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It’s no accident iPhone applications and games have been a huge success for developers. With the masses of iUsers reaching over a million downloads from iTunes since its debut, the list of iPhone software is very much in abundance and growing daily. To keep up with the myriad of available content, technology geeks literally has to sift through thousands of user reviews just to get a general idea if the product is worth the value they download.

Today TestFreaks.com is going to take a look at International Athletics. An iPhone game programmed by The Code Monkeys and published by Ghostlight LTD. While International Athletics franchise has been around for sometime, including but not limited to portable hand held’s such Nintendo DS and Sony PSP, the track and field based game is now available for iPhone. We are going to put this title though its pace’s and get the low down on Ghostlight’s latest release for the smart phones in circulation.

First off, I must admit that I have been gaming since the coin operated video games of late 70’s and 80’s found in arcade game rooms in just about every mall in the country. Having been said, our family owned the first Atari game system until we pummeled it to death, which paved the way for our first Commodore 64 until its mutilation. Shortly after, we owned just about every console that came out ever after. Then the PC industry introduced a whole new genre of gaming experiences and has solidified the gaming geek in me. Years later moving right along to my iPhone, I find the platform equally as pleasing when it comes to games and applications. When I was asked to test and evaluate International Athletics for iPhone, I jumped on it and decided to see what the little iPhone could do for me as a gaming enthusiast.

Remembering Track & Field from Konami back in the coin-op era, the title reminded me of the days

dropping quarters like M&M candy into the coin hoppers. International Athletics has come a long ways since Track & Field and first impressions of International Athletics provided some good gaming, with the ability to keep you entertained with a variety of events for hours. The intuitive interface allows easy understanding of game controls prior to each event you choose to play. This gives you a general idea of how to control the characters moves to complete an event.

Before each event you choose, splash screens prompt you to read and understand the control interface as pictured above for each event. While this is a generalization, you will find the need to play each event several times to find the sweet spots in timing the controls. The term “Practice makes perfect” applies here. After several attempts at winning the gold, you will have the proficiency needed to understand each event and how to control the AI character to become number one on the podium. After playing each event several times, I started taking the winner podium with ease using the “rookie” setting of course. Let’s take a look and the publishers specifications to better understand just how in depth this title is.

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Specifications:

International Athletics

Featuring an incredibly intuitive control method adapted specifically for the iPhone and iTouch, International Athletics gives you the chance to go for gold in 11 of the world’s most compelling and demanding track and field events. Set within magnificent international stadiums and playable in Quick Event, Tournament Mode, and perhaps the most intense test of human strength and endurance of all, the Decathlon, International Athletics really has it all.

Accurate representations of 11 events: 100m, Long Jump, Shot Put, High Jump, 400m, 110m Hurdles, Discus, Pole Vault, Javelin, 1500m, and Hammer

Highly addictive and varied touch screen controls for frantic sprints, precision field events and strategic long distance events

Superior character animation and competitive Artificial Intelligence

Hugely detailed international stadiums, including venues in Canada, France, Japan, Spain and China

Compete in Decathlon, Tournament and Quick Event modes

Beat personal bests and world records, accumulate medals and earn trophies to unlock extra tournaments!

Create your own customized male or female athlete with their own distinctive attributes


Installation comes in at healthy 34.9MB. This is definitely a game you will have to download over a broadband connection. You will need to make sure your latest iPhone OS is version 2.2.1 or later to meet minimum requirements to play the game. Once installed on my iPhone, I immediately started playing with it. The graphics are superb in some areas and lacking in others. The background images are very tight and clean, while the AI character in the foreground suffers from pixilation. I suspect no anti-aliasing here, as I am sure there is a tradeoff between graphics and over taxing the Samsung S3C6400, 620MHz ARM1176JZF-based CPU and PowerVR MBX Lite 3D GPU.

Game play seems relatively smooth with so much going on in and around the stadiums. Graphic rich backgrounds combined with the proprietary AI-engine, creates intelligent game play and realistic feedback from your character. The audio is on par using the AC97 codec to produce overall a great sound experience, ambient background includes cheers and everything one could think of while sitting in a large stadium. Using the ear phones is highly recommended for the best sound results!!! Let’s get started with International Athletics and get the game on!

The 110m Hurdles event, I could not figure out. In trying to tap the screen the AI character would not jump on time, if at all and after many attempts I was left frustrated. I am not sure if the game is not picking up the pad taps or if there is a glitch in the software. So to get a second and third opinion I allowed my son and wife to try and again, same results. So it appears if the 110m hurdles is bugged or simply too hard to understand. Any event, the 110m Hurdles is not responding to user input properly.

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Moving to the 100m Sprint we found it very fun and entertaining, it’s one of the easiest events to play. Moving your finger back in forth in a waving motion is all that’s required to get your character up to speed. In rookie mode, you will find that you can run circles around the competition and clearly end up with a gold medal. When in advanced mode, you have better have you’re a-game on! The competition is very fast and very hard to beat, so with this setting, you better have a few extra screen protectors handy because the action is fast and furious.

