Game 13: Alpine Ski (Taito, 1981)

Playing rules: Factory default. Starting timer: 2 minutes. Bonus: successful jump 800 to 2,00 points. 1st Extended time: 10,000 and every 10,000 points.
Dip-Switch Bank A: 1=ON; 2=OFF; 3=Not used; 4=ON; 5=OFF; 6-8=OFF.
Dip-Switch Bank B: 1-8=ON.
Dip-Switch Bank C: 1-2=ON; 3=OFF; 4=ON; 5-8=OFF.

Current Record holders:
1st: 500,774 - Eric Olofson - 1982
33rd: 5,281 - Nick Ortakales - 2005

Now we’re talking. 1981 – back to the days of the simpler things in life. Alpine Ski eh? “Just like being” there I imagine – marvelous. Skiing then; I’ve never actually been skiing and I’m also quite wet behind the ears when it comes to skiing games as well. “Horace goes skiing” on the Spectrum is pretty much the only one I’ve actually played so I would imagine this game isn’t going to have to do much to be the best skiing game ever. (Ok, i’m going to stop saying “skiing” now as it’s a stupid looking word – double “i” – what were they thinking?)

Looking at the records, my my this is a popular game! There are 33 scores listed in the book and it takes up a whole bally page. That makes a nice change as there have been too many games so far that have just the single record or at best a handful. Also nice to see, the top score has been intact since 1982 despite all the attempts to beat it. In fact, the top 9 records are from the 80’s and the first modern score doesnt come in until 10th with a 100,000 or so. Time for us modern boys to take this game back I say!

Take a peek at that screen shot, I think we’re all clear what to expect here. The idea of the game is to ski down the hill, the screen scrolling upwards as you go, avoiding obstacles such as trees, rocks, other tits on skis and snowmobiles. Along your jolly jaunt there are also points to be gained by squeezing through gaps that almost have a school dare feel about them – “Go on, I bet you 300 points you can’t squeeze between that tree and the rock” they say.
There aren’t any lives in this game, it’s all timer based, so if you do twat into an obstacle (and you will) your time is depleated by 10 seconds, and with an initial 2 minutes to play with that doesn’t leave you with much if you happen to be a clumsy bastard like me. And that’s it, couldn’t be simpler.

(Worth noting if you are going to try the MAME version, the settings required are quite different from the defaults for this game, so make sure you dig into that TAB menu and make the changes before playing.)

Straight into my 1st go, I mean how hard can it be? Bloody hard that’s what. You control what has to be the widest skiier in the world. It’s not that the little bright pink headed chap is wide in himself, but he has what look like two red surfboards strapped to his feet and if that wasn’t bad enough he decides to ski with his poles (is that what they’re called? the little sticks in his hands) stretched out at all times as well. Certainly not the posture of someone who is keen to avoid hitting things and I’m more than a little concerned that he isn’t giving me 100% – his aerodynamics could do with some work for a start.

Ah, but don’t worry. You call those trees? Either the skier is genuinely massive or he has managed to find a mountain covered exclusively with Bonsai trees. Whatever the reason, we should be able to breeze through the trees as if they weren’t there. Of course you can’t – this is arcade world in the 80’s and as we’ve seen already on our journey even insignificant and minor things are good enough to kill you – these trees are no exception. Avoid everything then, no matter how small and silly it seems – I getcha.

So off I punt; although I don’t. The timer starts but the fella isn’t moving, come on man! Oh ok, press the button to start it is. There is only one button and pressing it gives you a little speed boost – the more you press it the faster you go. It’s very clear from the outset that you don’t want to overuse this baby as it’s actually rather tricky to see the obstacles at any sort of speed, let alone avoid them.

Which brings me to the controls. If squeezing the massive skier through gaps wasn’t hard enough, the controls are a little “sketchy” at best. The lad veers all over the place and any sort of accuracy is hard to come by. Which is more that can be said for the collision detection – which is ultra fussy. As I say, I’ve never been skiing in real life, but I would imagine that your seasoned professional doesn’t fall over that often if the very extreme edge of one of his hand sticks brushes against a tree. In this game you do – in fact I’m more than convinced that there were many an occasion where I was knocked down and I didn’t actually touch anything at all. The bastards.

All this aside, it’s actually quite a good little game. About halfway through my first go I was getting used to the controls a little bit and even though I was very light on the boost button I made it to the end of the first level. I had of course been avoiding the trickier looking gaps – especially the legendary looking 1500 points one sitting behind a frozen lake. One day son, one day.

I didn’t have a great deal of time left though and my award for finishing the level was a paltry 10 seconds, so I only managed 17 seconds of the 2nd level before it was game over.

Score: 9,220

That’s not so bad! Good enough for 30th in the records – although the 3 scores that it beats must have been rubbish. Looking at the list, there is a massive chunk of scores from the same event in 2005, so they have obviously just bunged the whole lot from that tournament in as it is. No matter, 30th in the world on my first go can’t be sniffed at. (What am I talking about, of course it can. That means there are TWENTY NINE people better at the game than me. Talk about low expectations!)

