|The YS Complete Guide To Soccer Games|
|Published in the Jun 1990 YS54 issue|
Brian Clough's Football Fortunes Football Frenzy Football Manager II Footballer Of The Year II Gary Lineker's Superskills Kick Off Match Day II Microprose Soccer Roy Of The Rovers
Footie games, eh? Where'd we be without 'em? There've been hundreds of the blooming things,
with more on the way wach month, and they always (always! always!) sell like hot cakes (even
the ones that are crap). So with the World Cup lining itself on the horizon, let's join the
slightly less-than-enthusiastic JONATHAN DAVIES as we lead you by the hand into the
past, present and future world of the Spectrum soccer game.
Oh dear. How can I start? Um, quite a few phrases spring to mind. Like "They're all the same!" and "No, please, not another one!" and, erm, "Let me out of here!" The problem, you see, is that for every Microprose Soccer or Match Day II there are six or seven World Cup Carnivals (US Gold's tragic 1986 attempt at a footie sim) to wade through. And I should know - I've just waded through them all. Quite frankly I wouldn't care if the colour green never darkened my Speccy again. I'm sick as a parrot.
Well, there are certainly lots of games. And no, they're not all the same. There are in fact a few basic types, and within each of these categories dwell a hundred and one subtle variations. Um, what fun...
It's a game of two halves.
That's right, one half management, the other half actually booting the ball around a bit. To kick off with we have the straightforward arcade simulation. This you should all be familiar with - a big green pitch (seen from above, or sometimes from the side), the roar of the crowd (well, the 'beep' of the crowd), lots of little men running around kicking the ball, and you up in the air somewhere above it all, doing your best to keep one or two of them (plus the ball) under control. What you don't have to worry about though is what any of the blokes are called, how much they're worth, or any other boring managerial-type stuff. Good examples of this kind of game are Match Day 2 and Kick Off.
The second main sub-division, the management game, is a totally different kettle of fish. No footie here at all (as such), apart from the results of various games flashing up on your screen every so often to tell you how you're doing. It's business acumen we're worried about here, with all sorts of weird and wonderful information popping up to confuse you - what your men are called, how tall they are, how skilful they can be and all sorts. A good example of this variety of game is, surprise, surprise, Football Manager.
The third, and crappiest, type of footie game is the pools prediction program. Now you may get really excited by the prospect of these (I don't know) but I find them so brain-blendingly boring that this is the only mention they'll get here, so enjoy it while you can. (Sorry and all that.)
Actually there's a fourth sub-division I've just remembered too - those games that provide you with an often quite bizarre mixture of action game and management, usually consisting of lots of lists of numbers with slightly dodgy bolt-on arcade bits thrown in. Some of them work quite well, but there's always the odd game that's simply too weird for words - like Roy Of The Rovers for example, part arcade adventure of all things and with a badly drawn Roy searching for his kidnapped team!
THE FIRST FOOTIE GAME IN HISTORY
A bit of a tie (almost), but by checking out all my back issues of YS, getting hold of various release dates, dismissing the really early stuff that's virtually unrecognisable as Speccy games as we know them today, and consulting with all the experts I could find, it has to be... Football Manager from Addictive! That's right, it's the one with mugshots of that cheery bearded bloke all over it (Kevin Toms actually. Ed). Originating in the days of long shorts and over-the-knee footie boots, it sold squillions of copies, mainly because it was released on everything from the ZX81 to the Teefal HY9000 De Luxe Deep Fat Fryer. We didn't stand a chance really.
It was, of course, the first of those dreadful 'management' jobbies, in which you spend the whole time staring at lists of things. Written in 100% Basic, it featured some chronic 'action scenes' and a unique 'customising' feature. (In other words, you could break into the program and do all sorts of despicable things to it.) The punters loved it.
As for the first action game, that's a bit harder. It was probably Artic's World Cup Football, the first of the little-people-running-around variety. Unfortunately though it was, to be honest, utterly, utterly terrible. The graphics especially were complete rubbish. It was so bad, in fact, that US Gold decided to use it as the basis for its renowned World Cup Carnival game. (Hurrah!) Far better is Match Day, which appeared soon after - the first proper, enjoyable footie action game.
Being the tricky things they are, footie games don't quite fit into the usual way we rate our games, so for the purposes of this feature here's a one-off system we've devised that hopefully takes into account all their little (and dearly loved) idiosyncrasies.
This ones a bit weird - it was released by
Alternative ages ago, and it's a footie adventure game.
This is generally said to be the fabbest
footie game ever, although whether that's saying much isn't for me to
decide. It's the sequel to, um, Match Day actually, which was the
second(ish) arcade-type game to hit the tape-racks. With nice, big
sprites and semi-realistic action, Match Day brought a whole new
meaning to the word 'good'. The two-player feature was one of its
major attractions, along with headers and other wacky, innovative
moves. There were also a couple of peculiar bugs (something to do with
balls getting stuck in goalposts and a funny timer, if my memory
serves me correctly).
"He has excelled in the creation of
this game with his brilliance," remarks the inlay. It is
describing, of course, Kevin Toms, and also provides a photo of his
majesty for all to marvel at. The game, though, is of the 'lists of
numbers' variety, with the dubious benefit of 'match highlights'. It's
an update, would you believe, of the original Football Manager. The
action sequences are a major improvement, thanks to the innovative use
of Machine Code, but they get a bit boring after a couple of
picoseconds as you just sit there and watch them. The lists are quite
interesting too (as lists go), and should keep any number-fan occupied
for a while.
