Justin Smith from Captain Games is probably most widely known for sparking off the Enviro-Bear 2010 phenomenon of 2009. The world’s first bear driving a car simulator made a huge splash on the App Store, and proved that beyond the surface of MS Paint quality visuals and purposely awkward control schemes could lie a surprising amount of depth and replay value. Also, you play as a bear driving a car through a forest. Not every video game lets you do that.

Those same principles of low-fidelity visuals, unwieldy controls, and high playability carried through to his next iOS release So Long, Oregon! [$1.99], and they are ever-present in his latest bit of zaniness know as Justin Smith’s Realistic Summer Sports Simulator [99¢]. Don’t let the ironic title fool you, there is absolutely nothing realistic about Summer Sports Simulator. In fact, it’s greatest attraction is just how NOT realistic it portrays the various Olympic-style events it contains.

Your job is to pick a fictional country and compete in up to 14 events against three other fictional countries to see who can win the most gold medals. The events themselves are simplistic 2D affairs that are what you might have expected to find in an Olympics game for the Atari 2600 in the early 80s. Pretty standard retro-inspired stuff, but where things start to get really Enviro-Bear-y is in how you control your athletes.

Rather than traditional controls featuring d-pads and buttons, you’ll direct your athletes in Summer Sports Simulator with a spring attached to their bodies (and sometimes, the athletic equipment itself). So for example, to run the 100 meter dash you’ll touch the runner directly and drag him down the track by his springy attached string, over and over, as he clumsily tumbles, cartwheels, and flies towards the finish line.

I just cannot stress enough how terribly awkward this is, and yet, it totally works. Plus, it’s downright hilarious at times watching your blocky athlete stiffly flop around the screen. I’ve easily had more laugh out loud moments with Summer Sports Simulator in the past week than I have with any other game, book, or movie this past year. It’s the game I immediately gravitate to on my springboard when I know I need instant fun and a hearty chuckle, and so far it hasn’t disappointed once.

So while the simplicity and absurdity of Summer Sports Simulator come together to create a fun experience, the game does lack a sense of direction that holds it back a bit. There’s no persistent player data, so each time you start up the game you begin as a new random country. It would be cool if you could pick your own country to play as every time where it kept careful track of all your stats and high scores.

For such a high score focused game, some persistent game save tracking is essential to keep me coming back to play. On that same note, an online network like Game Center would be great to compete against the scores of other players around the world. Based on the developer’s comments in our forums, it looks like more country customization options and better high score tracking will be coming in future updates. Right now, although still incredibly fun, the entire affair feels a bit too much like a one-off arcade experience each time you play.

Finally, I’m not a huge fan of the pay model used in Summer Sports Simulator. The initial game costs 99¢ and comes with 4 events, and 10 more events can be unlocked via a $1.99 IAP. I definitely feel like the entire package is worth the $3 you’ll end up spending to get the whole thing, but with such a “love it or hate it” type of gameplay I think it would have been beneficial to let players try out those initial 4 events for free, to make sure it’s something that would suit them. Lowering the barrier of entry for a game like this is important, and I’m not so sure how many people will be willing to pay a dollar to try out what essentially feels like a set of demo events.

Despite my minor complaints though, Justin Smith’s Realistic Summer Sports Simulator is some of the most fun I’ve had with an iOS game in recent memory. It’s the perfect game to jump into and play around with in short bursts, or focus hours of your attention on trying to earn high scores. The complete lack of instructions on how to complete the events is part of its charm, as it’s actually fun to experiment with different techniques trying to find the best one for each event.

I’ve also dumped an embarrassing amount of time into playing around with the interactive torch lighting ceremony before your events begin, or the medal ceremony at the end where it rains hundreds of medals on the athletes which you can fling around the screen. There’s no gameplay benefit to these things, but they’re the type of silly little details that I love. Seriously, I can’t think of any other game that let’s you grab a jet out of the sky by its rainbow contrail and spin and flick it around to your heart’s content.

If you don’t mind dropping a dollar to see what it’s all about, Summer Sports Simulator offers a deceptive amount of depth and playability. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if it clicks for you then you likely won’t hesitate in dropping an extra couple of dollars to unlock all the events. If a couple of future updates can tighten up the experience with persistent profile saves and online scoring features, then Justin Smith’s Realistic Summer Sports Simulator will end up living a long happy life on my springboard right next to its brother Enviro-Bear 2010.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • http://twitter.com/oooooomonkey Oooooomonkey

    I picked this up a few days ago and have to say I've had a blast so far. I went straight in for the IAP to unlock all the content.
    IMO this is one of those crazy type of games you'll not find very often (like enviro-bear) so you'll either love it Or hate it and I love it. :-) it's this kind of game that makes me love iOS gaming.

