“He no longer graces the cover of my Wheaties.”
In the hallowed halls of the Summer Games, careers are made or broken. A gold medalist becomes a legend; a silver medalist becomes a celebrity; a bronze medalist becomes a nice wall decoration. From the ashes of the past rise a select group of individuals who have not only won the gold, but have become icons of the sport. Among these fabled athletes is the feathered hair gladiator of the 1976 Montreal Games, the Price of pole vault, the Sultan of shot put, the heroic hunk of high hurdling himself…. Bruce Jenner. Bruce has been pretty quiet since his days as the king of the cereal box, but has come out from hiding with this well-timed, well-organized, and, well, kinda boring sports simulation.
Bruce Jenner’s Decathlon typifies a rather unpleasant trend in PC gaming – beef up the graphics, throw in a bunch of video footage, and count the profits on a plane to Cuba. What’s missing from this equation? Why, gameplay, silly wabbit!!! On this rather disturbing note, let’s jump right in.
The game begins with a
nice polygon based graphic intro sequence, which leads into Bruce’s introduction
to the world of the decathlon. From here, one can choose to practice any event,
compete in one decathlon, or compete in a “season” of decathlons (which, until
now, I never knew existed). The 10 events in the decathlon are: 100 Meter dash,
Long Jump, Shot Put, High Jump, 400 Meter Race, 110 Meter Hurdles, Discus, Pole
Vault, Javelin, and the thrilling 1500 Meter Race (said with a “dash” of sarcasm,
hee, hee). You get to create and train an athlete, which involves options of
skin color, country, style, and attributes. Once you have an athlete, you get
to play the game or visit the Coach (specifically, view a good half-hour worth
of Bruce Jenner’s personal philosophies).
By far the best feature of the game is the graphics. Smooth sprites and polygon based movement give the game a realistic feel. The backgrounds leave something to be desired, but the colorful layout of the stadium makes up for the lack of variety. The sound is pretty simple – do something well and the crowd cheers, do something lousy and it’s the patented “Awwwww.” The music is surprisingly relaxing, a melange of new age and light rock
This seems like the makings
for a good, solid game, right? Um, well, here’s the problem. The gameplay is
based on the mouse operated point and click system, which means you spend a
great deal of time holding down a button. For example, the running events involve
holding down the left mouse button to accelerate, then letting go to decelerate.
This is okay for the 100 meter dash, but becomes painstakingly dull in the larger
races. The jumping events involve the same basic plan – hold down button, let
go, repeat if necessary. The big problem here is that you get absolutely no
rush or excitement from playing this game. The best sport simulations emphasize
the action, the frenetic energy of competition. Decathlon is more of
a “sit back, relax, and let your fingers rest” kind of game. Those of you suffering
from heart conditions or hand paralysis might enjoy the mellowness. The rest
of you armchair athletes may want to find a game with more zest.
If you like pretty pictures, then this game may deliver. If you like interesting gameplay and real sports action, then this game is a boycott. To put it simply, Bruce Jenner’s Decathlon is to PC gaming what infomercials are to television – looks good, less filling.