XBLA Review: Track and Field
I have to give Microsoft respect. They have managed to make an enjoyable console with an awesome library of next-gen games like Forza Motorsport and Gears of War. The Xbox Live service has served as a media front from short movie trailers to casual based Live Arcade. Ever since it’s birth, the Xbox Live Arcade has matured with various types of games from both indie developers and old school classics. Unfortunately, classic games tend to be a bit of a gamble on XBLA. With our ever increasing standards of gaming getting higher and higher after each Christmas season or new console release, older games tend to be forgotten unless saved by one’s taste for nostalgia or in this case, Microsoft. Many classics are still great due to good game design and replayability, such as Contra, Mario, or Street Fighter. Track and Field is not one of these classics.
For those who don’t remember or never heard of Track and Field, it’s an arcade game where you compete in a series of Olympic events like the Javelin Toss or the 100 Meter Dash. The original arcade consists of two run buttons and one action button. Most of the time you’ll be busy developing sores on your hands from button-mashing the run buttons to shave a few seconds in the 100M Dash or to get enough speed to make that one gold-medal leap in Long Jump. The action button is used in some events that require precision timing, such as making a jump or throwing the javelin just before the line. Not all events are button mashers, as hammer throw and high jump is simply about timing the action button correctly.
The game is essentially just a button masher and timing the action button. A very simple idea that could probably be made into a mediocre Flash game on a free game site bloated with adware. What saves this from below mediocre is the online play and the global leaderboards. For once in Track and Field’s lifetime, you can truly see who is the fastest runner or the longest thrower in the world at the confront of your own home. Online play is a bit of miss, as the lag tends to ruin the Track and Field experience. The majority of the game is all about timing and when lag tends to mess up your time to a second or more, it’s very hard to actual enjoy the game much less compete in it. Although as a party game, Track and Field isn’t too bad because sheer simplicity of the controls and that urge to outdo your buddies in each event attempt.
What nails Track and Field to the coffin is the controls. The Xbox 360 controller is not used to button mash and due to Xbox controller’s button pressure. There is the option of using your analog stick or D-pad instead of the Xbox buttons, which works, but it just feels very awkward and wrong by shifting your stick left and right when the original intention was to hit the buttons as fast as you can. The fact that there is already several people using third-party controllers with the turbo feature online doesn’t make Track and Field more attractive.
It’s a shame that such a once great game has resulted into this aberration of classic gaming. It truly shows just how far we have gone in terms of technology and gaming over 20 years ago. Track and Field is terribly short-lived fun and with it’s slew of problems from the controls to erratic online play, it’s very hard to actually recommend this game to anyone else but fans of Track and Field.