Far from being just another sporting game, Speedball is a futuristic version of American footsie, played with a solid steel ball. With the US going head over heels trying to negotiate rights for the game, it looks as if they too see this as the direction in which American football is heading.
Played in a steel-clad arena between two 5-a-side teams, Speedball is one of those games which would see its debut on Channel 4 if it ever became a reality. Itís labelled as a Ďbody contact sportí which is a nice way of saying that you go into the ring fighting and brawling to get hold of the ball and donít stop until youíve scored a goal.
There are two levels of play Ė league and championship matches. In a league match each of the opponents have different ability levels which might be alright if you could distinguish one player from another but they all look like blobs from the aerial view provided. The knockout championship has the players becoming progressively stronger with each match making an already difficult game almost impossible towards the end.
The player nearest to the ball is frames by four corners. You can use him either to take the ball away from the red team, throw it to toher of your team members or run with it up to the goal. This technique might seem like a good idea but it takes a lot of practice to learn how to manage your team, especially when control is transferred between players at inopportune moments.
Along the way you are advised to collect spinning tokens which can be traded at the end of a match to everything from bribing the judge to protecting yourself from being tackled
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
A birds eye view of the arena is the only one provided. As players move up and down the steel pitch the screen is effortlessly scrolled, responding quickly to your movements.
Speedball graphics have transformed the traditional football game out of all recognition. With solid 3D effects ranging from revolving tokens asset in the floor of the arena to the individual movements of each player, Speedball looks startlingly realistic. The steel ball can occasionally be thrown up out of the arena with such incredible force that you almost move away from the monitor when you see it heading towards you.
With clever manipulation of the joystick you can have players performing sliding tackles, punching, diving and jumping. From an aerial view it is often difficult to tell the difference between a sliding tackle and ordinary running. There is also little variation between the jumping, standing and punching effects but with the end result being that you acquire the ball you can usually tell if your strategies have been successful.
With digitised sound and addictive game play, Speedball might seem like the perfect game b8ut it has some limitations. The layout of the screen means that you cannot see the entire arena at any one time. Consequently, this makes throwing the ball to other team embers not only difficult but damn near impossible. Also, the way control switches between players can become very annoying, especially when the ball nears the goal. But with an unusual variation on the football theme, it is certain to prove a hit.