Your Sinclair

Ping Pong

Publisher: Imagine
Machine: Spectrum 48K

Published in Your Sinclair #6

Ping Pong

If you've spent hours watching the telly wondering how those inscrutable Chinese whizz the little white ball over the net with such speed, then here's the chance to have a go yourself. Like the English cricket team you'll start by having the ball fly by without laying a bat on it.

Despair not, though. This isn't one of those fiendishly unmasterable games. Nor is it one of those silly simulations where all the money's gone into producing a pretty copy of the original sport but a cop-out of a computer game. Any resemblance to table tennis is purely co-incidental (which is why I presume Imagine has used the slightly pejorative Ping Pong as a title). What you actually get is a pacy and competitive game that hones up your reflexes.

On-screen you see a table, net and a small segment of crowd. Glad to see most of the screen is used for game play not pointless packaging. You never see players - just bats - so it's a bit like playing the invisible man. Still, there's no 'arm in that, and you can see he's got no tricks up his sleeve! The first to 11 points wins the game (not 21 as in the real Chester Barnes) and the best of three games if using the two player facility. If on one player mode and you beat the computer (oh! lucky person! - though not impossible) then you move up to the next level of difficulty; there are five in total. There's dead groovy music, offset by manic cheering more appropriate to a McGuigan fight.

But don't let that put you off your stroke: you have three of them - smash, drive and cut. There's no spin or second serve or dimple controversy, but all shots are playable off back or fore hand (and I'd stand more chance with four hands). The computer always ensures the bat's in the right place - your job is to play the appropriate shot and get the timing right. The computer varies its speed (watch out for floaters and no giggling at the sound effect), angle and form of shot constantly, so there's no chance of predicting what'll happen.

But if you persevere and learn the basic skills, you can get yourself embroiled in some sweaty situations requiring a pretty whippy wrist action. I wish you well - it's a smashing game.