2D sports titles have had their place since Konami’s Track & Field rattled arcade screws loose with its fiercely competitive button rapping. WayForward’s Xtreme Sports draws influence from California Games, a summery seaside boardwalk of hip events and addictive tap-a-thons. You have two characters to choose from, dude or girlfriend dudette, who face off in various tricky sporting events that scream early ’00s gnarlyness.
Xtreme Sports, originally a 2000 Game Boy Color title, was graphically impressive for Nintendo’s colour handheld, and the portrait and character art will be familiar to anyone ingratiated with WayForward’s pirate platformer, Shantae. The visuals are bold, colourful, and cleanly arranged, each minigame functioning well around a two-button control scheme. As well as a piecemeal practice mode, the story game features an island over-world with various NPCs who shape your bid for podium gold, and energy drinks that offer a competitive advantage. To enter the tournament proper where the challenge is increased, you first need to complete the training rounds. There are five events to tackle: skateboarding, in-line skating, street luge, surfing, and skyboarding.
Skateboarding gives you a half pipe in which to build momentum, pulling off tricks at the incline lip using various input combos. It becomes more engaging when you’re making the lip on every roll and combining different tricks to shatter the opponent’s target scores. In-line skating is a 2D obstacle course where you tap to skate, slide under gates, jump and double jump to grab all the flags and reach the finish line in a timely fashion. It’s fun, with increasing creativity in its layouts, and challenging to master. Street Luge is probably our least favourite, a top-down course where you can earn points by hitting ramps and avoiding obstacles. The limitation of the Game Boy Color’s squat 4:3 screen makes it hard to see what’s coming here, meaning you need to hold back on top speeds until you have the layout memorised.
Surfing is very much cut from California Games, requiring you to skilfully ride beneath an endless wave for bonus point pickups and leap the top edge to perform mid-air tricks, ensuring your angle of reentry is suitable to avoid a washout. Finally, Skyboarding is not only the wildest event, but also one of our favourites, seeing you leap out of a plane, board at your feet. This one is fairly unique, in that you can grab directional arrow blocks to form a combo string. You then need to tap the D-Pad in the order of the collected arrows, completing the sequence to pull off a high-value stunt. It’s both novel and addictive.
Alas, even with WayForward’s skilled programming and graphical artistry, Xtreme Sports remains limited. The island overworld works well, adding a charming dash of RPG-lite, and the increased challenge will keep you at the events for some time. There are purportedly more than 400 competitors to defeat, but while fun and neatly executed, the repetitive nature and limited number of sporting events means that mileage will vary in how long it holds your attention.