On-Court Tennis
Copyright/Publisher: Gamestar/Activision, Sound: John Fitzpatrick,
Release Year: 1985, Genre: Tennis, Number Of Players: 1 or 2

Exciting tennis simulation with authentic 'feel' Directed serves, lobs, smashes, drop-shots, angled volleys.

There are already two tennis games for the 64 for this superb new Activision title to compete with; the extremely difficult Wimbledon 64 and, more significantly, the excellent Matchpoint from Psion.

Screen presentation in the new release is quite different to Matchpoint. The men are a lot larger and chunkier and the court is viewed from a lower angle. The whole of the court isn't constantly in view, so it scrolls slightly if a ball goes near the edge of the playing area. Gone are the crowds (although they can be heard) along with the ballboys, umpire and touch judges. This doesn't really detract from the games but it gives it a rather lonelier feel.

Activision's tennis also has a rather different aqpproach to the play: priority is on the different type of ball to play rather than running about after it. The computer will automatically move your player toward the ball - you simply decide what sort of shot to play and when to play it.

The disadvantage of this is that you have little control over whether to stay at the back of the court or move to the net. The advantage is that you can get a lot more variety in the type of shots you play.

In normal play, the different joystick directions and the fire button give you five main options which are flat shot, topspin, lob, slice and drop shot. This gives plenty of scope for tactics. For example, if you're standing at the net with your opponent back, a drop shot will probably be a winning play. But if you play one from your own back court, chances are it won't clear the net.

If your opponent lobs you, you automatically enter 'smash mode', and use the joystick to direct the shot in one of the five directions. The smash into the corner leaving the computer player stranded is one of the game's most satisfying moments. It looks authentic too. Similar cotrol is used to serve. Your man will automatically throw the ball into the air and it is up to you to time his racquet to hit the ball properly in one of three directions. Pressing fire will give you greater speed but makes it harder to time the hit.

There are three types of surface to play on: clay, grass or a hard court, grass being fast and clay slow. There are also four men to choose from called John, Jimmy, Ivan and Bjorn. Who could they be? They all have different styles of play which are suited to different courts and macthes.

You have a one or two player option and can play either a one set warm-up or best of three or five sets. The computer opponent is very good and has 'floating intelligence': the more you improve the better he gets. One minor bad point is that a player always serves from the nearest court to you and players change ends after every service. This is contrary to the rules of tennis!

B.W.
Wonderfully easy game to get into bringing rapid enjoyment and great addictiveness. The lack of movement control may frustrate some players but it lets you have more variety in the type of shots you can play. The smash in particular is great. The players' movement is occasionally a bit crude but this isn't very noticeable because of the flowing manner in which the computer moves you around the court. The size of the sprites and the way the picture scrolls more than make up for this.
Gary Penn
This proves to be an easier game to get into than the great Matchpoint, as the computer foes all the running, and you only have to time the shot. But although this offers a good deal of scope for varied play, I would prefer to have fuller control over the player.

The animation quality of the impressively large, effeminate sprites is marred by occasional puppet-like actions whilst running. Even so, the game has a pleasing atmospehere and a really good feel to it.

Julian Rignall
Graphically, this game has some excellent touches like the ball increasing in size as it's thrown or hit high, and the McEnroe like grimaces the players make after playing a winning (or losing) shot.

The players' serves are superbly animated, but they look a litle silly walking down the court. Sound is good, with great ball and racquet noises, plus a jingle when you win a game. But the crowd sounds feeble. This is certainly a great tennis game, although overall I think Matchpoint still offers more challenging play.

TIMING YOUR SHOTS
The key to On-Court Tennis is timing. You have to allow for the significant amount of time it takes for your player to take his backswing and then play the shot.

When you first play the game you're likely to miss every ball, (and also serve piles of double faults.) But once your mind slips into the rhythm of the game, you not only make contact every time, you also start using the timing to DIRECT your shots and make winning plays.

Try this, for example. Serve wide to the left of the left hand court, drawing your opponent out to the sidelines to make his return. If you're playing on grass, and your player is 'John' he will now almost certainly move to the net for a volley. If you delay the shot for a fraction of a second the raquet swings late and the ball angles gloriously into the open right court.

Once you've got properly into the swing of things, the timing gives the game as superbly authentic feel. Hit a smash too late and it rockets into the net, swing early on the serve and the ball will be long. Get ir right and POW, what a shot!

Look out for some electrifying rallies with both players at the net. To avoid being paased you have to act only a fraction of a second after the computer's played its shot. Just like the real thing.


INTRO SCREEN

PRESENTATION 81%
Clear instructions and four opponents to choose form.
GRAPHICS 69%
Large, but chunky players on a scrolling court. Amusing touches.
SOUND 66%
Good racquet and ball noises and a title tune.
ORIGINALITY 38%
Preceeded by two other tennis games.
HOOKABILITY 88%
Automatic player movement helps you get into it. Great tennis feel.
LASTABILITY 85%
As you improve, so does the computer opponent!
VALUE FOR MONEY 80%
Unfortunately 3 quid more that Matchpoint, but still a terrific simulation.


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