Water Ski is a fustrating old arcade game that was released by Taito back in 1983.
Do you remember watching the movie Wayne's World? Do you remember the part where he is talking to Noah, the owner of "Noah's Arcade"? Noah describes a video game that cannot be beaten, because it has an indestructible gelatinous cube at the end of the first level, and there is no second level. Well this is that game, at least it almost is.
In Water Ski you control a skier who is being pulled behind a boat. The object is to complete the course as fast as possible, while avoiding rocks and other obstacles. The graphics are decent early 80s stuff (quite colorful, but not highly detailed), and the sounds aren't bad, but the game is impossible. It starts off well, your red boat takes of moving upward, towing you behind it. You can move left or right, and you can press buttons to either slow the boat down or to jump over obstacles. The first few obstacles are small rocks, you can simply dodge them (or jump them if you wish), then comes a large rock. The large rock is tricky, because you have to dodge it on the correct side, otherwise your tow rope will hit the rock and break. To compound this difficulty, it seems that your tow boat will often fake you out near this rock (it will begin to go one direction, and then turn and head off in a different direction, sending you right into the rocks). After this big rock comes some more small ones and a raft, and the finally comes the big ramp.
The big ramp is the undefeatable gelatinous cube of this game. If you attempt to dodge it you will crash, and you also crash no matter how you attempt to jump it. Once you get to this ramp your game is over, you will simply crash into it over and over again until time runs out, or you walk away in disgust.
Water Ski came in the standard "Taito Classic" cabinet (the same one that was used for titles such as Qix, Zoo Keeper, and Jungle King). It was usually a brown cabinet with painted sideart (stripes and a "Taito" logo). The game used a standard 8-Way joystick and had two buttons on the control panel. This was not a very popular game, and real cabinets are almost impossible to find.
This title used six (count em, six), processors. It used a pair of Z80s to run the main program data (one at 4 Mhz and one at 3Mhz). While it used four AY-8910 processors to do audio chores (all of them running at 1.5 Mhz). The program code was stored on 21 EPROM chips, each having 4K of storage. This was the exact same hardware that Jungle King and Elevator Action used, and this title can be converted to those titles (and several others), simply by swapping ROM chips.
Where to play
You can play Water Ski on several emulators, with MAME and Raine being the best available choices. There are also several early PC games that are almost identical in gameplay, but were not official ports. There is also an Atari 7800 game with the same name (made by Froggo), and it is better than the arcade version, play that if you want a water skiing game.
Now you are probably asking yourself, "Should I even consider adding this to my arcade game collection?". Surprisingly, I would have to say yes, but only if the price is right. This title may be available cheaply when it can be found, and it uses the same wiring harness as many more popular titles such as Qix, Jungle Hunt, and Elevator Action. You can easily add several other games to this cabinet, making it a worthwhile investment, despite the fact that the game itself is fairly frustrating.
If you just want to play a game about water skiing, then I suggest Tropical Angel by Irem, it is much better.