Ski (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

The Overlay for Ski: Deep in the heart of the Vazhdok Mountains . . .The Overlay for Ski: Deep in the heart of the Vazhdok Mountains . . .Ski! We liked this! Whoo-wee!

There's an alien concept you need to understand about this game in case you haven't actually seen it. Look at the Uberlay. This is a different type of Uberlay from the Hockey, Tennis or Football Uberlays, which were translucent. The Uberlay for Ski is almost completely opaque. The only areas through which any light shines at all are the dashed lines indicating the skier's intended trail and various obstacles located "off-trail" like trees and mountains.

So, if you understand that concept, then read on. If you don't, then read on anyway just to get through it. Now, where was I? Oh, yeah:

Ski! We liked this! Whoo-wee!

No, really, we had fun with this one. It's pretty simple, perhaps simple things are what we crave. This is an Odyssey game about controlling the horizontal and vertical motion of the glowing TV square representing your skier, by moving along a predetermined trail of translucent points. The challenge is keeping on the trail. If the skier-square does go off the trail, you essentially lose sight of it and must blindly bring it back. While trying to get back onto the safety of the trail, you gain points if you "light" anything other than the trail.

Hmm, glossary term here. To "light" something means to be able to see light (your square) behind it when you couldn't before. This is an important idea which is employed in several other Odyssey games before falling deeply into obsolescence. In Ski, "lighting" an off-trail object represents a collision with that object.

For instance, while your skier is off-trail you may accidentally "light" something, perhaps, a mountain. This may cause you to respond: "Ack! I hit a mountain!" For a tree, the appropriate phrase could be: "Ack! I hit a tree!" My son and I were really tickled by the silliness of this, so we were joyful, even in our suffering.

Remember, you gain points when you hit an off-trail obstacle, but not in a good way. The skier reaching the end of the trail with the fewest points wins. We started calling them "injuries" instead of "points" because, well...just because. I should mention that you have to keep score yourselves. The console can't do it for you.

There's a timed mode and a point mode, and three mapped trails to choose from (The St. Moritz, the Aspen and the Olympic). Both modes and the two more challenging trails are fun enough to have kept us entertained for about 40 entire minutes. We may even play it again!

To me, there was something serene about moving the little light, er, skier along the path. It brought me to a place of peacefulness not unlike the effects of a lavalamp. I'm not being as ironic as one might suspect. The controllers are definitely reminiscent of an Etch-a-Sketch, except that the Odyssey controllers are easier to manipulate with less resistence. If you've ever "zoned" while using an Etch-a-Sketch then you may also enjoy Ski. I found it "nice" to zone out and maneuver my skier while lighting the trail--I don't know why. I should probably mention I've been described as "spacey" more often than I'd care to admit. Might be a factor.

At last, here is a variation in gameplay that doesn't involve wiggling a PUCK or a BallSpot past your opponent's PlayerSpot using your ENGLISH! This is all about controlling a sqaure of light and getting into the "zone". If we do a replay day of the Best of the Odyssey (before it goes back to eBay) we'll definitely play Ski again!

Ski actually gets the point today over Ultraman.

The Score: Ultraman: 3, Odyssey: 1.5!

Next game could be considered the First Home Shooter! Submarine...


Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Joined: 12/31/1969
Hey, great review, probably

Hey, great review, probably your best yet. What size TV are using again and which size overlay? The smallest TV I have is a 20" at this time, so I wonder if the large overlay will work on that? Of course, now that I think about it, I have a 13" black and white TV that would actually work fine with the small overlay. Silly me to forget that one...

By the way, speaking of Etch-a-Sketch, I remember as a kid having color overlays for THAT to play games on and do other activities. Wouldn't it be something if the Etch-a-Sketch people were "inspired" by the Odyssey? Sadly, in many ways, the good old Odyssey would probably lose the head-to-head with an Etch-a-Sketch with overlays too!

Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
I agree. I doubt anyone has

I agree. I doubt anyone has offered such detailed reviews of these games since the early 70s. I think it might be fun to get a pick of you and your son playing the Magnavox!

Michael McCourt
Joined: 01/17/2007
Matt Barton wrote:I agree. I
Matt Barton wrote:

I agree. I doubt anyone has offered such detailed reviews of these games since the early 70s. I think it might be fun to get a pick of you and your son playing the Magnavox!

Matt: I'm shamed that I never thought of taking pictures of us playing them while we still had my old style TV! I took plenty of screenshots, too. DOH! I'll have to get a picture of us doing Haunted House when we get to it as I think my daughter is old enough to enjoy that now, too. Of course, this will be on a Sony PVM so it will seem even more anachronistic this time.

The Small Overlay: This is what the smaller overlay looks like on my former TVThe Small Overlay: This is what the smaller overlay looks like on my former TV
Bill: Speaking of TVs, I don't remember the size of the TV (I never measured or was a good guesser of TV sizes) but the smaller overlays fit it pretty well.

It's a shame I gave that TV away, but it was taking up space that was better spent on other stuff to make room for a MAME cab. ;)

One problem with playing the Odyssey on new TVs is the lack of static charge on the screen! We could've used the larger overlays on my Sony WEGA but they just wouldn't stick. Heh.

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