"Anything that happens, happens.
Anything that, in happening, causes something else to happen,
causes something else to happen.
Anything that, in happening, causes itself to happen again,
It doesn't necessarily do it in chronological order, though."
Douglas Adams, "Mostly Harmless"
ST SOFTWARE REVIEW: THE CARL LEWIS CHALLENGE BY PSYGNOSIS
by Richard Karsmakers
Last October, during the 42nd week of the year to be more
precise, I took a well-deserved couple of days off. As the
semester lessons had wrapped things up the Friday before, Miranda
and myself took the opportunity to hop off to London for a couple
of days during the first week of the semester tests. It would
still leave plenty of time to prepare these tests, but at least
it would give the satisfaction of a short holiday as we hadn't
had one during the regular summer time.
Of course, our experiences in London weren't half as exciting as
Stefan and Tim's in Bushland. We saw no Golden Gates shrouded in
preternatural mists that were being pushed ashore gently by a
Pacific breeze, we weren't assailed by rattlesnakes or bears, and
we didn't spend days on end in national parks with breathtaking
views of rocks poised in a 'vogue' more dramatical than
Nonetheless we had a good time.
It all started at about noon on Monday, October 12th. We had
travelled from Utrecht to Hoek van Holland ("Hook of Holland") by
train and checked in.
For a short and terrifying moment we thought we heard a Mexican
customs officer yelling "senorita por favor wenga wenga" or
something thereabouts but nothing of that sort happened. Miranda
was not ripped off any Kotex Freedom (which was good, as she
didn't have any to be ripped off of in the first place).
We basked in the sun aboard the Koningin Beatrix, the Stena Line
ferry that was to take us to Harwich where we were scheduled to
arrive at about 19:00.
Nothing much happened during the trip. The sea was calm, and the
on-board cinema allowed us to check out Steven Spielberg's
"Hook" - an excellent film on all accounts that is filled with
both humour and touching moments. An excellent piece of work that
nobody should have missed (best thing to do is go out and rent it
when you've finished reading this).
We took some snapshots of an eeriely beautiful sky just beyond
the point of sunset around which time we arrived at Harwich Quay.
There British Rail really threw soot in our food (yo, a loosely
translated Dutch proverb here). The train was scheduled to leave
at 19:45 but started off with an initial fifteen minutes' delay.
This was manageable, because we've been through worse - I mean
Dutch Railways aren't that much better. When we eventually left
we were supposed to arrive at Liverpool Street Station, London,
Eventually we got there at 23:50, with a total delay of nearly
three hours due to electric problems and more of that sort of
thing. At least they had Guiness aboard, but nonetheless we were
both thoroughly fed up when the train stopped for a length of
fourth dimension for the zillionth time.
We had to rush to get the last subway to Notting Hill Gate,
the nearest quickly obtainable underground station, at
approximately ten minutes' walking distance of which lay the
Plaza Hotel, 42 Princess Square.
We arrived at about 00:30.
We didn't find it necessary to admire the unexpected good
quality of the hotel room (which was more than adequate for a
two-star thing) and soon drifted off into dreams haunted by
busted electrics and trains that continued stopping.
Next day started quite early, at 08:00. We had decided not to
spend too much time in bed because, after all, we would only be
spending about two full days in London and we had plenty of
things we wanted to do. Breakfast television informed us of the
fact that the Covent Garden IRA bombing victim had died. So far
so good. Not.
I will never cease being stunned at the fact that the British
somehow succeed in making their ordinary brown bread and ordinary
milk somehow taste 'English'. Breakfast opened up a new reason
for me to wonder about this.
After having this food added to my bowel system I could already
hear Oxford Street crying out to me. HMV. Virgin Megastores.
Dillons. Books, videos and little shiny silvery discs with
microscopically arranged indentures on their surfaces. Wannahave!
The first half of the first day was mainly spent walking in and
out of the aforementioned shops. For the previous two months I
had been making a list of things to try and get in London:
"Fantasia" in English, "The Soundtracks" compilation on CD by
Jerry Goldsmith, Douglas Adams' latest if already available
(which I didn't suspect would happen, as the release date was
rumouredly set in November), the latest two Terry Pratchett books
in softcover versions (for Stefan) and some other miscellaneous
books and silvery discs.
