If you don’t have a special place in your heart for Track & Field, or its arguably better sequel Hyper Sports, I have only one question for you; just where the hell were you in 1983 / 1984 anyway? Clearly not down at your local arcade where these machines were hot favourites, as indicated by the number of kids looking exhausted, sporting blisters the size of (old size) 10p pieces on the palms of their hands even whilst they stacked up more of said coinage on the panel of the machine to reserve their next turn.
Well, now Konami have done the usual retro cash-in and released the first game on XBLA so we can all relive the magic. All of a sudden all the legal threats made against people making innocent remakes of these old games for fun, or ripping ROMs for MAME is proven strangely justified; we always wrote it off as pointless corporate sabre-rattling over properties they’d never be able to sell again, but now they obviously can. To be honest I think they’re really quite mercenary not to bundle both games together here; after all we’re talking about a game designed to exhaust you in the typical 2-minute arcade machine turn-around, but hey, that’s capitalism.
They don’t make many games like this any more, which is a slight shame. When done well (which admittedly is rare), these ‘endurance’ games can be a fantastic party game - they’re pretty rubbish on your own, which is perhaps why they aren’t that popular (because of all those sad, lonely games players out there who only encounter other people online ;)). There’s nothing quite so hysterical at seeing a group of friends reduced to twitching masses, desperately trying to retain enough motor control to encourage a tiny virtual athlete across a line first. A swimming event from a Olympics game on the XBox (forget the name) a little while ago was great for that - you simply had to hit the shoulder buttons repeatedly in a rythmic fashion - seemed really easy, until halfway through the second length and the finger muscle fatigue set in and people started to look like they needed tetanus injections. Cue all sorts of inventive ways to try to press shoulder buttons without using those muscles, and you have a comedy evening right there. And there was weight lifting, where the aim was to avoid bursting any blood vessels despite doing nothing but alternately pressing buttons very fast for a sustained period. As we all know, no-one laughs harder than your friends when you’re in (non-life threatening) pain, and this is the video game expression of that. Class.