Winter Games 2023 takes us back to the good old days of non-licensed sports games that were a blast to pick up for a quick go at a selection of sports. Does it ignite the same kind of spark though? We checked out the recent PlayStation version of the game, which is being published by Wild River Games.
These days, the multi-sport events usually involve Mario and Sonic or are tied to the olympics, but back in the eighties we had Konami’s Hyper Sports and a whole range of Epyx title: Summer Games, Winter Games and more niche titles like California Games and World Games. All of them quite popular in the day, and most players broke at least one joystick getting their characters to run by moving it back and forth as fast as possible.
Included in Winter Games 2023 are a number of different events, which can more or less be categorized. There’s the familiar bobsleighing, but also skeleton – essentially bobsleighing but for a single daredevil. Then there various skiing events like the ski cross, Super-G and downhill, as well as somewhat related ones like ski jumping, the snowboard cross and the biathlon. Curling makes an appearance, as does short track skating – there’s no regular speed skating here, no ice hockey and the jury sports are absent as well.
While some of the events feel like variations on one another, sharing the same control scheme, it’s fun to try your hand at all the events and improve to the point where you’re able to compete for the podium and gold medals. In that sense it’s like the old classics, with the same mechanics repeated often (quickly pressing buttons for speed, for instance) and also the sense that you’re done with an event after ten minutes of trying. Hyper Sports and Track and Field were no different, but in this day and age it’s easy to forget that.
You can compete in individual events, in cups that combine events or a custom made series of events. And while you can play solo, you can also play everything with up to three friends locally, which is probably the best way to play games like this for a longer period of time. There are multiple difficulty levels that determine how forgiving the game is as well, so there’s room to learn.
Winter Games 2023 is somewhat disappointing from an audiovisual perspective though. Falling far behind the likes of SEGA’s most recent Olympics game, the visuals are lacking in detail and the character models are sub-par, giving the game a PS3-era look and feel, which is aided by generic commentary and sound effects.
So while fun in the short run, the long term appeal for a game like Winter Games 2023 lies mainly in the pick up and play nature of the local multiplayer modes. There are better games for local multiplayer fun out there though, and part of us wishes they’d just gone the retro route with this one – pixelated graphics and all, really leaning into the classics that started the genre.