After one or two hours I was already walking around being the
proud owner of a cult Red Dwarf T-Shirt (Kryten: "There's a
popular droid saying, in binary it goes like "00100010100111100",
sets you thinking doesn't it?"), "Fantasia" and Gwar's "Phallus
in Wonderland". Goldsmith's compilation CD was available nowhere
- some shops even went as far as stating that the thing had been
deleted as far back as May 1991. In the end I think we must have
visited at least a dozen large and small records shops, none of
which could help me any further (yes, dear reader, this is a hint
- please contact me if you have this particular album!). Other
CDs I was looking for - Venom's "Possessed" and generally any
interesting Metallica/Vangelis novelty - weren't present either.
At around noon we accidentally stumbled across an extensive book
shop's window that was entirely filled with a pile of books and a
huge poster with "DOUGLAS ADAMS", "MOSTLY HARMLESS" and a small
green-blue planet with an arrow pointing towards it. Apparently,
and to my great surprise and satisfaction, the release date had
been put forward to the 42nd week. Within five minutes I stood
outside cherishing a plastic bag with the book in it.
That signified the end of the first day's shopping bout. Miranda
had been to London for the last time somewhere about 10 years ago
and she barely remembered any of it. We decided to take one of
those "Sightseeing" hop-on/hop-off bus tours through London.
The weather was beautiful - chilly but with lots of sun and a
fantastically blue sky. I took out my camera and waited for what
the tour would hurl at us.
I had already done one of those tours before, when I came to
London with my dad in the mid-eighties. This one took a slightly
different route but nonetheless it showed us the major sights of
London such as the Houses of Parliament, St. Paul's, Piccadilly
Circus, The Tower (and its bridge), Nelson's Column and numerous
other more or less interesting bits (such as the London Hard Rock
Café). I made some cliché pictures, of course. The guiding
comments were interesting and, moreover, partly backed by Joe
Satriani's "Not of this Earth". These tours, even when not
featuring Joe Satriani, are the best way to see the most of
London in little time.
After this tour we went back to Trafalgar Square. Somehow, a
huge amount of pigeons and fountains seem appealing to people of
the tourist persuasion such as we were. There was lots of shit
there, and not just the birdy kind. One statue of a particularly
heroic British warlord of sorts was covered in dung most
unmajestically. Having a statue made of oneself would surely
alter one's view about pigeons, wouldn't it?
From Trafalgar Square we went on our way to Buckingham Palace.
We strolled leisurely through St. James' Park and made some more
snapshots there - including some of a squirrel that appeared not
to be frightened of humans and that came really close. Somehow it
seems strange that any animals except pigeons seem able to
survive in a city like London with all its dirt, smog and people
living in it.
Around that time, it must have been around half past five, our
stomachs started to inform us of their rather empty state - which
was a surprise, as we had stopped at just about every McDonald's
or Burger King's to check out the quality of the milkshakes
(Conclusion: They are way too thick, you usually have to eat them
using your drinking straw as a spoon of sorts).
Through Green Park (the Park with no flowers) we walked to the
underground station of the same name so that we could get to
Oxford Street where we would go and have a bite to eat at a Pizza
Something else happened just before that, though.
We passed a shop that looked more like a badly furnished auction
hall. Indeed, inside sortof an auction seemed to be going on.
Apparently, Game Boys and walkmen and other usually expensive
consumer goods were being sold to whoever stuck up his hand first
at prices of about two pound sterling.
We walked in, which was a stupid move to make. Before we knew it
we had payed two pounds for some dubious reason and we started
waiting for prolonged times until the guy would quit drivelling
meaninglessly and actually start selling some stuff at a
ridiculously cheap price. In the end we got bored, screwed out of
two pounds and left. We had no clue as to how this guy operated
his business profitably, but at least he made two pounds' worth
of profit from us.
