Sky Diver (Atari 2600) review
"When I was young, there was no real clear line between religion and video games. All I ever did was play video games. The younger years of my life were made up of nothing but the Atari 2600. One of my older brothers is almost seven years older than me, but video games seemed to be just as important to him as they were to me. He was the champion of the time while I was an up-and-coming gamer that wanted nothing more than to beat him at every game we played. One of our favorites was always Sky Div..."
When I was young, there was no real clear line between religion and video games. All I ever did was play video games. The younger years of my life were made up of nothing but the Atari 2600. One of my older brothers is almost seven years older than me, but video games seemed to be just as important to him as they were to me. He was the champion of the time while I was an up-and-coming gamer that wanted nothing more than to beat him at every game we played. One of our favorites was always Sky Diver.
Sky Diver is a perfect representation of the early Atari era as a whole. Here you are doing something extremely basic, sky diving in this case. The sport of Sky diving in itself may seem much too simplistic to be much fun in a video game, but like several other Atari 2600 titles manage to do, Sky Diver makes a basic premise fun. It's one of those single screen games that features outdated visuals, simple sound effects, and game play that's overly repetitive.
It's about as fun to play Sky Diver by yourself as it is to go solo in a game of Combat. That's because there is no computer-controlled player available (no one-player game in other words) whatsoever. But for two-player simultaneous fun, this game is excellent. Two airplanes fly across the top of the screen at the same time. On the solid ground below are two landing pads, one color representing each airplane, or player. Once you think the timing is right, you press the joystick's button to jump out of the plane. A daredevil immediately jumps out, flailing his limbs as if he thinks he can fly while the force of gravity takes him over. He opens his parachute and falls down much more slowly. He looks to be headed straight for the colored target on the ground. Wait......what the?!! He bears a little to the left and lands with one foot resting on the target, one resting on normal ground. The jump is a failure.
Without landing with both feet firmly on the landing pad, you won't score a single point. One thing that's fairly unique about Sky Diver is that there's a law of wind to obey. A small flag at the bottom of the screen represents the wind's (if there is any) strength and which direction (left or right) that it's blowing in. After opening the parachute, you must judge how much you need to move according to the wind, while descending down to mother Earth.
Another thing that's pretty neat is how the points are determined. After jumping out of the plane, you get to choose how long you wait before opening the parachute. The further down you let yourself fall before opening the parachute, the more points you'll get upon landing with both feet firmly on the landing pad. For instance, open the parachute the very second you jump out and you're liable not to get a single point, but if you wait and open it when you're not much higher than the ground itself, you just might get the maximum number of points (11) for the jump. Don't be too daring though. Once Mr. Stick Figure falls down to a certain point, you won't be able to open your parachute at all. As a result of this, your character will fall about 3/4 into the ground, leaving only the tips of his hands and his head above the ground. CLASSIC MEMORY ALERT: For some reason, he looks like a pig with eyes when this happens. With nine jumps in a game, you can rack up a possible 99 points for any entire game.
A total of five variations are up for play in the seemingly overlooked title, Sky Diver. In the first one, there are two horizontal, stationary landing pads, one on each side of the screen. Variation number two features the same layout, except that the pads are now half of their original size, barely big enough for you to land on. Games three and four are the same, except that the landing pads are now moving left and right at a constant rate, making it all the more difficult to time your safe landings.
The last game is perhaps the most competitive of them all. Instead of both you and your opponent having a landing pad of your own, there's just one lying on the center of the ground! Last one in's a rotten egg! That classic saying is as true as the Bible in this variation. The first one to make landfall on the pad will be given points, but the last one to land on it will receive nothing! I love this one because it shows who's truly better at the game, as long as one of you doesn't change the difficulty switch to make your plane fly across the screen at a faster rate and the other one doesn't.
Sky Diver doesn't have any glaring flaws that dampen its playability, but it could've achieved a higher score if only it had a one-player game for those that don't always have somebody else to play in a game. But as a two-player game, it never fails to soar high in the sky with its great replay value. As mentioned, it's a perfect representation of the early Atari 2600 games. Everything about it, whether it's the graphics, sounds (and lack of music!), premise, etc., is about as simple as it could be. But that was exactly what made a lot of the Atari 2600 experiences charming and enjoyable—their simplicity.
When I play Sky Diver these days, I can't help but to stare at the screen for awhile, letting the memories of past years flood back to me, making me feel like I'm drifting from my current adult form back into my childhood spirit.
Community review by retro (October 31, 2003)
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