Flying through the edge of tomorrow, today!
PLAYERS: 1-2 alternating
RELEASE DATE: 1983
When I first read the title Space Slalom, my mind conjured up an image of a man/woman in a spacesuit and skis tethered to a big flaming rocket, navigating through a winding starry course. Of course, not all dreams come true, though Space Slalom‘s actual gameplay wasn’t far off from my initial vision.
You control a shuttle through several courses of multi-colored star paths, while avoiding flaming balls of wreckage. Weave your shuttle in between the star paths to turn them green. The goal is to weave through all the star paths, but if you miss a couple, you’ll probably be alright – as long as you finish the course a couple seconds prior to the course time limit.
Indeed each course has a time limit, and however many star paths you miss, that many seconds is added to your time limit at the end of the course. Miss too many paths – usually four or more – and you’ll go over the time limit, causing you to lose a ship and start the course over. The flaming balls don’t cause the shuttle damage, but they do slow you down, so avoid them as best as you can.
Beating the Russians, one slalom at a time.
There are four different difficulties to choose from at the main menu screen, option D being the easiest and option A the hardest. Option D only throws one flaming ball at you, while Option A throws four. The course time limits are slightly smaller, as well, but apart from that, there are no discernible differences between difficulties.
I recommend starting out at option D or C until you get the hang of navigating through star paths at high speeds. There are nine rounds per difficulty, and once you complete the ninth round, the game automatically accelerates you to the next difficulty. I haven’t discovered if there’s a difficulty past Option A yet, nor do I particularly want to. Twisting through courses with four flaming balls is one thing, but five?! Be reasonable, Sega!
Space Slalom feels like more of a mini-game than an actual game, even by 1983 standards, but I can’t deny the enjoyment I took from slaloming through space with my shuttle craft. The controls are tight, the graphics are pleasing to the eyes (black space is much easier to look at than the pastel colors that normally dominate the SG-1000’s games), and the gameplay is refreshingly addictive, like tobacco sans any added poisons. After suffering through so many “technologically advanced” arcade games with atrocious ports, playing a title that doesn’t overburden the limited SG-1000 technology is a relief.
Let’s see that smug Space Shuttle Atlantis do this.
On the brink of 1984 and 18 games into the SG-1000 library, Sega finally seemed to be getting the hang of developing for the console. If nothing else, the success of both Pacar and Space Slalom from a gameplay standpoint should have proven to Sega that watered-down arcade ports hinder the console more than they help it (Sega Galaga is the rare exception). After all, what’s the point of porting a game like Congo Bongo (I pick on this game a lot, but it deserves every bit of my scorn) if you can’t properly replicate two of the game’s levels, let alone the isometric viewpoint that distinguishes the game?
Then again, as Sega has shown time and time again throughout their long and bizarre history, they will do whatever they want, and the consumers are mere passengers along for the ride. I’m sure the SG-1000’s library will continue to surprise, as it has with these last couple of games, but I won’t be shocked if Sega’s bad habits rear up again soon. In the meantime, I’ll rest in Space Shalom– er, Slalom.
RANDOM NOTE: According to SegaRetro, Space Slalom was developed by a company named Orca. If I’m not mistaken, this makes Space Slalom the first SG-1000 game I’ve reviewed to not be developed by Sega. There’s not much information available on Orca, but the few resources provided to me (thanks sean697 and Erik Pede) shows that they were primarily an arcade game manufacturer in the early 80s. Click here and here for more info on Orca and their games.