Second go and I’m being a bit braver. I notice in the rules that I should be getting a time bonus for reaching 10,000 points (so close on that last go!) so I need to start going for the more difficult gaps. Oddly enough, it’s only now that I try and get through more gaps that I notice how annoying the rare appearance from another skier is. When I was avoiding everything he never really got in my way but now the fucker is right in my path, pretty much every second he is on the screen. Not only that, but he’s skiing like a twat – all over the place and varying his speed erractically, almost as if the only reason he’s skiing on the hill today is to annoy everyone else. Its *exactly* like when you are walking down a busy high street, Oxford street in London is a good example, trying to get to the next pub and the granny in front of you keeps getting in your way, even STOPPING completely at random intervals – almost purposely trying to get you to anally violate her right there in the street (honestly officer, that’s how it happened). So annoying. Thing is, he gets nothing out of it (I’m back to the skier now, I’m sure the old dear gets plenty out of it) as he too collapses in a heap that actually looks a lot more painful than yours.

Clever little game, I getcha – risk and reward and all that. Actually, in all seriousness – the game has loads of moments like this, where a seemingly random collection of obstacles turns out to have been very purposefully arranged. You’ll notice this a hell of a lot with the more valuable gaps and the skiers as you go on – the 1000 and 1500 point gaps are often very cleverly placed in tricky yet tempting places.

Clever isn’t a word that I would associate with this go however, as I stubbornly smash into the same tree over and over again trying to get through a 1500 point gap. The small ice lake in front of the gap ruins your steering and speeds you up, meaning that the inital lining up has to be exact, despite a little tree being in your way. I didn’t make it and it didn’t take long for the 10 second penalties to rack up. ballbags, didn’t even get past the first level that time.

Score: 7,800

In true arcade style I exclaim to no-one in particular that the last go “didn’t count” as it was a “practice go”. Ahhh, the old classic excuses never get old.

Balance it is then, ignore the 1500 gate and grab a few more 1000 ones. And it works a treat, I reach the second level with loads of time to spare. Up the little stairlift thing again via the short, very pink manned cutscene (wonder who that other guy is on the lift) and it’s 2nd level time. I get a lot further this time so I manage to see that the level has changed a little bit. No longer are they simply gaps that you are aiming for, you now have a proper slalom course to navigate with flags and everything.

I soon work out that hitting the flags is bad, as you lose 100 points for each one – but aside from that it’s the same old thing. I cross the 10,000 mark pretty quickly and glance over at the time to see what lovely bonus awaits me. Hang on, what a Jip! The time hasn’t increased at all, still says 32 seconds remaining. Bloody cheating bastards the lot of ’em. This level of childish cursing contines for a further 32 seconds until without any sort of announcement and fanfare the time reaches 0 and then rather than showing GAME OVER it simply resets to 2 minutes, i.e the bonus. You crazy 80’s arcade machines and your “not making any sense”, bless you all.

Bolstered by the massively generous 2 minute bonus I manage to get to the end of the 2nd level as well, which was nice. And then it all goes wrong. The 3rd level is some sort of Ski jump bonus stage and I have no idea what I am supposed to do. Of course, the game has absolutely no intention of giving me any hint whatsoever, so I press the button, fly off the end of the jump, land and then pathetically fall over for no real reason. “NO BONUS”. Thanks a bunch, cock.

4th Level, back to the 1st but with mental obstacles, including a now very frequent skier that has had a rocket put up his arse. Clearly he appears to blame you for it as he blatantly aims for you at every opportunity. Rather tricky now.

Score: 18,632

Oooh, just short of 29th place who is 200 points higher. Seeing as the game before didn’t count (what?) time for another go. Oh, now I’m really in the groove an almost perfect run on the first level (still avoiding the 1500 mind) and I breeze through the 2nd level as well. 3rd level then – NO BONUS. damn your very eyes machine! All the way to the 5th level for me this time and a great score

Score: 32,558

Although that’s only enough for 28th place I’m happy with that. I reckon with a bit more practice I could get somewhere near the top 10 with this one, but the 500,000 top score looks well out of reach. I wonder why the top 9 scores from the 80’s havent been bettered? Interesting stuff.

And that’s where the post usually ends, but not this time – I’m still playing the bugger, enjoying it more and more as I go. It may be one of the simplest games out there, but it’s one of my favorites so far I reckon. AND I finally get that fucking 1500 gate. A little hint for you, go to LEFT of the little tree in the way and then squeeze right – go on, it’s worth it.

One thought on “Game 13: Alpine Ski (Taito, 1981)

  1. The obscene top score may have something to do with this I found on the internets, even though it makes no sense because step 4 just tells you to repeat step 4.

    * Here’s A Way To Get Ridiculously High Scores In Alpine Ski : Go thru the downhill section with the points flags very slowly and avoid collecting positive points :
    1) There’s some point in the course (should be easy to find) where there’s a negative points flag near trees that can be crashed into. This trick is best done here.
    2) Collect negative points to roll your score back under zero. You will be granted massive time on the massive points you have. Unfortunately, time will be taken off at an incredible rate.
    3) Run over the negative points flag as necessary to get rid of the points you win just by moving forward and crashing into the nearby trees.
    4) Repeat Step 4 until you’ve run out of time. You now have a completely unbeatable high-score which (if it were 1981) people would beg you to tell them how you did it.

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