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SkiFree (PC) review
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.
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