GDC '09: Hands on with Playman Track and Field on iPhone

He's going the distance, he's going for speed

GDC '09: Hands on with Playman Track and Field on iPhone

There's no way we can even come close to approaching the insane speeds of Olympic 100m runners, but no doubt an amateur record was set in the 10cm hand dash to the iPhone housing Playman Track and Field.

During the Game Developers Conference last week we went hands on with the game that continues testing timing and reflexes in this mobile-to-iPhone adaptation.

Five events are on the docket in Playman Track and Field: 100m Dash, Pole Vault, Javelin, Hurdles, and Long Jump. Tournament mode has you competing against computer-controlled athletes across all five events.

An amateur tournament warms you up for the far more difficult pro circuit, which upon completion unlocks a bonus survival mode. Here the goal is to stay in the competition for as long as possible, taking on an endless line of opponents until you lose an event.

Challenge mode lets you tackle any of the events individually, which we did in trying out three of the events. 100m Dash requires hasty taps of the screen to propel your runner forward on the 2D track.

After tapping the centre of the screen to start the race, icons pop up at the sides that you hit with your thumbs to move his or her legs. The quicker you tap these icons as they appear, the faster you run.

Building up speed via running is key to posting a good distance in the long jump. Quick taps to run start off the event, which ends with holding down both thumbs on the edges of the screen to instigate a jump.

Timing is critical, though. There's an intentional delay between when you set your thumbs down and your athlete jumps - as such, you have to time it carefully to get as close to the foul line without crossing it.

Running, again, is key to javelin-throwing. Twin taps of the screen's edges with your thumbs gets you moving, at which point you then charge up your arm to throw the javelin by holding your thumb down on the screen. When you're sufficiently charged, lifting up your thumb chucks it. Like the long jump, timing is important to maximise distance.

The competition is tough, and out of the handful of challenges we played only a couple ended with a win. Playing with a friend worse than yourself is a good way to tone down the difficulty.

Playman Track and Field will support hot seat multiplayer, as well as community rankings. Both are welcome additions to a game that retains too much of its mobile feel. It doesn't quite come across as an ideal fit to the platform, even though it plays well enough. Hopefully the game can shake off that quality when it releases to the App Store in the next month.
Tracy Erickson
Tracy Erickson
Manning our editorial outpost in America, Tracy comes with years of expertise at mashing a keyboard. When he's not out painting the town red, he jets across the home of the brave, covering press events under the Pocket Gamer banner.