Alpine Skiing, (Odyssey^2, 1979)
Unless I'm forgetting a game, we haven't seen a Skiing game in a home videogame context since 1972!
Skiing for the Magnavox Odyssey was fun for its day in a Zen sort of way. Alpine Skiing is less fun but has some perks. I wonder what made them choose the Alps? Why not Andes or Himalayian Skiing?
First perk: it's two player, simultaneous. Points to any game that attempts to force people to play together, even if it the overall experience is mediocre. Good games lead to happy bonding opportunities; bad games lead to shared suffering, which is also a type of bonding opportunity.
Second perk which really part of the first perk, Alpine skiing gives us a pseudo-split-screen slolom course with alternating red and blue gates. Player one and two share the same randomly generated course but each on their own, private half-a-screen. From the top center of their respective side, players pull back on the joystick and try to steer their skiers through gates that come up from the bottom of the screen. The gates look like trees or mushrooms, depending on how your Rorschach swings that day and can be oriented either horizontal or vertical. You'll either have to make your skier go through them from side to side or from top to bottom. The action button makes you go about 30% faster but usually has the effect of making us crash into the next gate quicker. The idea is to get through the course in the shortest amount of time while passing through each of the 55 gates. If you miss one, then it just becomes a matter of who gets the least amount of gate misses.
It's almost like a driving game, in that one must steer through a course, but unlike Bally's Dodge 'Em or Atari's Street Racer (hey, which also had a skiing title in it somewhere) your skier has vertical and horizontal velocity components rather than an ability to simply strafe left or right with a paddle twist. As the skier turns to go left, it slows down like a real skier would and take a little time to establish the pre-turn speed again.
My son and I aren't able to get the hang of this, and find our little skiers careening down the slope, constantly missing the gates, or hitting the sides of them. My son likes to take his skier over to my side of the screen and act like he's cheating or something by trying to trip me. Though the sprites can overlap, the skier images can't actually interact, so while he's harassing me, his course violation count just keeps rising. The fact that we can cross over to each other's side makes the split screen screen seem a "pseudo" instead of a "bona fide" split. What is cool about the split is that the sides can maintain two seperate "hill speeds", in other words the gate mushrooms can move up faster or slower on one side than the other, so one player can hit the finish line while the other player is still breaking their little virtual neck, over and over, like some tragic figure in Greek mythology.
I'm going to rate this a "meh." It isn't awful, but it isn't too much fun either. I should mention that we do like the way the skier falls on its face after hitting a gate. Yeah, so, maybe we are sociopaths, what's your point?
Next time we'll play the Hockey / Soccer cart for the Odyssey^2.
Computer Intro part 0001
Getting a little deeper into Computer Intro, it should be noted that in addition to allowing one to program with hexadecimal codes, one may also program in Odyssey's assembly language. So, instead of typing two lines with 60 and then 13 you can type it all at once "LDV.0.13" which, I think, is "load register 0 with 13".
The Computer Intro manual has backflaps with the codes and pictures of all the little built-in characters made for the Odyssey^2. I'm not sure if Computer Intro will give us a way to make our own characters, but I think it might allow us to choose one of the built-in graphics and move it around.
I'll try putting in the first sample program for the next entry.