Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
Balls, baskets, boosts and bad dreams!
Time to face-off on the basketball court - except this is no ordinary game: not when the first team you play in the league are pink werewolves! Here your dribbling talents are put to the test against some weird 'n' wacky teams, over a six-round nightmare challenge. Spook!
But in case all this is too much for your weak heart, Nightmare Basketball also offers a fairly normal one-on-one game. This straightforward two-player contest takes place on an open air court in a forest setting, and each team consists of five relatively normal kiddies. Having selected your team's nationality from the seven on offer, you can choose to play a 15, 30 or 45 minute game (thankfully, game minutes are only about 30 seconds long).
One player is constantly under your command during play - signified by a big arrow sticking in the top of his head - while the remaining teamsters rush around under computer control. The nominated player is then guided around the court until you want to use another player. Pressing button 1 switches the arrow from player to player until you control the right one.
A Little Cyclops just about to go for a basket from the penalty line.
Watch your neck against the vampires on the fourth round!
This is the smart progress chart which follows your path through the league. And there you are ready to play the final match against long-nosed goblins!
Against a picturesque waterfall backdrop old one-eye jumps for the basket.
Your player goes for a slam-dunk shot - but disaster! He's forgotten the ball!
That's your current controlee - the guy with the big yellow arrow in his skull!
At the fifth nightmare venue playing some very oriental-looking witches.
Whenever you gain possession of the ball, your remaining players flash on and off in turn, and tapping button 2 allows you to pass the ball to the player who is currently flashing. As long as there isn't an opposing player in the way, your team member catches the ball and carries on under your control.
You can attempt to throw for the basket anywhere on court by pressing button 1 twice to jump and make the throw. The ball is automatically guided towards the basket, but whether the ball goes in or not depends upon the distance and timing of the shot - plus a few random factors! If you go for a slam-dunk right next to the basket, the screen switches to a close-up of the action where a huge animated figure flies past the backboard and tries to put the ball through the hoop.
The more reclusive gamers can decide to play against the computer - and this is where things start to get a little strange: the aim of the one-player mode is to win all six games of a nightmare league. At the start of the competition the six venues are shown Alien Syndrome-style and you simply have to win each match in order to progress to the next venue. If you lose, a continue option lets you play the victorious team once more.
The first round takes place in the same forest venue as the normal two-player game, and while play follows the same method as before, this time your opponents are wolfmen. Cute and cuddly pink ones, but wolfmen all the same! If you manage to beat these lycanthropes, the competition continues with water imps, little cyclops, vampires, witches and finally long-nosed goblins as your opposition! Weird or what?
Well, this is certainly an unusual twist in the sport sim line, and is definitely a good looker. The court graphics are nice, but the slam-dunk close-ups are terrific (just look at the piccies)! The court is a teensy bit jerky when it scrolls, but ball movement is nice and realistic - even down to wobbling in the hoop, or running around the rim and falling out again!
However, play can get frustrating since instead of having automatic player selection (where the computer gives you control of the person nearest the ball), you have to select them yourself. This often means having to hit button 1 three or four times to get the arrow above the player you want, and when all the sprites are together and flickering like mad (which they often do), things can get very confusing.
Not only that, but the rest of your team are a bunch of dummies when left to their own devices - they don't attempt to hassle an opposing player on the break, and can't even pick up a loose ball. Also, if you have one player in a good position and want to control him, as soon as you attempt to swap players, the stupid dolt scurries off up the other end of the court! Groan.
When you get used to the these annoying niggles, the two-player mode offers a pretty decent game, although the teams often seem mismatched - like one team being able to score a basket from miles away, while the other can't even slam-dunk the ball!
Single players do at least have the wacky nightmare teams to play against, but we soon managed to win all six venues and finish the league. Basketball Nightmare doesn't really offer a lasting challenge, but it's a fun sport and OK for the occasional game.
▲ Amazing action close-ups with huge animated characters
▲ The six different courts are nicely presented
▲ Player sprites are small but very neat
▲ Good ball movement
▼ Mucho sprite flicker often makes it difficult to see what's going on
▲ Up-tempo backing track is a pretty decent tune
▲ Nice whistle sound
▼ Just the one soundtrack for all the different games
▼ Tatty white noise effects for the ball bouncing and scoring a basket.
▲ Six different nightmare teams to be beaten
▼ No real tactical play available
▼ Lack of options to alter the game set-up
▲ The nightmare league provides a target for the solo player
▲ A continue option lets you replay lost games
▼ Simple basketball action gets repetitive
▼ Too easy to defeat all six nightmare teams
▼ The two player games are often strangely biased toward one team
An unusual and attractive sport sim spoiled by simple gameplay and a league which is too easy. Reasonable fun as a two-player game and for the part-time dribbler!