Snow business like snow business...

Super Ski 2 logo

MICROIDS * £24.99 * 1/2 meg * Joystick * Out now

It's been a fairly quiet year for sporty games so far. There's been not so much as a peep or a whistle from the joystick-waggling fraternity, except for John Madden's Football. But fear not waggle fans, for spooky continental software blokes Microids are here to make your day with the release of Superski 2.

And before you ask, no I don't remember SuperSki 1 either. But by using some incredible powers of deduction I can guess that it probably had something to do with skiing, and it was presumably fairly super into the bargain. And, lo and behold, SuperSki 2 follows along similar lines.

You get to compete in six cold and frosty sporting japes, such as special and giants slalom, hot dog, ski jumping, downhill racing and bobsleigh. Quite how bobsleigh fits into a game about skiing I don't know, but who cares?

Especially when the bobsleigh is the best event of the lot. In fact, it's one of the most groovy little things I've ever played. Add a few more bobsleigh runs, and maybe an editor, and you've got an above-average game in its own right.

You see your bobsleigh from behind as it thunders down a twisting and turning track which should induce nausea in even the most strong-stomached among you.
As the scenery swings from side to side, and your sled goes flying round the bends, you're guaranteed to start swaying from side to side in your seat. Just like on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea when the submarine gets hit by something. Wow.

And that's just skiing bits are pretty much the same in design, but each requires different skills. The slalom, for instance, requires nifty steering to get through all the flags. On the downhill run you've got to go as fast as possible without flying off the course and straight into a tree. Each of these skiing sections plays very much like a driving game, but with the car replaced with some planks of wood nailed to your shoes.

The only events that don't quite work are the hot dog and the ski jump. The hot dog is the only simultaneous two-player event and requires you to ski down the screen, performing little jumps and fancy bits as you leap over piles of snow. More often than not, you'll just end up face first in the snow after an unsuccessful waggle. Too tricky, for it's own good really.

And that's also the trouble with the ski jump. It's too fiddly, and you don't get enough time to make any adjustments. You shoot down the slope, and then have about half a nanosecond to keep your skier balanced in mid-air, otherwise he goes splat all over the ground. And this happened every single time I tried it. Ho hum.

Well, how does it all come together? Quite nicely as it happens. The graphics are just short of excellent, and the sound is quite stomping as well. Obviously a game of this sort is best enjoyed when you play against some mates and even then you'll all get beaten by the computer players.

It leaves you feeling all humbled and small. And then you kick your monitor in, and feel much better about yourself.

In conclusion, the bobsleigh bit is ace, the skiing bits are a bit samey but still fun and the remaining two events are too tricky and stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.

There is a practice option, so you can try and get the hang of them, but I recommend that you just challenge your friends to a bobsleigh competition and scare yourself to death from the comfort of your own home.

Super Ski 2 logo

Microids * £25.99

Not quite in time for the Winter Olympics, but despite missing the band wagon here's six events, all involving high-speed descents over ice or snow. The downhill skiing gets three events (there's simple downhill, slalom and then the giant slalom) all of which involve swishing down a very steep hill and moving your little man through a series of blue and red gates. If you miss a gate then you get either a penalty point or a tree in the face, one is probably preferable to the other.

Also included are ski jumping (very tricky event), the hot-dog (nope, not risking eating one, but performing twists and jumps in the air) and the bobsleigh (don't forget to jump on after you've push-started it).

The graphics are fairly simplistic and the sounds aren't exactly going to burn out your monitor's speaker, but there's definitely some fun to be had here. Your best bet is probably to get some mates around and go for the four-player option. There's nothing better than a bit of competitive spirit and this sort of game to bring out the very worst in people. Guaranteed to cause at least two head kickings and a minor brotherly beating up.

Super Ski 2 logo

Na, wie war's in Albertville? Ach, Ihr wart gar nicht dort? Wohl wieder an der Vorqualifikation gescheitert, was? Macht Euch nichts draus, bei Microids Nachfolge- Streich in Sachen digitaler Winterolympiade ist Gold auch für überzeugte Antisportler drin!

Ja, selbst ungeschicktere Joystick-Athleten dürfen hier auf Edelmetall hofften, denn die sechs gebotenen Disziplinen zeigen sich überwiegend von der leicht erlern- und steuerbaren Seite.

Die weiße Pracht steht bis zu vier Digital-Olympioniken offen, zwei Sticks sind zugelassen - leider meist nur nacheinander, einziger Parallel-Wettbewerb ist Trickski auf der Buckelpiste.

Den Anfang macht jedoch der Riesenslalom. In 3D-Perspektive à la "Outrun" brettert man tunlichst schnell durch die weit gesteckten Tore, vorzugsweise ohne Feindkontakt mit Bäumen oder Steinen.

Die zurückgelegte Strecke wird mit einem Balken angezeigt, für die Punkteberechnung zählt die richtige Mischung aus Zeit und (nicht gemachten) Fehlern. Beim anschließenden Bobfahren enden Patzer gleich mit einem schwungvollen Flug aus der Bahn, also sollte die lange und kurvenreiche Eisröhre möglichst in der Ideallinie durchrauscht werden. Keine allzu schwere Aufgabe, der Bob ist ebenso groß wie die Steuerung simpel. Es folgt der "normale" Slalom, die Unterschiede zur Eröffnungsdisziplin beschränken sich allerdings auf engere Tore und eine langsamere Abfahrtsgeschwindigkeit. Perspektive und Wertung bleiben wie gehabt.

