California Games - Atari Lynx Review

As good as James! You say? Back in 1989 the Atari Lynx was launched. Although marketed by Atari, it was actually Epyx who developed the hand held console originally to be named the Handy. Where as Nintendo packaged the gameboy with Tetris, Atari decided to package California Games with the Atari Lynx. 4 games vs 1? Nice.

California Games was available for many formats. Spreading from C64 to PC.

It consisted of 6 games to keep you on your toes.

So, what did you get with California Games on the Lynx?

Well, Epyx decided that the Lynx version only needed 4 games and to be fair, it worked well.

So, abandoning Roller Skating and Flying Disc, the Lynx version leaves you with Half Pipe, Surfing, BMX and Footbag.

So lets have a look.

The first thing you are treated with is the California Games Numberplate spinning around with some happy music to put you in the mood. The bright Blue sky with white clouds scrolling past also helps set the mood. Hit any button and you are greeted with your choice of games and.......... A Palm Tree. Yep! We are in California.

Footbag :

I will be honest and say that this is my least favourite of the games. But there may be a bit of bias there, I have never got the hang or point of any sports that involve a ball of any kind.

The aim of this game is to keep the ball up in the air, using feet, head, knees, shoulders. While you are doing this, you can spin round, aim for a seagull that flies past (which I have to say after the mess they have made on my car in the past is very satisfying).

I do like the San-Francisco type background, it does capture the California vibe quite nicely and the parallax scrolling as you side step after the ball, trying to catch it before it hits the ground.

Control wise, it does feel a little awkward. I have just been playing it for a while, trying to work out what it is that feel wrong. It could be the speed of movement of the character. Kicking the ball up is fine, it is just moving left or right or when you spin round is a little slow. However, this does give you something to work towards and master. Having said that, of all the games, it is by far the easiest to get high scores.

Half Pipe :

Ah! Skateboarding. How I remember those scrapes and scars.

This game is all about timing and you really do have to be spot on.

You spend your time simply going forwards and back on the half pipe with your skateboard and are given 2 ways to change direction, a kick flip or a hand plant.

Hand plants are quite hard, your timing needs to be bang on! But they do score well. However, the kick flip allows you to build up plenty of speed and really get some air but mess up and you may get some quite sarcastic advice.

Surfing :

Now we are talking!

Get on your board and try not to wipeout!

This is one of my favourites. I was never any good at surfing in real life but I could make up for it here. You can choose to surf under the waves or try to outrun them. You can flip, jump accelerate and brake to give you quite a range of control over your stunts.

Control is fast but accurate. Simply spot on.


Who as a kid didn't own or want a BMX? Great big cranks, coloured tyres and spokes, pads to protect your....... Well, lets be honest, nether regions.

As a kid, I probably played this game more than any. Jumping, flipping, usually hitting the hay stacks or landing on my head. Maybe I should have sat down while playing this game.

Now, although this was the lowest scoring of the games, you got not only a sense of satisfaction when you finally pull off that multi flip for the edge of a high drop but also a feeling of wanting to try and try again to get that jump perfect as you needed to be ready for the for the next drop.

Controls feel a little delayed but with a little practice, you can soon get the timing right.

As a whole
Looking at the game, I would say that it gives just the right atmosphere. It showed the possibilities that were to come with the Atari Lynx. The dithered textures gave the appearance of extra colours and looked as if there were more than just 16 colours on screen. Scrolling was lovely and smooth.

It is easy to see that Epyx did their research too. The pastel colour pallets of California games bring a reminiscence of Space Harrier and OutRun which was also influenced by the California Area. This gave a softer feel to the graphics which was a nice change from the stark colours seen on the 8Bit computers and games consoles.

Sound is OK but nothing special. Other games proved that the Lynx could handle sampled sound which was never really pushed much. For example, a nice "Wipeout" sample would have really topped off surfing but the 4 games gave a good replay element. Always striving to top your last top score.

So overall, I would say a great collection to introduce the Atari Lynx to the world. A collection of very different games with some nice colourful graphics. An interesting comparison to the black and white beginning of the Gameboy. Really shows what marketing can do or destroy.

All in all, as much as I love Surfing and BMX, Half pipe and Footbag feel lacking in comparison so I would have to give the game........


Review by Drew Kenaz

1 comment:

  1. INDIERETRONEWS31 May 2014 at 20:58

    I remember this game on the Atari 2600, used to love the surfing bit! Same as you though, ball was a no no!


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