I always take notice of the press quotes for a game, don't you? Try this one for size. "These four games are absolutely brilliant! Everything you could possibly want in computer soccer - these games have it all! Amazing playability!" Sounds great, doesn't it? Now, guess who said that about 4 Soccer Simulators... Yes, right in one! It was those selfsame Darling brothers. Are we really interested in what they have to say about their own game!
Anyway, the company's gone straight for the full-price market with this one, with the most daring of all possible scams - an attempt to out-match day Match Day. And remarkably, it's nobad at all.
Of course there aren't really four soccer simulators at all - there's one basic model with variations - but it's quality not quantity that matters here. For instead of aping Match Day, like every other soccer sim under the glowing orb, these Code Master laddies have flipped the whole thing 90° first this way and then that way, giving us a bird's eye view from above. Otherwise of course, the gameplay is much the same as normal - the player you control, if you're player one, has a little '(1)' over his head, and you can flip back and forwards between players in the usual way. Anyone who's sampled any of the other sims should have no trouble working this one out.
The variations too are novel. Game one is a full 11-a-side football match, with variable lengths of game, skill levels and all the usual guff. This, naturally enough, is played on a green pitch (pay attention at the back there - you'll see what I mean later). It's fast, fun and quite tricky, even on the peasiest level possible.
Game two scythes this down to an indoor five-a-side game. Immediately the pitch is smaller, and coloured grey (understand now?) and there are no throw-ins, goalkicks or corners -the ball just bounces off the walls. There's also no offside, but you'll concede a free kick if you venture inside the other teams goalmouth.
Game three is even less formal - it's Street Soccer, played in your very own backyard. The basic game is the same - the perspective, the moves and the players look identical - but instead of playing on a field, you soon find yourselves dribbling around cars and houses and punting the ball into a nearby tree, thus ending the game and causing your fellow players to beat you up. Only the absence of knife-wielding psychopaths and doggie doos detracts from the gritty realism of the whole scene.
Finally, there's a soccer sim that's not really a soccer sim at all - Soccer Skills. This has you practising certain footie skills - goalkeeping, dribbling (stop that Nigel), sprinting (guess how you do this, folks!), and penalty taking (tricky). Then when you feel completely pooped, you head for the gym and a tough workout, or in my case, a heart-by-pass operation. This involves press-ups, bar jumps (I'm good at this one!) (Not that sort of bar, idiot. Ed), weight lifts, sit-ups, bar lifts and a state funeral to round it all off. If you still have any energy left you can try circuit training - essentially a collection of some of these exercises against the clock.
Naturally this all takes rather a long time to load up, let alone play (you get two cassettes in the package), but the variety of it all is quite refreshing. And when you compare the basic 11-a-side model with rubbish like Peter Beardsley's Heap Of Biggies, the whole package comes across as really spanking value for money It still doesn't touch Match Day 2, of course, but then it doesn't really attempt to - the overhead perspective makes it a quite different game.
I'd probably even give it nine - it's a fairly marginal one, admittedly - if it weren't for two things - the smiling pics of Messrs R and D Darling on the front cover. So sorry lads, you'll have to be satisfied with a bright and bouncy eight. Anyone got a chainsaw?
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