Two years ago Speedball took the ST games world by storm, It featured dazzling gameplay, a league option and the kind of depth which meant the game had a very long shelf-life. A sequel was always on the cards and now the Bitmap Brothers have come up with the goods. Speedball 2 is a futuristic ball game. Two teams battle it out on a large pitch and attempt to score goals by throwing a metal sphere into a goal.
There are 12 men in a team, three of whom are substitutes (so, err... that means there's nine on the pitch at a time, I think, possibly)…
A game consists of two halves of 90 seconds. At the end of the first half the teams swap ends and play continues. The ball is shot out of a retractable machine in the centre of the pitch and two players from each side have to scramble to the ball to gain possession. There's no out-of-bounds, so the only time the ball shooter is used is after a goal or at the start of a half. Absolutely anything goes in Speedball 2.
Players cannot be sent off, no matter Low brutally they do someone over (bit like the Italian league really) – in fact you earn ten points for every player you sent off the pitch on a stretcher! When a player has possession, a large red or blue letter depending on your team colours) appears above his head - M for a midfield player, A attack and D defence - and to get the ball off him you either perform a sliding tackle on him or hit him a few times.
The game relies very much on passing. You can bounce the ball off the palls, the objects on the pitch or other players. The ST controls your team-mates until you recite to take control of one of them. Even then, however, their intelligence tends to vary. You can either be supported on your mad run up the middle of the pitch or left with your bum hanging in the wind while the rest of the team takes time out to perform brain surgery on the opposition.
Some tasty features are placed around the perimeter wall of the pitch ant actually on it. These include warp gated which send the ball to the opposite side of the pitch, pinball-like score multipliers , Electro-bounces which make the ball unstoppable by the Opposition until you loose possession. In addition, money and power-ups which can give you extra stamina, lock your goal or even sap the other side's strength - appear sporadically on the pitch.
There are four game types available - knockout, league, cup and exhibition - as well as a practice option. The first three enable you to manage as well as play with the team. Players can be bought sold and your team trained to your satisfaction.
From the management screen a gym option enables you to boost the eight attributes which make up the skills of each player: speed, stamina, and even intelligence can be souped up, but it all costs money – and that you must earn by running over coins which appear on the pitch in the course of a game. What's more, the team can be trained individually or en masse. If you choose the league or cup options, then the game can also be saved to disk
Where other sports simulations fail because they look weedy and indistinct, Speedball 2 succeeds because it looks hart and clear. The metallic colours of both the pitch and the players suits look excellent. What's more the players are all clearly visible, to the extent that you can actually see fists landing on heads. Animation and scrolling are both top notch, making movement about the pitch and interception of the ball a cinch. Sound is fairly average but this doesn't seriously detract from the game in any way.
Wicked, basically. Speedball 2 oozes quality from every screen. However, it is a sequel and therefore treading on its own feet to a great extent. Everything has been tweaked or changed from the original: the pitch is now twice as big, the players have more animated movements and game play is even more fluid. The league and cup options enable you to spin a game out to a season, and there's the knockout or the exhibition options for someone who just wants a quick game.
One of the best things about Speedball was the ability to really rub someone's face in it when you scored a goal. This version goes one better by including slow motion replays of the goal. Speedball 2 is more of the same but it's extremely well done and a superb game.