8-bit Heroes: DALEY THOMPSON'S DECATHLON - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Time to knacker your joystick...

Oh, the hours spent playing this. I can not tell you! But there's probably an equation to be made between hours spent playing and joysticks broken. Something like 2:1. Because this game was an absolute joystick killer!

Developed and released under licence by Ocean Software in 1984, Daley Thompson's Decathlon arrived in the wake of Daley Thompson not only being a total bad ass on Superstars but also winning gold medals in the decathlon not just once, but twice, at the 1980 and 1984 Olympic Games...

Just as Thompson would do in real life, the player takes part in the ten events of the modern decathlon:
  • Day 1: 100 metres, long jump, shot put, high jump, and 400 metres
  • Day 2: 110 hurdles, pole vault, discus, javelin, and 1500 metres
You start with three lives; failure to reach the minimum standard in an event results in the loss of one life. Success in the 1500 metres event results in the game returning to Day 1 to repeat the events with more difficult qualification criteria.

A lot of the events would see your avatar running, which, depending on the computer, could be achieved by hitting two keys (representing the left and right leg) alternately and as quickly as possible. 110 meter hurdles was always a fun one for this. Bash, bash, bash, bash, bash z and x and then perfectly time a quick punch of the space bar, and repeat.

Of course, the preferred play method of choice was via a joystick, with running achieved by moving it from side to side as quickly as possible. The latter being the reason behind the death of many a Quickshot II Pro. Honestly, there must be a landfill somewhere devoted to them all.

The Spectrum version of Daley Thompson's Decathlon was the first game released for the Sinclair computer to use Speedlock, a fast loading system written by David Aubrey-Jones and David Looker in 1983. The two programmers had become frustrated at the slow loading times of the computer's tape loading system, and realised it would be possible to write a better one. Speedlock used several advanced features of the Spectrum's architecture, which not only improved loading times but made it harder to create illegitimate copies without the protection. And as, back in the day, many, many copies of games were freely distributed on cassette tape in the playgrounds of schools up and down the country, clearly this was a concern for early software houses.

The soundtrack of the Commodore 64 version of Daley Thompson's Decathlon was composed by Martin Galway & David Dunn. Galway is, of course, one of the greats of the chiptune video game music of the day, and he included a loading tune based on the 1978 electronic music piece "Rydeen" by Yellow Magic Orchestra (whose work we looked at here). It's a great tune and made loading time so much more bearable. Have a listen...

Daley Thompson's Decathlon went on to win the award for Best (Overall) Arcade Game in the Crash magazine Readers Awards 1984, as well as being named the Best Arcade-Style Game of the Year at the Golden Joystick Awards.

A second game, Daley Thompson's Super-Test was released the following year and the third title, Daley Thompson's Olympic Challenge was released in 1988 to coincide with the 1988 Olympic Games, but neither quite hit the heights or sheer playability of the original.

Now if only it had come with a no-damage-to-joystick guarantee, it would've been perfect!

Did you ever play Daley Thompson's Decathlon? How many joysticks did you go through? Let us know your memories of this 8-bit hero in the comments below, and view all our 8-bit Heroes articles here.

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