Wednesday 22 August 2012

Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Rings

Look it's almost topical. Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Rings, a Sega Mega Drive (and Super Nintendo) platform game for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. This is their legacy. I'm so very sorry.

I can only imagine that kids were crying in the street in fear that Izzy, unlikable mascot of the XXVI Olympiad, would be brought into this world without an official video game adventure. Well fear not - the dish of mediocrity is ready to be served.

IQftOR is about as generic as mid-90s 2D platformers can come. Built on a tight budget to cash in on a two week event, this is the sort of game that could be wiped from existence without anyone giving a damn. You play as Izzy, mascot of Atlanta 1996 and you traverse across levels collecting medals, defeating uninspired enemies and uh... rescuing parts of a logo and getting to the Atlanta games or something. It's a stupid idea.

You run, you jump, and you wrestle a glitch-ridden experience over a dozen levels - that's Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Rings. The game is essentially a poor man's Cool Spot or Earthworm Jim - a second rate platformer for the kids, and about as bland and unmemorable as one could imagine. There's not much to say about this one - slap dash level design and awkward physics makes the game feel incredibly loose, and questionable object placement (along with a sound engine which breaks if you pause the game for too long), paints a picture of an untested release rushed to market.

The frame rate is rarely consistent, causing the game to feel unbalanced and on occasion, broken. The graphics are bland, with very boring environments, dismal colour schemes and sloppy animation, and the music is equally lacklustre. Though it holds up better than many other Mega Drive titles, it's obvious that there wasn't much love for Izzy during the development phase - it tries too hard, yet at the same time, it doesn't try hard enough.

Izzy can transform at certain points which adds another dimension of play, but it's rarely used effectively and in some cases has a detrimental effect to the experience. You have forced scrolling segments which aren't much fun, and it's always clear that Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Rings is a cold hearted, corporate cash-in with no long-term plans. I mean seriously, this barely appealed to anyone back then - it's barely worth mentioning today.

The game isn't complete garbage but it's hard to understand why it exists. Izzy wasn't a character that resonated with the general public back in the day, and half-assed platform games like this exacerbate his problems. Nobody watches the Olympic Games for the marketing department - they watch it for the sport, something almost completely absent in this release. That being said, U.S. Gold did publish a flurry of traditional track and field games for the games around this period, and they didn't fare much better.

So yes, though a neat piece of video game history, you can probably avoid this one.

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