£29.99/Mirrorsoft/Sega Master System

Cast your mind back, and you'll no doubt be able to recall that Speedball was the Bitmap Bros' futuristic sports 16-bitter that walked off with enough awards to fill several mantelpieces when it was first released. Since then, it's been followed up with the glorious Speedball 2, and it seemed for a while that 8-bit owners wouldn't be getting much of a look in on this supreme cyber-sport action. But now they too can slip on their gloves (mittens, gloves where the fingers are fashioned to look like mice, or any pair of gloves joined by a piece of elastic and bearing a sewn-in name label need not apply) and get down and dirty in true futuristic style.

Cast your imagination into the next Millennium. Food has been condensed into little tablets. Everybody wears silver boiler suits with huge erect collars. Pontins have just opened a new branch on the Moon. The Really-Really-All-New-Generation Game has just started its 400th series... and the sports world is no place for big girl's blouses, because the number one national game is Speedball, and (affect a very deep ominous voice here) the rules are: there are no rules.

Well, to be perfectly honest, there are actually some rules. Basically, two teams of beefy chaps hit the pitch - a brightly gleaming rectangular arena - and, within a designated time, employ a combination of nifty passes, frantic dashes and vicious fisticuffs to deposit a small shiny object in one another's goals. Yeah, okay, so it sounds remarkably like ice hockey without the sticks. But believe me, these Speedball heroes make even the most brutish Ice-Hockey team seem about as threatening and ruthless as the Waltons.

You get the gist? Then you just pick your team from a choice of three (after checking out each captain's stats) and get slammin'.

This is generally a fairly decent conversion to 8-bit: the sound effects and graphics are fine, but not exactly mind-blowing and the sprites are a little blobby, as can reasonably be expected, but the gameplay - and, lets face it, that's what has always won the brownie points for Speedball - has lost little or none of its speed and excitement. All told, it's a sound investment, and all that remains to be said, really, is a quick reminder that Speedball is a hundred times better as a two player game than played in man versus machine mode - something that prospective lone players might want to bear in mind.

Zero magazine

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