Jetzt wird's etwas anspruchsvoller, denn beim Skisprung garantieren nur exaktes Timing und akrobatisches Reißen am Stick einen formvollendeten Flug ohne abschließende Bruchlandung.

Der Flieger wird in der Seitenansicht gezeigt, ständig muß man seine Haltung nachkorrigieren - hat er eine gute Figur gemacht, muß nur noch die Weite stimmen, um ordentliche Noten einzuheimsen. Noch mehr Geschick verlangt die jüngste Olympia-Disziplin, das Free-style-Rennen. Gleichzeitig mit einem Kontrahenten (digital oder menschlich) schlingert man so flott es geht eine Buckelpiste herunter, um mit gewagten Sprüngen die Gunst der Kampfrichter zu erobern. Zuguterletzt stellt das temporeiche Abfahrtsrennen (Slalom ohne Tore) noch einmal das Reaktionsvermögen auf die Probe.

Klar, daß am Ende jedes Einzelwettbewerbs die obligatorische Siegerehrung wartet, auch die übrigen Sportspiel-Standards wie Länder- bzw. Spielerwahl und ein Trainingsmodus fehlen nicht.

Was fehlt, ist ein konstantes Niveau: Die Steuerung schwankt zwischen einfach und gewöhnungsbedürftig, die Zwischenbilder sind mal sehr schön, dann wieder etwas plump geraten. Im allgemeinen geht die Grafik aber durchaus in Ordnung, Scrolling und Animationen sind recht flüssig; beim herzlich eintönigen Sound hätten sich die Programmierer jedoch etwas mehr Mühe geben dürfen.

Sieht man jetzt noch von den nervigen Ladezeiten ab, bleiben grundsolide Winterspiele in der Tradition von Epyx. Etwas mehr Abwechslung bzw. Ideenreichtum, und Super Ski 2 hätte das Zeug zu einem Medaillenanwärter gehabt. (pb)

Super Ski 2 logo

Tony Dillon is on the Piste with a challenger to Winter Games. Can Microids steal Epyx's glory - and the Gold medal?

If anyone out there remembers the Epyx series of sports simulations, then Microids' Super Ski 2 will be a true trip down memory lane. Super Ski 2 takes the would-be Eddie Edwards through six snow and ice-based events in a race to collect as many gold medals as possible. However, thankfully, Microids have abandoned the stupid Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards licence that Elite lumbered the original with when they distributed it a few years back.

Up to four human players can compete, and they take turns at the different events, with the unused characters' shoes filled by computer-controlled players. I wouldn't put money on beating them, though, as they seem to have a better idea of what to do than you do!

As the title suggests, most of the events are variants of skiing, and these are split into two groups. The first comprises downhll skiing, the slalom, and the giant slalom, and all three use the same screen layout to depict the action. The centre of the screen shows a sprite-based 3D view from behind your skier as he hurtles down the hill.

Both the slalom and the giant slalom involve racing left and right between coloured flags, whereas the downhill event simply involves reaching the bottom of the hill in as fast a time as possible Points are awarded for the fastest time, but time penalties are added for faults - missing a gate instead of going through it, for example.

The final trio of events are a little more interesting. My personal favourite has to be the Bobsled - and Microids' version is certainly the nearest I've ever come to whizzing down a slippery tunnel whilst sitting on a Go-Cart. Viewed from behind the player, it's a dangerous dash along a fast-moving polygon-generated track, following the fastest line possible, whilst climbing the banks of the curved track to hurtle around corners.

The feeling of speed is quite incredible, and climbing too high up the sides of the track may result in you flying off the top, flying away into the distance and landing with a sickening thud. This adds a real element of skill and brings the simulation probably the closest such a game has come to reproducing the event - I love it!

Next up are the Hot Dog and Ski Jump events. Hot Dogging is a strange sport which involves making as many flash moves and poses as possible whilst racing down a bumpy track against a computer opponent. The more posey the leap, the more bonus points you score. Finally there's the true test of stomach strength.

Speeding down the jump ramp, you have to try to keep your skier balanced as he flies through the air, and then try to land him successfully as he hits the gound.

Despite the naff loading screen, the game's presentation is superb, and the obvious time and effort that must have gone into the graphics and animation make the game simply shine. The sprites are large, humorous and full of character. The faces of the bobsled team as they fly off the track and into the ground are a delight to watch, and the stomach-churning grunt made by a downhill skier hitting a tree head on at 35 mph is a real treat for sadists.

It plays well, too, but not quite well enough. For the beginner, Super Ski 2 is a little disheartening, as the consistently excellent performances of the computer players give little incentive to polish up your act - surely even Franz Klammer takes a dive every now and then.

It took me a good half a dozen goes before I could manage to claim a single bronze in an event. Like the many sports simulations preceding this, I doubt even the variety of events or great presentation will add the much-needed lasting appeal for the single player, but multi-player armchair enthusiasts will probably stay on the Piste for a good few weeks.

WHERE IS HE NOW... The original Super Ski was imported by Elite, who promptly stuck Skier Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards name on the title. Eddie Edwards was a strange character. Like Frank Bruno, he wasn't exactly a massive success, but his fighting spirit and carefree attitude as he continually came last in the ski jump endeared him to the Nation's tabloid readers.

Oddly enough, fame soon followed and, in true sport celebrity style, record deals and money galore came rolling in. However, it was only to be a short-lived thing, and Eddie's luck turned. The first major blow came when he was banned from entering this year's Winter Olympics. As a result, his sponsorships and work offers dried up and he is now virtually bankrupt - and, according to The Sun newspaper, is involved in legal wranglings with his parents after he paid for their house and they are refusuing to pay him back.