As a kid living in a boring town with two streets and one store, an hour’s drive away from a slightly less boring town with four streets and two stores, California seemed like an amazing place to have fun. I formed that opinion primarily from playing California Games.
Actually now that I think about it most of my geography knowledge was based on the games I played. I was kind of diappointed when I visited Sydney for the first time and didn’t see anyone having karate fights across the river from the Opera House.
California Games was a gem of a mini-game collection, barring the stupid frisbee game. That thing was pants and to this day I’ve never caught a frisbee in it ever. I really liked the BMX section, the rollerblading section (once I figured out the controls) and the skating was also pretty good even though I preferred the skate bowling duel game in Skate Or Die. Hacky Sack was pretty good too if only for as long as it takes to hit that bloody seagull.
To me though the star of the show was the surfing. It was a real skill to keep moving ahead of the wave, not to mention pulling off tricks. You had to position your board perfectly right on the re-entry or you’d fall off the board quicker than you can say “whoa dude that was a totally gnarly wipeout” or whatever lingo I picked up from watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons.
It was pretty harsh that you sometimes got eaten by a shark though, maybe that was left in for a version of the game designed for sharks to play.
California Games was converted to all sorts of formats along the way – the C64 and NES versions were the most popular around the world, of course, but I remember sinking a lot of time into the Master System version. The BMX section in particular was a lot better on that system than any other to me. I was especially interested in the Lynx version – the only one to have simultaneous multi player! – and remember thinking that the waves in the surfing section looked amazing. You could pull off tricks a lot easier in the Lynx version, too.
And I didn’t even know there was a MegaDrive version until I was doing research for this comic! That looks pretty cool, I should give that a go sometime. And the Atari 2600! man, that version must look INCREDIBLE.
You know what, now that I think about it, I really missed out on a lot not owning a Lynx.