Rugby! Now there's a subject close to my heart. Many's the games period I remember being spent on a hard muddy field, tottering around in freezing conditions and being urged to throw my inadequately-clad form at an obvious thug by a master wearing a coat, three jerseys and thick gloves.
So when Linda whisked her monogrammed handkerchief away to reveal this little number I leapt into a corner and screamed for a bit, victim of a hideous flashback. But after a nice cup of lemon tea and a useful lecture about overcoming stark naked terror by confronting it, I loaded the game up, to discover it's a management sim. After another cup of tea and a further lecture, I buckled down to giving it the old eye (as they say).
The first thing that strikes you is the rather natty icon selection thang. The whole game is played by zipping this oddly-shaped cursor about the place which is jolly friendly and all that, but does cause some problems. (See later.) The idea, as usual, is to erm, win as many matches as possible. (Well I never. Ed) So as the mighty Wales (cheers cheers) I prepared to take on the mighty, erm, Venezuela. Typically, you can check up on player injuries. Fiddle around with your team and see how everyone else is doing, and all the info screens look nice. (Very nice, in fact.) When you select an option, the picture flips over like the page of a book. (Unfortunately, very slowly, which after selecting about three options starts to drive you up the wall.)
Planning and scamming
Right, so now to put together a winning team. Ooo, that's smart - a little pointer pops up on a picture of the team to tell you exactly where each player goes. And the players have dinky pie-charts to show their strengths and weaknesses! How sweet. Alas, you really need a good grasp of rugby to know exactly where each player will do the most good. (For example, should a full-back have great tackling skills or be fast on his feet?) The other prob surfaces when you want to compare the player currently in a position with the others on the team. You click on the position - up comes the name of the selected player. Annoyingly, you now have to go through the list to find him and bring up his details. Why couldn't this have been done automatically? Tch.
Okay. After quite of bit of clicking and scrolling, I've got what I reckon is a pretty strong bunch. A quick look at the main team statistics shows I'm not too far off the mark - another of those pie charts displays the strengths of your forwards and backs. (Oops. 'forwards' and 'backs' are the sort of attacking and defensive parts of your rugger team.) (Oops, 'rugger' is the colloquial term for rugby.) (Oops, 'colloquial' means speaking on familiar terms. Ed) Right! On with the show. (Click click click.) Blimey, you can 'Play match.' Could it possibly mean you get to (gasp) play the match the players as well?
Erm, no. It's just a rather badly-phrased term for showing animated highlights from the whole match rather than just the scores. Take my advice - don't show the whole match. The graphics are as dreadful as those in Match of the Day - a bird's eye view of a truly horrible pitch with ugly figures diving about the place in an almost entirely unconvincing manner. Ugh. Tragically, the most important and exciting part of the game is reduced to a fair-to-middling graphic of a newsreader with a couple of numbers whizzing around behind his head. Whoops. Eh?
Whoops indeed. There are a lot of splendid graphics elsewhere (the result table backdrop is especially groovy) but the very centre of the game, which should have you staggering around with excitement, erm, doesn't. Sitting quietly in your seat with your hands creeping towards that rather interesting book you started reading last night is more the order of the day, which is a real shame. It's still possible to enjoy the game, and the fact it's rugby rather than (yawn) football lends an edge to the action (if that's the right word) but to be honest, it's a bit of a struggle. 'Look at me!' World Rugby cries innocently. 'So what if my match highlights are crap? I've got lots of other goodies to offer.' 'That's so,' you smile, reaching down benevolently to ruffle its hair and give it a Christmas sixpence. 'It's just that in the cut-throat world of sports management simulations, highlights help a lot. Yours are scant reward for twiddling icons all over the place. Now be off with you, young shaver. And keep away from Farmer Badeymow's orchard!' Or something.
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