Jeff Calder
1986
Gambling: Games
£2.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

108,109
Chris Bourne

Sport of Kings from Mastertronic simulates a day at the races. At the start you must decide whether the state of the course, weights of jockeys and distances are to affect the outcome of each race. The number of horses running each season is also in your hands. Obviously the more horses you choose the harder it will be to predict the winner. Each time the game is loaded the horses take on different 'personalities', so studying form is only relevant during a single season.

To begin with, horses have no form cards to check against so you can either run a few races blind or set the game to auto-run which builds up the form for you. Once you have Boerne through all the preliminaries, the game can be played for real. A menu screen with eight icons giving access to form cards, the lineup for the next race and the balance of your money £200 is in the bank to begin with.

The race information icon accesses the line-up for the first race of the day complete with odds, distance and the going. Once a likely sounding nag has been selected, you can check its form card where all the usual information is logged. Then it's time to place a bet on the nose, each way, straight forecast or a reversed forecast are all allowed.

The screen shows a race course with the horses lined up at one end and a commentator in a box in the top right hand corner. If you have a Currah speech unit you can also listen to the commentary. During the race the screen scrolls from right to left and furlong markers show how much of the course is left to run. When the finish line has been crossed, the results are displayed, and it's back to the bookies to claim your winnings or tear up your betting slip in disgust. The bookie is a mean-looking character with a cigar firmly clenched between his teeth if you've lost he grins malevolently, but if you've won he looks very dangerous indeed.

CRITICISM

'This is quite a reasonable game - good value for £2.95. I'm not so sure about the BASIC in it though, because machine code could have got around the annoying and tedious 'please wart, I'm calculating' pause which comes up after each game. Up to five people can play, and the more people involved the more fun it is because the atmosphere is far better in a group. For the price, there's not much wrong with it. Not bad, but I'd rather MAD kept to the sort of quality seen in other releases like Spellbound and knight Tyme.'

'Most betting games are total trash, but Mastertronics usually come up with the goods. I'm afraid the game is a waste of time. This game is like one of the first budget games, in that it's slow to react to responses and contains very basic (literally) graphics. The icon control could have been very good but again it is let down by the slow BASIC calculations. I would suspect that Sport of the Kings could possibly be a fun if you loaded it up during a party and everyone had to use real money, but I'm afraid that's the only case when an appalling game like this could come in useful.'

'Horse racing isn't really my cup of tea, but after persevering for a while I began to enjoy placing my bets and watching the race, although the fun is limited. Placing bets, reading form cards and so on is very easily done with the icon/cursor set-up, so there isn't any brain ache remembering what key does what or how to get through the various menus. The graphics used vary from good on the main icon page to awful during the races. The sound effects are minimal; only the odd spot effect here and there. This might well appeal to racing fans, but I can't really see myself playing it for too long.'

COMMENTS
Control keys: cursor keys and 0 for fire
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Interface 2
Keyboard play: okay
Use of colour: simplistic
Graphics: nothing remarkable, simple animation
Sound: clippity clop!
Skill levels: one
Screens: main screen, animated sequence and form data
General Rating: Not as polished as it could be, reasonable fun though.

51%
49%
55%
53%
52%
57%
53%

Screenshot Text

HA HA! The bookie laughs as Cameron loses some money. Cam only got up to £6,050 by reloading the game every time he hit a losing streak!

Clippity clop, the horses cross the winning line in SPORT OF KINGS.