Brother, can you spare a workout? Athletic World can spare several, but only if you have Nintendo’s Power Pad.
Briefly released by Bandai as the Family Fun Fitness, Nintendo purchased the rights to market their exercise mat controller and renamed it the Power Pad. The Pad is a two-sided gaming mat with eight buttons on one side (labeled Side A) and twelve buttons on the other (Side B). While that may sound overwhelming, you rarely use more than two buttons at a time. Yes, the Pad may have bright neon blue and red buttons, like some “Jazzercise” mat reject, but don’t underestimate its power. Use it properly, and like C+C Music Factory of old, it’ll make you sweat.
Athletic World‘s five events use Side A. Side A has three rows of buttons: two blue on the top, two red in the middle with two blue side buttons, and two blue on the bottom. For the majority of the events, you’ll position yourself on the two red buttons in the middle; running – the main movement in four of the five events – and jumping are accomplished on these.
In “Hurdles,” run as fast as you can, while jumping right before you hit the hurdles. Should you hit them, the athlete will become tangled and need to catch his breath for a moment. In “Animal Trail” you run on a dirt path in the woods while feral boars chase you down. “Dark Tunnel” will fulfill your cardio regimen or leave you needing an ambulance. Your athlete appears to be inside a pyramid, complete with steep hills that require massive strides. In “Hop a Log,” you walk swiftly across planks before hopping across a log using the blue side buttons. Finally, “Rafting” has you jumping and crouching over logs, and maneuvering around rocks in a raging river.
When Athletic World starts, you’re asked for your name, age, and sex. In theory, this allows the game to adjust the challenge for your current life station, but who knows how much grace the game gives if you claim that you’re a 78-year-old woman. Each event tests you for a different attribute: “Hurdles” for Reflexivity, “Animal Trail” for Agility, “Dark Tunnel” for Endurance, and so on. After you’ve played all five events, you’re given scores in each category and inspirational screeds like, “Good Job, Ace Player!” and “Get in the Gym and Make it Count!”
Despite Athletic World‘s lack of depth, the activities remain enjoyable. If nothing else, the game serves as a welcome introduction to the Power Pad, a mat that paved the way for the Dance Dance Revolution series and the Wii Balance Board, among others. Long live superfluous peripherals!
PUBLISHER: Bandai DEVELOPER: Human Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: 11/12/86 – (JP), 06/1987 – (US), 06/15/88 – (EU)