IMAGINE A GAME like squash only the ball is allowed to rebound from above you as well as in front. And imagine that you don't use a racket, but a sort of scoop in which you catch the ball then shoot it out. Imagine also that facing you is an armoured opponent, and he's hell bent on preventing you from firing that projectile through one of the small holes in the ceiling above him.
Now this is where it gets weird, because you are wearing roller skates and, to make matters worse, the elastic of your trousers seems to have got caught on the wall behind you and keeps dragging you back. Meanwhile, nobody's going to stop the behemoth opposite doing you GBH so you'd better be prepared to get involved in some body contact sport. Imagined all of that? Then you've imagined Bounces - Sport Future.
Or to put it another way, you've imagined the new game from Denton home of original gameplay. Bounces, rather like Rollerball, is a sport devised by the corporations of some unspecified future, in which clone warriors battle it out in the arena. Two of the most famous contenders are Sir Ashley Trueblood, all-round good guy and representative of the Knight-Techni-Corp, and Erik the Red, the guy you love to hate from the Viking-Synthi-Corp.
Being an upright Spectrum owner, it's presumed that you'll want to control Ashley - corrupt Commodore types being given the option on Erik. You'll have to choose one of two skill levels though, as well as a one or two player game and, of course, the control mode.
A word of warning about the controls. At first I tried the keyboard and found the line of keys one to five illogical and clumsy. Switching over to a joystick made an immediate improvement and within no time actions had become second nature. The ratings therefore represent the game using a joystick. If you've not got one - forget it!
You'll need to master the controls, not because they're complex, but because you'll have to react with extreme accuracy of timing and placing. Forward takes you towards Erik and back returns you to the wall, accelerated by the Plas-flex wire. Down takes you into a crouch which stabilises your position, thanks to your Fric-toe caps, while up gets you off the floor or makes you jump - once you leave terra firma you'll really fly back towards the wall.
Pressing fire transfers control to Ashley's arm so that you can intercept the Low-grav slugdomium sphere as it ricochets around. Once you've got it, aim the arm then release the button to let fly. Obviously, this means that the only movement possible when in possession is backwards, dragged by the Plas-flex, so position yourself carefully beforehand.
Scoring is achieved in two ways. The gentlemanly way is to score goals by blasting the sphere through the holes in the ceiling above your opponent - the closer to the back wall, the higher your score. The ball then runs along a channel to the centre to drop back into play. But if you don't fancy a good clean fight, go for a good dirty one!
Hitting your opponent with a speeding sphere will topple him unless he's lucky enough to intercept it. Or you can get in close and batter him with your ball snatcher. Either way you'll get points.
Be on your guard though, or you'll end up scoring own goals. Putting the ball through one of the holes on your side adds to Erik's score, as does allowing the elastic to smash you against the back wall. These impacts can bring the game to an abrupt end in another way. Each time you hit the ground or get knocked over you lose strength. Although you do recoup some of this, too many crashes will kill you.
Each game lasts only three minutes, divided into two halves, but the action is fast, frantic and continuous. At the end of a game - providing you survive - your points will be added to your previous total and a tally of wins and losses is kept. Then it's on to the next battle of these giants of the arena.
While Bounces looks graphically rather plain, apart from the well animated, solid looking figures, it soon has you hooked. It's not an easy game to play, but even at the start you'll want to persist and pretty soon you'll find the points margins are shrinking and you're even drawing games. In fact, it's just like learning a real sport and mastering its techniques. You'll also find that you develop various strategies of play, balancing the aggressive with the restrained, attack and defence.
Erik is carefully programmed to provide stiff competition, though on the easiest level he is rather more forgiving. He too has his strategies; one particular favourite seems to be knocking you over with the ball, catching it on the rebound and firing at your ceiling while you're still getting up. This all adds to the addictive quality of the game, and should give it a good lifespan.
Congratulations then, Denton, for inventing an original game with admirably simple rules, that avoids being yet another contribution to the spate of martial arts simulations. If you've got any interest in this type of game you should enjoy it. It certainly puts the bounce back into Spectrum sports!
Joystick: Fuller, Kempston, Sinclair, Protek
It's punch up time, grapple fans, as the ball goes unnoticed.
Sir Ashley crouches to maintain his position as Erik prepares to take the ball.