Monday, 15 September 2014

The Quest To Like a Football Game #1

Match Day (1984)
By: Jon Ritman & Chris Clarke / Ocean  Genre: Sport  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum  First Day Score: Lost 0-2 :(
Also Available For: Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro

As many who know me would most likely agree, I can be quite an odd fellow, for better or worse. One example which is relevant in this case is my lifelong appreciation of football (the version most of the world likes - you know, the one where the players actually kick the 'ball' with their 'foot'). Being a fan of such a popular sport doesn't make me particularly odd but what is slightly odd is that I've also liked video games for most of my life as well and yet I've never managed to combine the two interests as so many other gamers have. That's right, for unknown reasons, I've never really enjoyed any football games that I've played. Due to this realisation, I haven't actually played too many examples so I thought I'd once again put this staggeringly awesome blog to good use by attempting to find one I do like.

Red Rovers are fighting back from a goal down...
The first footy game I played was Match Day II on the Speccy, and as I recall it remains the one I've enjoyed the most, so I figured its prequel might be a good place to start (mainly due to my OCD-ish need to cover game series' in chronological order!). Impressions are pretty good at first thanks to the numerous well presented options screens which allow you to change team names, the length of the game, the difficulty, the colour of the team's kits (and even the pitch), modify the controls, and select the number of players (up to eight in cup games), before embarking on a one-off match for one or two player or a three-stage multi-player cup competition. Upon starting a match you're treated to a beepy rendition of the Match of the Day theme, but from that point onwards impressions quickly take a nose-dive.

One of the delightful alternative colour schemes...
Okay, I suppose that's a bit harsh considering its age and the fact that it was one of the first ever such games, but it is immediately apparent that poor old Match Day hasn't aged as well as some other Speccy games. Aside from the aforementioned tune, the audio consists only of a few beeps and bops here and there and, while the graphics aren't bad for their time, the animation isn't convincing at all, with the players striding around as though walking through a sticky bog rather than running across a well-kept sports field. The gameplay itself is equally basic. The ball sticks to the feet of whichever player it touches first who can then run with it or pass it. Two types of passes are available - along the ground, which requires the played to be stationary, or through the air, performed whilst running (or striding), but the latter in particular is not very accurate as you have to be perfectly positioned to trap the ball.

Wow, I'm actually not losing... yet...
If you're not it will bounce off you, almost certainly into the path of an opposing player. Tackling is tricky too. There's no button for it - you instead need to walk into the player who has the ball, but it only seems to work if you're face-to-face. Luckily, the computer will automatically put you in control of whichever of your players is closest to the ball, or closest to where it will land if it's in mid-kick. That includes the goalkeeper if your opponent is nearing goal, and he can be made to dive in either direction or jump straight up (and, unlike the other players, the 'keepers are quite well animated). Ultimately though, the game is slow and frustrating to play. It's really difficult to actually do what you want to - I spent most of my time chasing back trying to regain possession of the ball, and I didn't really enjoy doing it either. It may still raise a nostalgic smile with two players, but to be avoided otherwise.

RKS Score: 4/10


  1. If you're honestly "questing" to find a good football game, these ones could be suitable:

    -World Cup Italia '90 (Mega Drive) - A lot of people hate this game, I love it. Mostly for the music, granted, but with two players it's a giggle.

    -Neo Geo Cup '98 Plus Color (Neo Geo Pocket Color) - Has a lot of weird elements, such as thieves breaking into your locker room, and buying new shin pads to make your players tackle better and so on. Plus, you'll need to buy a Neo Geo Pocket Color to play it, which means you'll get to play all the other great games on that system too.

    -FIFA Road to World Cup '98 (PlayStation) - The traditionalists choice, and possibly the only FIFA game I've ever liked. It's got indoor 5-a-side matches, you can slide tackle the keeper when he's holding the ball, and it's got Song 2 by Blur as the theme tune.

    -Microsoft Soccer (PC) - Utter rubbish, but the crowd sings Three Lions, which is a nice touch.

    -Nintendo World Cup (NES) - Uses the same characters from River City Ransom, and has a VERY strange control system which I can't explain off the top of my head. Lots of different kinds of pitches as well, "Bumpy" being my favourite (players trip over large stones).

    -Super Shot Soccer (PlayStation) - Lots of fun to be had here, it's insane! Balls catch fire, tornadoes are created, and each team has a "super move" relating to whatever country they are. The French team, for example, cause the Eiffel Tower to spring out of the grass.

    -Marko's Magic Football (Mega Drive) - It's a platformer, so that automatically makes it better than most football games for a start. Marko has a magic football that can teleport/explode/etc. Beautiful Beano-esque graphics, and nice music too.

  2. I used to play this a fair bit with my brother back in the mid-eighties. It was one of the better 2 player games for the Speccy but I don't think I could bear to try it again nowadays.

  3. Hi THB, many thanks for the many recommendations! I particularly like the sound of Super Shot Soccer and Neo Geo Cup. I've already got a Neo Geo Pocket Color so I'll have a hunt around for that one. I'll also play and review some of the more famous footy games like Microprose Soccer, Kick Off, and all those :)

    Hi Wingnut - you're certainly right to be cautious about Match Day. I know it was very impressive in its day (at least technically, but it was probably considered very playable too) but it's aged badly :(

  4. Haha, it was actually really good in its day but alas, as mentioned, it doesn't impress too much nowadays :(