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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this game is directly tied to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, and is, as a result, squeaky clean. Indeed, the only thing likely to offend anyone is the game's surprisingly high level of difficulty. Players with weak fingers and thumbs may find the events that require rapid button tapping or control stick swiveling to be all but impossible. You should also be aware that the game supports online play. Common Sense Media does not recommend online play for children under 12 years of age.
What's it about?
A byproduct of this summer's Olympic Games in China, Sega's BEIJING 2008 is perhaps the deepest and most challenging track and field game ever made. Featuring some three dozen events, ranging from running and swimming races to Judo and rapid-fire pistol shooting competitions, there is no shortage of activities in which to engage. Nor is there a dearth of modes. Players can spend as much time as they like training in each event, set up custom multiplayer competitions featuring events of their choice, or compete in a lengthy Olympic Games, which spans 17 days of qualifiers, medal events, and festivities. Ambitious players can even customize their teams by selecting the athletes they want to take into competition.
Track and field games aren't exactly known for their longevity, but the folks behind Beijing 2008 have done a good job of creating a game that players may actually continue playing after the 2008 Olympics has come and gone. The training and multiplayer competition modes are nice features, but it's the primary Olympic Games mode that will consume the majority of most players' time. It leads you through the Games, day by day, forcing you to qualify for each event, and then rewards you with points that can be spent on team attributes, such as power, speed, and stamina. The higher a team's attributes, the easier it will be to get to the podium when the medal competitions start later on in the game. The attributes system also brings an element of strategy into the play that has never before been present in an Olympics video game. Knowing that you haven't the kind of fast fingers required to win running races, do you forsake investing points in speed and instead favor power so that you can increase your performance in other activities, such as weightlifting and the parallel bars?
Is it any good?
Your decision will likely depend on how comfortable you happen to be with the game's interface. Sega has done a great job of mixing up the controls for each event -- spin the control sticks to swim, mash the right stick back and forth to jog, pump a pair of action buttons to sprint -- so that players can play multiple events back-to-back without experiencing hand fatigue. Still, Beijing 2008 is a difficult game no matter how you cut it. Don't be surprised if you run into events for which you simply lack the finger dexterity or stamina required to excel (like the devilish 100 meter dash). Plus, you should expect it to take several days to complete the Olympic Games; even with the excellent control design, your digits will almost certainly grow tired after an hour or so of play. However, if you enjoy track and field games, Beijing 2008 will be worth the hand cramps. Just think of your aching finger tendons as being akin to the sore muscles Olympic athletes experience while training for their events.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the Olympics. Do the Games make you feel more patriotic? Do you think they are successful in getting countries to set aside their differences and come together in the spirit of friendly competition? Does the video game version do a good job of recreating look and feel of the Games? Does it in include your favorite events?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.