Game Reviews

Playman Track & Field

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Playman Track & Field

The most decorated athletes may excel in many areas, but it generally boils down to a single key skill. Michael Phelps won gold medals for butterfly, freestyle, and backstroke, and while there are nuances to each, it's his unparalleled ability to move through water that gave him his success.

Getting really good at one thing is hard enough, but Playman Track & Field makes you feel like a fish out of water. We're getting pretty good at competitive tapping, though this is one track meet that puts the fear into even the most seasoned finger.

You compete in five different events: 100m Dash, Long Jump, Hurdles, Pole Vault, and Javelin. All involve timed taps of the screen, with additional elements thrown into each specific event. In short: flex your fingers for some serious athletic tapping.

It's all quite intuitive, with circles that pop up when and where you need to tap. These circles appear at the left and right edges of the screen, essentially encouraging you to play using your thumbs at both sides.

Aside from Hurdles, where a trio of circles require three fingers at the ready, it's easy enough to casually frame the handset between your two thumbs.

An Amateur-level tournament gets things started, allowing you to hit up each event with a reasonable slate of computer-controlled competitors. It's ideal for casual play, requiring less than Olympic levels of performance to win events.

Once you've completed this first tournament, the genuinely challenging Pro tournament is unlocked. Finishing this grants access to Survival mode, which runs a never-ending series of events that only stop should you fail to win. Of course, you're able to track high scores for every event and can even check out global rankings online.

Unlocking that bonus Survival mode, however, is hideously difficult due to issues with the 100m Dash and Javelin when played in Pro. Winning is practically impossible, the balance between furious tapping and your computer opponents completely skewed toward their advantage.

It's easy to chalk it up to a lack of finger-tapping skill, but when you're able to compete just fine in the other events, the situation in the 100m Dash and Javelin stands out as unfair. It becomes demoralising when not being able to win the tournament holds you back from getting you hands on a whole additional mode.

Other than this stumble, Playman Track & Field is a taut little athlete that, despite essentially being a port of the mobile phone classic Playman Summer Games 3, works well on the device. The controls aren't particularly dynamic, but the sensitivity is spot-on, so whenever you trip up you've no one to blame but yourself.

The signature Playman visuals are back, too, and the animation is silky smooth. Sure, it looks pretty much the same as its mobile forefather, but then Playman Summer Games 3 was a damn fine-looking game. The sound is less impressive, however, featuring a few blippy sound effects and the occasional crowd roar.

Even though it ticks a lot of boxes - multiplayer, global high scores, and a great tutorial - Playman Track & Field doesn't clear all the hurdles. Sorting out the frustrating spike in difficulty would move it up the medal stand, yet with this flaw it still has the skills to succeed.

Playman Track & Field

Playman Track & Field doesn't always play fair, but it's a great casual track meet that hooks you into high score fever and doesn't let go