Sweat!: The Decathlon Game
Sweat! was to be Starpath's version of Activision's Decathlon for the Supercharger. Given the fact that the Supercharger allowed for more memory and larger games, Sweat! probably would have been an amazing game had it been completed. Of course this never happened as the video game market was crumbling rapidly and people weren't spending money on regular video games, much less games that required special hardware. It was around this time that the financially troubled Starpath merged with Epyx. Most of Starpath's programmers transferred over to Epyx and used Sweat!'s game concept to create Summer Games.
Although Sweat! is the basis for Summer Games, little if any code from Sweat! was used. According to Sweat! programmer Scott Nelson:
"Actually, there's probably more of Party Mix in Summer Games than Sweat!. Sweat! never got much beyond the concept stage."
Prototype #1 (Running Events)
There are three known prototypes for Sweat, each at a different stage of completion. One prototype consists only of the running style events (Hurdles, 100 Meters, and 400 Meters), a second prototype consists only of the Shot Put event (this prototype doesn't even contain the event selection menus), and a newly discovered third prototype appears to not only have a title screen, but a more complete event selection. A fourth prototype featuring a very early build of the Hurdles event is rumored to exist, but the rom has not yet surfaced.
Sweat! uses an interesting text menu system for selecting the events. The letters are nice and large, and seem to be staggered up and down. This effect makes for a stylish yet easy to read menu. The first menu will ask if you want to practice an event, compete in a single event, or do the whole decathlon. Since this prototype is incomplete only "Single Event" or "Practice" really do anything. Selecting "Decathalon" (note the spelling error) will allow you to select how many players there are (from one to nine), and then bring up a name entry screen. You can enter your name if you want, but after that you'll see the message "Why Not Pick A Different Event" and be brought back to the main menu.
If you chose "Single Event" or "Practice", the event select menu will appear and list all ten of the planned events. Since work was stopped quite early on Sweat! only three of the events are actually selectable. Selecting anything other than Hurdles, 100 Meters, or 400 Meters will result in the message "Why Not Pick A Different Event". These events appear to be more or less fully playable, although there is no sound. You see your man at the starting line, and the words "READY", "SET", and "BANG!" will appear on the wall. Once you make it to the finish line the game will freeze, but pressing select will bring you back to the main menu.
The controls for Sweat! are a bit odd, as the first player joystick port uses the paddle controllers (used for navigating the menus and the Shot Put event), and the second port uses the joystick controller (used in the running events). The joystick controls are similar to Track & Field or Decathlon in that you must move the joystick left and right to simulate running. However, unlike T&F and Decathlon the running motion isn't very smooth, and if the joystick is moved too rapidly the game will not pick up on the movement. A medium-fast motion is recommended for the best results. Pressing the button will cause your player the jump, which is only useful to get over the hurdles (although you can hop your way to the finish line if you wish).
The graphics on the race screen though are very impressive, even for the Supercharger. The graphics are large, brightly colored, and very detailed. As your character hops his way to victory, you can see the three layers of the background scroll at different rates in what may be the one of the most advanced uses of parallax scrolling on the Atari 2600. The stadium is on one layer, the hills are on a second layer, and the mountains in the background are on yet a third layer. The scrolling is very smooth and really adds alot to the game.
Prototype #2 (Shot Put)
This prototype starts up immediately with the Shot Put, and it appears no other events are present (or at least not selectable). This is probably because this prototype was not meant to be a stand alone build like Prototype #1, but rather a tape load to be called from the game engine itself (see Prototype #3 for more details).
While this event may be a little hard to control, it appears that it is fully functional. Unlike the running events, this event uses the paddle controller in port 1. Moving the paddle will select how much power your man is using (shown by the gauge in the middle of the screen), while pressing the fire button will throw the Shot Put. To successfully throw the Shot Put, your must press the fire button before your man gets through all four throwing motions. The optimal time to press the button is right as your man reaches the final motion (as shown below), if the button is pressed earlier the Shot Put will not travel as far. The more power you use the faster your man will go through the motions, and thus the more difficult it is to time it correctly.
This recently discovered version of Sweat is interesting for a number of reasons. Not only does it contain a title screen (complete with a nice rendition of the Star Spangled Banner), but the game engine itself seems to be much farther long than the other two prototypes. In this version of Sweat, when an unimplemented event is selected the game will display a fake score of 000 and declare Contestant #1 the winner, rather than asking you to pick a different event. This build also allows the player to select menu items using the joystick rather than the paddle controllers, which is a welcome change. Also take note that the 100 Meter and 400 Meter have been renamed the 100m Dash and 400m Dash (which makes more sense), and that the line between the contestant number and name has been removed from the name entry screen.
Another interesting change to the game engine is that rather than accessing the running events (Hurdles, 100m Dash, and 400m Dash) from the prototype itself (as was done in the earlier prototype), it tries to access separate tape loads for each event. This is how the final version of the game would have worked (each event would have been a separate tape load), and shows that the game design was finally taking form. Unfortunately none of the loads that this prototype is looking for have been found, so there isn't much to see. It is thought that Prototype #2 (which consists only of the Shot Put event) might be a lost load from this prototype.
Obviously a lot of effort was being put into this game, it's a shame that it never was finished. Thankfully the concept was saved and used as the basis for the ever-popular Summer Games series. Even though Summer Games was eventually ported to the 2600; one can't help feeling slightly gypped. Sweat! was obviously the more graphically superior of the two games, and it sported 10 events as compared to only 7 in Summer Games. But since the 2600 already had a Decathlon game (The Activision Decathlon), I suppose it's just as well.