So let’s press left or right key and see what we get….
At this point the game screen changes to black, and we get the seemingly nonsensical words “school child rally” above what appear, to my untrained eyes, to be some Japanese characters. To save you the trouble, I Googled “school child rally” and, along with the expected images of Asian and Indian children marching in their school uniforms and holding protest signs, there was a YouTube clip dated from 2011 of the exact game that we’re about to sample. So, if you were under the impression that Sprinter, with its two-button control system, was a state of the art game that would push your mid-2010’s computer to its limits, I’m sorry to have to disabuse you of the notion.
Helpfully, this introductory screen once again explains the complex control system, this time with animations of the left and right arrow keys going up and down, each in turn, one after the other, just in case someone thought both directional buttons should be mashed down together at the same time.
Another hit of either arrow button, and we get to the game proper. We have a ¾ perspective on a line of racers, with our character easy to spot – besides being located in the middle of the pack, he’s the only one garbed in colorful attire (pink shirt and blue shorts – really?), while all of our competitors, apparently just come from a tennis date, are clad all in white. The starter counts down, “Ready…get set…Go!” And with a fire of his pistol, we’re off, and the button pressing begins.
And here’s where the game’s biggest problem comes up: it’s just way too easy. The first time I played it, I did the best I could, and my avatar left the rest of the pack behind like Usain Bolt in a footrace against the Golden Girls. If there’s no challenge, there’s not much value in repeat play. Even taking a slow, metronome-like pace, I was still able to win pretty easily against the other seven runners. Heck, one time when the race started when I wasn’t ready, I still managed to come in sixth without hitting a single button.
That said, I can’t deny that there was a certain amount of retro appeal to a race where rhythmically hitting two buttons was the key to victory. Playing it brought me back to my youth and the early days of the Apple II Plus, when my best friend, Matt, and I would play what was, at the time, the cutting edge in computer gaming – Olympic Decathalon. With a few running events requiring the same rapid coordination between two keys to achieve success, we were pretty evenly matched. However, when our drummer friend, John Paul Jones (yes, really) would play, it was clear that, like the aforementioned Bolt, there are some athletes who are just simply in a better class than the rest of us.
Overall, the game is not without its charms, but it needs to be more challenging. A online component or even the opportunity to race against past scores, would add a lot to replay appeal. Otherwise, it’s a short, somewhat fun, diversion from the site’s main casino games, but not much more.