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Skiing - The Atari Times


A winter wonderland right on your 2600
by Ethan C. Nobles

February 17, 2006
Activision, once again, did a fine job when the company released Skiing -- a game that is nothing but fun and manages to capture enough elements of the sport to keep it entertaining. Skiing, released in 1980, never won any awards for innovative gameplay. And, it sure isn't one of those titles which pushes the 2600 to its technical limits. Still, it sure is nice to plug in and play from time to time and is one of those unique cartridges which helps round out a collection.

Skiing offers 10 variations - five of them are slalom runs, while the remaining ones are downhill runs. The difference, of course, is the slalom runs require the player to steer his skier between a set number of poles. The goal of a downhill run is, simply, to make it a set number of meters down the mountain in the shortest amount of time possible.

While that all may sound quite simple, the game is quite challenging. In slalom runs, it can be difficult to set up your skier so you both make it through sets of gates correctly and in the shortest amount of time possible. To make matters worse, there are trees which one can sail a skier into quite easily. Oddly enough, the skier just rather "smashes" a bit (quite amusingly, I might add) when he hits a tree, but suffers no serious harm - he just loses time.

In downhill runs, the non-lethal trees are back, and new obstacles show up - the dreaded mogul! A mogul is a bit of ice which shows up as gray in color on the course and will knock the skier down unless he jumps over them effectively. Hitting a mogul is similar

In both slalom and downhill games there are a variety of variations which allow for longer, faster games as the level of play of advances. In both types of runs, there's also an option which generates random courses - a far cry from the very other variations in which the courses are always the same. Indeed, there's a challenging variation waiting for you in this game, regardless of your skill level.

And, to make things more challenging, difficulty switches are used very well here. For example, if things are too easy in a slalom run, one can elect to set the difficulty so trees pop up in between the gates. If downhill runs become to easy, one can choose to turn "automatic jumping" off so the joystick button has to be activated at just the right time to leap over a mogul.

Even more intriguingly, the player can elect to either be restricted to the "path" he is supposed to ski or choose to turn that option off and ski around the mountain at will. That's right. Go ski through the woods and go nuts. Everyone who owns this game has had fun completely ignoring the time and wandering around the mountain at random. Try it. It's fun!

The control here in the game is pretty good, and mastering it is key to doing well. Here's the thing - your skier goes fastest when he's going straight ahead, so there's some strategy involved in steering gradually in order to avoid slowing down too much while still getting through gates, avoiding trees and etc. The controls are responsive, but a bit difficult to get used to because it's an easy matter to turn your skier too much, thus losing valuable time (and, perhaps, even missing a gate or hitting a tree).

The graphics are quite simple, but are also very clean. You get a top-down view of your skier against a white backdrop (of course) and a tree pops up here and there. The skier isn't overly-detailed, but still looks pretty convincing. And, I've mention it's pretty darn funny when he hits a tree or falls down, haven't I? The poor skier gets rather mangled, yet manages to pick himself up and get back to the job at hand.

The sound is simplistic, too. You get a nasty little racket when the skier falls down or hits a tree or pole, and there's plenty of "whooshing" going on which is supposed to simulate the sound of skis against snow. I'm not really sure what else could have been done to improve the sound, really - this is a 2600 game, after all, and skiing isn't exactly a "loud" sport, is it?

All in all, this title will never be regarded as one of the best ones for the system. Still, Skiing is a very solid game which can be found on eBay and other outlets for classic games pretty easily. It's pretty common, too, so you won't exactly break the bank by picking up a copy.


(c) Activision

It's downhill from here baby.
This may be harder than real skiing.
System: 2600
Publisher: Activision
Genre: Sports
Graphics Score: 80%
Sound & Music Score: 75%
Gameplay Score: 85%
Control Score: 90%

Final Score: 85%

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