Here we have, not a super-exciting space battle, silly platform game, nor an adventure, but a nice, well-presented Show Jumping game for the horse enthusiast (or even for the not-so-enthusiastic horse hater). To be honest, I don't really like horses or show-jumping, but this game is, I think, very good and worth a review.
The cassette artwork is not amazing, and I think this is why the game is not too common in the shops. There is nothing wrong with the game itself, and the rules are rather straightforward - you have to complete the course with the least number of faults and the best possible time. If two players gain the same number of faults, then the times determine who goes onto the table.
First though, some notes about the table, and then I'll go onto the game itself. The table is drawn up for each course, and the best qualifier (with the least faults and/or best time) is placed onto the table for that course. There are eight different courses; some of which require very careful riding, whilst others are purely fast courses, relying on time rather than the number of faults. The qualifying time for each course is used for the next competitor to provide a time check at each fence and give an idea whether they have a faster or slower time than the last competitor.At first sight, the course looks a little confusing, although things soon become clear. Shown at the top of the screen are your times and faults, with a representation of you on your horse. The main part of the display is taken up with a plan of the course. The start line is shown in blue and white, and the jumps in black.
You and your horse are shown as a line with ears (supposedly a bird's-eye view). This is one of the small faults in the same, and I'm sure that the game's writer could have come up with a better graphic likeness than this!
Play is controlled by five keys for Left, Right, Faster, Slower and Jump. These are quite straight-forward and respond quickly (they need to with my jumping). Once you press Faster, the horse at the top of the screen will start to 'walk'. This is very realistic and you should be impressed, but just wait 'til it gallops and jumps! You will also see that your horse has started to move forwards on the course, and that a section of the starting line has begun to flash. Once you have crossed this line, the time counter begins, and the first jump will start to flash if you jump any other fence, then something nasty happens to your horse.
You gain three faults for a refusal, and four faults for hitting a fence. It is best to jump forwards over the lower section (right in the middle) of the fence, though it is possible to jump across at an angle (but not recommended as this can cost you quite a few faults).
By now, I bet you're wondering "How do you jump?". Well, this involves the graphics of your horse at the top of the screen. Once you get up to a gallop and head for a fence, you should see the fence approach your horse; at which point, you must try to time your jump correctly. One other problem I found in the game is that the horse refuses too often, sometimes when it is only five feet from the fence (though I suppose this is like real life!).
So, you must continue jumping until you reach the finish line and this, I can tell you, is no easy task. Avoiding wrong jumps and staying within the boundaries at the same time as trying to swing into the right position for the next jump is almost impossible at high speed, and so the overall effect is very realistic indeed.
The numerous courses mean that the game is always interesting to play, and I'm sure that many horse lovers will find this the perfect game, although I tend to think that it may be a little slow for those who like fast arcade games. Still, a good game.
Show Jump is produced for the 48K Spectrum, and available for around £5.50.