We entered the nearest Pizza Hut and tried a new pizza called
Chicken Tikka or something along those lines. Tasted brilliantly
- something with curry and chicken that didn't particularly fit
on a Pizza as such but that tasted good (and quite spicy)
After the Pizza Hut we went to the neighbourhood where out hotel
was. Did some more shopping, the result of which was me becoming
the owner of the Complete Illustrated works of Lewis Carroll's at
a mere five quid. After that (someone we must have mislaid an
hour or two) we went to our hotel and entered our beds.
We were soothed to sleep by a remarkably sleep-inducing
documentary about the Kennedies.
Next day was slightly less brilliant as far as the weather was
concerned. The sky had turned a drab grey and it looked as if
rain could be pouring forth from it any minute. We were lucky,
however, and the first drops would only fall at about 19:00, when
we were already in the train back to Harwich.
Whereas standard breakfast included in the hotel price was a
continental one (i.e. bread and some rather basic stuff to put on
it) we decided that our last day would have to start off with
bacon'n'eggs, sausages, the works. English cuisine may suck
severely, but they know how to make a breakfast that can keep you
going for quite a while.
The morning was devoted completely to trying to get right up
front at Buckinham Palace to witness the changing of the guards,
that would start at 11:30. I had been to England about two dozen
times and I had even spent time in London on about half a dozen
occasions, but each time I hadn't come round to seeing the main
event in London. Neither had Miranda, by the way.
Concluding, it can be said that all this changing of the guard
is tedious to say the least. The only interesting bit happened
when we saw a custom Bentley (or Rolls?) with a royal flag
driving someone clad in green (most likely the Queen herself) in
the direction of the Houses of Parliament. After that we went on
a quest for the nearest tube station to find a McDonald where we
could go and annoy ourselves with stupefyingly thick shakes
I think we got enough cholesterol in our systems during those
couple of days to give many people an instant cardiac arrest.
Yet, somehow, we came out alive.
In the afternoon we went to the Tower Bridge. Our little trip
was some sort of package deal, part of which was free entrance to
the Tower Bridge. As of 1984 it has been made accessible to the
public so that you can have a look at what it's like inside. It's
quite impressive, really, but not half as impressive as the view
over London you get from the topmost accessible point. We made
some more cliché pictures there (needless to say, really).
After our visit to the Tower Bridge, which ended with a
positively claustrophobic experience involving a relatively small
elevator and about three dozen noisy people, we went off to the
Natural History Museum.
I've always been into dinosaurs a lot. Probably, the amount of
dinosaur books in my bookcase outnumbers the computer-related
stuff. I had been to the Natural History museum when I visited
London with my dad. The major change that happened since then is
that you now have to pay £4 to get in (this used to be for free).
Good thing we could get reduced entry prices because we were
students (good thing we hadn't forgotten our student passes!).
The dinosaur bit has been completely redone. Whereas earlier it
consisted of about a dozen reconstructed dinosaur skeletons they
have now allocated an entire wing with interactive display as
well as some accurately animated models of predator dinosaurs
munching on a huge herbivore. Quite impressive, even if you're
not truly in this sort of thing.
And of course there was the shop. The Natural History Museum
bookshop is a dream for any dinosaur freak. Books can be bought
varying from childishly simple to beyond frustratingly
scientific. Unfortunately we only had £15 left, which we also had
to use to eat later on. I could buy none of the books, no matter
how much I longed to buy one or two of them. One of the books was
called "Dinosaurs!" and was based on a British television series
(which, obviously, I totally failed not to miss). Excellent
reconstructions in there, and capably written.
In the end we had to sortof hurry into the local Burger King
(yes, more cholesterol - and Burger King doesn't taste quite as
good as McDonald's either), get our luggage presto and get our
asses back over to Liverpool Street Station by 18:55.
The train on the way back had no delay whatsoever. I spent most
of it gazing at some dude who was using the latest Lotus word
processor (I forget its name) on a laptop. I could already feel
inspiration gathering in my fingertips at the mere thought of
being able to write something wherever I was. Of course I didn't
have my portable Z88 with me - Miranda wouldn't have let me if I
By the time we arrived in Harwich it was raining cats and dogs.
