The YS Complete Guide To Soccer Games
Published in the Jun 1990 YS54 issue
Download links for:
 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 
Tipshop links for:
 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 
YS Scan 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!
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.
Playability: Having forked out your dosh and loaded it up, will you be over the moon or sick as a parrot? In other words, is it any cop... or is it utter crap?
At The End Of The Day: ...will you still be playing it? Or will it have joined the potato peelings, used tea bags and missives from Readers Digest in the dustbin?
Kit: Aesthetic appeal, really. Lists of numbers are all very well, but are they decently presented? And if it's an arcade jobbie, are the graphics any good? Especially high marks go to those games with two or more colours used on the players, or a choice of team outfits.
Atmosphere: Is it just like being in the stands at your local ground? Or might you just as well be standing in a queue by the fish counter at Waitrose counting the dandruff on the back of the person in front of you? Here's where you find out!
Football Frenzy

This ones a bit weird - it was released by Alternative ages ago, and it's a footie adventure game.
    Ber-limey. Having rescued it from the depths of the YS archives and dusted it down a bit I gave it a go. And, lo and behold, it's exactly like every other adventure I've ever played, but with the addition of that all-important footie element. What fun. Being a bit crap at both football games and adventures, you can probably guess what a pig's ear I made of it. Did I get past the first two rooms? (No.) It's got some quite nice piccies though, and I noticed that the vocabulary includes GROPE, KISS, UNDRESS, SOBER UP and HANG, although none of these seemed to have any results with my secretary (Ms. Jones).
    It's okay I suppose and, dare I say it, quite flash. Not really in the spirit of the traditional footie game though.
50° Playability: 63 At The End Of The Day: 77
Kit: 48 Atmosphere: 45


Match Day II

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).
    Match Day II captures the feel of the original, and adds on all kinds of extra features, such as a kick strength meter and much improved ball control. Along the same sort of lines is International Match Day for the 128K only, which was released at the launch of the Speccy 128, when 128K-only games seemed pretty hip - oh, those halcyon days. The programmer was Jon Ritman, the gentleman responsible for the first Batman game and the brilliant Head Over Heels.
90° Playability: 74 At The End Of The Day: 86
Kit: 93 Atmosphere: 92


Football Manager II

"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.
    For sheer historical accuracy, FM II deserves a mention. And it's also pretty good. Its only real problem is that it tries to be a bit of a jack of all trades, with its strategy stuff and flashy graphics. While this might appeal to most people, those who want to stick to one area might fare better looking elsewhere.
80° Playability: 57 At The End Of The Day: 81
Kit: 85 Atmosphere: 76


Gary Lineker's Superskills

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.
    There are millions of 'events' to plod through, all of which have to be played in a certain order. There are all sorts of things, ranging from Monkey Bars, through Squat Thrusts (yikes!) to Jonglerie Avec Balle (but only in the French version). Played individually they'd all he mildly crap, but taken as a whole they're, um, unbelievably crap. This sort of rubbish went out with Daley Thompson.
    It's a pretty slick piece of work (the graphics are okay, and there's actually some music for a change) but this is hardly a proper footie game. And the poor bloke you control looks more like Clare Rayner than any footballer I've ever seen.
52° Playability: 83 At The End Of The Day: 47
Kit: 58 Atmosphere: 45


Kick Off

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.
75° Playability: 62 At The End Of The Day: 73
Kit: 83 Atmosphere: 74


Microprose Soccer

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.
89° Playability: 90 At The End Of The Day: 78
Kit: 92 Atmosphere: 85

Footballer Of The Year II

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.
    So how does it actually work? Well, you play an individual footballer on a quest to gain the coveted 'Footballer Of The Year' accolade, and since you're a striker it's the goals you score that count. In both versions of the game you play Goal Cards to help you score, which then take you into mini arcade sequences - fairly simple in the first game, but the second involves set plays and things which you've got to remember almost American-football style in order to succeed. What's more, it even includes a footie trivia section, with correct answers adding dosh to your coffers. It all sounds very strange, and takes some getting used to, but once you do get the hang of it it's as addictive as anything. Just ask the good doctor...
80° Playability: 65 At The End Of The Day: 82
Kit: 79 Atmosphere: 75


Brian Clough's Football Fortunes

"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.
    The software's a load of crap. It's written in Basic, with useless graphics and, oh horror, the Sinclair character set. It does its job though. It plays just like any other board game really (they're all the same, aren't they, Spec-chums?), except that you occasionally have to press buttons on the computer.
    It's okay for soaking up the odd evening now and again, but you really have to like football to get stuck into it. Me, I'll stick to triv games.
62° Playability: 35 At The End Of The Day: 40
Kit: 65 Atmosphere: 71


