A computer game in which players perform circus tricks has been launched as an innovative way of helping people overcome a stroke.

Experts from Newcastle University have teamed up with a professional game studio to create the first in a set of titles that will train patients to regain hand or arm movement.

Usually this takes months of intensive and expensive therapy but the designers hope the Circus Challenge game could prove a fun, cheaper alternative.

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Players use wireless controllers to try their hand at virtual circus acts such as lion taming, being a trapeze artist, juggling or plate spinning.

Former shipbuilder Danny Mann, from Dudley in Northumberland, has tried the game. The 68-year-old grandfather, who had a stroke in February, said: "This is the first time I have ever played a video game – I mean, I don't even own a computer. It was good fun, though it did feel like I was doing exercise and I worked up a sweat.

"The therapy exercises I normally have to do are dull but necessary, but this game is something different."