The first question to ask about this is, can it be an improvement on Commodore's International Soccer, the apex in C64 football simulations? Read on dear reader to find out.
The game's presentation is very similar to Soccer's, with a one or two player option and a scrolling panoramic view of the pitch. The usual two-player option is present and there's also four levels of the computer to challenge you.
There are crowds at both ends and on the far touchline, which move about and make a noise when you score. They also shout 'here we go' six times every time there's a kick-off.
Controlling a player is quite easy. From kick off you are allocated a man and he is put under your control. You can run him about the pitch and chase your opponent. If the opponent kicks the ball and it lands near a player on your team, then the computer will automatically switch the control to the man nearest the ball. Using this method you can actually pass the ball around the pitch and set up moves. If your player moves off screen, then again control will be automatically switched to another player. Winning the ball in a tackle is quite tricky - you have to run over the ball when it is in the opponent's possession. Do it correctly and the ball will switch from his control to yours and you can then pass it or charge up the field towards the goal.
Passing is easy, just press the fire button when the ball is under your control, the longer you keep the fire button pressed the longer the pass will be.
A novel feature in this game is fouling - just run up behind an opponent and press the fire button; if you are successful then you'll trip him up. Do this too many times and you will have a penalty awarded against you for 'roughing'.
The actual game characters aren't as big as the ones on the Commodore, but this seems to make the playing area a lot bigger than it is (scrolling three screen-length pitch).
A nice feature is a penalty option - this is a game in itself and allows you to take penalties against the computer or a friend. When you choose this option, the screen goes to a view seen from the front of the goal. The penalty taker can move the joystick left or right to kick the ball in that direction. The goalkeeper has similar control and although it is possible to wait until the ball is kicked and see which way it is going, it is usually better to guess.
If the game ends in a draw, then the decider is a penalty kick off. This is a nice feature and a good change from the usual extra time system at the end of a drawn match.
A football game from the same authors as Slap Shot should have been of a good standard but unfortunately this isn't. The feel of the game isn't as good as that of Commodore's International Soccer and control of the player isn't as good. The idea of holding down the button for long passes is a good one, as is that of fouling - something that was unfortunately lacking from Soccer. The use of speech is a commendable one but again, this is something that hasn't quite worked as it did become very irritating after a few games and it wasn't of that high a quality. Anirog have released some extremely playable games in the past, but just recently their quality of software has unfortunately gone downhill. Hopefully they will get their act back together and prove that they aren't just another software house.
Sports simulations are always popular and this one from Anirog will no doubt go down well with many players because it is simply set up, and despite some fiddly bits when it comes to handling the players in certain situations, I found it fun. Okay, so it isn't actually a great version (some odd characters and animation at times) of the noble (or is it IGnoble?) game, but it's a sensible price, has some excellent little touches and features in play and is well worth a look at.
When you compare this and International Soccer there's quite a difference. The graphics on this game aren't quite as good as Soccer and the gameplay seems to be lacking. This is because the members of your team, other than the one under your control, seem to run around aimlessly. Passing is extremely difficult, and the control switching from man to man doesn't always work effectively. The animation of the players is pretty poor and they look like demented hunchbacks when they run about the place. Speech is a nice touch but it really gets on your nerves after you've had to listen to 'here we go' for the Nth time. The game seems very similar in style to the ice hockey game Slap Shot, even with the fouling, and it makes me wonder whether they've used the same coding for certain parts of the game. The impression I got when playing the game is that although Soccer is about three times the price and nearly two years old, it's still the better of the two.
Four levels of computer and a two player option.
Poor animation and not much colour.
Speech and whistles but that's all.
A good laugh with two players.
But you can't laugh forever.
Value For Money 66%
At eight quid it's only average.
Not great, not bad, especially if you like football simulations.