The Activision Decathlon [Atari 2600] – Review

It's even got the Olympic theme song!
It’s even got the Olympic theme song!

Designed by David Crane and published by Activision for the Atari 2600 and a cavalcade of other platforms around 1983, The Activision Decathlon hit the market right around the time Konami’s Track & Field was hitting the arcades. Lesser known no doubt, The Activision Decathlon is a fantastic game and a sublime blast with human opponents (up to four!).

As it is a game from the venerable David Crane, there wasn’t really the question of whether or not it would be good. Thus far, I’ve only played one dud from him and that was Laser Blast, which is still a decent game. What makes this game work so well though is the simplicity of the Atari 2600. For most games on the platform, the only control option was the joystick and a single red button. As was the case, this game is easy to pick up and play and I only had troubles with one event – the pole vault, where I needed to press the button twice – once to set my pole and again to eject myself. Even then, I realized what I had to do by my final attempt.

With ten events, the game offers plenty of differentiation while not having to stray to obscure events. Most every event involves rapidly flicking the joystick back and forth while some, as mentioned, require a button press or two. Easily the most difficult event is the 1500-meter race. It takes about four minutes of flicking the joystick/analog stick back and forth. The same motion done for four minutes doesn’t sound so tough, until you pass the 100-meter marker and are hit with a wave of deflation realizing what you’re in for. All events, even that one, are simple and fun so this was a blast to play in the competition.

Run Forrest, run!
Run Forrest, run!

Unlockable in Activision Anthology are three patches. The bronze, silver, and gold medal patches are unlocked with 8,000, 9,000, and 9,400 points respectively. Not included in the compilation was the original commercial featuring Kim Kardashian’s stepfather, Bruce Jenner.

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