Anyone for tennis or painful root canal?

Tennis Cup 2 logo

LORICIEL * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Joystick * Out now

Put your hands together ladies and gentlemen, it's another French game. This time it's awful beyond your wildest nightmares. Thankfully it isn't following the recent trend of French games, which is to have a completely ridiculous story line.

I was half expecting this to be a spy thriller shoot-'em-up strategy game where your tennis opponent was actually the evil Phlegm who is about to destroy the world with his deadly Atom Tennis Ball.
OK, let's look at the game in our usual objective style. For starters it's a tennis game which more or less condemns it instantly but being the least playable game I've come across to date kills it completely.

You play in one or two-player mode. I played on the one-player mode because no-one else would take part in this feast of fun with me. The view of the court is form a high perspective behind your player so you are actually getting a frontal view of the opposition.

Where this game fails is the gameplay - there isn't any. It wouldn't be so bad if the game was actually hard to play, but all you need to use is the Fire button.

If you don't move your player when the opposition serves or returns a shot the computer will automatically put you in the right position. You are actually free to move, but why bother? If you move around, you're bound to miss the ball.
This lack of movement means the game has less playability than the old console tennis games - at least there you had to chase the ball.

As ever, the computer opponent is far too good - I gave up rather rapidly after losing every match 6-0. Occasionally he might hit the net but after a while he just wears you down.

Graphically the game is up to quite a good standard. The players move quite smoothly and various sequences leading into the game are quite well done.

The most amusing bit of the game is the opening sequence where both of the players walk on and are clapped by the crowd. As the players appear, the crowd goes into convulsions. Instead of the usual naff clapping and jumping they seem to vibrate left to right with alarming speed.

Next on the giggle list is the soundtrack. When either opponent scores a point, the umpire announces the score - 15/40 and so on - but remember it's a French game, so it's done with a really dodgy accent. Every time I hear it I get this image of the umpire sitting there with a string of onions around his neck and a beret on.

It has a demo mode which lets you view a game between famous tennis stars which funnily enough look identical to your character. Like any demo on any game, it's only appearing the first time around, if that.

What can I say? It's awful. I can't even see hardcore tennis game fans, if such a thing exists, enjoying this or more than a couple of goes.



Tennis Cup 2 logo

Loriciel * £25.99

Ohmigosh! Quick, hide! It's another tennis game!!! This offering is a reworking of their 1990 release (surprisingly titled Tennis Cup). All the best features are retained - sampled spot effects, digitised speech for scoring, and split-screen mode for two players, but some new ones have been added such as better character animation and more user-friendly options.

The game comes on two disks, which must be constantly swapped even if you have two disk drives. This process is tedious, and spoils the otherwise excellent presentation. I thought programmers would have learned by now that Amiga users HATE UNNECESSARY DISK SWAPPING! There, I've said it.

There are a number of tennis games available en the Amiga and most of them are good; Tennis Cup 2 is an excellent addition to the list. It's great fun to play, especially in two-player mode with a split screen, and it has a large variety of options. However, if you already own any self-respecting tennis game, than this one will probably not be enough of an improvement to make you part with the necessaries.



As oder Aas?

Tennis Cup 2 logo

Neben Ranglistenführer "Great Courts 2" hat auch Loriciels über zwei Jahre alter Tennis-Klassiker immer noch einen guten Ruf bei den Amiga-Cracks. Der kann sich beim gründlich Uberarbeiteten Nachfolger ja eigentlich nur verbessern - oder?

Der weiße Sport wird natürlich auch hier nicht neu erfunden, Tennis Cup 2 ist eine grundsolide Simulation, garniert von Optionen in Hülle und Fülle.

So hat man die Wahl zwischen Schaukampf, Demo-, Turnier- und einem aufwendig gemachten Trainingsmodus; es gibt Einzel und Doppel, vier Platztypen (Rasen, Hartbelag, Asche und "schneller" Kunststoff), zuschaltbare Schiedsrichter, einen "Radarschirm" mit Sicht von oben oder seitlich, sowie den obligatorischen Zwei-Spieler-Modus.

Sowohl die Spielgeschwindigkeit als auch die Anzahl der Sätze ist einstellbar, der Computer unterstützt Faulpelze auf Wünsch beim Laufen und Schlagen, und im Unterschied zum Vorgänger wird außer dem altbekannten Splitscreen jetzt auch eine Vollcourt-Variante angeboten. Schließlich soll der Editor nicht unerwähnt bleiben, wo sich durch entsprechendes Punkte-Verteilen die Stärken und Schwächen des eigenen Cracks wie auch der Gegner verändern lassen.

