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NDS Preview - 'World Championship Games'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Feb. 17, 2009 @ 9:00 a.m. PST

World Championship Games, known in Europe as International Athletics, is the most realistic athletics simulation available on handhelds. Featuring 14 varied track and field events playable in jaw-dropping international stadiums, the game delivers online and wireless multiplayer fun for up to four players via the Wi-Fi channel and local LAN.

Genre: Sports
Publisher: Game Factory
Developer: Code Monkeys
Release Date: March 10, 2009

It's sometimes hard to remember that the DS has a touch-screen, at least if you play some of the modern "big titles" on the system. Castlevania, Pokémon and Square Enix's various ports and remakes use only the most basic touch-screen implementation, and most of the games that take full advantage of the touch-screen are (perhaps rightly) written off as "mini-game collections." If you look at it that way, World Championship Games: A Track & Field Event is going to come off as yet another mini-game collection for the DS, and in some ways, that isn't entirely inaccurate. It is a collection of mini-games, this time built around 14 of the most intense track and field competitions known to mankind. From what we've gotten to play of World Championship Games, it offers some fairly interesting and challenging gameplay, rather than the simple time-wasters that many DS mini-game collections seem to feature.

As mentioned, there are 14 different events, divided into four different genres. The first set of games is Track competitions. There are four of these, and while they're all fairly similar in concept, they require fairly different skillsets if you want to get the gold. The first two, the 100-and 200-meter sprint, are basically the same, except the 200-meter dash requires you to sustain your speed for a longer period of time. The DS' touch-screen turns into a track field with a white bar across. As soon as your runner takes off, icons shaped like feet begin to stream down the screen in alternating left-right patterns. In order to maintain a top speed, you have to tap these icons with your stylus as soon as they're in the very middle of the white bar. The closer to the mark you are, the faster your running speed and the better chance you'll have of getting the gold. You can also hold down the L or R shoulder button when you're near the finish line to get a speed boost, which is essential to winning on some of the game's harder difficulty levels.

The third is the 110-meter hurdles, which are pretty similar to the sprint, but with the obvious addition of hurdles. While you still have to "run" by tapping icons in the same way, you also have to tap the L or R button when your runner starts to approach hurdles on the top screen. Mistime it, and you'll run into the hurdles, slowing you down drastically. The final track competition is the 1500m. Unlike the sprint and hurdle, this isn't just a contest of speed but of stamina as well. Running is a bit more simplified in that you rub the stylus on the screen to build up speed. The challenge is that the faster you run, the more stamina you burn. Running at full speed from the beginning will cause your racer to gasp and run out of stamina quickly, which in turn slows him down dramatically, no matter how fast you run. You have to balance your running speed with your racer's stamina if you want to succeed.

The second set of games is the Jumping events. The first of these, the long jump, uses the same "foot icon" method as the sprint events. You have to build up a good head of speed from the outset. However, the long jump isn't a race, and you must gain momentum in order to achieve the longest jump possible. Once you've built up your speed and are approaching the foul line, you have to hold the L or R buttons, which starts up the Progress Meter, a shaded 90-degree (sometimes 180-degree) meter with a scrolling line that you must stop at the correct angle in order to achieve a long jump. Stop it at the wrong place, and you won't gain the momentum or height necessary to get a bronze, let alone break a world record. Even once you've jumped, you'll have a Progress Bar pop up to control your landing. A Progress Bar is much like a Progress Meter, except it is a straight bar that fills up, and you must stop it at the right shaded point to succeed. Even a perfect jump can be ruined if you screw up the landing.

The high jump is a bit different. Your goal here, obviously, is to make as high a jump as possible over a bar. You begin by setting the bar however high you'd like. An extremely high bar is worth more points but more difficult to jump over, while a low bar may ensure you a safe silver or bronze, but rarely a gold. Instead of using the "foot icon" running method, you have to scratch your stylus back and forth across the screen, much like the 1500m. Once you've built up speed, you tap the L or R button to jump, which activates the Progress Meter again. After you've got a good jump, a second Progress Meter pops up to control how your athlete bends over the bar. Much like landing after a long jump, this is what makes or breaks a gold medal athlete, since a poor bend will cause you to knock off the bar and disqualify you. The pole vault is exactly like the high jump, except the first Progress Bar is replaced by your pole. After you've built up enough speed, you press Down or the B button on your DS to thrust the pole into the ground, and then let go once the pole straightens. Time it right, and you get a tremendous boost, while timing it poorly makes it much harder to clear the bar.

