Sky Diver (Atari VCS, 1979) aka Dare Diver
"If at first you don't succeed, forget sky diving."
One or two players each control a sky diver. Each sky diver starts in a plane going across the top of the screen from opposite directions. Your objective is to get your diver out of the plane and safely landed on a narrow-ish landing pad at the bottom of the screen. There's a wind sock indicating the direction (right or left) and speed (zero, slow, medium or fast) of the wind. Using that information, you carefully time your diver's jump from the plane. Once in free fall you have about a second to open your chute. The longer you wait to open your chute, the higher your score will be for the jump, provided you land on the target landing pad (with your chute open).
Each game consists of a series of nine jumps. You lose four points for any failed jump (ie, when your diver becomes a little smear in the dirt.) and you can earn between 1 and 11 for a successful jump. If you land safely but not on your platform you earn zero points. There are five different two player games, though it's also possible to practice with only one player. Games 1 and 2 use stationary target pads with wind; the pads are smaller in game 2. Games 3 and 4 are moving pads with no wind; pads are smaller in game 4. Game 5 is a race to a single target; first player down safely gets points, the other player gets nothing.
Sky Diver is a simple game that can be a fun diversion for about 10 to 15 minutes about once a week. Your play time may vary but this game never gets old to us. I'd compare it to the future games found in Wario Ware but I haven't actually played them so it wouldn't be a fair comparison. Basically, each round only lasts about three or four seconds between the planes beginning their flight across the top of the screen to the safe or otherwise landing of your parachutist. The action in-between requires you to think quickly (where's my platform? is the wind blowing? how hard? what direction?). While your diver is falling you have to carefully time the opening of your chute, not just to aim for the maximum amount of points, but to also consider how hard the wind is blowing because it influences your chute once it's open. You can control the left-right motion of your faller after opening the chute, but you'll be fighting the wind if you didn't plan your jump appropriately. In non-wind games, you've got to worry about the moving platform. It's a little trickier, but not impossible.
What we enjoy about this game is that if you fail to open your chute you are rewarded with a nice "splat" sound and your diver makes a little pixel puddle in the dirt. It's funny enough for a chuckle and then you're back in the plane, ready to try again. I don't think either of us have ever scored a "perfect jump" of 11 points, but every other week or so we give it our best shot. So, while this isn't a game we can play for hours and it isn't a game we could play every day, it is a game that we enjoy the hell out of it whenever we do play it.
reader participation riddle (answer in comments)
Q: When their parachute fails to open, what's the last thing to go through a sky diver's mind?
Next entry we'll do another thrill seeker sim: Human Cannonball. 7210