Roy Of The Rovers

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.
    There's also a fairly reasonable arcade footie sim tacked onto the end (for the bit where you've managed to rescue the team and then have to take part in the match) which can be practiced without having to play through the adventure bit. It's not what you might call 'state of the art', but it'll do. Bizarrely enough, it's not to bad a package, really - puzzles to solve, balls to kick and absolutely no lists of numbers to worry about.
69° Playability: 69 At The End Of The Day: 78
Kit: 67 Atmosphere: 70



Here are a few features you may wish to incorporate when devising your own 'tuff turf' footie extravaganza...
    A celeb, preferably glistening and grinning, with his signature scrawled across the box.
    Important-looking statistics, and screenloads of them. These should not only be wholly incomprehensible but, so as to thwart even the most dedicated of punters, boast no underlying logic whatsoever.
    Minimal player interaction. Keep him waiting for hours just to 'PRESS ANY KEY'.
    A big green box with lots of footballers on it. They all have one.
    Tacky adverts round the pitch carrying plugs for your other games.
    Disastrous artwork all over the place. Muscles where you never knew they existed.
    Free poster and badge that you wouldn't particularly want to stick anywhere (see artwork).
    A 'STOP THE TAPE' message halfway through loading. Meanwhile, you've dosed off and the tape runs on to the end.







The Hamster's


Of The Rover's





Super Footie


Quite Good






Pickled Onion





Manager '90


Footie Quiz

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?)

Bobby Charlton's Soccer/Dace
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
Fighting Soccer/Activision
Footballer Of The Year/Gremlin
Footballer Of The Year II/Gremlin
Football Director/D&H
Football Director II/D&H
Football Fever/Tanglewood
Football Manager/Addictive Games
Four Soccer Sims/CodeMasters
Football Frenzy/Alternative
Gary Lineker's Superstar Soccer/Gremlin
Gary Lineker's Hotshot/Gremlin
Gary Lineker's Superskills/Gremlin
Gazza's Super Soccer/Empire
International Manager/D&H
International Match Day 128/Ocean
Kenny Dalglish Soccer Manager/Cognito
Kick Off/Anco
League Challenge/Atlantis
Manchester United/Krisalis
Match Day/Ocean
Match Day II/Ocean
Mexico '86/Qual-Soft
MicroProse Soccer/MicroProse
Peter Beardsley's International Football/Grandslam
Peter Shilton's Handball Maradona/Grandslam
Player Manager/Anco
Premier II/E&J
Professional Soccer/CRL
Roy Of The Rovers/Gremlin
Saint And Greavsie/Grandslam
Soccer Boss/Alternative
Soccer 7/Cult
Soccer Star/Cult
Street Cred Football/Players
Street Gang Football/CodeMasters
Super Soccer/Imagine
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

Many thanks to Softy Nonowt for allowing me to pinch the bulk of this article's text from his archive

YS Cross-references
pBrian Clough's Football Fortunes/CDSYS14
pBrian Clough's Football Fortunes/CDSYS16
pFootball Manager II/AddictiveYS33
pFootballer Of The Year II/GremlinYS47
pFootballer Of The Year II/GremlinYS47
pFootballer Of The Year II/GremlinYS50
pFootballer Of The Year II/GremlinYS68
pGary Lineker's Superskills/GremlinYS33
pGary Lineker's Superskills/GremlinYS35
pGary Lineker's Superskills (in Soccer Squad)YS44
pGary Lineker's Superskills/KixxYS57
pGary Lineker's Superskills (in Gary Lineker's Collection)YS79
pKick Off/AncoYS50
pKick Off (in World Cup Year '90 Compilation)YS55
pMatch Day II/OceanYS23
pMatch Day II/OceanYS25
pMatch Day II/OceanYS26
pMatch Day II (in Game Set and Match II)YS38
pMatch Day II/Hit SquadYS57
pMicroprose Soccer/MicroProse Software Ltd (UK)YS41
pMicroprose Soccer/MicroproseYS42
pMicroprose Soccer (in Soccer Stars)YS75
pRoy Of The Rovers/GremlinYS35
pRoy Of The Rovers/GremlinYS37
pRoy Of The Rovers (in Soccer Squad)YS44
Some info from Sinclair Infoseek+SPOT*ON

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