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Team 17 £10.99

Beat-em-ups are ten-a-penny, but good beat-em-ups are few and far between. Team 17's first baby falls distinctly into the second category, with sumptuous graphics, great sound and high-speed punching gameplay. A tale of everyday martial arts folk, you have to avenge a fallen friend by beating seven buckets of something out of a series of opponents. While between each battle you have the chance to improve your skills via some slightly strange sub-games.

The speed of the fights is blistering, real edge-of-the-seat stuff, as you search for your enemy's weakness and then try to exploit it.
Generally, beat-em-ups lack the depth of gameplay to stand the £25.99 pace, but for £11 it's a steal.

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Ruthless Triad gangs are on the warpath in Team 17's first ever release, a budget-priced beat-'em-up which packs quite a punch.
Witnessing the cold-blooded murder of your family by Triad members, you swear revenge. Years later, after learning the deadly combat skills of an ancient order of monks, you're ready to track the gang down and bring them to justice.

Unfortunately, the years have obviously taken their toll as the character you control looks decidedly old and flabby, with greying hair and a sagging tum. Despite this outward appearance, the old codger can still mix it with the best of 'em and sets off to wipe out the remaining Triad members.

The sprites are fairly large, up to 120 by 90 pixels, and reasonably detailed. The sprite detection is adequate with a white flash appearing each time a hit reaches its target. Unfortunately, the game is let down by sparse animation which makes the fighters look clumsy and far from the agile and combative opponents you'd imagine them to be.

There's a pleasing number of moves ranging from leg kicks and punches to a good ol' fashioned kick in the nuts. There's also a slow motion option to capture each hit in all its gory glory. The silliest move, though, is when a player jumps up to avoid a blow - they look like prancing ballerinas rather than trained killers.

Defeat a Triad thug and you'll be invited to play a bonus game where you can improve various skills. Kill all eight and your family's honour has been avenged. For added lastability, a two-player option pits you against a friend in a fight to the death. There's also a tournament mode in which four to 16 fighters can compete in a winner-takes-all contest.

First Contact is a more than respectable first game from Team 17 and it's positively a steal at £9.95.

THE TRIADS The Triads, often described as the far eastern equivalent to the Maffia, are in fact a secret society who act like vicious freemasons. In days gone by they laundered their spoils through - no pun intended - a network of dry cleaners. These days, however, Triads exist within the most 'respectable' of businesses - despite their immense profits through gambling, exortion and heroin grown in the notorious 'Golden Triangle' of Hong Kong, Thailand and Malaysia. As with their Italian counterparts, they have a strong reputation for loyalty: in the thriller Dark Rain, Sato cut off his own finger as part of a Triad ceremony - while Andy Garcia had his head cut off by Triad thugs!!