Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
California Games is a sports simulation which features six of the West Coast's most popular pastimes — surfing, BMX riding, skateboarding, roller skating, frisbee-throwing and hackey-sacking.
The game is beautifully presented, with a wealth of options on the title screen. Up to eight players can participate, and each has to enter his or her name, and choose a sponsor (nine companies that range from Kawasaki to Casio). After that you can choose which events you'd like to play — either all of them, or just a few, and you can also choose to practice an event, or view the highscores.
The events themselves are all excellent, and boast superb graphics and some great sound. Surfing places you on a board, and the object is simply to ride a wave, performing as many tricks as possible, and staying upright for the duration of the time limit. Points are awarded for style and daring moves — the closer you are to the 'tube', the more points are awarded.
BMX riding is fun — you have to cycle along a horizontally scrolling course performing as many stunts as you can. There are plenty of hazards to avoid, and you're allowed to crash three times before the event is over.
Skateboarding places you in a half-pipe, with the objective to complete as many stunts as possible within the time limit. You're allowed three falls.
Roller skating is similar to the BMX event, with you controlling a luscious leggy Californian girlie as she skates along the boardwalk.
Next is frisbee-throwing, with you controlling both the thrower and catcher. A good degree of skill and timing is necessary to catch the flying disk — you have three attempts.
Last of all is hackey sacking. Controlling a large on-screen person, the idea is to kick and head a small foot bag and perform as many trick moves as possible. Bonus points are awarded for the complexity of the moves, and you have a minute and a quarter time limit.
If you break a record, your name is entered on the highscore table, and you get a chance to stop three spinning tiles, whose faces change randomly. If you manage to match all three, you get enhancements to either hackey sacking, BMXing or surfing.
To put it bluntly, California Games is the best Sega game to date, combining six superb games, stunning graphics and animation, and a variety of excellent tunes and sound effects. The events are all highly playable, and had me glued to the Sega for hours. Don't miss it.