YOU don't need to be seven feet tall and come from Harlem to play basketball. This seems to be the message from SportTime in this release, which aims to combine action with coaching strategy.
The game claims to offer a new system of simulation programs where additional modules can be added to your existing system by "clipping the coupon" and sending it to Uncle Sam (don't forget the zip code). A very interesting ploy, getting people to pay for additional features which should have been included in the original game.
The game setup is under the guise of installing separate modules these are the modules that you have to pay extra for. Admittedly it may have been difficult to fit all those features in memory simultaneously, but it is still a bit much to ask people to pay for the same game more than once, no matter if you can view the court from above, from the side or from inside a cheerleader's T shirt.
SportTime claims that this is a step forward in games technology, as its system of flow control, where instead of controlling your team at all times you merely take over at a crucial moment.
This makes it easier for them to program and harder for you to play, as your star player suddenly halts underneath the basket and stands motionless before disappearing under a tonne of opposing players. Should've been ready, shouldn't you.
Admittedly there are advantages to this system. It is possible to get used to it after a while, and having the computer do half of your moves does mean you can last out a match without the inevitable joystick wounds.
Aside from choosing the initial team, the coach has other important duties to perform. Strategic use of timeouts can swing the game, not only by giving you the chance to make team changes, but also by breaking up your opponents' attack. A keen eye for a bargain, and the willingness to torture your team in the training camp, are also useful.
Do well in the league and you get to travel all over the place for the playoffs. Which way is Wyoming? But the competition is tight for the glory spot at the top. Players' performances also seems to depend on how important the match is - a very realistic feature.
Other features include recruiting your team from the various college leagues, so exploitation is the name of the game, conning poor students to come and play for you and then chucking them out when they get injured beyond repair. That's the way of the world - well at least it is in America.
By far the most entertaining part of the game is the pre-match preview and half-time roundup hosted by those two lovable rogues, Nick and Bob. A well animated and detailed synopsis of the state of the teams, and roughly how badly beaten you will be, follows.
Someone certainly went through hoops to write the manual - 56 pages full of diagrams, every menu item explained in the most exact detail and the worst spelling.
There is an overall polish to the game which is hard not to respect - except, that is, for the game display. The bottom 56 lines are alternately filled with garbage or the top of the referee, waiting to pop up. Obviously on an NTSC screen this doesn't matter, but we are not Airstrip One yet.
Aside from that, everything is graphically good, though some of the action is a little on the small side.
As a simulation, Basketball falls down on playability. There isn't enough range or depth to the action, the experience being more like watching a game being played rather than competing yourself.
As a management exercise there is a little more scope for interest, more to watch for and more feeling of actually being on the bench. My impression is that the game has fallen between two baskets.