The third set of events is the Throwing competitions. The first of these, the shotput, is a fairly simple event. You have to scratch the DS' touch-screen in order to build up power on a Progress Bar. Once you've built up enough power, you tap the L or R buttons to change over to a Progress Meter to adjust your throwing angle. Obviously, the farther you throw, the better your score. The discus and hammer are very similar events. In both events, your DS' touch-screen becomes a red-lined circle, and your goal is to trace that circle in order to build up a Progress Bar. Once you've build it up enough, you hit the L or R button to start a second Progress Bar to adjust the throwing angle. This is where you have to adjust a bit, since the weights of a hammer and a discus are very different, and the throwing angle that works for one probably won't work for the other.

The most unique of the throwing events is the Javelin, which requires a lot of focus to get a good score and is probably one of the most challenging events in World Championship Games. To begin, you must scratch the lower screen to build up speed. As you do this, however, a Progress Meter will begin to rise, which determines your throwing angle. In order to control the angle, you must press either Down or the B button, which lowers the meter. It's a bit of a challenge to ensure that you keep your angle straight while still scratching fast enough to build up good speed. Once your angle and speed are determined, a 180-degree Progress Meter begins to fill, which determines where you're going to throw the Javelin from. Obviously, the closer to the edge, the better a chance you have for a good throw, but get too close and you can flub the throw or even earn a foul.

The final challenges are Targeting events, which challenge you to hit the bull's-eye on a target using different weapons. Archery has you using a bow and arrow and is probably the most difficult of the three. You hold the L or R button to build up power and aim using a laser sight attached to your bow by moving your stylus along the bottom screen. However, your bow is a fairly primitive weapon, and the wind is a major concern here. You can't simply just aim and shoot, but have to adjust your target in relation to the wind and how much power you're putting into your shot. Rapid Fire Pistol involves using a targeting pistol to hit a series of targets very quickly.

You're placed before five targets, which are rotated away from you. As soon as they turn toward you, you have to press Up or X to raise your pistol and quickly fire off a series of shots. Your pistol is aimed the same way as the bow, although it uses iron sights instead of a fancy laser sight, so accuracy requires a bit more thought. You must hit all five targets and lower your pistol before time is up, or you're disqualified. The final event is Running Target, where you're given a high-powered scoped rifle and must try to hit the bull's-eye on a moving target. This may sound easy, but your aim isn't steady here, and even if your stylus is rock steady, your aim sways slightly. In order to hit accurately, you must press Up or X to steady your shot. However, you only have a brief amount of "accuracy stamina," which is quickly drained as you hold the button, so you must be quick if you want to take advantage of your steady aim.

You can enter the games in a few different ways. If you just want to play or practice a specific event, you can use the Quick Event mode, which allows you to pick any of the events at any difficulty level. If you're seeking something a bit more substantial, there is also the Decathlon, which offers you a series of 10 events to run through, and you can try to get the gold medal each time. Finally, the Tournament option sends you to different parts of the globe, ranging from Canada to China, in order to compete in the games. Different locations play host to different games, and winning can earn you trophies to display in the in-game trophy case. These game modes can all be played at Rookie, Pro or Advanced levels for a greater challenge. The greatest challenge of all, however, will come from the multiplayer options. You can compete in any of these games through a surprisingly robust set of multiplayer modes. You can use Single DS play to share one DS between friends, Single Cart play for those with their own DSes, and Multi-Cart play with friends who also own the game. You can even play with people across the globe via the Nintendo Wi-Fi gameplay and friend codes.

World Championship Games: A Track & Field Event is looking to be a very well put-together combination of mini-games and sports events. The controls, at least in the current version, are fairly easy to pick up and play. Once you've got the hang of the various events, they're fun to pick up and play in an attempt to meet or beat the world records, or simply to see if you can defeat the computer and earn a gold medal. Sports aficionados with a hankering for some on-the-go record-breaking fun will want to check out World Championship Games when it vaults into stores this March.

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