  • Anonymous

    Just downloaded this and while this game is hilarious, Justin should have just charged the $1.99 ($2.99 I guess) for the whole thing and been done with it. Making it an IAP is feels unnecessary since you get more content with most free games with IAP then you do in those first four events.

  • http://twitter.com/guildastrogator CJ

    I was on the verge of opening up the App Store and getting this, but the mention of IAP threw me off. I'm sure the game is as enjoyable as the reviewer indicates, but I'm sort of rebelling against the proliferation of IAP that has been hitting the App Store in recent weeks. Game developers are trying to squeeze blood from turnips here, charging for every imaginable tweak and option.

    "Would you like the in-game Music volume to go from 10 to 11? Click here to purchase the Nigel Tufnel Audio Pack for $1.99."

    • http://twitter.com/MattRix MattRix

      This is what happens when games that took hundreds of hours to make can be bought for 99 cents. 

  • Mark Blumenfeld

    I feel a bit ripped off because I bought this game and I only got four events.  I bought it for one dollar to find out that I have to pay another $1.99???  I do not approve.

  • Anonymous

    i think we can say that the 'in app purchase' system has truly reached it's nadir when even ironically, post-modern, deliberately bad games include it

    • Ryan Smith

      To be fair, this is not a typical IAP setup. You can still completely play 4 events for 99 cents. If you want 10 more, you pay for those. If you don't like the game, you're only out 99 cents as opposed to 2.98.

  • http://twitter.com/oooooomonkey Oooooomonkey

    The world of ios games is a crazy place. I mean the amount of time it must take to make a game and people have the cheek to complain over 50p here and there. Jeez what other platform can you buy games so cheap. Even the most expensive app store game is cheap when compared to ds or psp games.

  • http://profiles.google.com/3rdxlucky Don Hues

    I don't see the issue with this sort of iap at all.  Its not like he's nickel and diming you to buy coins so you can progress through the game or something.  You buy an abreviated version of the game for 99 cents, then if you like that you can bump up to the full game for another $1.99.  Big deal.  Its certainly a more friendly setup than to charge you $2.99 right off the bat and give you everything and you find you hate the game and wasted 3 bucks...I don't see any reason for people to expect to get stuff for free.

  • http://twitter.com/QWERTYtheBold Brandon

    "I've easily had more laugh out loud moments with Summer Sports Simulator in the past week than I have with any other game, book, or movie this year."

    FTFY

  • http://twitter.com/porsupah Porsupah

    Interestingly, Deep 13 apparently foresaw the IAP strategy, as explained in this MST3K invention exchange:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BhtR8bEN6M

  • Nate

    This strikes me as a pretty close spoof of the ancient PC game Microsoft Decathlon (1981), where you had a similar combination of extreme graphic simplicity and perplexing, non-intuitive game mechanics involving the keyboard.  For some of the races you needed to basically *pound* on adjacent keys in sequence, for the shotput you needed to estimate two different angular forces, and apply them at exactly the right moments by pressing keys that set the arm of a two-dimensional profile of a person from the waist up in motion.  When playing head-to-head with a friend or sibling, sometimes you'd be bashing on keys on opposite ends of the keyboard at the same time, shaking the computer desk like crazy (and annoying the hell out of one's parents, undoubtedly).
    http://www.giantbomb.com/microsoft-decathlon/61-3788/

  • http://twitter.com/Schvitzing Misty Jugs

    Looks fun, but I'm not a fan of IAP, so I'm not buying.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/HR3TJBH4DKDZ247EQXTF3YG4NQ Montgomery

    Enviro-bear was a bit one-note, in terms of replay value. This one has replay value and the foley / Sound FX make the game beyond amusing. The bike race was a major laugh out loud moment the first time I tried it.

    Don't forget to throw the coaches and starters too.

  • http://twitter.com/ktern Brady

    I don't know how anyone could look at that trailer and not be throwing money at their screen. IAP? WHATEVER, MAN. It was all an instant purchase for me, and it's worth ten times its asking price in laughs.

  • Anonymous

    i think i am gonna get this

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4JB2QIEYV7QBN7HC4WOGFOOHUI Jamie Oliver Aspinall

    its quite hard to handle so its not that "we all play c64 summer games" feeling i thought it could be. so you cant really compete with your friends when they haven't the game too. Thats sad, otherwise its real funny.

Justin Smith's Realistic Summer Sports Simulator Reviewed by Jared Nelson on . Rating: 4