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Balls have always held a strange fascination for computer-gaming folk. This game has all the traditional trappings of spheroid spectaculars, combined in a two-player sports special. Balls, as they say, have been done though; so can this one offer enough new features and playability to offset the loss of novelty?

The game is, the retroactive school of game justification argue, a future sport, played by humans cybernetically, directly in to some megalithic ether net. In reality it's a ball game of attraction. You control a large coloured sphere, that roams a rectangular grid. Also making its presence felt is your opponent's sphere of, a puck and a few terrain-based surprises just to keep things rolling along.

Use the force
The aim is to magnetically drag or shoot a pack across your opponent's goal area. Controlling the magnetic force with the fire-button, you simply have to shepherd the puck to the small coloured square that the other sphere started in. After you have scored a goal you're whisked back to your end and the whole show starts again.

It's simple to play: joystick commands following logical lines and with an obvious objective. What makes life difficult are the manifold ways each of the 12 pitches are set up. Some are littered with ice that robs spheres of control, on-way tiles that foce balls in specific directions and slopes that sap speed.

The tougher, later pitches even have trampolines to send pucks and players sailing into the air, often way over the goals.

The way each pitch, player and puck will behave are offered as options before the game is played. Everything from ball speed to gravity can be affected, which makes it a useful utility for first time Sliders. These modifiers may eve be applied to a single player, giving them a particular advantage or handicap. And while initially amusing, it is a little pointless.

Get personal
All sport games are best in two-player mode, as beating a human opponent is far more satisfying than whipping a computer-generated one, and this is a particularly good ball game against friends because it requires both skill and luck to be in the lead when time kicks itself out.

Two players jostling, running and shooting is Sliders at its best. When you just play in the one-player mode, though, there is something that is sadly lacking. There's no personified opponent and victory feels strangely hollow.

There is graphic style but no real glory. The screens scroll smoothly, slopes and special tiles are easily visible, but there's nothing breathtaking or even inspired. Sliders is functional, but not flashy, doing little to try and draw you in. Even goals are only faintly lavished with sound effects, which is just a quiet Marilyn Monroe sound sample.

Sliders doesn't really offer enough, despite a huge list of options. It has no visual magic and only 12 different playing fields to explore. Played by two people it becomes a frantic race for puck control, a race only interrupted by insane geography. Play it alone and the interest quickly flags.

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Was macht ein Hersteller, der anderswo abkupfern will, dies aber möglichst unauffällig? Ganz einfach: Er kombiiert die Grundgedanken von zwei anderen Spielen, und schon ist das brandneue Game fertig!

Wie so etwas in der Praxis aussieht, zeigt uns das französische Softwarehaus Microids mit dieser Mixture aus "Masterblazer" und "Marble Madness": Eine gelbe und eine blaue Kugel gleiten über ein dreidimensionales dargestelltes Spielfeld und versuchen, in den Besitz eines kleinen Bällchens zu kommen.

Sobald das gelungen ist, muß man es noch schaffen, den Ball in das gegnerische Tor zu schießen, einem viereckigen Ausschnitt auf der Spielfläche.

Wenn man nahe genug an dem Bällchen dran ist, kann man es per Knopfdruck zu sich heranziehen, es klebt dann an der eigenen Kugel wie einem Magneten fest. Ist einem der Gegner zuvorgekommen, braucht man ihn bloß zu rammen, und schon gleitet der Spielball wieder frei im Raum herum.

Um die Angelegenheit etwas schwieriger zu machen, hat man schließlich noch zahlreiche Hügel und tückische Felder auf den insgesamt zwölf Spielflächen verteilt.

Erfreulicherweise wird das Ballgeschiebe in vollem PAL-Overscan gezeigt, bei Bedarf kommt auch ein Split-Screen zum Einsatz.

Dank der eintönigen Farbwahl ist Sliders zwar optisch weig reizvoll, dafür wird rasend schnell und butterweich gescrollt. Positiv fallen neben den brauchbaren Sound-FX vor allem die endlos vielen Einstellparameter auf (Spielzeit, Schwerkraft, Anziehungskraft, Gleitgeschwindigkeit, etc.).

Leider wird spielerisch etwas zu wenig Abwechslung geboten, so daß die Motivation nicht allzulange vorhält. (Manuel Semino)

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Oh dear, oh dear. I tried to like this, I really did. It's another of those slightly odd puzzler/future sports-type games that crop up from time to time - often, but not always, from French publishers - and tend to get at best a lukewarm reception, at worst a right slagging, in the pages of AMIGA POWER.

It's a real pain - the publishers tend to think we've really got it in for them, the programmers are likely to get a bit upset, but what can we say? A crap game's a crap game's a crap game. And here's another one.

But just because a game itself is crap doesn't mean its component parts are. Indeed, Sliders has a lot going for it. Take the graphics, for instance - a bit characterless, perhaps, but they're clean and clear in a vaguely futuristic blueish sort of way. The look, and some of the feel of the game, is that of early Amiga effort Marble Madness - the one where you had to roll a ball around a trap-filled landscape, looking for the way out.

Graphically, they're pretty much the same, but this is a far more impressive effort scrolling-wise, with the balls here literally zooming up and down the courses at pinball-like speeds, and the screen keeping up with their progress, no problem at all. Indeed, in the horizontally split screen two player mode it becomes positively remarkable, with the same action kept tabs on from different viewpoints with no discernible lack of zip.

