SHOW JUMPING is one of those sports which hasn't been over-exposed on the Spectrum Maybe that's because there's no equivalent in the amusement arcades, or perhaps software houses think show jumping is just for the girls, and not worth bothering about.
Anyway, Alligata has more than compensated with a fine simulation which should have you on the edge of your seat during the jump-offs and your family imitating the strangled tones of horse-loving commentators.
You can play on your own or with up to eight people in a grand competition. The solo version is really a training mode, starting with easy courses and building up to the more complex arrangements of the competition courses.
Although the screen is dull in comparison to some of the more spectacular sports simulations, the animation of the horse and rider more than makes up for that. Alligata claims around 190 different positions for the horse, and the result is very realistic, particularly when you jump a fence. The horse leaps up effectively, the rider leans forward and the back legs kick as it clears the fence.
Control is nevertheless easy, with left and right turning the horse, up and down accelerating and decelerating, and fire for jump. Your turning circle is naturally larger if you are cantering than if you are at a standstill.
The essence of show jumping is that the horse does the jumping while the rider guides the horse, and that is what happens in the Alligata game. The easy part is getting over the fence. The difficult part is making sure your horse is in the right position and moving at a reasonable speed to give it a chance.
The course is spread over four screens, and before you start you are shown a diagram of the fences and the order in which you must jump them. When, at the difficult level, you have to remember ten or more fences, that in itself is a major problem. Each fence is lettered and the letter flashes to indicate the next fence, but you also have to remember from which side to jump it. If you can't visualise the position offences off-screen, you are also likely to find yourself coming in at quite the wrong angle, and may even crash into one by mistake.
All the courses must be completed within 100 seconds, which is easy if things go right but hard when you have to start making detours to get back to the right place. If you don't go fast enough, or if you try to jump the wrong fence, your horse will refuse - it's an intelligent being and doesn't see why it should put up with stupid orders. Three refusals and you're disqualified, so it's better to go for broke and hope you don't knock too many fences down on the way.
Each fence down costs four faults, and I was pleased to see that you can knock the bars with your front feet as well as hind legs. The one thing you don't seem to be able to do is fall off the horse. That's probably a blessing.
Show Jumping is immensely enjoyable, partly because it doesn't try to be too ambitious and just concentrates on the basic mechanics of the game and getting them right. Presentation is a bit sparse - notably, there isn't any sound during the game itself. We also found a minor bug, in that some courses stop the clock when you jump the final fence, instead of when you cross the finishing gates. That doesn't spoil the enjoyment, though, and Alligata has promised to look into the matter and fix it before the game is finally released.
If you require all the splashy background graphics and other frills, you may be a little contemptuous of Show Jumping, but fans of the sport and those who attach more importance to the game should certainly check it out - it's one of the more attractive simulations around.