One of the most addictive games I have ever played, Skyroads is a unique blend of puzzle, action and racing. The game was written in 1993 by the Estonian company Bluemoon Software (currently Bluemoon Interactive), and enjoyed a moderate success as a shareware title. Bluemoon has built up a sizable distribution network with this game, and so the game was worth more than the money it earned: it opened the doors for later Bluemoon games and applications to be sold.
The game places you into the pilot seat of a small spacecraft, with a task to get from the beginning of the track to its end in the allotted time. The tracks, or roads in the sky (thus the game name), have various holes in them, tunnels, blocks to jump across and special areas that can either destroy you of give you a boost, and so the whole affair is not a simple "hit the pedal and run" affair. There will be lots of strategizing, track repetition and, occassionally, frustration.
Skyroads is one of the rare games that are easy to learn, but hard to master, which makes the game incredibly addictive. The interface is very simple: it uses the directional keys for movement and the spacebar for jumping. However, adjusting the speed for various jumps, selecting the proper track and timing your movements requires lots of practice. Add to it the fact that various tracks have various gravity levels, which affect the height and length of your jumps, and various oxygen levels, which affect the time you have available for finishing the track, and suddenly you have a very complex game, requiring complex strategies and endless hours in front of the monitor.
It is this repetition, however, which makes the game a little frustrating. While the first few levels are very easy, as they get progressivelly harder, you will have to replay them over and over again. Considering there are only 30 levels, yet the authors state that the length of gameplay exceeds 40 hours, you will spend an hour and twenty minutes in average per track. Each track takes less than 2 minutes to finish, so you can see how much repetition the authors were expecting. As it is usually the case, the authors are better at playing the game than their customers, so the 40 hours of gameplay is actually the low end. However, the game is so addictive, that you will care about finishing it. This will force you to play over and over again, until you explode in a fit of rage, only to calm down later and trying again. Fortunatelly, there are no lives to be lost here: when your craft explodes, you will be ported back to the track selection menu, where you can try any track, without a particular order.
Considering that the game was created in 1993, the technology is very good. There are nobugs that I am aware of; after almost ten years of playing, the game didn't crash on me yet. Graphics are excellent: the 2D backdrops are beautiful, and vary every three tracks. Your craft is only a small 2D sprite, and the explosion, the only true animation in the game, has maybe a dozen frames. The tracks are modeled in 3D, but without any textures. This allows for a very simle and easy to read interface, which is crusial for this type of game. The music is very catchy, but enough in the backround to not distract you from playing.
Overall, Skyroads is one of the best free titles you can get from the Internet. It has all the ingrediencies of a great game: simple, yet effective graphics, easy to learn interface, greath depth of gameplay and addictiveness beyond measure. I would only wish that some of the tracks werent that frustrating...