Atari 2600 Video Computer System

Name     : Sky Jinks
Released: 1982
Genre     : Time Trial Race
BWR Rating: (5 of 5)

Sky Jinks is a game I've just recently become acquainted with. I LOVE Activision's Atari releases. They're generally the highest quality games out there from back in the day. Activision, a company started in 1980 by a small group of ex-Atari programmers because of Atari's refusal to recognize them anywhere in the games (label, manuals, etc...), put a lot of effort into making sure their games were the highest quality on the market for the Atari VCS. This one is right up there in quality. I was taken aback by the shadowing of items on the playing field. I don't believe that there is another 2600 game I've played with this kind of accuracy when it comes to shadowing sprites and playfield objects. Bob Whitehead, who also programmed Stampede and Chopper Command, to name just a couple, outdid himself on this one. Even the clouds are shadowed! (See right-side screen shot below.)

Game play is excellent. The goal is to fly left of blue cones, right of red cones. The cones correspond accordingly in placement, with blue on the left and red on the right respectively. Your goal is to fly around as many of the cones as you can in the least amount of time.

The number at the top of the display tells you how many cones you have left to fly around, and the time is just below. If you miss a cone, when you get to the last cone, the number at the top tells you how many you missed (naturally.) Each time you fly around the correct side of a cone, even if you bump it a bit, the number is subtracted by one. If you fly on the wrong side of a cone (ex: fly past the right side of a blue cone instead of the left side), there is a three-second penalty, the clock will gain three seconds, making your overall time worse.

There are five games to select from using the select switch on the Atari console. The first one has 25 cones, the second 50, the third 75, the forth and fifth have 99 cones, with the fifth game giving a new random course each time you reset the game on the console. This one will keep you busy trying to beat your own time!

If you hit a tree, balloon, or cone, you somewhat crash land, and take off again immediately. There are no true firey crashes or anything like that, the plane just sort of wiggles and falls to the ground, and you hit the red button to take off again. The point is to slow you down more than anything. So, there are no real "game overs" with Sky Jinks...the goal is to beat your best time.

Once you take off (by hitting the fire button on the joystick), you fly at a lower altitude. You can hold the fire button down to accelerate the plane, but as soon as you let off you cruise at a constant speed. It takes quite a bit of skill to accelerate the whole time and get around all the obstacles and cones. I haven't been able to do it yet.

When you go left to right, the plane moves and tilts in a very fluid motion, much like a real plane. It doesn't have the sudden movement like that of the plane in River Raid (another excellent Activision cart, btw.)

According to the manual (available by clicking here), if you beat a time of 37.0 seconds and go around all 25 cones in the first game, you could join the Activision "Sky Stars" club, and receive the above patch. All you had to do was send your name and address, along with a photo of the television screen with your time to prove you beat 37 seconds, to Activision. Cool stuff. There was a "Club" for pretty much each Activision cartridge, my favorite being for the game "Freeway", where you had to help a chicken cross like 10 lanes of traffic...the patch for that one said "Save the Chicken foundation....Activision". But I digress.

Add Sky Jinks to your collection. It's worth it!

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