Well, I'll be Dan Maskelled! The only boy to consistently get a 'C-' for sport in his school report gets another sports sim game to review! The nearest I've ever come to a tennis star was a summer job polishing Des Lynham's commentary box windows at Wimbledon! Still - scoff, scoff - that's a hefty punnet of strawberries I've just polished off. I've got my galoshes on my feet and my sun block on my shnozz, all that's left to do now is load in Passing Shot from Mirrorsoft!
Eeeeeeeee (computery noise)! There we are, it's loaded! Right, we've seen the demom, now let's look at the whole game. It's got two player option and it's set in four countries, each representing a level of difficulty with different playing surfaces and opponents. The game is played from two viewpoints, spectator's viewpoint for service and overhead viewpoint for the rallies. In the latter mode, the computer unfortunately doesn't show you the whole court, only a portion. The screen then scrolls up and down following the progress of the ball.
The control system sounds simple in theory, but it's a tad tricky in practice. You have four different types of stroke at your disposal, the lob, the flat, the slice and the topspin, all which you operate by pushing the fire button in conjunction with a direction. Confusingly then, the direction control alters the type of stroke, rather than the direction in which the ball travels. This is dictated by the player's position in relation to the ball. For example, hitting the ball at the end of a forehand stroke will send it to the left hand side of your opponent's court, at the start of the stroke to the right, and so on.
Right, you start in France, then move to Australia, followed by America, playing the deciding last set of an international tennis Final in each. The fourth and hardest level takes you to Wimbledon. Here you have three sets to play, one in each of the quarter final, the semi final and the final! Then you're World Champion! Simple. Isn't it? Erm, actually, no. Its not, but with a bit of perseverance on the 'easiest' level I won the four matches to gain entry into the Wimbledon quarter finals! Unfortunately, here I was soundly thrashed!
The player sprite moves very slowly. This presumably serves to introduce a strategy element so that, like in real tennis, you need to anticipate where the opponent's return will go. Since your player isn't on the screen when your opponent hits the ball however, you have to start moving while you're on screen and hope you end up in the right place. On the hardest level, everything seems to be that much speedier, whilst your sprite movement is still slow. This makes some returns impossible.
The two player option is fun, you and a chum playing together against two opponents. Shame you can't play each other though. Also, it can be tricky knowing who's who. Because both sprites are exactly the same, you can't always see your players, and the computer swops you on to different sides of the court to receive service! Okay, so it's got some graphical problems and repetitive backdrops, but the animation is nice and there's a crazy tennis ball that appears when a game is completed and makes a face at you. Oh, and the music's horrid, but you can switch it off and just have the ball sounds.
Basically, this is a flawed, straight tennis simulation, with some nice graphical touches, a tricky control system and sluggish player movement. But for all that very playable and addictive. Anyone for Passing Shot?
An addictive little number, but a bit marred by things like dubious computer returns and the inability to take on a mate.
Lummox! This ball is bigger than the both of us! As in overhead viewpoint soccer games, you can tell the height of the ball by the size of its sprite. This is a very high lob by the way!
The computer has already decided that you've drawn the first two sets. It's up to you to decide the outcome of the third. Phew, the prospect of five or six hours 'on court' per match would've been well daunting!
"C'mon, man, this is the pits! You canNOT be serious!" My opponent bears the initials 'J.M.'. Does this mean I'm playing the mighty McEnroe or Johnny Morris? "Advantage Doty the ring-tailed lemur!"