Das Geschehen am Platz kann mit der Options-Flut leider nicht ganz mithalten: Die Steuerung gibt sich etwas unsportlich und spricht leicht verzögert an, die Grafik ist zwar bunt und detailliert, dafür wirken die Animationen ein bißchen ruckelig.

Nach dem Verklingen der Titelmusik herrscht Ruhe am Platz, unterbrochen wird sie nur von gelegentlichen Digi-Kommentaren, Beifallsgetöse und kräftigen "Plopps".

Fazit: Die Vormachtstellung von "Great Courts 2" bleibt ungefährdet, der aufgemöbelte Oldtimer kommt nur bis ins Halbfinale. (pb)



Tennis Cup 2 logo

What about tennis puns here? No? OK.

Far be it from the French to take defeat in one of their beloved sports lying down. Their great tennis hero Henri Leconte may once again have missed out in the major tournaments, but that does not stop them hitting back with Tennis Cup 2.

TC2 (as its best friends get to call it) throws you straight into the atmosphere of the professional tennis circuit. You are represented by an animated tennis player who arrives at the tennis club armed with kitbag and rackets. It is very modern, very up market - you can almost smell it. Graphically it is top-notch, and throughout gameplay, animation is just as good. Consequently my first impressions were good.

After your player has signed in at the reception desk, which also doubles up as the bar for refreshments, you have a number of choices. These options have been ingeniously drawn into the tennis club entrance hall - it is well laid-out and realistic. On the main screen above you is the announcement of your match. To go straight into the match just walk your player through the doors and onto the court.

Alternatively you can choose to watch a demo on the wall-mounted screen, or check out the opposite side of the tennis club foyer where you will find the entrance doors to the training section. By walking your player through these doors you can choose to train with either a ball thrower or with a teacher.

In terms of content then, it seems that the game could not offer much more, but what about its mechanics, the essentials that make or break a good sports simulation? Your first introduction to the control system if yu are wise, is the practise option. Tennis 2's control system is the same as Pro Tennis Tour - press the fire button to prepare a shot, then release it to hit the ball - but somehow, it is easier to get to grips with. The ball will be sent in a direction corresponding to that of the joystick. It sounds simple, but as any tennis player knows it is all in the timing... Certainly you will have to spend a lot of time in training before the control system can be mastered for a match.

Once you have got the hang of play control, there is a chance to learn specific shots with an on screen animated teacher. The training system is comprehensive, but then it needs to be.

If you feel confident enough to go out and do battle on the court, the menu screen offers a wide variety of options for your game. Choose, for instance, the number of sets (one, three or five), the game speed (slow, medium, fast) and the court type (clay, quick, hard or grass). With a two player option you can play singles or doubles and go on to play international tournaments - eight are offered, plus four David Cups and the Masters.

So there is certainly a lot of scope, and once on court you will find this a fairly realistic tennis simulation right down to line calls and authentic match sound effects. Where it does lose out is in the length of time it takes to redraw and load again between points. This is frustrating and silly, and really gets in the way of the smoothness and fluidity of the gameplay.



Tennis Cup 2 logo

Steve Merrett to the courts of Loriciel's Wimbledon-based sequel, and volleys a few shots and lobs a few high-balls before arguing with the umpire...

MEMORY CHEATS
I once read a book where some bloke was whittling on about how the memory cheats - i.e. things that you remember fondly may not have been so great after all. Take all those TV programmes you used to watch, for instance. When I was about ten, I used to be a massive fan of Sapphire And Steel, but on rewatching an episode whilst round a friend's house recently, the geezer in the book was certainly proved correct.

The same goes for Loriciel's Tennis Cup. Many a good game of Tennis Cup was played by myself and friends when U.S. Gold first released the game two years ago, but on seeing this almost identical sequel, it's obvious that my memory was indeed giving me grief.

Once Tennis Cup II has loaded, the player meets the first - and seemingly only - addition to the gameplay. Standing in the reception area of what seems to be a rather spacious leisure centre, your binary alter ego stands with his laden holdall awaiting your control.

By moving the joystick in the requisite direction, the would-be Agassi can then opt to view a demo match or alter the game's parameters via the two monitor screens, or pass through one of two doors to either practice your shots or enter a match.

On opting for the former, the player is placed before one of those ball-spitting machines which proceeds to pump shot after shot towards you. Using the joystick, the tedious aim of this section is simply to master the game's limited array of shots by hitting the balls back.

Granted, the length and placement of each shot can be altered, but not to any great extent to make this section particularly necessary. Thus, with a quick prod of the Escape key, you are duly returned to the main menu screen where a match against a similarly-seeded computer-controlled player has been lined up.

