Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ski or Die

Title: Ski or Die
Year released: 1990
Type: Winter sports
Publisher: Electronic Arts

Ski or Die Title Screen
Title screen

14 years ago, in computer-science cabinet in my elementary school we had 286 and 386 computers. Teacher always timed his lectures so that we have time to play games for 15-30 minutes. That was the first time i played "Ski or die" and I loved it.
Music in game is perfect when Soundblaster card is used, graphics is good enough for this kind of game.


Ski or Die is a game without story, you simply have to play and be the best ... something. Once you start the game, you'll get on the main map (shown below). On this screen you navigate by using arrow keys while holding the Enter key.

Ski or Die Main map
Main map

From this main map you can either go to "Rodney's Ski Shop" or to play one of the games. There are two ways of playing this game: "practice" and "compete" mode. By default, you're in practice mode and you can immediately go and play one of the games. But, in order to get into highscore list, you have to register at  Rodney's first and select "Compete" mode. Also, there is a slight difference between modes in one of the games.

It is possible to play with up to 6 players, but it isn't a real multiplayer - when you choose game to play, one player with play after another (only one game is an exception).

Rodney's Ski Shop


Ski or Die - Rodney's Ski Shop
Rodney's Ski Shop
Rodney is only character in game to talk to, so you'll have to put aside his weird "I'm high" face expression. On this screen you can view high scores, or you can enter competition. You can do that by choosing notepad (above "Go compete" button) where you can sign up to 6 players for competition. Once you do that, choose "Go compete" to get the fun started.


In each game you use direction keys for navigation and "Enter" and/or right "Shift" as action keys.

Snowboard Halfpipe

Long time ago, this was my favorite part of the game. Today, I can't finish it without falling at least once. This is, in my opinion, the hardest discipline to play. It all narrows down to jumping and doing tricks on halfpipe. This however gets a bit complicated as you need good timing to perform tricks. There are three levels of tricks and each level is complicated than the one before. Luckily,  you have indicator on screen that shows you on which level you are. This is in fact a speed indicator and tricks change with speed level.
Ski or Die Speed indicator
Indicator shows third level of tricks

Green circle indicates first level, blue square second and black rhombus third level. All tricks are done similar: when you're on top of the pipe, press enter key and one of the direction keys. Left and right direction key do the same trick. Besides that, you can do tricks by passing over the snow humps on track and using enter key with one of the direction keys.

Ski or Die Second level tricks
Second level tricks: Enter+Down/Up/Left or right

 Avoid the logs and these things: , as they will throw you off your snowboard and drop down trick level to one. In order to achieve really high score, don't do the same trick over and over again and don't fall.

Innertube Thrash

Ski or Die Innertube thrash
Innertube Thrash
This is the only game where it's possible to play in two player mode.

First player commands: direction keys for moving, right "Shift" to attack
Second player commands: T-H-F-B for moving, Y to attack

Your goal is to reach the finish line and to collect as many points possible in process.Your main source of points is attacking the enemy. Once you move close to your opponent, press attack key to deflate his tube - each successful attack gets you some points. During the race, you can pick up different weapons and items (as pictured below).
Ski or Die Innertube Thrash Pickups
Weapons (+25 points on pickup) First two patch the tube, other two deflate it
This game is very fun to play in two player mode.

Acro Aerials 

Ski-jump acrobatics, press "Enter" to start and after that press "Left" then "Right" and repeat that left-right part until you're airborne. You need to do this to achieve greater speed  and by that - higher jump so you can do more tricks. Once you are airborne - use up/down direction keys to do loops or enter+one of direction keys to do one of the following tricks:

Ski or Die Acro aerials tricks
 In compete mode, your overall score is based on 3 jumps, in practice mode you can do unlimited number of jumps.

Downhill Blitz

This is really cool part of the game: you have mountain, jumps, tricks and time race. There are two things that will affect your score: number of points you managed to collect by doing tricks and how long it took you to reach finish line. Tricks are done in the same way as in "Snowboard halfpipe", only difference is that there is only one level of tricks.
Ski or Die Downhill Blitz jump
Jumping of the ledge

You can do tricks by jumping of the ledges and doing tricks. Use left/right key to navigate, up key to speed up and down key to slow down. When you're near some ledge, press enter key to jump, and hold it in combination with one of the direction keys to perform trick.

Snowball Blast

In this good ol' snowball war game and your goal is simple - strike down all your opponents, become ultimate warrior and get all the girls! OK, I'm exaggerating, you just have to hit all opponents with a snowball. You move cursor around with direction keys and as soon as you aim the opponent, hit the Enter key to throw snowball. Points you get depend on your distance from the enemy (as pictured below).
There are actually four sectors here, you can check the compass in upper right corner of screen. When you whack all the opponents from the current screen, you have to move the cursor all the way to the side where you wanna move (left or right) and press "Shift" key. Numbers on the map represent the number of opponents in each sector (as you can see on a picture below).

Points by distance, compass in upper-right corner
Points by distance, compass in upper-right corner

To make the game more interesting, there are other objects to hit besides opponents:

Pickups 1/2
Bonus points: 100/30/30/30
Pickups 2/2
Extra time/unlimited ammo/+100 snowballs/-25 snowballs
There is a slight difference in gameplay between practice and compete mode. In compete mode, you have time in which you have to get as many points as possible. In practice mode, there is no set time, but there is a limited number of snowballs you can take before game-over. Collecting shovel in compete mode give you extra time, and in practice mode it takes down certain number of snowballs that hit you.

