Mini Review: “SkyRoads” (Freeware Computer Game)

2015 Artwork SkyRoads review sketch

Well, I was watching some random Youtube videos a while ago when I saw that one of them contained some rather interesting-looking gameplay footage from an early 1990s computer game called “SkyRoads” (or, more accurately, a special Christmas edition of the game ).

Since the game was later released as freeware by the developers (and can be downloaded from their site), I thought that I’d take a quick look at it. However, I’ll be looking at the original version of the game, rather than the Christmas edition that was released later.

Before I go any further, I should probably point out that you will need to use the “DOSBox” DOS emulator in order to run this game on a modern PC. Likewise, at the time of writing this review, I’ve only had a chance to play this game for about an hour, so this will be more of a “first impressions” article than a full review.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “SkyRoads”:

Skyroads title screen

“SkyRoads” is a 3D platform game from 1993, but it’s completely unlike any platform game that I’ve ever seen before. Basically, you control a spaceship that has to fly across a number of 3D obstacle courses. As you may have guessed, the gameplay requires precision jumping and lots of old-school trial and error gameplay.

This is one of the easier obstacles in the game, but it can get a lot more challenging than this.

This is one of the easier obstacles in the game, but it can get a lot more challenging than this.

Surprisingly “SkyRoads” handles a lot more like a 2D platformer than a 3D game. You use the left and right arrow keys to strafe, the forward and backward arrow keys to accelerate/decelerate and the spacebar to jump. The game also seems to offer joystick and mouse support too, but I stuck with the default keyboard controls because, well, keyboards are awesome.

But, although the controls are fairly simple, the gameplay is anything but simple. This is one of those games where you should expect to fail very often and where you need to memorise the layout of each level fairly carefully.

Personally, I find games like this to be strangely meditative, but you may well find it to be incredibly frustrating.

However, one cool feature in “SkyRoads” is that it allows you to play the game’s levels in any order you want. So, if you get stuck on one level, you can just skip to the next.

However, since the levels get progressively more difficult, you'll probably want to (mostly) play them in order

However, since the levels get progressively more difficult, you’ll probably want to (mostly) play them in order

In addition to this, most of the levels I’ve played have been fairly short. The levels may possibly get longer later in the game, but the short levels also help to prevent this game from getting too frustrating.

However, the 3D platforms are drawn using one-point perspective and this can take a little bit of getting used to. Most of the time, it isn’t too confusing – but there are at least a couple of parts of the game where the perspective can get in the way slightly.

You're actually supposed to jump off of the middle part of this platform, even though it looks like a tunnel

You’re actually supposed to jump off of the middle part of this platform, even though it looks like a tunnel

The game contains a number of interesting obstacles, such as basic tunnels (which you can either jump on top of or drive through) and parts of the track which will affect your spaceship (eg: light red patches on the ground destroy your spaceship, light green ones make you go faster and dark green ones slow you down). In addition to this, some tracks in the game have a different gravity level which can affect how high your ship can jump.

Graphically speaking, this game is fairly good for 1993. Yes, it isn’t exactly “Doom“, but the painted backgrounds all look really cool and the minimalist 3D objects help to avoid distractions whilst playing. So, yes, this is a pretty cool-looking game:

 Is it just me, or does that track look like the bi pride flag? Awesome!

Is it just me, or does that track look like the bi pride flag? Awesome!

 Whoa! Rad! This is so 90s! TO THE MAX!

Whoa! Rad! This is so 90s! TO THE MAX!

Musically speaking, this game is pretty cool and the background music really adds a lot to the gameplay. However, there doesn’t seem to be a volume control option for it (other than turning the music off entirely), so if you use headphones (like I do) then the music can end up being slightly too loud.

All in all, from what I’ve played “SkyRoads” is an incredibly cool game. The gameplay is simple enough to be intuitive, but challenging enough to never quite get boring.

It’s a fun casual game that can be enjoyed for either five minutes or for an entire hour (any more than that and you’ll probably get some kind of repetitive strain injury from hammering the spacebar repeatedly). But, if you like old-school games that require a lot of memorisation and trial and error, then you’ll love “SkyRoads”.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four.

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