There's a new breed of computer games out there, and the folks putting them out are smart: They wait until the summer months to release these rogue games, when most developers are feverishly working on their big Christmas projects and there's just not a lot on shelves to catch the eyes of weary summer shoppers. Fortunately, spotting one of these new beasts is easy. Just look for a "simulation" of any single-player sport, pastime, hobby, or activity that carries a budget price tag.
Bowling, tennis, biking, skiing, skating - we've seen so-called simulations of all these sports this summer, thanks no doubt to ESPN2's coverage of the Extreme Games this past July (reason: there's nothing else going on sports-wise this time of the year). The sad thing about it all is that the people most likely to wind up with these wretched products - and yes, they are almost always a mere shadow of a true PC game - are ones who actually participate in the sport shown on the front of the box.
For some reason known only to the higher powers at GameSpot, I've had the rare delight to play many of these lousy games. There have been a couple that showed some signs of promise, but invariably these wind up being deleted from my hard drive only seconds after the finishing touches are put on the review. The latest in this long line of money-driven ventures is a curious little number called Skydive! - and amazingly, it manages to delve into depths of pure awfulness practically unrivaled by its predecessors. It literally makes me shudder to think what people who actually skydive would think after trying their hand at this Quicktime-laden piece of garbage.
Perhaps the biggest selling point of Skydive! is that no experience is required - and I'm not talking skydiving experience, either. Here's how it works. You choose an "exotic" location from a list that includes Stonehenge, Moscow, Seoul, Groom Lake, and a couple of others; decide whether to perform a jump for accuracy, slalom (flying through "rings" with scores displayed above them), or free fall (perform as many rotations as possible); then click a button and jump out and begin your descent.
Once you've left the plane, you tuck or spread-eagle your body and then use the mouse to perform flips or cartwheels, change your heading, or increase the speed of your descent. After that, all your actions depend on the event you've chosen: You'll either start heading for the landing circle while trying to move through those magical circles in the sky, or pull off as many rotations as possible before opening your chute.
And that's it, folks - that's the whole enchilada. After earning the top score in two of the three events, I didn't see much reason to ever play it again, especially after watching the triple-speed animation in 3dfx mode. Go ahead, smash into a skyscraper in Moscow - it don't hurt none! No effort was made to make this pitiful affair the least bit interesting. How about some nasty birds that might get tangled up in your lines or an emergency situation where your ripcord doesn't work or where a Russian fighter lines you in its sights... well, you get the idea. This just isn't a sport that translates well to the PC; in fact, it doesn't translate at all.
So if you're a skydiving enthusiast or someone who has friends or loved ones who know you're even remotely interested in the sport, here are two pieces of advice: First, don't buy this game. Secondly - and most importantly - be sure to tell them that you don't give a damn about a skydiving simulation.