"... And now the big match of the winter between those software giants,Ocean Utd and Gremlin Academicals, as they both try and steal each other's thunder with top-ranking footie sims on the Spectrum. What do you think, Greavsie?"
"Wor gor grunge wor fwunk, Saint."
"Well of course. We sent cub reporter Marcus Berkmann to weight up the challengers..."
And they're pretty heavy, I can tell you. Jon Ritman's Match Day is one of the classic Speccy games. It turns up regularly in Desert Island Disks (being sixth in the current chart) and, though there've been loads of imitations, it's still the best attempt at a strictly footie simulation (rather than management game) that the Speccy has yet seen.
Until now, of course. Match Day II is not a radical rewrite of the original, but it's far slicker and easier to play and has more options of play than you'd have thought possible on 48K. It's a step up from the original in much the same way Head Over Heels was an advance on Batman.
For one thing, this game's got more menus than Maxim's. Once you've handled the joystick menu, you're presented with the main menu and all the different ways of playing Match Day. As well as the usual one-player and two-player options, there's Twin-player (you and a friend against the computer), Matchday Cup (you and up to seven friends in a three round cup compo) and Matchday League (you and your seven muckers in a league). Gordon Bennett! But there's more...
When you come to play you'll notice that all the basics seem much the same, though a bit faster (that might be wishful thinking - tell me if I'm wrong). The main innovation is in the variety of shots, kicks and moves you can now make. Above the head of the player you're controlling is a little 'kickometer', which oscillates from left to right and shows how hard the ball will be kicked at any one moment . There are three strengths, from a little dribble to a full-bodied punt. Once you've mastered it, this gives you far greater control of the ball, but it does take a little practice. The kickometer also lets you back-heel if you want to, but it's wise to get used to the forward kicks before experimenting with this facility - otherwise that defensive clearance could well turn into an own goal!
And that's what is so brilliant about the kickometer - the choice. You've got five options; all kicks (three forward and the backheel); forward kicks only; hard kicks only (II and III on the kickometer); kick II only or kick III only. If you press the fire key and hold it down, the kickometer will lock and the result will be a volley shot - particularly useful if you're in front of an open goal. As well as the miniature meter above the player's head, there's a heftier version at the top of the screen.
Kicking the ball while in possession is a simple matter of pressing the fire button, as before, and if you make contact while running you'll lob it. You can jump, barge, dribble, tackle, everything but argue with the ref. If you doubt your goalkeeping prowess, you can let the computer take over that part of things, though watch out - it's often nearly as bad as you are. The goalkeeper will dive, but usually in the wrong direction!
One wrinkle in the first game was its deflection system - unreliable and unlifelike - but this has now been ironed out. Now with the Diamond Deflection System, balls bounce in the direction you'd expect, and this tiny touch adds a whole new level of realism to the game. There's still more to tell you about - mainly about all those menus (I'll have the Coquilles St. Jacques, waiter, with a crate of brown ale). But we can't tell you everything, so go out and buy this now. Make Jon Ritman a rich man, because it seems to me that there's no one programming for the Speccy today who's producing such a consistent body of work as he is. I can guarantee that he'll be chuffed, Brian, chuffed...
Sniff. As I write this a black cloud has just descended over England. The Germans have beaten us. Again. World in Motion has (at last) fallen silent on the office tape machine, and everyone's generally feeling a bit gloomy. The only compensation is that Match Day II has finally popped up on budget, so with a bit of team-renaming we should be able to rustle up some sort of revenge. It's just got to be worth a look, really - the generally recognised Best Footie Game Ever for three quid. It's got the lot: wazzy graphics, smooth presentation, a kickometer, realistic ball control, the works. Criticisms? It runs just a little too slowly for comfort, especially compared with more recent overhead-view rivals. But as an all-rounder. Match Day II is unbeatable. If Marcus could be with us this month he'd probably give it a page to itself. (So consider yourselves lucky.)
THE COMPLETE AND UTTER YS GUIDE TO SOCCER ON THE SPECCY
Footie games, eh? Where'd we be without 'em? There've been hundreds of the blooming things, with more on the way each month, and they always (always! always!) sell like hot cakes (even the ones that are crap). So with the World Cup lining itself up on the horizon, let's join the slightly less-than-enthusiastic JONATHAN DAVIES, as we lead you by the hand into the past, present and future world of the Spectrum soccer game.
Oh dear. How can I start? Um, quite a few phrases spring to mind. Like "They're all the same!" and "No, please, not another one!" and, erm, "Let me out of here!" The problem, you see, is that for every MicroProse Soccer or Matchday 2 there are six or seven World Cup Carnivals (US Gold's tragic 1986 attempt at a footie sim) to wade through. And I should know - I've just waded through them all. Quite frankly I wouldn't care if the colour green never darkened my Speccy again. I'm sick as a parrot. So let's just forget all about them, eh?
What? No. You like them? Cripes. (Better get going on this giant mega-feature thingie then, hadn't you? Ed) Er, yes. Right. Football.
Well, there are certainly lots of games. And no, they're not all the same. There are in fact a few basic types, and within each of these categories dwell a hundred and one subtle variations. Um, what fun...
IT'S A GAME OF TWO HALVES
That's right, one half management, the other half actually booting the ball around a bit. To kick off with we have the straightforward arcade simulation. This you should all be familiar with - a big green pitch (seen from above, or sometimes from the side), the roar of the crowd (well, the 'beep' of the crowd), lots of little men running around kicking the ball, and you up in the air somewhere above it all, doing your best to keep one or two of them (plus the ball) under control. What you don't have to worry about though is what any of the blokes are called, how much they're worth, or any other boring managerial-type stuff. Good examples of this kind of game are Matchday 2 and Kick Off.
The second main sub-division, the management game, is a totally different kettle of fish. No footie here at all (as such), apart from the results of various games flashing up on your screen every so often to tell you how you're doing. It's business acumen we're worried about here, with all sorts of weird and wonderful information popping up to confuse you - what your men are called, how tall they are, how skilful they can be and all sorts. A good example of this variety of game is, surprise, surprise, Football Manager.
The third, and crappiest, type of footie game is the pools prediction program. Now you may get really excited by the prospect of these (I don't know) but I find them so brain-blendingly boring that this is the only mention they'll get here, so enjoy it while you can. (Sorry and all that.)
Actually there's a fourth subdivision I've just remembered too - those games that provide you with an often quite bizarre mixture of action game and management, usually consisting of lots of lists of numbers with slightly dodgy bolt-on arcade bits thrown in. Some of them work quite well, but there's always the odd game that's simply too weird for words - like Roy Of The Rovers for example, part arcade adventure of all things and with a badly drawn Roy searching for his kidnapped team!
This is generally said to be the fabbest footie game ever, although whether that's saying much isn't for me to decide. It's the sequel to, um, Match Day actually, which was the second(ish) arcade-type game to hit the tape-racks. With nice, big sprites and semi-realistic action, Match Day brought a whole new meaning to the word 'good'. The two-player feature was one of its major attractions, along with headers and other wacky, innovative moves. There were also a couple of peculiar bugs (something to do with balls getting stuck in goalposts and a funny timer, if my memory serves me correctly).
Match Day II captures the feel of the original, and adds on all kinds of extra features, such as a kick strength meter and much improved ball control. Along the same sort of lines is International Match Day for the 128K only, which was released at the launch of the Speccy 128, when 128K-only games seemed pretty hip - oh, those halcyon days. The programmer was Jon Ritman, the gentleman responsible for the first Batman game and the brilliant Head Over Heels.
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