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Ubi Soft Ltd
1988
Arcade: Action
£8.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
None

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74
Jackie Ryan
Chris Bourne

Don't you just love playing with your balls? I Ball, Madballs, Impossaball... well now here's another one to add to your collection - Skateball - the first British release from the French software house, Ubisoft. And boy will you need round spherical objects to play this!

It's a desperate game - a fight to the death, set in, of all places, a futuristic ice skating rink! But there's no sign of camel spins, triple loops or even double deckers here (cos Phil's eaten them all). Instead it's side slams, body tackles and headbutts as your team competes to become the roughest, toughest skateball team on the ice. So shove over Torville and Dean!

You begin by selecting your team of three from a pool of eight of the meanest, fastest dudes on ice. (The command is 'Change Team' on the menu). Scroll through the list of players available, keeping you eyeballs peeled for their strength, balance, shootskill and reaction ratings. These are important, 'cos once you've picked a member of your team, the computer will then let you pick the mean critter he'll meet on the other team. So with a bit of careful planning you can way the odds quite heavily in your favour. There's no point being fair in this game! Besides, you'll need to use the dirtiest tricks in the book if you want to stand a chance of winning.

Next it's onto the rink and the first of nine levels. But first, take a look at the hazard strewn ice ahead of you. Eeek! Cos apart from your opponent, you also have to contend with loads of nasty hazards. You get a look at these at the beginning of each level when the computer scrolls the length of the rink. On the lower levels, you'll find bouncy mushrooms (which you should try and avoid if you don't want a wet bum) and rising and falling stone pillars (which you must skate around or jump over). But get to level five, and things begin to look a bit dicey. There's bottomless pits to contend with (fall down these and you'll never be seen again), spikey balls (bump into these and you'll be promptly splattered - luvverly), and electric hatstands - which'll burn you to a frazzle if you so much as touch 'em. So avoid, avoid, avoid - or push your opponent into them!

And so to the game. Your first team member takes to the ice against his opponent (apart from the automatic goalies, there's only ever one player from each team on the ice at a time), and bullies off - by charging straight into him. Youch! Then it's a case of pushing and shoving, tripping and head stomping as you skate sleekly around the rink, trying to waste your opponent and get the ball in the back of his net.

The gameplay is fast and furious. The slightly jerky scrolling is unnoticeable, 'cos you're too busy trying to trip your opponent up, or splatter him against the spike ball!! Bleeuuk! And the skating action is fabbily done - even to the point of sending you skidding across the ice on your bum when you've taken a bit of a bruising. The only gripe is the control system - it's a little tricky to get to grips with at first. But it's easy once you've mastered it.

On each level, the first person to score five goals - or wipe out the opposition - is the winner. The good thing though, is even if you lose a level, you continue on to the next one. 'Cos the aim of the game is to be top scorer over the whole nine levels - so there's no having to go back to the start or complete a level before you move on.

A great game, very addictive, fast and furious and full of firm thigh muscles! An impressive start for the French company.

Balls of fun for everyone! A good addictive mix of skill, skating and bash 'em about.

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BULLY BOYS HANDY HINTS

If you keep losing the bully off, try running at your opponent and jumping on him. You won't jump on his head, but you should be a able to knock him off balance which'll allow you to gain possession of the ball.

One way of wasting your opponent on level five, is to just stand still at the bully off and let him run to you. This'll cause him to lose his balance and slide along the ice, till he falls into the pit behind you. He, he, he!