With more than 300,000 copies sold in the first nine months, California Games was the most-successful Epyx game, outselling each of the four previous and two subsequent titles in the company’s “Games” series. In 1996, Next Generation listed the “Games” series collectively as number 89 on its “Top 100 Games of All Time”. The magazine stated that though the games had great graphics for their time, their most defining qualities were their competitive multiplayer modes and “level of control that has yet to be equaled”.
The game was followed in 1990 by California Games II, but the sequel failed to match the original’s success. In California Games you can skate in the half-pipe, juggle with the foot bag, ‘shred the tube’, roller skate, BMX race and play flying disc – better known as Frisbee. You can take them on individually, or you can submit yourself the strains of a sun drenched sexthalon. Foot bag is, surprisingly, more fun. All sorts of combinations of tricks are possible. Wonderfully exotic stunts like the Horseshoe and the half axle, which basically consists of booting the bag up in the air a couple for times with different feet.
By far the best sports here are the BMX racing and the surfing. The BMX track effortlessly scrolls over a variety of different jumps and obstacles and each time you crash your rider lets out a painful little squeal – especially the time he got impaled on a cactus – and a comforting message appears like, “Chill Out” or “You Ate It!” which winds me up no end. Likewise on a surf wipe-out, a little shark sometimes appears to the strains of the Jaws’ theme. The stunts you can perform here, if you are sufficiently adept, are moderately satisfying, but there is still not a lot to sustain interest. There is only so much your imagination can do with a dirt track.