Game Reviews

Daley Thompson's Decathlon

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Daley Thompson's Decathlon

Utter the name Daley Thompson to any gamer old enough to recall the days of the ZX Spectrum and you may catch a slight wince or an involuntary twitch of the arm.

Those are muscle-memory responses to long-suppressed physical training on Daley Thompson's Decathlon: a sports title from the 8-bit era which has gone down in video game legend as one of the driving forces behind the thriving joystick replacement industry of the 1980s.

Daley Thompson's Decathlon was all about waggling your joystick and hammering its buttons as furiously as possible to break Olympic records, and created an entire generation of bedroom sports fanatics with incredibly powerful arm muscles.

The game has now been remastered for iOS and Android, bringing this medal-chasing phenomenon to an entirely new audience (or - as is more likely to be the case - the same audience, but now a lot older).

On your marks...

Clearly coming to the conclusion that the original game's garish visuals wouldn't be suitable for modern players, developer Black Company has given everything a fresh lick of paint. Even so, it should be noted that the game retains a retro aesthetic - but it's more akin to the 16-bit era than the earlier 8-bit period.

We can't imagine any Decathlon purists will complain too bitterly about the upgraded graphics, but they may take issue with the controls. Without a joystick to wrestle with or buttons to bash, Daley Thompson's Decathlon on smartphones is a curiously unsatisfying affair.

You have to tap areas of the screen to build up Daley's speed (or power, depending on the context) and although there are nods to the interface of the original (you have to tap either side of the screen in sequence, which harks back to the famous 'left-right' joystick waggling of its forerunner) the lack of tactile feedback renders the whole exercise a little empty.

Get set... go!

A touchscreen can't hope to give you the same response as a proper joystick, and it's hard to maintain a decent pace unless you superglue your phone to a stable surface - frantic tapping usually causes it to skit across the table.

It also doesn't help that Daley Thompson's Decathlon hasn't exactly stood the test of time all that convincingly; while it's initially enjoyable to beat your best score on each event, the appeal soon wanes, leaving you with little else to occupy your attention.

It would appear that in this case, what was sufficient to glue gamers to their black-and-white portable tellies back in 1984 is not enough to entertain the more demanding players of the modern era.

Daley Thompson's Decathlon

Like so many icons of the '80s, Daley Thompson's Decathlon is best left in the past where it belongs. If you have fond memories of the game, then make sure they survive by giving this a miss
Damien  McFerran
Damien McFerran
Damien's mum hoped he would grow out of playing silly video games and gain respectable employment. Perhaps become a teacher or a scientist, that kind of thing. Needless to say she now weeps openly whenever anyone asks how her son's getting on these days.