All this comes to naught though when you take a look at the game. It just doesn't work. You control one coloured ball, your opponent (either computer or human) the other, and it's your job to zoom off from your goal, try and collect the little puck thingie you'll find somewhere in the landscape, and then herd it towards the other goal.

Of course, he (or it) is trying to do the same to you, and so the game quickly becomes hectic, yes, but all but uncontrollable also, as the two ball and the puck bounce and zoom around the checkerboard play area.

It all works on magnetism, you see - either attracting the ball to yo and 'running' with it, or reversing the polarity and 'kicking' it away from you - giving the game an uncanny resemblance to a one-a-side Kick Off 2.

This has its upside - speed and a high degree of two-player ability - and its downside, chiefly the old Kick Off problem of lack of controllability, made far worse here because with only three moving objects on screen, a mere twelve small courses to explore and none of the emotional tug of computer football, Sliders finds it very hard to hold the interest.

It's true you're given the ability to change everything about the game, from maximum speed of the balls to power of magnetic attraction -so it is possible to manipulate it into a form you find possible to play - but it's unlikely it'll hold your interest long enough for you to be bothered to do it. The few people who reckon they actually have some degree of control over Kick Off 2 - rather than just enjoying it for its speed and pinball nature - may find they get something out of this. We don't.

So, Sliders joins Stormball, Disc, and the like in the ranks of not very playable and really not very intersting future sports simulations. That it's a better game - particularly technically - than any other recent contenders doesn't really count for very much I'm afraid. If you haven't already got it yet, buy Speedball II instead. If you have, then why not go for the not-too-dissimilar Projectyle - now on budget and save yourself 15 quid? Or what about Spindizzy Worlds? That contains many of the same features. The point is, there are a lot of better ways to blow 25.

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Taking a leaf out of William Gibson's Cyberpunk books, Palace have come up with what they call a cybersports ball-game of the near-future.

Despite the hackneyed scenario, the game itself is really rather good with a host of options to allow you to customize the game to your own tastes. Designed by Microids, whose only previous games have been the aforementioned Swap and Grand Prix 500, the action takes place on one of twelve available 3-D pitches, each with a series of gulleys, valleys, hills and one-way tracks to negotiate.

Play is either two-player or against the computer, with each player taking control of a special metallic ball which has to be raced across the pitch in an attempt to scoop up a small electromagnetic puck and blast it into your opponent's goal. The game can be played using a joystick, mouse or the keyboard with a choice of up-down or diagonally scrolling. If you challenge the computer you can select a full overscan screen or a split-screen, the latter showing the position of both yourself and your opponent. Two-player games are automatically split-screen affairs.

Before play commences, a further option screen allows you to select the length of each game, scroll-orientation, strength of fire, strength of attraction between puck and ball, maximum speed of ball, and the maximum time you can hold the puck. These options can be made to apply to both players or just your own - effectively giving you a chance to nobble your opponent before play has even begun!

Once you've ploughed through the myriad game options, it's time for the match proper to begin. A graphic representation of each pitch gives an idea of the layout of the playfield where the goals are and the position of the puck, and then a special walk-through demo takes you on a close-up guide around the pitch. Each pitch is graded according to difficulty so that, by the time you've reached pit twelve, you'll have encountered anti-gravity zones, brake zones, trampolines, ice, one-way lanes, speed lanes and speed humps amongst many others.

Set at the wrong level, Sliders could prove too fast for even the most experienced arcade fanatic. However, after a bit of fine tuning, it's possible to master the controls and start to pull off some amazing plays.

The graphics are functional, giving a sense of depth and proportion to the 3D layout and the sound is sufficient to create an electric atmosphere with metal-bashing noises in abundance. Although fairly varied, the number of pitches is a bit disappointing, but apart from that one complaint this is a fun and very fast ball-game.

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Once upon a time Duncan MacDonald couldn't think of an intro. (Er, er... this is his rather crap review of Sliders from Microids. Ed.)

Amiga reviewDunc: The French, eh? Still, they produce some pretty fab games sometimes. Mind you, at other times they produce some pretty average games... and Sliders is one of those.

You control a small, marble doofer over a series of pitches - pitches that wouldn't be out of place in Marble Madness (apart from the tiny goal at either end).

In the middle of each pitch is a ball and, as you'll have guessed, it's up to you to shoot this ball across your opponent's goal before he or she (or 'it' if you're playing the computer) knocks the thing into your own. So where's the 'special bit', you may cry? You know, the Hold Your Breath Because Here It Comes part of the game? Ready? (Trumpet noises).

Your marble, on the press of the fire button, emits a magic field. The ball will be drawn in (if it's not out of range) towards your marble's 'body', from where it can be caught (touch it) then shot out in the direction of your opponent's goal. And that's it basically: two marbles in pursuit of a small metal ball which has to be goaled.

There are 20 of the large, undulating pitches in all, each with its own terrain problems - ranging from the amount of lumpiness encountered to squares which hamper your marble's progress (and restrict it to unidirectional movement, which is normally the direction you'd rather not go).

With its nice graphics, frenetic action, pitches which scroll about at the speed of light and the fact that you can play a friend head to head, Sliders should add up to a brilliant purchase.

What Sliders actually added up to for me was something that's a tad on the 'been there, seen it, done it' side. For some reason it didn't really excite me and I didn't feel the need to go back for more. Oh dear.