Platform: ZX Spectrum
Despite it being a firm early favourite, I never bought a copy of Horace Goes Skiing back in the day. But before you judge me as a dirty stinking pirate, furtively trading C90s in the school playground, hear me out: I didn’t buy it because, like most ZX Spectrum owners, I got it bundled with my first Speccy. Its addition to the majority of Dixons, Currys and WH Smith bundles helped foster Horace the character, Horace the hero, Horace the legend, Horace the… hang on – what exactly is Horace? Don’t look at me. A ghost-eyed thing on legs with a mullet. Or one arm.
Horace Goes Skiing is the loveable – thing’s – second adventure. Having mined the arcades for 1982’s Hungry Horace (Pac Man), coder William Tang returned a few months later with an unsubtle Frogger clone welded to a skiing simulation. Why did the Horace cross the road? Well, to go skiing, of course.
In an era where combining two distinct gameplay styles was notably rare, Horace Goes Skiing at least stood out in this respect. But the game’s simplicity, playability, and ubiquity endeared it to me and so many other Spectrum fans. Horace is no dawdling frog, cautiously picking its way across the road – this fellow fair races across the lethal highway, a manic cross-motorway charge that, once it starts, ends in one of two ways: roadkill or the safety of the ski shop.
Ah, the ski shop, delicately poised next to a raging storm of mechanised transport. If I were this skiing emporium's owner, I’m sure I’d be offering some sort of transport to escort potential customers across the busy highway right outside my front door. Sadly, Horace has no option but to dash recklessly across the tarmac; should he make it to safety on the other side, a complete set of skiing equipment is his. Only this ski shop owner has perpetuated their error by placing their shop a busy road away from a lovely snow-covered mountain. Imagine poor Horace grimly observing the hectic highway, knowing he must attempt the same deadly journey, only this time laden with skiing equipment. He must really want to go skiing.
If Horace had a nose, it would be time to get it down and race back across. Why race? Because in this perverse world that poor Horace inhabits, the longer he patiently waits to cross the road, the busier it gets. Worse, get hit by a vehicle – even an ambulance! – and Horace is charged $10 for the pleasure. This truly is the stuff of pixelated nightmares.
Make it back to the other side of the road, and the slopes await Horace: pure, glistening ZX snow punctured by the occasional pine tree, a winter wonderland of thrilling speed and joy. Guide Horace downhill, past the trees, through the flags, the wind giving life to his wispy mullet. If he crashes into a tree – and is lucky – it won’t break the skis. Should Horace make it to the bottom of the mountain unscathed, there’s a sweet points bonus before the rotund fellow crosses another road to get back to the top. Jeez.
While it’s undoubtedly as infuriating for me as it was 40 years ago, sending Horace skiing is still enormous fun. Today I can still play it, for free, on Antstream Arcade. And I still don’t know what Horace is. Do you?
Horace Goes Skiing Fact File
Horace Goes Skiing was created for the 16K ZX Spectrum.
It was also released for the Timex and Commodore 64 computers.
If, unlike me, you’d actually bought Horace Goes Skiing, it would have set you back £5.95.
The ski slope gets a name in the instructions: the Hannekon Run.
Should Horace run out of money, he can continually cross the road. When he accrues 1000 points, he’s gifted a whole $10. Steady on there.
There’s a version of the Horace Goes Skiing with a misprint – the spine says Hungry Horace. If you find one, you’re a millionaire! Only joking. It’s worth about ten quid.
Horace Goes Skiing on Antstream Arcade
Challenges: There are five Horace Goes Skiing challenges on Antstream Arcade. My favourite is ‘Ambulance Chaser’, where the objective is to be hit by as many ambulances as possible within 90 seconds. Amazingly, this is harder than it sounds!
High Scores: A brace of expert Horaces, StrongCoffee7 and Jesse Beaudry, have each notched almost 100,000 points on Horace Goes Skiing. Despite hours of hamfisted attempts to chaperone the clumsy Horace across road and down slope, I’m not even on the same mountain. Huh.
Whether you’re discovering it for the first time or joyfully recalling this ZX Spectrum classic in a burst of nostalgia, I heartily recommend giving Horace Goes Skiing a dash on Antstream Arcade. Just watch out for those bloody ambulances!
Wait! Don’t slope off! Do you want to connect with fellow Horaces? Swap skiing tips? Or simply lament the irony of an ambulance charging you $10 after it’s run you over? Then head over to the Antstream Arcade Discord server: https://discord.com/invite/PGMYZ7k.