This doesn't really fit into any regular
footie category. It's one of those dreadful joystick wagglers, I'm
afraid. (Remember those? They were quite popular for an infeasible
length of time. Basically you had to, um, 'waggle' your joystick back
and forth until a) your hand hurt; b) the joystick broke; or c) you
finished the event. Brilliant!) However, some may consider it a
welcome break from all those lists and little men running about, so
let's take a look.
Best known in its 16 bit incarnations, the
Speccy version of Kick Off (when it finally came out) proved to be
quite a scrappy looking affair, with balls that went under the lines
and goal markings that simply petered out for no reason whatsoever.
But (but! but!) there still remained something to recommend it - the
sheer speed with which it moved! There was no way you could accuse
this game of slow and stodgy gameplay - the ball flew absolutely
everywhere, bouncing around the players (overhead viewpoint,
remember?) like the whole pitch was a giant pinball table or
something. All of a sudden ninety percent of existing soccer games
seemed pedestrian in the extreme. All in all then, it was easy to get
into and a lot of fun (especially in two-player mode) but fell foul of
some very scrappy graphics.
If realism's your thing, Microprose Soccer could well be the footie game for you. It opts for a novel bird's-eye view, and packs in more options than you've probably ever opted for in your life (the 'banana power' being one of my personal favourites). There are all kinds of different sorts of matches to choose from, ranging from American six-a-sides to entire international World Cup things.
The gameplay is pretty complicated too. You can do all sorts of different kicks, like swerves and 'overheads', plus throw-ins, corners and all sorts of other wonderfully fun things. But its real strength is its speed. Boy, does it go - there's none of your usual half-hearted plodding about here, matey. The scrolling's ultra-slick, and sometimes you have to really concentrate hard to keep up with what's going on.
In the 'best Speccy footie game ever' stakes it's a toss-up between this and Match Day II really. The choice is yours.
One of Dr. Marcus Berkmann's favourite
games (and he should know - he's reviewed about 80% of the damn things
ever covered by YS!). A bizarre set-up, half strategy/half arcade
game, this second shot at goal from Gremlin dispensed with most of the
annoying niggles of the first game (like fourth division teams
regularly beating first division ones in the quest for the cup) and
added such diversions as international games and nine skill levels to
keep your interest going.
"Brian Clough's Football Fortunes is a
football management computer board game suitable for two to five
players." Or so it says on the cover - what more can I say? You
get the computer program, a board (which expands out from the size of
a postage stamp to that of a small ploughed field), lots of cards,
some counters and loads of money. The program takes care of all the
boring bits, like rolling the dice and sorting out league tables, and
the players do all the slightly less boring bits, like moving counters
round the board and shuffling the cards.
Here's another oddball that doesn't quite
fit into the scheme of things. It's a footie-based arcade adventure,
with all that that suggests. Yes, you have to plod round hundreds of
screens, collect things and talk to people. There's even a plot - the
whole Melchester Rovers team has been kidnapped just before a key
fund-raising match. If the money doesn't get raised developers will
move in and flatten the ground! What a shame.
Here are a few features you may wish to incorporate when devising your own 'tuff turf' footie extravaganza...
This is the trickiest part of writing any footie game. Although coming up with a name is fairly easy, the chances are it's already been used seven times before. To assist with this problem we've designed the YS Footie Game Naming Sytem(TM). Simply pick one word from each column and put them all together to come up with a convincing title.
The Overhead View
This features in Microsoft Soccer, Kick Off and most of the Codies games, among others. It has the advantage that you don't actually get to see the player's faces (only their bald patches) and generally avoids some of the confusion you get in side views when too many players get all tangled in together and you can't quite tell what's going on. You often get a nice 3D view of the ball too, as it flies up into the air and then plummets back down to earth again. And on the minus side? Well, timing headers can get very, very tricky, but more importantly it doesn't always 'feel' quite right somehow. After all, when you watch a game of soccer, you never see it from above, do you?
The Side View
A bit common, you get this viewpoint all over the place, but generally it's the most reliable method. It gives a good 'as seen on telly' angle, although things have to be quite well animated for it to work (not always the case) and you do tend to get horrible sprite 'scrums' at key moments.
A Bit Of Both Views
Only spotted occasionally, in things like Gazza's Super Soccer, this technique can get very confusing indeed. You get a side view when the ball's in the middle of the pitch, but when you get near to either goal the whole thing flips round to give a sort of overhead/into-the-goal-mouth sort of perspective. All very well, but it gives you a godawful headache after a while.
(Depressing isn't it?)
Brian Clough's Football Fortunes/CDS
Brian Robson's Superleague/Paul Lamond
Emlyn Hughes' Soccer/Audiogenic
European Five-A-Side Football/Silverbird
FA Cup Football/Virgin
Footballer Of The Year/Gremlin
Footballer Of The Year II/Gremlin
Football Director II/D&H
Football Manager/Addictive Games
Four Soccer Sims/CodeMasters
Gary Lineker's Superstar Soccer/Gremlin
Gary Lineker's Hotshot/Gremlin
Gary Lineker's Superskills/Gremlin
Gazza's Super Soccer/Empire
International Match Day 128/Ocean
Kenny Dalglish Soccer Manager/Cognito
Match Day II/Ocean
Peter Beardsley's International Football/Grandslam
Peter Shilton's Handball Maradona/Grandslam
Roy Of The Rovers/Gremlin
Saint And Greavsie/Grandslam
Street Cred Football/Players
Street Gang Football/CodeMasters
The Double/Johnson Scanatron
Tracksuit Manager/Goliath Games
Two Player Super League/D&H
World Cup Carnival/US Gold
World Cup Soccer/Artic
World Cup Soccer '90/Virgin
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