Daley Thompson's Decathlon
Ocean - 1984
Machine: ZX Spectrum, and many others
This is one of the first games I can think of that was licensed by a famous sportsman; for those who can't remember, or weren't old enough, Daley Thompson was a British Olympic gold medallist in the Decathlon and reckoned to be one of the greatest athletes of all time.
This game was pretty much a takeoff from Track and Field, although obviously it featured our man Daley Thompson as the figure whom you controlled. Like the title suggests, the game was structured around the decathlon competition. You had to compete in ten different events, trying to score as many points possible. The events were: Javelin, Shot Putt, Discus, High Jump (practically impossible), Long Jump, Pole Vault, 100 metres, 110 metres hurdles, 400 metres, and 1500 metres (exhausting). Most of these utilised a mixture of button bashing and good timing, all to good effect. It ruined many a keyboard (and joystick) but was genuinely good fun. You got points for each event, ultimately determining who ended up with the Gold Medal.
As a (sort of) arcade conversion, this was excellent. The graphics were Spectrum-tastic, and it had plenty of quirky little details. I used to enjoy throwing the javelin so far that it even sometimes flew off the top of the screen into momentary nothingness, which I thought was pretty deep at the time. One slightly odd thing was the discrepancy between computer game Daley and real-life Daley; In reality, Daley is a person of colour, not the set of pure white pixels as presented in the game. I thought they exaggerated his hair a bit, and made it look like a big white afro. Still, it was a bit more difficult to get things right in those days, especially with 8 colour Spectrum. I don't think it was a sinister plot by the people at Ocean.
I preferred to button bash on the 48K Spectrum model, those rubber keys were really easy on the fingers. With the 128K Spectrums, I wore gloves to simultaneously reduce finger damage and emulate the sensual feel of the 48K Spectrums. God I was sad.
Although this game was well done and genuinely addictive, it had wider implications in that it proved that video games could successfully cash in by using licensing to sell games. Licenses became quite lucrative for both publishers and the stars/films/TV series/Soft Drinks that were licensed. Even more interesting was that, at one point, these licenses were seen as a virtual guarantee that the game was going to have a degree of quality about it. Of course this all ended when Robocop was released. Great film, great music, terrible game.
Bubbaray 09 May '04
World of Spectrum's Daley Thompson's Decathlon page - An incredible resource, all the detail you could need and the game to download or play online to boot!
Tipshop's Daley Thompson's Decathlon page - Tips, cheats and pokes.