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"Onward and Upward!"

Platform: TI-99/4a
Genre: ...Sports?
Developer/Publisher Texas Instruments
Release Year: 1982

Alpiner is a very simple game, presumably aimed mostly at children. You control a mountain climber, seeking to climb all the great peaks of the world - the Matterhorn, McKinley, and of course, Mount Everest.

I'm sure a few real mountaineers were amused by the depiction of the game's character. Anybody who knows even a little about mountain climbing will notice something horribly wrong with this guy. For one, he's not carrying any oxygen tanks, or even a pack of any sort. In fact, he's not using any tools at all; he's hiking with nothing but his hands, and nothing to keep him from plummeting to the ground should he lose his fingering. Mind you, I'm not sure how much realism we should expect from a game that shows you as gaining 46 meters every time you move up.

But I digress. The game plays very simply: You move your mountaineer up to to top of the mountain, avoiding various obstacles and dangers, such as lions and snakes which sit perfectly still, and campfires sitting at 10,000 feet for no particular reason. Rocks will fall from the top of the mountain at random, and you will have to deftly maneuver to keep from getting bonked on the head. Getting hit by rocks or by a dangerous animal will cause you to fall all the way down to the bottom of the mountain (miraculously unharmed). As you play, the voice synthesizer will give you helpful warnings ("Look out!"), and if you fall, it will tease you ("Harder than it looks, isn't it?") You can fall three times total, and then you will lose. You don't die or anything, I guess you just lose your funding.

A few notes of interest:

  • This is one of the only games of this time, that I can recall, that offered multilingual support. You can play the game in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Dutch, or Swedish. However, the voice synthesizer is always in English.
  • For whatever reason, you can scroll horizontally from one side of the mountain to the other. And by that I mean, you can have half your body on one side, and half on the other. While not terribly realistic, this does allow you to avoid some falls you might otherwise make.
  • The "white" parts of your body are transparent when you fall; for that matter, they turn the color of the sky when you plant your flag on top of the mountain.
  • The background music throughout the game (except during the flag-planting) is Anitra's Dance by Edward Grieg, a Norwegian composer of the late 19th century. Another rendition of this music is used in Quest For Glory IV. (I recall walking into the Mordavia Inn and thinking, "Hey, they stole this music from Alpiner!")
    If you'd like to try out Alpiner and own a TI-99/4a, it's one of the easier cartridges to find, and there are plenty of specialty stores that sell early 80's video games. You can also get an emulator and try to find a ROM of it, of course; Alpiner is one of the easier such to find.