THE MENU, PLEASE
Via the aforementioned menu screen, assorted details regarding the matches can be altered. A choice of clay, grass, and concrete courts are on offer, whilst the length of each match and other such sundry aspects can also be tailored.

As with the practice sesssion, the match is viewed in third-person perspective behind the player, with a split-screen mode also allowing a second player the same privilege - it also makes for some very clever animation as both faces of your player are simultaneously animated.

As can be expected, your on-screen persona is controlled via the joystick, and, in a rather nice touch, if the player is left out of position, the computer will then step in to move the player into a decent returning area.

Although this system sounds like a doddle to master, accurately returning the ball can be far from easy. As in the real sport, timing is of the essence, but the forced perspective used to depict the action makes this harder than necessary, as the court appears to be twice as wide as it is long.

Obviously, the game comes with the ability to alter the placement and speed of shots, but these aren't quite as useful as they should be, and I found that beating my opponent was simply a matter of hitting a couple of shots to the back o the court before lobbing a short cross ball just over the net.

COME BACK FRED PERRY
I don't want to sound too damning about Tennis Cup as it can prove quite addictive - but not if you want a serious game of Tennis. The quirky nature of the controls and the oddly-shaped court also meant that I never felt as if I was in total control of the game, and that most of my shots were flukes.

When compared with Infogrames' stunning Advantage Tennis, I'm afraid that Tennis Cup II emerges as a rank outsider. Another major gripe also concerns its similarity to the first game. There just isn't enough in Tennis Cup II to warrant a buy.

Tennis fans have an excellent selection, and compared to the aforementioned Advantage Tennis this is completely unseeded.


WHAT A PONG Ironically, Tennis was the basis for the first ever video games. With Grandstand and Binatone leading the way in video game development, it was amazing how many Tennis players resembled a slab of white pixels which could only move along a vertical axis! Yes, that's right, the world-famous Pong was based on Tennis. Although there was no net, and no skillful lobs or spins, Pong was actually state-of-the-art entertainment in the late 70s. In addition, the good thing about using Tennis as its basis was that Pong could then miraculously become Squash (simply by adding a wall). Badminton (by slowing the ball/shufflecock's flight), or mixed doubles Tennis (by adding two more bats). This then allowed the companies to boast that their machines boasted, say, fifteen different events - although they were basically all the same.



Tennis Cup 2 logo

TENNIS CUP 2: Out now from Digital Integration on Amiga (£25.99) and PC (£29.99).

With the Olympics and Wimbledon behind us, new ballboy on the court MOHAMMED AHMED bounced over the net to check out Loriciel's new Tennis sim, TENNIS CUP 2.

AmigaTennis - probably the most boring game in the world. Who in their right mind would want to watch two wallies whacking a ball around with flyswatters in front of a crowd of posh morons eating strawberries and cream?

At the start of Tennis Cup 2, your player doesn't seem all that keen to play either - he's having a drink in the bar, waiting for you to make your move.

You have two choices as to what to do with him. Walk him to the side door and you enter training mode, whereupon you're greeted by machines which hurl tennis balls at your forehead while you wave your racket around. Alternatively you can walk through the main door onto the court and hear the crowd erupt in applause.

The presentation's good, but what about the gameplay? Well, it's Hard with a capital H. It can get sooo frustrating. That's the problem with Tennis Cup 2 - the difficulty level has been set at Wimbledon Champion standard. I played for three hours solid and didn't win a single game.

It's very addictive at first, but play for a while and it can become really infuriating, crossing the thin line between addictiveness and frustration. Not even John MacEnroe can beat this, because this time the ball is definitely out!Z


NEW BALLS PLEASE

The game boasts several new options, including a unique new feature - the ability to gang up against the computer in doubles matches and kicks its US right open (brilliant fun). You can choose to play in singles competition against the computer or a friend, and there's a huge range of different pitch types and tournaments.

GAME, SET AND MATCH

The animation in the game is great - the sprites run around realistically, complete with a bum shuffle, and the dive is smaaart! The graphics are good (though not Sabatini standard), with the different pitch types being well presented. The ball boy is a nice touch too. (You perv. Ed.) A special mention must go to the sound. A Puerto Rican umpire blurts out the score after each point, while the line umpires call "fault" whenever the ball is out.

FIRST SERVE

You can opt to have the computer control the movement of your player or for you to control him, and from there on it's action. The control method does take a bit of getting used to, however. Once you get in line with the ball, you press fire and select your shot with the joystick - lob, slice, pass or smash. There is also a new move available - if the ball seems out of reach, you can make your player dive for the ball in true Andre Agassi fashion (minus the stubble though), heating up the action a little more.