Atari Lynx

California Games

California Games

Format: Atari Lynx
Media: Cartridge
Year: 1989
Developer: Epyx
Publisher: Atari

California Games

Ah California – where the sun always shines, the surfing is great and beach parties rock with scantily clad women with golden tans aplenty. Throw some cool sporting events into a competition and you have yourself some California Games.

If it was one game that Atari was betting on to shift more Lynx units, this one was it – California Games. The Lynx version of Cali Games turned out a bit different from its console and home computer counterparts. Firstly, the number of events was cut down to four: BMX, Half Pipe, Surfing and Footbag. Secondly, the BMX and Surfing events were tweaked for the Lynx screen which actually made them quite enjoyable to play.  Thirdly, you could not pick your sponsor (oh no, I wanted Santa Cruz boards!). Lastly, gone were the earthquakes, the taunting dolphin and the menacing shark with sunglasses.

Now, I know what you are thinking, what the hell is left in this Lynx version of California Games! Relax, chill out like a real West Coaster. This game is so awesome, I would recommend you to get a Lynx just to play it. The learning curve to play the events is quite easy, with the half pipe event being the most difficult to get used to out of the four. For those of you that have never had the pleasure of playing California Games, let’s run through the event playbook:

California Games

BMX – Ride your bike on the stunt course strewn with obstacles and get to the finish line before the timer runs out. The more stunts performed and the faster you hit that finish line, the better your score. If you keep on crashing on the way to the finish line, the event spits you out.

California Games

Half Pipe – grab your board and hit the half pipe to build up your momentum. Once you have some speed, hit each ramp with some cool tricks to gain points.

California Games

Surfing – my personal favorite of all the events. Surfing was changed on this version to riding the wave from ‘right to left’ – this actually breathed a new life to this event, as I was never crazy about surfing on the console versions. You earn points by staying ahead of the wave and getting airborne to perform (multiple) spins. Yes, I can do quadruple spins – that is a 1440! Oh yeah  you must land the board on the wave at an angle that won’t see you diving into the surf.

California Games

Footbag – or hacky sack. The premise is simple, keep the bag off the ground by kicking, kneeing or head-butting it in the air. Earn extra points by spinning around while the bag is in the air or by hitting George. Who is George you ask ? He is the friendly seagull that you hit as he flies across the top of the screen. Luckily animal welfare groups were cool about knocking off seagulls back in 1989.

The challenge of each event is always to beat your (or your friends) high score. The only way to achieve a higher score is to nail the timing in each event. Get the timing wrong, and not only does your score suffer, the game also humiliates you with light hearted quips. Thankfully, these were left in the Lynx game.

So there you have it – four obscure events that are quite enjoyable to play. If you have a Lynx, California Games is a mandatory addition to your games library.

California Games

Graphics Awesome detail and animation in all events. This game shows off the power of the Lynx


Sound Simply awesome and ambient tunes for each event. The sound effects are just so sweet too


Playability Four distinct events which will keep you on your toes


Lastability Single or multi player, this game is built to be replayed so those high scores and records can be broken


Overall The perfect mix of variation, challenge, enjoyment and fun.



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Alex Boz (aka: ausretrogamer) is a freelance writer, blogger and social media guru based out of Melbourne, Australia. Since starting up AUSRETROGAMER, Alex has spread the nostalgic vibe of retro gaming culture across the known universe. Whatever your topic is on retro gaming – history, consoles, games, peripherals, events, people, magazines, Alex has it covered. Get in touch with Alex to discuss projects and collaborations. Just don’t get him started on Galaga or Double Dragon!

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