Track and Field - The Atari Times
A superb arcade port that, sadly, never got the credit it deserved.
by Rob AdairAugust 14, 2007
Track and Field, one of the most unique video games of all time in that it required more than just good hand-eye coordination to excel at it. Instead, you had to have fast fingers as well, being able to tap the buttons as quickly as you could to help your athlete build up enough speed to win the dash, do the long jump, or throw the javelin. It was enough for even the most seasoned players to break a sweat. Yet, win or lose, they always found themselves coming back for more, in hopes of beating their records by a hundredth of a second, or completing that darned high jump without hitting the bar.
You'd think that such a game could never be brought to the Atari 2600, correct? Well, think again, because in 1984, Atari got the rights to put the game on their now-famous system, complete with a special controller that replicated the arcade game. Unfortunately, it was released during the peak of the Great Video Game Crash, and as a result, not a lot of copies were manufactured. As a result, a lot of people probably never got to experience one of the better arcade ports for the Atari 2600. Sure, some sacrifices had to be made, but in the end, it still remained faithful to the arcade.
Indeed, a lot of graphical sacrifices had to be made. You won't see the officials with the starting pistol or marking how far you've jumped in the long jump, and the crowd looks pretty much just like a bunch of random heads without faces. The player sprites look like clones of Pitfall Harry wearing a t-shirt and very short shorts. On the flipside, they move very fluidly and without any slowdown whatsoever. In addition, a display onscreen will let you know your distance as well as indicate the starting signals.
Yes, I know the Atari 2600 isn't all that great in terms of sound capability, but even then there are some things that could've been done better. Most notably is the sound the crowd makes when it cheers for you. It just sounds like a breeze blowing rather than loud cheers. Also, the sound that it makes when you jump or throw the javelin/hammer/etc. is just plain annoying. On the other hand, they managed to recreate a couple of tunes from the arcade, such as the beginning of a new event and the game over song.
If you don't know what Track and Field is, then where have you been? The goal is to complete six events by performing as best as you can and meeting the minimum qualification goal, whether it's completing a race in a certain amount of time, jumping or throwing an object long distances, or even trying to jump the high bar, the game presents different challenges each time. They even included the ability to enter your initials at the beginning of the game, which is a very big plus.
Odds are if you find this game used, it won't have the Track and Field controller, which is a shame, since it pretty much makes the game feel more like the arcade, not to mention it's easier to control with. If you don't, you can still use a joystick, by wiggling it left and right repeatedly. Unfortunately, this can really tire out your hands easily, not to mention that the button can be in an awkward spot, meaning you may have to stop running to press it, which can mean the difference between success and failure.
Despite some sacrifices and a few flaws in it, Track and Field proves to be one of the better Atari 2600 arcade conversions that's available for it. Squeezing a game like that in is a big feat in itself, but they managed to do it nonetheless, complete with the original control scheme that made it popular. Even after all these years, it still remains very challenging.
Abuse your Atari and not get in trouble! I'm out of breath just looking at this. Where's the little measuring guy?
Track and Field
Graphics Score: 75%
Sound & Music Score: 55%
Gameplay Score: 100%
Control Score: 100%
Final Score: 95%