, you can do tricks by pressing one of the four directions. Up does the table top. Down does a 360. Left does a back flip. Right does a front flip. I wasn’t able to make it to the end of the course, but I was able to earn several head injuries.
The last event is the flying disk. Frisbee is probably the worst mini-game present. You press left to start the gauge on the bottom. When it gets to the speed you want (green), you press right to reverse direction. Then you need to choose the angle (again, green is best) by pressing left. Then the disk takes off. You then control the catcher. You can run left or right to where you think the disk will land. Pressing up puts your hand in the air and if you’ve got the right spot, you’ll catch it! Otherwise, it’ll hit the ground. You can always go for a diving catch, but good luck on the timing there.
The graphics are quite reminiscent of the Commodore 64. There are plenty of colors and pixel detial.
Sounds and Music are lousy, but not terrible. There is a decent rendition of Louie Louie in there.
You know what? The mini-games mostly work. I could do without the half pipe and the flying disk, but the others are fine.
The controls won’t come to you naturally and you’ll frustrate before you get it mostly figured out.
Fun Factor: 1.5
Like I said, events 2-5 are entertaining enough.
Overall Grade: 1.5
California Games earns a C-. Holy crap, my mind is as blown as yours. This won’t be the only California Games to grace this list. The NES version releases in June!