None of it bothered us, however, for the first time we would have
to go out in the open would be when we would have to cross the
100 yards or so between the nearest bus stop and our flat in
Utrecht - which would happen in about 13 hours or so.
We quickly bought some cinema tickets for the first film -
"Wayne's World" - and bought some stuff to munch on.
It was the first time I travelled by night, with a cabin and
all. The cabin was very comfortable, with two bunkbeds and even a
bathroom with small shower, toilet and washbasin. Pretty neat,
but not the place you'd want to be when a ship sinks.
"Wayne's World" was good fun. Some of the jokes were difficult,
though, as there were no subtitles. Miranda was the only girl,
and the rest of the cinema was filled with pre-adolescents that
seemed only capable of understanding any jokes if they were
either sex-related or blatantly unsubtle.
After the film, at about 23:00, we went to our cabin to sleep.
We both slept marvelously, even though there was this constant
sound as if the entire ship around us was being tested for its
strength all the time. This is something you get used to,
however, which can't be said of the odd somewhat more violent
bobbing caused by the increasing winds.
At 7:00, Thursday, October 15th, we arrived back at Hoek van
Holland. We had slept fairly well, without bouts of seasickness.
The sky had cleared somewhat, and it was dry.
When checking out and hopping into the train home, our short
holiday had ceased to be. We entered rush hour with commuters who
all found it necessary to have their cigarettes direct all smoke
at our nasal cavities. Cigarette smoke is just like a cat. It
goes to people that hate it most.
So far the introduction which, of course, had nothing to do with
the game whatsoever.
I have actually toyed with the idea of having Cronos Warchild
appear here. Cronos the athlete. Cronos the Christian - just like
Carl Lewis. But I decided against it as Cronos is already
featured sufficiently throughout other kilobytes in this issue.
Besides, I like to write some human interested (i.e. my interest)
now and again.
Let's do the review now.
"The Carl Lewis Challenge" is one of the dozen or so games that
popped up around this year's summer olympics. Psygnosis this time
gave the honour of producing the thing to Teque. Let's see what
they've done about it.
"TCLC" is basically a sports simulation game that relies heavily
on its arcade elements but that has an additional training
simulator module built in.
But let's start at the beginning (or, if you want, begin at the
The game comes supplied on two disks with two manuals - a
somewhat extensive one and another brief thingy with Carl's
training advice. The latter thing is totally superfluous but I
guess it functions to stress the simulation element a bit (more
about that later).
Remarkably, "TCLC" does not load automatically. You have to
double-click on a program icon in a window, after which the whole
thing starts happening.
First you will get an intro. This contains the usual Psygnosis
intro picture with the text "press a key to go on". As long as
you don't press space you'll hear some digitized soundtracker
music of remarkably meagre quality. I understand that Chris
Hülsbeck (who did all music/sound FX) is Mad Max' major
competitor in Germany but from what I've heard in this game I'd
rather have Jochen's stuff any time. The actual in-game music is
of the ordinary 'blip blop' (i.e. regular soundchip) variety and
is even worse, with horrible percussion sounds.
When you press space and wait another while you'll be able to
select "arcade", "training" or "full simulation" - the latter of
the three comprising both the arcade and training bits. What
struck me here is that they've opted for possibly one of the very
worst combinations of background colours ever opted (something
like "faded perkament" or "putrid dead skin before rigor
Obviously, the arcade bit is the bit where you can actually
torture your joystick (or mouse) trying to get on-screen athletes
to move their butts at highest possible speeds. If you select
this you'll be able to select up to four players - which,
unfortunately, will not be capable of competing simultaneously
(not even two can combat each other directly).
When picking your country (one of seventeen different ones) the
program concocts a name that will sortof fit your nationality
(but not quite).
And in goes disk two.
In case you've done some "training" before, you can now load a
squad (i.e. preset players with specific capacities) if you want
to. After that, you can select the control method. There are
three of these: SPEED is the usual one where you have to waggle
your joystick left/right rapidly and where the fire button lets
you do things; GEARING is one where you have to press the mouse
button all the time (in out in out in out etc.) to build up
speed and joystick up will cause actions to be taking place;
RHYTHM sortof lets you waggle in a nerdish way in a pendulum-like
movement which is utterly impossible.
