Pete Cooke
Sport: Action
ZX Spectrum 48K

Chris Bourne

As a software house Richard Shepherd is probably best known for adventure games like Urban Upstart,.Ski Star 2000 is NOT an adventure, in fact it is really something quite different and, as the company is at pains to point out, this new game should not be confused with the downward scrolling ski games that have been popular.

In fact Ski Star could best be described at a 'Piste Pole Position', for it is a downhill 3D, eye-level view skiing simulation. The program includes 16 different downhill course, 14 of which may be redesigned infinitely through a complex but fascinating Course Designer. Other variables can be designed in via the Course Variables Editor. The fixed modes which can be selected here enable players to compete and directly compare scores using exactly the same conditions without laborious note comparisons.

Ski Star comes with lengthy instructions, but much of these are to do with using the options, and it is here that the great strength of this program appears. After loading you are presented with an icon menu of options:

Play Game
Choose Course
Design Course
Best Times
Define keys

If you select Choose a Course, you see a list of headings, level choices and values. A white bar selects by using the keys or joystick. Having entered all the selections you want, you can use MODE, which will give this combination a mode number so that you can reset the same values without entering each one individually.

There are 32 modes in all of which 0 to 3 are fixed so that competitions across the country can be held under fixed and fair conditions for comparison of times. The other Modes can be customised. Here you can alter height of view from zero feet to a bird's eye 20feet (said to be useful for assessing a course); you can control rate of turn, the angle you lean at in turns, how fast you accelerate and deccelerate, whether the map plot showing current map position is on or off, quality of visibility, redefine the paper, ink and border colours, select whether it snows or not and how hard, and you can even define the shape of your goggles lie the screen playing shape).

The Course Designer uses icons, rather like the Macintosh computer. On the left is the pre-set course, start at the bottom, finish at the top. Symbols represent the various components. On the right is a symbol editor which includes a dustbin and a door. Using the keys or joystick you take the on-screen cursor to the symbol you want to pick up, press fire, and then move the picked-up symbol the the spot on the course you want. Pressing fire again places it. Symbols may therefore be added to the course, removed from it or moved about on the course. Any symbol not wanted is taken to the dustbin and removed, and when the course is designed to the player's satisfaction, the cursor is taken to the door to exit from the editor mode.

Features which are included are mountains, hillocks, square and triangular flags, grass, crevasses, grit and many others.

Onto the game. The display area with its 3D view, uses line graphics. Below there are two panels, on the left a map of the course which plots your present position; and on the right a panel which indicates the course number, speed, time taken, number of faults recorded, and whether you are in practice or competition mode. When you get to the end of the run, you must decelerate to a stop, and stopping takes you the title page again.


'It seems pretty amazing that so much should be packed into the available 42K of this program, and at the outset I have to say that I think the designer aspects are more fun than the actual game. However, once you set a tough course, the game also picks up enormously. I can see, though, that with more available memory, the programmer could have made an even better ski game and kept the super course designer with its icons. Ski Star also picks up a lot when you start to play it in competition with others, rather like. Chequered flag, because it is here that the competitive spirit brings the simulation aspects to life. Diving in and out of the flags and avoiding the various hazards is not that easy on a more difficult course, which gives the game addictiveness, but the fact that you can keep on re-designing courses adds even more lasting appeal to this very unusual program.'

'There's been no real attempt on a ski game for the Spectrum (unless you except Horace Goes Skiing). Ski Star 2000 is quite a brave attempt to reproduce an accurate simulation of skiing down a slope. The graphics are line drawn, probably just to add speed to the game, and once you get used to them they are quite acceptable. One of the best things about the game is that you can totally re-design it and tailor it to your own liking. the editors for the course and the variable are brilliant and very professional. This is probably the main feature of the game. A good bash at a difficult subject'

'If you like 3D simulation games, then the new Ski Star 2000 from Richard Shepherd is a must. It offers the player all the fun of competing against himself or others, even by post or in magazine hi-score pages. I was left wondering how fabulous it would be if the graphics could have been solid 3D instead of wire frame, but that's asking too much of the Spectrum. Ski Star should open up the market to this type of game, and hopefully we will then see even greater improvements made. As it is, this game is a marvellous idea and fun to play, more fun to play with the editor, and even more fun if you're with friends. I would say, buy it.'

Control keys: pre-set O/P left/right, A/Z accel/decel, M to fire (editors), but all keys may be user defined
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair 2, Protek, AGF
Keyboard play: responsive
Use of colour: straightforward as you would expect, but redefinable to some degree
Graphics: nicely drawn, more utilitarian than attractive
Sound: not much
Skill levels: infinitely variable
General Rating: An adventurous idea, well executed and with marvellous redefinable characteristics. Should prove addictive to simulation/racer players.


Screenshot Text

A playing screen, as you hurtle towards a marker flag. Current position on the race course is plotted at the bottom left.

The elegant icon course editor in SKI STAR 2000 which is all joystick driven.