Retail Price: £7.95
Cynics may call it just an American version of netball, but basketball is last, furious and athletic - and Spanish programming house Dinamic will have you jumping through hoops in Basket Master, CRASH's favourite basketball simulation so far.
At each end of a basketball court is a netted hoop, and players attempt to throw the basketball through the other side's hoop (a goal, in effect). Two points are awarded for each successful throw or 'basket', and an extra point if the throw is made from outside a marked arc.
Five players make up a basketball side, but Basket Master has been simplified to have just one on each side, and there are three skill levels to choose from: beginner, amateur, and NBA (America's National Basketball Association is the sport's main organisation).
Playing against the Spectrum or another joystick-wielder, you can move in any direction and dribble with the ball to keep it away from the opposition. Players try to steal the ball by constantly pressuring whoever's carrying it and snatching it as soon as it's not protected by his body; Basket Master helps by indicating onscreen when it's the perfect moment for a steal.
And players can always intercept the opposition's shots toward the basket.
Throws at the basket can be made in various styles, ranging from the sky-hook to the spectacular slam-dunk, which can only be made from the zone directly beneath the basket and requires much more energy than other shots. A successful slamdunk is followed by a slow-motion action replay with enlarged graphics for you to glory in or wince at.
After a basket has been scored, the ball passes to the other side, which must then bring it forward from its own basket.
Basketball is meant to have no physical contact, but sometimes when the pressure is on things can get out of hand. Barging into an opponent can result in a personal foul; each player is allowed only five fouls, and loses the game if he commits a sixth.
The time remaining in each half is shown beneath the main screen, and when the half ends there's a breakdown of baskets scored, shots taken, free shots made, and fouls committed.
Previous basketball games include Imagine's own World Series Basketball (Issue 23/81%), Gamester's Championship Basketball (Issue 44/37%) and Ariolasoft's One On One (Issue 21/ 39%) Incidentally, cynics still reading should note that basketball was invented in 1891 - a year before netball, which was also originally American!
Joysticks: Cursor. Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: well-defined cartoon characters and a superb magnified action replay bring the game to life
Sound: simple title tune; few spot effects
Options: definable keys; one or two players
I never was any good at basketball, and it shows when I play this - whatever skill level I'm on the computer always wins! But there are lots of little things to make Basket Master addictive: the slam-dunk action replay, for instance, and (if you can master the controls) some fantastic trick shot combinations.
The crowd doesn't give much atmosphere except by bobbing up and down now and then as if it were on springs, but otherwise Dinamic has done an excellent job on the graphics and animation. Basket Master should be good for anyone into sport simulations, but watch out - that computer is a dirty fouler!
Go for the two-player option in Basket Master-the computer opponent is almost impossible to beat. When you have control of the ball he piles in, nicks it, and often scores a basket before you can even move! Basket Master is graphically nice but suffers because it's far too hard to play properly.
Basket Master is an impressive game. The graphics are extremely well-defined; the movement of the sprites is realistic and shown in plenty of detail, particularly under the magnification of the action replay; even the cheering audience performs its own little actions.
Strategy is as important as quick reaction (just rushing in and tackling your opponent only results in fouls), so the initial appeal should last - the only drawback is that on all the levels, even the beginner's, the computer is hard to beat. Still, presumably even the Harlem Globetrotters had to work hard at first.
If you're looking for an unusual sports simulation and you're not put off by stiff computer opposition, go for a slam-dunk with Basket Master.
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