iPhone App Review: Spartan Athletics

iPhone App Review: Spartan Athletics

May 1st, 2011 by

I’m not sure how many of our loyal readers are, ahem, experienced enough to remember Track ‘N’ Field. It was a marvelous arcade game (for those of you who don’t know: arcades were giant rooms with video games that stood upright inside wooden boxes and required the insertion of a coin to play) which featured Olympic-style track events. The graphics were decent, not great, so what really drew people to dump quarter after quarter into the slot was the purely visceral style of play. You mashed the buttons feverishly to get the little dude (“avatar” wasn’t really a term in vogue yet back then, the dudes in arcade games were just called “dudes”) to run, jump., and throw as far and as fast as he could.

SpartanApps tries to recreate that sense of involvement in a physical activity with Spartan Athletics, a new game that allows you to take part in all ten decathlon events. It features 3D graphics, multiple characters with different stats and strengths, multiplayer head-to-head play, and a unique gameplay mechanic.

How It Works

When you launch and select New Game,  you can choose between single-player, 2 player, or 2 player over Bluetooth connection even though the menu option actually says “WiFi”). There is currently no online or leaderboard component to the game, though that is on the table for future updates according to the developer, as well as adding achievements and true WiFi multiplayer.

You can compete in a single event or in a Pentathlon, where you can choose any five events out of the ten available. You can then select from several competitors, each with a different skill set and different strengths and weaknesses. All of this is pretty standard fare and to be expected. It’s the gameplay itself where Spartan Athletics really sets itself apart.

There are no virtual d-pads or buttons in this game… all action is accomplished through very specific and fairly intuitive touch-screen gestures. To run you wipe down repeatedly on the screen, such as you might do with, say, two fingers making a running motion on a flat surface. To toss the javelin you make a swiping motion in an arc across the screen, and do similar motions for the long jump or high jump. It gets a little tricky in the discuss and shot-put, where you must draw some circles on the screen in different directions and then make a flinging gesture to toss the object, but with practice it becomes more second-nature.

Pros And Cons

As I’ve noted, the game lacks online achievements and leaderboards, which will be a welcome future addition if you’re into that sort of thing. What it really needs now is AI competitors. I played several single-player pentathlons, feeling rather lonely and not knowing why, before it was pointed out to me that there is no AI component to the game. To be fair it was pointed out by the developer himself, and the team is working on adding that in a future update.

The game itself as it stands though is pretty terrific. It’s fun and refreshing to be directly physically responsible for what your avatar is performing on the screen, albeit in a reduced form-factor. Running in particular is fun, though it gets tiresome if you do much more than the 100m dash. As I mentioned above, the discus and shot put can be tricky, but there’s a sense of accomplishment in getting the hang of it and then learning to excel. It makes me want to compete against others online so much more.

Overall

I’m not one of those App Store crybabies that thinks you should get a AAA title for $0.99. To be sure, this game launched with some essential features missing, but the game as shipped is fantastic and the developer seems committed to supporting the app and adding the features that need to be there. For now it’s a great sports title with a unique and refreshing control scheme that still lets you play in a pass-and-play mode with a friend or over Bluetooth with someone else that has the game. For the current low price of $0.99 you can’t go wrong! I’ll keep playing the game, if only to finally be able to complete the pole vault without fouling all three attempts.

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