Athens 2004 is basically more than two-dozen mini games rolled into one. It's an improvement over those old Track and Field games, but there's still a lot of button mashing.

As the 2004 Olympics draw near, so too does the greedy hand of licensed merchandising. I actually had to purchase this game myself and I can tell you it will be the last piece of Olympic merchandise that I waste my money on for at least the next four years. Unless you count the Winter Olympics. I might have to fork over a few bucks for that one too.

Athens 2004 is not a total waste of money. For me it was, but I can see that this game would interest some sports fans. The only thing that kept me interested is looking forward to the next event. Each one seems like a game in itself but truth be told many of them are very similar. Although there are new control configurations to learn for each game, it doesn't take long to get used to any one in particular. There is a practice mode for each event which gives you unlimited access to hone your skills before you attempt to go for the gold.

Competing for the medals is fun but it's short lived. If I found that I wasn't in range I just didn't care enough to go back and practice. It just doesn't interest me. On the other hand if I found an event that I had a decent chance in, even coming in somewhere around sixth place, it inspired me to do better. I was quite surprised that I was better at some events that I didn't think I would do so well in such as swimming and pole vaulting. Other events like skeet shooting and gymnastics I absolutely sucked at. You don't always have to go for the gold in the single-player mode. You can earn points which you can redeem for stuff at the Olympic store. I wonder if I could accumulate enough to get my money back for this game.

Events include high jump, long jump, javelin throw, archery, gymnastics, weightlifting, Equestrian, aquatics and various variations thereof. For example there are 13 different track and field events. As you can guess the gameplay makes use of button mashing, power meters, split-second timing and even some platforming skills. All of the events are relatively easy to perform but will require some practice to develop. In some modes you'll actually playing against real world records. No wonder some events can be difficult to beat.

There are 64 different countries that you can represent and some 800 characters that you can choose from - but more on that later.

The Party mode is an arcade-style of gameplay that utilizes the Dance Mat to perform 10 different events including running, jumping and swimming. It's a lot of fun and you can actually get some exercise using other parts of your body other than your forefinger. The Challenge mode lets you compete against two to four players.

I'm not so sure that the spirit of the Olympics has been captured to great effect in Athens 2004. Although the arenas have been rendered from actual architectural drawings, they appear too cold and sterile. As though you're competing in a series of uber-hip, Eurotrash hospitals. Speaking of Eurotrash, remember the 800 different characters I mentioned earlier? It appears as though the developers have a difficult time rendering the various cultures. Some of these characters look downright scary. Their faces are distorted and their bodies and heads are misshapen. The women are anything but beautiful. It also doesn't help that the animation is choppy and makes all of the athletes look less than graceful.

Athens 2004 is the only officially licensed Olympic videogame. As a novelty it's not a bad way to kill a day but I wouldn't recommend paying full price for it. This is the kind of game that I would expect to find in a cereal box. At least that way I'd have some cereal to look forward to for the rest of the week.

System: PS2
Dev: Eurocom/ SCEE
Pub: Sony
Released: July 2004
Players: 1 - 4
Review by Fenix