Sunday, January 18, 2009

Gazza's Super Soccer

NOTE: This is one of several reviews I wrote for a fan book of Speccy games, but lazily didn't get round to sending in. Autumnal inertia. Tonight I see the book's been finished. Ho hum!


English football was enjoying a brief resurgence in 1990 – two clubs allowed back into Europe, the semi-final run at the World Cup – and the star of the moment was cheeky, chubby Paul Gascoigne. For a while, he was everywhere. In addition to the rap singles, the board game and the coaching video, it was inevitable Gazza's name would be appropriated for a computer game. Sadly, or perhaps madly, this was the result. This slow, clunky, muddled game appeared in front of my eleven-year-old eyes, and I was horribly transfixed.

There's a limited management section that's simple enough – allowing you to name and endow (oo-er!) your players and choose their formation. You can enter a cup competition or a full league. The proof of the pudding is in the arcade action, though; and it's here the true horror of Gazza's Super Soccer is unleashed.

From the kick-off you notice a motion system that's unresponsive, often erratic and this is coupled with unintelligent selection that means you can wait long periods with no player under control. The rule book is torn up - players can take throw-ins from the middle of the pitch and even score direct from a throw – also, the throw is usually awarded to the side who kicked it out. Hats off for trying a new visual perspective – action in the centre of the pitch is side-on angled a la Match Day, but around the goalmouths changes to a head-on view, usually causing your player to lose the ball inbetween screens. The randomly-loafing players all suffer from the same poor posture and unathletic style that an uncharitable reviewer might ascribe to the game's titular star after a night on the razz (though, in Sweden, this was repackaged as Anders Limpar's Soccer – I don't know what he did to deserve this). Oh, and why does every team you face bear the names you've invented for Player 2 in friendly mode?

Sometimes players get stuck in their throwing sprites and run around with their arms behind their head as if cheering. There are times when the legend “Goal kick” appears, but play continues anyway. It's near-impossible to turn and keep possession, forcing you into the kind of hoof-fest that incumbent English boss Graham Taylor would probably have loved. In a fairer world, it would be his name attached to this unappealing, unskillful game. Yet, despite (or maybe because of) the multiple deficiencies of this bug-ridden travesty, it almost takes on a weird addictiveness as some kind of random-generator football you play in order to see how else it can be broken. Gazza On A Bender's Super Soccer.

Really though, it's this kind of latter game that hastened the demise of the Speccy – lazily coded, presumably rush-released, and with little to recommend it. There was a superior sequel, Gazza II, but that's for another day...

Read more about the astonishingly comprehensive Retro Gamer magazine (can there be a subject they haven't covered by now?), or Paul Gascoigne in his own words here (yes these are Amazon UK affiliate links - by clicking through, you can help sustain this band! Hurrah!)