Torino 2006 - The Official Video Game of the XX Olympic Winter Games Review
By Daniel Lampkin |
Torino 2006 - the Official Video Game of the XX Olympic Winter Games is one of the longest and most unnecessary titles in video game history. And it also happens to be a pretty lousy game, to boot. It's not as if the Olympics, be it summer or winter, has had anything special to call its own when it comes to video game adaptations over the years, but Torino 2006 is especially egregious in that it pares down the number of included events to a fairly measly number, manages to make every single one of them completely uninteresting, and skimps entirely on the presentation. Yes, it's only a $20 game, but that $20 would be better spent practically any other conceivable way.
There are eight different events in Torino 2006. If you're of the optimistic ilk, you might be able to fathom a full 15 events, as there are some rules variations you can make to change how an event plays out. If you're a realist, however, you'll actually discover that there's more like five or six events in the game, since several of them repeat. The luge and the bobsleigh events are mechanically the same, despite being dressed up differently, and cross-country skiing is included in a single event, the biathlon, and the Nordic combined, which also recycles the ski-jumping event. On top of the lack of event variety, there's also very few ways in which to vary things up. The only way you can play this game is via a single event, a series of nine events, a series of 15 events, and a customized competition of whatever available events you want. There is multiplayer for up to four players, but with no online play; and for that matter, none of these events are captivating enough to hold one person's attention, let alone four.
The big, glaring flaw in Torino 2006 is that every single one of these events has been dumbed down to the point of banality. To do the luge or the bobsleigh events, you simply press a button at the right time to set the power of your launch, and from there, you just kind of tap the left analog stick or the directional buttons on your keyboard to steer and keep from hitting the boards. The big difference between the two? In the bobsleigh event, you can also lean left and right. Fun. Alpine skiing is similarly dull in all its forms. You'd think trying to keep a handle on your skier as he or she shoots down a hill, ducking through various gates should be exciting, but it's completely flat and dull here.
The only events that try to do anything marginally interesting are the speed skating and cross-country skiing events. In speed skating, you mash two buttons to build up your initial head of steam, and then rhythmically press and hold those same two buttons back and forth to try and simulate the rhythm of the skating. The cross-country event relies on a stamina meter of sorts that forces you to measure out how much sprinting you can do. These are both relatively interesting mechanics, but neither exactly translates into captivating gameplay, and after a few plays through each event, you're pretty much done with them. In fact, after about 20 minutes of playing, you've seen basically everything this game has to offer.
Another problem with Torino is that it does an awful job of actually letting you know how you're doing. Though there are some events in which you're directly competing against other players, all the medals are awarded via your times for the event. So even if you overtake the guy ahead of you in the cross-country skiing event, that doesn't mean you're going to do anything other than place seventh overall. The game does display intermediate times, and the commentators give some glib comments on how that stacks up, but that's not nearly enough feedback to give you an indication on how you're doing in the race, and there's no option to restart an event, for that matter. So you're basically stuck playing a given event from beginning to end, even if you're doomed to lose.
The game's style of presentation also leaves quite a bit to be desired. Graphically, Torino isn't bad looking while things aren't in motion. The models for the competitors are decently detailed, and the environmental designs seem functional, if not overly impressive. But once things get in motion, everything kind of falls apart. The animations are stilted and ugly. Sometimes, skiers will start skiing around on a flat area without even moving their legs, for example. All the menus are ugly and hacked together, displaying minimal amounts of useful info and going so far as to just designate all the computer opponents as "computer 1" or "computer 4." That's just pathetically lazy. Speaking of pathetically lazy, there's also the horrible commentary and sound effects to mention. The commentators for each event are bored, seemingly unhappy to be there, and completely uninformative. They try desperately to give you a mundane piece of history about the event before it stops, and then degenerate into one-liners like "that intermediate time could have been a little better" and "oh no!" over and over again. Crowd effects are on a very short loop, and repeat painfully often. The remaining effects are cheap and generic, and add nothing to the atmosphere of the events.
It's hard to really criticize Torino 2006 for not capturing the magic of the Olympics, since there's hardly been a game in history to actually do the Olympics right. But Torino 2006 is an especially bad case, as it is easily one of the most half-hearted and uninspired examples of developers quickly trying to cash in on the event in a timely fashion. If you're not big into the winter games, then there's no single reason on Earth to pay $20 for what's essentially a lousy collection of short, Olympic-themed minigames. And if you are one of those people who glue themselves to the TV every couple of years to watch some downhill skiing, you'll still be disappointed by how little justice this game does its license.