Summer may be over, but the fun goes on with this tennis simulation.
"Tension. Where was it coming from? The stomach? The heart? Hell? The dewy grass glistened in the morning sun while I sat, racket in hand, waiting for the call to join the world on the centre court. The thick, ripe stench of week-old strawberries played dancing games with my concentration and the thought of days gone by, the tears and torment that tournaments bring. Fifty-five bottles of barley-water later, the rantings of Dan Maskell still echo through the halls of the clubhouse, and here I am, ready, tense, tuned like a radio and waiting for the final."
That was an extract from Joss Mc Stick's Travels Through A Suburban Hardcourt, which, many critics believe emphasises the untapped drive of British youth towards distant goals of international glory that elude our beleaguered tennis pros. Passing Shot from Sega promises to provide the lost youth of today with a chance to live out such aspirations on the tennis world.
Originally a coin-op game, Passing Shot is now available for the home computer market and is destined to earn some significant interest. The documentation for the game claims that Passing Shot "allows you to participate in championship tennis at world-class standard, visiting locations all over the globe." To a certain extent this is true, but it is important to take into account the limitations of home computers. Players can indeed take to the road and travel the world, playing on grass and clay courts depending on the location.
To begin with, level 1 will enter you in the final of the French Open against a character with initials suspiciously reminiscent of the name Yannick Noah or Young Ned. With your heart still bleating like that of a stranded sheep, it is time to master your strokes and serve for the opening game. The view of the court is represented at this stage at spectator level but it then switches to an overhead view for rallies.
An initial encounter with a rally can be a little daunting and confusing because of both a lack of ball judgement and an understanding of ground-shot controls. There are four possible shots - flat, slice, topspin and lob - which are controlled by moving a joystick in the desired direction and pressing the fire button. With a little practice this soon becomes second nature.
The game incorporates the usual elements of tennis, including double faults, aces, body touches and the scoring system. You are, in fact, required to reach six games to win a match, then you will be whisked off to another round in another location. With three tournaments under your belt - French, Australian and American - you will eventually reach the culmination of your tennis career, at the English rose of Wimbledon.
The nerves begin to fray once you have trodden the hallowed turf of the home of tennis with only three games separating you from the title. It may be time to regret all the strawberries and cream! If you cannot cope with the individualistic slant of singles, perhaps a shot at doubles would suit you better, if of course, you have any friends at hand. The doubles game can be more fun, although with only one joystick, keyboard controls can be a little difficult for one of the five players.
All things considered, the game is fun and easy to play, although interest may wain after a few plays as the desire for more speed grows.
Nevertheless, Passing Shot will provide considerable entertainment for the dreamer with aspirations but little practical talent, whatever the weather.