Casual Friday: An Online Olympics

The original plan: Go interactive and challenge you--yes, you, the one who just clicked on PC World's weekly column dedicated to goofing off. Then I realized that I'd get my butt kicked. But I digress. For the past couple of days, I've been playing Reset Generation--the most cleverly designed, most addictive, and most hard-to-quickly-describe puzzle game in ages.

Reset Generation is an online turn-based puzzle strategy game that's both nostalgic and highly original. Play as a Plumber, a Hedgehog, or any of a number of other classic gaming icons. Your mission is rescue the princess (of course), which you accomplish by dropping Tetris blocks and grabbing various power-ups. Whew! You get all that? It's time to go toe-to-toe.

Right now, you can play Reset Generation for free online (Java required) in a browser, or you can download it onto a phone that works with Nokia's N-Gage platform--and compete against others. Yep, I've seen lots of games over the years that have invited cross-platform competition to dismal effect. The last abortive attempt, Shadowrun, pitted PC gamers against Xbox 360 gamers, and it was a mess. Shadowrun's biggest problem was that it tried to dumb down the traditional first-person shooter experience so that console commandoes had a fighting chance. Reset, however, smartly creates a level playing field as you take turns (on a timer) plotting your next move.

But that's only half of what's unique about Reset Generation. All of the assets used to create the game are available for download. Do what you like with 'em. Want to create some sweet wallpaper with the art? Grab the MP3 soundtrack from 8-Bit Weapon? Create your own game? That's what Ben "Yahtzee" Crawford has already done with Own 'Em.  In his creation, you have to sock your opponent once and send him flying as far as possible--like a cartoony shot put. Your high score gets logged online. Y'know, try to get a gold medal in the Hedgehog toss...

Why stop there with Olympic-level logic stretches? A game coming to the PS3's online store, The Last Guy, is a 200-meter dash away from monsters. TLG has you racing other civilians to escape zones before time runs out, while avoiding zombies, bugs, and random creatures. A promotional Japanese site for The Last Guy lets you race people to safe zones on Web sites--just enter a URL and it'll create a custom level. (FWIW, I tried to create a level based on my last column but PC World apparently isn't conducive to monster-dodging).

The Real Olympics. Kind of.

Maybe you'd rather play the "real" thing. Sega recently released Beijing 2008: The Official Video Game of the Olympic Games (and yes, that is the full title). It amounts to a gussied-up, button-mashing series of track and field (and gymnastics and swimming) events. It's fun--if you define fun as early-onset carpal tunnel syndrome. Me? I'd rather indulge in online sporting events that I don't have to drop a penny on. And just like clockwork--or should that be "just like an undetectable dietary supplement cycle"?--here they are, playable right now, free of charge (just click the links).

Soccer: Power Soccer is a game you absolutely must try. After installing the ActiveX control in IE, you get drafted into an online soccer league. I played a couple warm-up games against the CPU, but give it enough time and you can find buddies and field your own team. The game looks good, plays well...and if you have an Internet connection, you can probably play this on a modest laptop.

Archery: The game is called Hit the Jackpot, and it's a fairly addictive little target shooter. Accounting for wind and sniping away at targets makes it a little more challenging.

Springboard Diving: Honestly, this game isn't very pretty--but if you're really into the thought of jumping into a pool from way, way up (it's tougher than it looks), take the plunge with High Dive Hero.

100m Dash, Long Jump, Javelin Throw, 110m Hurdles: For some cutesy takes on classic track and field events, give the Helsinki Summer Games a go. Pick a nationality, compete, and see how you match up against the rest of the world.  

Or, y'know, you could just sit back in all your couch-potatoey glory and watch the real Olympics unfold online during your lunch breaks. Stuck on that long, boring conference call? Watch the Beijing games at NBCOlympics.com. The site offers fairly extensive coverage of everything from pregame trials and warm-ups to the real deal. Microsoft's Silverlight 2.0 tech makes it possible. But that's a whole other story. 

Well, that's my cue. Let the games begin...

Senior Writer Darren Gladstone geeks out over gadgets, games, and odd uses for humdrum tech. In other words, he's a nerd--and he's okay with that.

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