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Andy Smith finds himself face down in the clay. And not for the first time this week either...

Look Andrea, it's not me that's got the problem with drinking now is it? (Andrea's currently sporting a lovely bruised cheek having, ahem, 'tripped over' late one night after just the one glass of Lambrusco. Allegedly).

Anyway, I've been far too busy playing tennis to go out on the sauce. But yes, I've spent a fair amount of time down in the dirt on the clay courts of this Blitz Basic tennis game (now you'd never have guessed that eh?) which, curiously, refers to itself through the game as Centre Court.

Up to four humans can play (using a joystick adapter), but you won't get them all together for a game of doubles. Blitz Tennis is singles only in either a one-off match or throughout a career of tournaments. Let's embark on a career then. First thing to do is allocate some ability points - you've got the chance to improve certain areas of your game here, your running, your forehand and so on. There aren't many points to chuck around so you're best advised to stick to the basics to start with.

If my player falls over sideways... one more time I'm going to have serious words with him in the dressing room!

Out of control
Then we're in our first game. Unlike a lot of other tennis games, BT doesn't give you a great deal of control over the kind of shot you make. Where your character is in relation to the ball when you hit the firebutton to make a return, generally determines what kind of shot you're going to make. The only player-alterable variable being the direction you send the ball before you make the shot.

This goes for serving too. Press fire and the ball's hoisted in the air, now all you've got to worry about is how long to hold the joystick left or right to send the ball in that direction. Too long and the ball's going way off to one side, too little and it goes down the wrong side of the centre line.

There is the opportunity to make a lob or attempt to play a stop after a lob (that's a new one on me) but that's about it. And that's what's so disappointing about the game. It's fast alright (a tad too fast I reckon) and the computer opponents are sharp, but it soon becomes a hit-and-push-the-joystick-left, hit-and-push-the-joystick-right kind of a game and that doesn't make for lasting enjoyment.

It's a fine example of just why the Blitz authoring language is so versatile, but it's not a fine example of a game - and if my player falls over sideways like a girl one more time I'm going to have serious words with him in the dressing room!

Even at under a tenner I'd give this one a miss. Even if you're tempted by 'well, it doesn't sound complicated, maybe little Johnny would enjoy it' thoughts, think again. Johnny would rather have a golf game or something.

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Der Herstellername ist Programm: Das neue Blitzware-Label hat diese Tennissimulation mit "BLitzBasic" gestrickt - was sie dem alten "Great Courts 2" zwar ähnlich, aber eben längst nicht so gut macht.

Hier dient ein auf unterschiedlichen Belägen durchführbares Einzel gegen Mitmensch oder Compi als Training, und wer sich erst mal fit genug fühlt, darf dann als Profi Weltranglistenpunkte und Preisgelder sammeln.

Da bei Turnieren aber schon ein einziger Gewinnsatz über das Weiterkommen entscheidet, müssen wohl die neun Fähigkeiten der Cracks für ein wenig Realismus sorgen.

Sie charakterisieren nicht nur das Alter ego des Spielers, sondern auch seine 95 Konkurrenten: Auf dem Platz erschwitzt man sich jedesmal Punkte, die dann auf Lauf-arbeit, Lob, Rückhand etc. verteilt werden dürfen und den Helden des Sports allmählich vom Nobody zum zweiten Pete Sampras machen.

Der knall-bunte Court ist aus einer leicht erhöhten Pespektive zu sehen und nicht gerade eine Augenweide, was auch für die hölzernen Animationen der darauf herumturnenden Sprites gilt. Immerhin lassen sich die (je nach Stellung zum Ball) verfügbaren Schläge mit dem Stick locker ausführen - entsprechendes Reaktionsvermögen vorausgesetzt, denn die Filzkugel flitzt teilweise mit einem Affenzahn über den Screen.

Musik und Sound-FX hinterlassen dagegen einen müden Eindruck; positiv fallen dafür die Replay-Funktion, speicherbare Spielstände und die Entwicklungsmöglichkeiten des Schützlings ins Gewicht.

Entscheidet selbst: die uns noch nicht vorliegende AGA-Version soll jedenfalls nebst aufgebohrter Optik einen Doppel-Modus enthalten und ist ebenfalls erhältlich bei: Blitz Basic Distribution, Th.-Heuss-Ring 19-21, 50668 Köln. (st)

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Price: £9.99 Publisher: Guildhall Leisure 01302 890000

I've always wanted a good tennis game. Maybe it's just a morbid curiosity, a desire to see if anyone would actually ever manage to produce a decent one. The very first computer game, Pong, was a tennis game, while Matchpoint on the Spectrum introduced the notion of attempting to look like actual tennis, International 3D Tennis introduced true 3D courts and sampled commentary.

Today there are the cartoony Smash Courts and the ultra realistic Actual Tennis on other platforms. All have good and bad points, so how does Blitz Tennis fare?

Blitz Tennis is blessed with a wealth of options. You can play singles or doubles with all variations of computer or human players. You can choose grass, clay or indoor courts and you can play tours, tournaments and friendlies. There are 100 players to choose from, based on the top 100 ATP rankings from a couple of years ago.

Each player is rated in various skills like stamina, speed, serve etc. Sampras, the number one ranked player has 100% in all stats, which seems a little artificial, but this is a good feature which gives all the players strengths and weaknesses which make them unique. All that's missing is Sampras standing around with his tongue hanging out.

Apart from the omission of any female players (probably laziness on behalf of the graphic artists), there's pretty much every option you would want. Now onto the game itself.

Graphically Blitz Tennis is dire. The sprites look like they all have rickets or similar leg affecting diseases, and the backgrounds are messily drawn. Animation is limited and crude, poor compared to tennis games of five years ago let alone the very nice looking screenshots we've seen for the upcoming Quiet Please Tennis. Sonically it's even worse with abysmal samples - are these tennis balls filled with glass or something?

Over simple controls limit the depth of play, adopting a 'hit the button when you're near the ball to return it' system. You can lend aftertouch to the ball of course, but you don't really get the feeling that there are a wealth of options open to you. All in all this seems barely worthy of a licenceware release. Ah well, my search continues.