Forgotten Gems of Gaming: SKIFREE

This week on Forgotten Gems, we are taking a look at a classic PC game. In these modern times the mighty console market undoubtedly rules the day. The Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and the Wii have proven to outsell the PC by some margin. The problem being that the dedication, time, money and knowledge base needed to be a PC gamer proves too much for most, who choose to opt for easier console route. Before these times the PC was often seen as a more viable game system, boasting more advanced graphics and arguably better controls and a more recently better online gaming options.

In 1991 SkiFree was released as part of the Microsoft Entertainment Pack, which meant that most people had the game preinstalled on their Windows machine. SkiFree was a simplistic skiing game in which the player took control of a colourfully dressed Alpine Skier. SkiFree was developed by Chris Pirih, a Microsoft employee who worked on the game in his spare time. Teaching himself the programming language C and also for his own entertainment. Pirih was seen playing the game at work and was asked if it could be included in the Microsoft Entertainment Pack, the rest is gaming history. The game takes place upon a white background, which represents the snow of a mountain, this environment is then randomly scattered various mountain paraphernalia. There are trees, rocks, stumps that turn into mushrooms when the player touches them, dead trees can be set on fire and bumpy snow that slows the player down. There were also moving obstacles consisting of reckless snowboarders, really bad skiers, and for some reason; dogs. Thanks to these obstacles there was a lot of falling over, and the skier would stop completely. The only positive mountain items are rainbow coloured jumps that the player can use to launch themselves down the mountain, scoring points and having fun. If the player holds down the 'F' key the skier speeds up considerably, presumable the 'F' stands for 'Fast'. If the player hits a jump while holding down this key, the skier will be propelled into the air and down the mountain, for what seems like miles.
Microsoft Entertainment Pack included other memorable games, from the pre-internet days. Chip€™s Challenge was a tile-based puzzle game in which the protagonist must deal with locks, buttons, keys and monsters to progress past each screen. In Maxwell€™s Maniac the player must guide bouncing balls into their corresponding colours in order to progress, a quick paced and intense experience. There was also Minesweeper, FreeCell and Tetris, all well known titles that were included in the Microsoft Entertainment Pack.
One of the most important elements to SkiFree and perhaps what made it so memorable was the way in which the game ends. After Skiing a set distance and coming to the end of the players €˜Run€™, the Abominable Snowman then runs towards the skier (flailing erratically) the monster then quickly eats the player, ending the game. It is possible to outrun the grey Yeti by holding down the €˜F€™ key and avoiding all of the obstacles, the monster will pursue the player until another run displays in completed. Avoiding the Abominable Snowman added another portion to the game that added value, and lengthened the playtime. There are rumours that Pirih began work on a sequel to the game but had to abandon the idea to focus on other projects. I€™m sure a modern day re-imagining of the SkiFree would be worth a play, with high-end HD graphics and a 3D environment, the game would surely become a top seller. SkiFree represents a time before the internet, when PC's were starting to become popular. I remember clicking around on my parents "Dan" computer trying to find some sort of entertainment. Many of us found ourselves playing very simple games, that are laughable by todays standards, but at the time could keep us entertained for hours.