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Game on: The History and Culture of Videogames


With an exciting final week of Wimbledon 2005 beckoning, when municipal courts in public parks will be packed with anyone who owns a tennis racket, my mind has been wandering back to the late 1980s.

One of the top items on my Christmas list in 1987 was Game Set and Match by Ocean. This bonanza compilation offered no less than 10 sporting titles including classics like Daley Thompson's Supertest, Hypersports and Barry McGuigan's WC Boxing.

If my memory serves me correctly, the games were spread across four cassettes, which nestled in an exciting-looking rectangular box. I remember the design well; I was so excited by the thought of this gift that I used a pen knife to carefully slit the Cellotape on the wrapping paper and take a sneaky peak ahead of the big day.

When Christmas Day came and I finally got my grubby hands on the compilation, I spent hours loading up and playing each title. It was on this festive day that I first played Konami's Tennis by Imagine - the one and only tennis game I can remember loading into my 48k Spectrum.

Playing it again years later on an emulator, I have realised why it was one of the most underplayed games on the Game Set and Match compilation; it's not very good and I'm totally crap at playing it.

Unlike Konami's Ping Pong (which features pretty similar game play to Tennis), you do at least get to see characters playing a match. The table tennis title makes do with showing two bats floating in mid-air; for some reason I can't play it without thinking of the dismembered hand called 'Thing' in the Adams Family.

Tennis utilises the SpeedLock 3 loading system, which means you get lots of cool purple, blue, yellow and green lines as you wait for the loading screen to appear.

When it arrives however it's something of an embarrassment. Drawn in very sloppy style, it features a player that resembles John McEnroe, waving a peace sign. The guy on the other side of the net wears a bizarre red outfit and looks like his head has just exploded. In short, it's pretty messy shoddy effort.




For those who feel inspired by this week's events at SW1 but are too lazy to take to a real court and fancy giving Konami's Tennis a go, here are a few tips. It can be downloaded from the World of Spectrum site.

* When serving stand as near to the centre line as possible to reduce the chance of faulting. Try not to wait too long before hitting the ball as it will usually land out..

* Move into the net as soon as possible. It makes it easier to hit the ball and you stand a much better chance of winning the point

* Try not to move around when the computer player is getting ready to serve, as it seems to encourage him to hit serves that are hard to return.

* Try to position yourself slighty to one side of the ball when hitting it; if it comes straight at you, then you will usually miss it.

*Don't hit the keyboard too hard when the computer cheats you out of points.

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