Let the games commence.
All graphics in the game, with the exception of some stuff in
the background and around the arcade screen, are slightly
brushed-up digitized pictures. The overall quality is rather
poor, but not all too disturbingly so.
The events you can compete on are 100 metre sprint, 110 metre
hurdles (these two have replays that can be skipped as well),
javelin, high jump and long jump. The latter three disciplines
are very difficult indeed with very unintuitive joystick
movements and different phases of action. Animations are also
very jumpy, quite on the contrary to stuff I was used, for
example, in the good old days when playing Epyx games like
"Summer Games" and "Summer Games II" on the Commodore 64!
It should also be noted that, after a couple of heats, the best
computer opponent at the 100 metre dash run a whoppin' 8 seconds
(likewise they do 12 seconds at 110 metre hurdles). This is
slightly unrealistic and once more made me respect the people
behind Microprose's "Formula One Grand Prix" where all this sort
of stuff is very realistic indeed in spite of the highly complex
After a couple of heats you go on to the finals. Each time when
you don't succeed in qualifying yourself for a specific event you
will not be able to play successive heats (or the finals) as
far as that particular event is concerned.
Now for the training bit.
I've been employed by a software company myself and I can
already imagine the managing directors at Psygnosis having the
following conversation with the Teque chaps.
"Er...guys, it has to have some sort of true training simulation
option in it."
"People like simulations. Or at least we make them believe they
"Microprose sells hugely. And what do they do?"
"So the game will not sell unless it's got this simulation
angle in it."
"Shut up, or I'll give the job to Probe."
"I don't care what the actual training simulation looks like. As
long as nobody in their right minds will sue us for saying the
game has it whereas it hasn't."
"Get my drift?"
"And don't forget that we also want an ST version. Not just an
"But the Amiga is our favourite machine, and..."
"We can easily get ST people to fork out 26 quid for it."
"But brushing up the graphics will cost at least a week or two
"Don't bother about brushing up. Get the thing on the ST pronto.
You've got until next week for both versions."
They can't do anything about it. It's the sort of people they
are. The bigger the company, the worse.
And it shows.
The entire training bit is almost completely non-interactive and
very tedious indeed. You merely select which athletes are
supposed to do what sort of training and the program does the
rest, increasing specific percentages of the matching athletes'
specifications (power, endurance, that sort of thing). All this
is littered with some "Carl Lewis Advise" which can easily be
The training simulation is not only boring but it is also, sorry
I have to be this harsh, crap. You can totally dismiss this from
the game, actually. It would be a very interesting lawsuit if
someone was to sue them for not having a simulation element after
So "TCLC" is not particularly an excellent game. As a matter of
fact if I would have shelled out 26 quid for the thing I would
have gotten mighty upset and I might actually have started
writing seriously angry letters. The graphics and sounds are way
below standard, there are too few disciplines and the training
element is present but can be totally neglected.
On top of that, the basic game design has fundamental flaws as
well. For example the program never tells you when to press fire,
and it does not check whether the fire button has already been
released after having had to press fire when you have to press
fire again (which can cause you to miss a screen that can be
exited with fire after having had to exit a screen with fire).
After the game is over (after the finals), the program considers
it sufficient just to request you to insert disk one and then
resets itself (so you can start again by double-clicking on that
program icon). Especially this latter bit is exceedingly sloppy.
On top of that I've seen Amiga screenshots which were of such
good quality that it lead me to think the guys did some quick
Amiga->ST graphics conversion without bothering to brush 'em up.
They look naff. If they would have been done on paper I would
have thought they've been in the sun too long.
Title: The Carl Lewis Challenge
Value for money: 5
Overall rating: 6-
Hardware: Colour monitor
Remark: Quite boring. Quite expensive.
Should you want to check out this game anyway, you're welcome to
contact Psygnosis at the address below.
South Harrington Building
Liverpool L3 4BQ
Tel. (051) 709 5755
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.