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Pole Vaulting is a very cool simulation but very tricky to master, with several attempts I managed to get over the pole and felt very achieved. Here the graphics are exciting and the ambient noises give the impression you are ready to hit the mat in front of thousands of fans. Using the touch screen adjusts the bar height, then rubbing left and right makes the athlete run, when the power meter locks, you hold your finger to the desired angle and release. To finalize the vault, you tap the screen to the right bend angle and hope for the best. It takes several tries to get the hang of it, but once you, you will find yourself trying to raise the bar each time – very addictive.

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The Long Jump is a classic track and field event and International Athletics brings that to life with its highly motivated event. Run the athlete up to the foul line and tap and hold the angle meter, find the sweet spot and release your finger for the world record! The Long Jump keeps you coming back for more and for each foul you may get, it just keeps you trying harder to jump longer. Beating your own record seems to keep you involved with the game. I like the fact it brings out the competitor in me.

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High Jump is a little harder to execute but after a few tries, I found it to be easier to enjoy. To set up the bar to desired height, use the touch screen to the height you want. Again, rubbing the screen left and right will make the athlete run, like the Pole Vault you will tap and hold the screen to until the angle meter is in the zone and release your finger as your over the bar you tap the screen again to select the bend angle and over the bar you will go! The High Jump event will keep you busy for hours.

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The Hammer is a throwing event that does a great job of keeping the gamer very enthusiastic. Rub your finger in a circular motion to build power. By judging the progress meter take your finger off the progress meter to start the angle meter. Find the right angle and tap the screen to throw. I happened to foul the first two tries and ended up placing first on the podium on my third. This event is somewhat easier to play and gives the gamer a unique experience. Trying to stay within the field becomes fun and I find myself playing this event more often than the other throwing events.

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Javelin, this event is one of my favorites at sporting events around the world. International Athletics pours on the juice with this superb representation of the sport. In this event, you will need to run as fast as you can in increase throwing force, now the tricky part, you must rub the screen diagonally to reduce the angle (as you go faster the Javelin climbs) then tap the screen to select the optimum release.

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Conclusion:

International Athletics, hit the ground running in the UK with topping out at #4 on the best seller charts for best portable handheld game. Ghostlight LTD., does it again with International Athletics for iPhone. The game play keeps the gaming geek in me enthused and engaged with game play. The artificial Intelligence of the athletes provide realism and fluid movements. Over all the game value is great, I would not go as far as saying it’s spectacular as there are some issues that need to be worked out.

The 110m Hurdle needs to be revised to give the gamer a better understanding of what to do and when to do it. Tapping the screen for action results in just about nothing and when it does its way off base. Clearly some refinements are needed with this event.

6/03/2009 Update: After speaking with a coordinator at Ghostlight about the 110m Hurdles jumping issue, it was brought to my attention, that in order to get the athlete to jump correctly in this event, you MUST tap above the center line of the iPhone touch screen. However there are no specific instructions telling the gamer to do so. After trying this, the game does respond. Unfortunately, Ghostlight left out that detail in the “How To” department. Gaming geeks will need to make sure they tap the upper half of the touch screen in order to get the athlete to respond. Now, I am kicking some hurdle butt!

The audio reproduction keeps the gamer feeling like they are inside a stadium with screaming fans which adds to the total picture. Winning an event keeps the crowds pleased and cheering but lacks the fireworks, bells and whistles, giving the heightened sense of accomplishment. Playing International Athletics with a good set of ear phones increases gamer enthusiasm with authentic cheers and ambient noises that keep the gamer feeling rewarded. I would like to see a better podium ceremony to really add punch to winning the gold.

Overall International Athletics provides a great gaming experience. The graphics are decent and provide real world events at stadiums from around the world. The only complaint I have with the foreground graphics are the fact the athletes are not anti-aliased enough to remove pixilation. While it does not take away from the experience, some of the “eye candy” is lost. Having been said, the game play is superb with most events, I just wish the athletes could use smaller polygons to enhance the look of the athletes.

On an ending note, Ghostlight just reduced the price of International Athletics to $5.99 on iTunes making this game one of the best values for what you get. The game is capable of providing hours of fun and will keep you coming back for more. With some small user friendly updates and I/O revision to the 110m Hurdles event combined with some small graphics enhancements on the athletes, this game could be top notch and at $5.99 that would be a real bargain. International Athletics is a game title to reckon with. Even with the things we mentioned the title is well worth the time to play it. Game on!

8

Pros:
Arguably the best track & field game ported for iPhone
Keeps gamers enthusiastic guarantees more enjoyment
Artificial intelligence is fantastic
At $5.99 per download, the value is superb.

Cons:
Foreground graphics are a bit substandard
110m Hurdles leave a lot to be desired.

Grades:  
Overall score-8-10
Design score-9-10
Performance score-9-10