Snowball Blast interface
Slight difference in interface when in practice mode

I have to admit that this game is much more fun in practice mode!

More help

I recorded my best run from each game and you can find them on YouTube. Also, here you can find official manual: Ski or Die manual

Where to get it?

You can download this game from "Abandonia" site located HERE.

What next?

There are many great games that I'd love to play again. Commander Keen will probably be next, or maybe one of the great Lucas Arts adventure games.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Crystal Caves episode 1

Title: Crystal Caves
Year released: 1991
Type: Side-scrolling platform game
Publisher: Apogee

Crystal Caves Title Screen
Title screen


Crystal Caves trilogy deals with desperate space trader Mylo in his mission to earn money. In this episode Mylo wants to get rich by buying himself Twibble farm, only problem is - he has no money. For that reason he ventures to mine in Altairian system to collect crystals, trade them for money and buy himself that farm. That pretty much covers the whole story.
Crystal Caves Myle


Game consists of main level through which you can enter other levels (16 in total). You cannot do much on the main level, but each level you enter is filled with crystals, creatures, ... Luckily for Mylo, his faithful rocket gun is with him and most of the creatures can be killed with it, only problem is - ammo is limited so Mylo has to collect it through levels.
You start each level with 3 points of health, and each strike from enemy or any other hazard, lowers it at least by one. When you run out of health, you simply start level from beginning or exit to main level. In order to finish level, Mylo has to collect all crystals and safely reach exit door.You can finish levels in any order. 
Saving is possible on main level only. Controls are simple: left, right, jump and fire.

Crystal Caves Main Level
Main level


There are four types of hazards that Mylo can encounter:
  1.  Creatures - some shoot at Mylo, others just try to run into him
  2.  Environment - turrets, stalactites and burners that try to hit Mylo
  3.  Green mushroom that instantly kills Mylo
Crystal Caves walkthrough
Different hazards can be seen here ...
Each level has it's own air pump and shooting it instantly kills Mylo.


In most levels powerups are placed to enable Mylo to get to certain part of map and/or to get there without getting hurt. All powerups have only temporary effect:
  1. Crystal Caves Reverse gravity powerup Reverse gravity powerup - reverses gravity (but only for Mylo)
  2. Crystal Caves Super gun powerup Super gun powerup - Mylo can kill any enemy with his rocket gun
  3. Crystal Caves Red mushroom Red mushroom - makes Mylo invincible and he can kill any enemy simply by touching it
  4. Crystal Caves Stop sign Stop sign - stops all enemies and Mylo can get past them without getting hurt

Other pickups

  1. Crystal Caves: Crystals Crystals - In order to finish level, Mylo has to collect all crystals in level (50 points)
  2. Crystal Caves Shovel Shovel - worth 800 points
  3. Crystal Caves Blue Mushroom Blue Mushroom - worth 1000 points
  4. Crystal Caves Candle Candle - worth 1000 points
  5. Crystal Caves Pickaxe Pickaxe - worth 5000 points 
  6. Crystal Caves hidden crystals Hidden crystals - Some platforms, like the green one on picture bellow can drop crystals if you hit them from below (just jump and hit them). You can try that with each segment of platform. They're worth 5000 points.
  7. Crystal Caves FruitCrystal Caves FruitCrystal Caves Fruit Fruit - Appear randomly, but only for short period. If you manage to pick it up, they're worth 5000 points each
  8. Crystal Caves Egg Crystal Caves Bonus LettersCrystal Caves Bonus LettersCrystal Caves Bonus LettersCrystal Caves Bonus LettersCrystal Caves Bonus Letters Eggs - Some levels contain 5 eggs. If Mylo shoots them, letter will appear. If you collect all letters from eggs (they spell "BONUS"), you get 10000 points.
  9. Crystal Caves Chest key Chest key - Some levels contain chests like this: Crystal Caves Chest. Once you get the key, you can open them and get between 1000 and 5000 points for each chest.
Crystal Caves - hidden crystals
Platform that may contain hidden crystals


If you get stuck, I recorded my last playthrough by levels. I finished each level with all pickups and perfect health. Entire playlist can be found HERE. Since there are no level numbers or labels in game, I played levels ordered like this:

Level numbers

 Where to get it?

You can download this game from "My Abandonware" site located HERE.

What next?

I have few games that I'd love to play again (Commander Keen, Reunion, Secret Agent, ...), so I hope that I'll write another review by next weekend. If you have any games you'd like to recommend (if anybody reads this that is), please comment.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


For last 15 years or so I've been playing computer games and as games evolved in graphics, for some reason I stayed behind and continued to play old games. Well, I do play newer games, but rarely (ie. Mass Effect).
Idea behind this blog is to simply play cool old DOS games, write down their storyline, provide useful links and if needed, write a walkthrough. I'm new to this whole blog community thingy, so please excuse bad page design and probably my english as I'm not a native speaker.
Today I finished Crystal Caves 1, so I'll write about it soon.