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SkiFree (PC) artwork

SkiFree (PC) review


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SkiFree asset
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Originally named VAX SKI, SkiFree is loosely based on an old Activision game for the Atari 2600. Sporting the green-on-black graphics -- as was the style at the time -- the original code visualised the epitome in simplicity. Trees were represented with basic ^’s while the skier itself was nothing more than two vertical lines which inclined to either side depending on which way the skier turned. There were no jumps, no slaloms and no gates; just a pair of lines skidding in between upward facing dashes.

Written in C, VAX SKI was updated into WinSki gradually by one of Microsoft’s programmers for the long-forgotten OS/2 as a hobby. While fiddling with the game at work, someone in charge of the Entertainment Packages happened to take a glance and snatched it up for syndication. The name was changed to SkiFree. No one knows why.

SkiFree may seem like a simplistic skiing game, but there's more than a slice of snow sliding on offer. It's not just about rocketing down the powder-laden mountain slope, skidding through slalom gates or launching yourself into a (one) trick fuelled flight. It also teaches you that some things in life are inevitable and no amount of manoeuvring or resistance can alter this.

But before the final lesson is dealt, your basic sprite has the choice of three courses to navigate. The slalom gives you a side-winding scattering of gates to slither through lest your final time be smote with slanderous deductions. The freestyle section leads to a course littered with jumps, demanding that you take to the skies and perform slightly differing variations of a flip trick to rack up as many points as you can. There's even a tree slalom that harks back to the original concept last seen in VAX SKI.

Lesser-skilled snow-hogs will bumble their way down the course beside you, making themselves a constant nuisance, as will other obstacles such as sleek snowboarders and pesky dogs that stumble into you path and send you scooting head-first into the white stuff. The obligatory snow-capped trees dot the scene liberally promising a face full of virtual bark (read: brown straight line) should you slam yourself into them or even burst aflame should you pop a well-timed trick over the more barren of them. The entire premises of SkiFree is simplicity; simple but recognisable sprites taking part in a simple time/point attack with a respectable dosage of simple charm and that all-important 'just one more go' factor. This all helps fuel a need to shave a second off your time or add a slither to that top score sitting on the scoreboard.


And then you reach the end, congratulate yourself on a solid performance, and get set upon by a nearby yeti.

Run, desperate skier! Jump! Slam yourself drastically to either side in a last-ditch effort to escape! Nothing you do at this point matters. The abominable snowman always wins and you'll always end up as lunch.

That all-important lesson I alluded to at the start then turns out to be two-fold: SkiFree is a fun but simple blast of gaming that will only devour a few seconds of your life per turn, and you will never outrun a hungry yeti. Thousands have died trying, but have always felt the need to try again and again and again. SkiFree is a well-worn game, and not just because gamers like to keep their sprite-based yeti chums well fed.

Think about it.

Rating: 7/10

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (March 08, 2007)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Feedback

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WilltheGreat posted February 02, 2010:

You know, apparently there's a way to outrun the yeti. Never tried it myself though.
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EmP posted February 03, 2010:

You have to mess around with the game's speed settings. It's little more than a cheat method, and doesn't count.
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sashanan posted February 03, 2010:

Apparently there is such a thing as a free lunch, so long as you're a yeti.
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zippdementia posted February 03, 2010:

Also, it doesn't work. Ultimately, you have to cross Yeti territory again and you'll just get eaten then. There is no town at the bottom of the hill... though that would've been awesome.

No, Ski Free remains the clearest message of the inevitability of death that's ever been created by humanity. Seriously, I think I learned about death from this game when I was, like, 6.
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aschultz posted February 05, 2010:

I actually managed to miss this game til now, somehow. My skier getting eaten by the Yeti was undeniably worth the minute or two it took to find, download and play this game.

Beats the heck out of stupid old Solitaire or Minesweeper.
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honestgamer posted February 05, 2010:

I attended a private school for eighth and ninth grade. The one-room classroom for the older students, which included myself at the time, featured a shiny new computer with Windows installed. It didn't get a lot of use because we usually had other things that we were supposed to be doing and this was back in 1994 or so before the huge explosion of Internet use in classrooms (at least here in Oregon). There were two main programs that got use, generally more than the teacher liked. One of those was SkiFree. Everyone tried to escape the yeti but no one ever did. The other program that was popular let people type in words and the computer would read them in a monotone voice that was quite amusing to some of us (like me). You had to spell words awkwardly to get the proper pronunciation at times, but I enjoyed that program at least as much as SkiFree in spite of its limitations.
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overdrive posted February 06, 2010:

So, this game is apparently a metaphor for life, if I'm reading things correctly.

No matter how hard you try and how good you do, it's inevitable that you will be eaten by a yeti.

I've been saying that for years and now I find out that there's a video game that also subscribes to this truth.
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honestgamer posted February 06, 2010:

By now that rule has probably even been expressed mathematically, but I'd imagine that bluberry could tell you more about that than I can.

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