Review: Water Ski (Atari 7800)

In this review, we go for a splash in the Atari 7800 game Water Ski. We find out how well this water ski game plays.

This game was released in 1988.

This is one of those games that is exactly what it says on the tin. You play as a motorboat and water-skiing person.

In the game itself, you surprisingly control both the motorboat and the skier. Up speeds up the boat and down slows the boat down. Left and right moves the boat left and right. An easy to overlook function is the ability to move the jet skier around. One button moves the skier left while the other button moves him right.

In the first level, a level a large number of players will ever see, there are both obstacles and jumps. For every jump your jet-ski hits, you’ll net an impressive 10,000 points. The speed you hit it and the amount of air you get doesn’t change the bonus points, so just touching it can be a viable strategy for staying alive.

Also along the way are rocks, stumps, docks, other boats, and shorelines. If either your boat or your skier hits anything, you lose a “skier”. In total, you have 4 skiers to work with. Lose them all, and it is game over.

If you play very carefully and somehow manage to make it to the second level, then the game forces you to drive faster. You get a whole new set of obstacles. This includes fast moving sharks and floating logs. Again, if either your boat or your skier hits anything, you lose a skier.

While you do get major points for hitting the jumps, you also get a gradual trickle of points for distance covered. It doesn’t seem to matter the speed, just the distance covered. Because of this, there are two possible ways to play this game: either hit as many jumps as possible for a high score, or play it safe and go for the distance. In terms of going the distance, you won’t necessarily nab as many points because you are likely going to be taking fewer risks. If you go for the high score, you’ll likely see your skier smash into rocks many times over, but hey, it’s for points, so who cares, right?

One thing that does help in a minor way is the fact that the rope can travel through obstacles. This makes it possible to straddle your players over objects. This might not help a whole lot, but it is a good tip to know nevertheless.

What hurts this game a lot is the difficulty. The game starts off hard and only hits the difficulty accelerator from there. In fact, just beating the first level is, as far as I’m concerned, an accomplishment. Forget taking on much of level 2 because, chances are, you’ll be lucky to even see a small section of it before the game gobbles up your lives faster than a shark on a Australian surfers surf board. Because the game barely even gives the players a chance, it’s hard to even get into in the first place.

what would have helped the game is if all the obstacles were removed from the first level. Then, for the next several levels, gradually bring in the odd obstacle here and there. This gives the players a better chance to get used to how the game works and the controls.

The other thing is the fact that this game is kind of bland. It’s just you, the boat, and the skier. While the obstacles spice things up, they don’t necessarily make for an exciting game to begin with.

To make matters worse, controlling two things at once is a pretty complex task. It’s much easier to focus on one object instead of two all the time. This makes things much more complicated for the player – and not in a good way.

Another problem is the fact that the controls are essentially divided into two – the boat and the skier. It’s a problem similar to that of Robotron 2084 where your controls are divided up between multi-directional firing and movement.. It makes navigation a challenge in and of itself.

Because of this, it’s easy to get the impression that this game was one of those games that sound good on paper, but ends up being terrible upon execution. The controls were no help, the control of two objects simultaneously hurts the ability for players to get into this game. The fact that it is difficult to boot hurts the fun factor even further. Despite encountering no bugs or glitches, this game is still rendered almost unplayable.

The graphics are pretty touch and go. The intro screen wasn’t the greatest. Some of the obstacles weren’t that well rendered out. The boats are decently designed and the water skier is, at least, passable. Beyond that, it’s hard to point to anything that was decent, let alone amazing, in this game.

What is a big surprise in this game is the fact that the sound was not terrible. The motorboat sound worked. The music at the beginning is passable. The only thing that is off is the sound effects as they just sound bugged. It is just enough to make this passable.

Overall, this isn’t the Atari 7800’s finest hour. The games controls are complicated and the characters on screen are hard to concentrate on. The fact that this game is way too difficult to begin with only makes matters worse. The graphics are pretty hit and miss, but the sound is surprisingly not that terrible. Still, I would give this game a pass as it isn’t really worth it.

Furthest point in game: Level 2 or level 1 with a score of 189,100 points.

General gameplay: 13/25
Replay value: 3/10
Graphics: 4/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 46%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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