On The End Of A Quill

On The End Of A Quill

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Soccer Pinball by Code Masters on the Commodore 64

Exciting cover!
In 1992 one of the best value budget publishers around, CodeMasters, released a game that was a mash-up of Pinball and Football. Two fast exciting games amalgamated at last, and all for only £3.99! How could it possibly go wrong?

In football, ’92 was the last year of the old First Division before the Premier League era began; it also saw Denmark win the European Championships, and this after only being confirmed to enter the tournament in Sweden two weeks before it began. England and Scotland came bottom in each of their groups, but at least they qualified I guess! International Football was a lot tougher in those days, only seven teams qualified for the finals, two points were all that was awarded for a win, and the back-pass rule was new and confusing! In Pinball news, the Addams Family table was released in 1992, and it became one of the biggest selling tables of all time.

So that was the world this game entered when I loaded it up in the summer of 1992. The loading screen had a picture of what looks like a player who is a cross between Bryan Robson and Kevin Keegan falling on his arse. This didn’t exactly inspire confidence. And when you fire the ball off around the table in your first game, you realise it’s pretty much a straight Spectrum port, with all that colour bleed that Speccy players love! But all this would be forgotten if the game played some cracking rounds of pinball. Zzap gave it 70% commenting that it was insanely hard, but I didn’t mind hard, I was prepared to put the hours in to master it.

And hours…. and hours…. and game after game after game…. after game! There are eight rounds in all, but you will have ridden all your luck just to get past round three. This game is cripplingly hard. The ball crawls around at times, while whizzing across the table on other occasions. It moves through things it shouldn’t, and anytime it comes down to the bottom flippers it’s almost impossible to do anything constructive with your shot.  You will be seeing the screen showing your goalkeeper consoling himself against the post many, many times if you are determined on making your way to the cup final in the game.
The game also doesn’t have enough going on around the table to keep you excited. Fire a hooter, take a throw in, flip the ball through what I presume are turnstiles, collect some footballs to gain another ball; it never really changes from round to round. Each level you need to eliminate the subbuteo style defenders who litter the middle of the table before putting three goals in the net in order to get to the next round. When you get to the final you’ll have to face no less than 13 defenders!
So all in all I was disappointed by this game. Even at £3.99 I felt like I had spent my scant pocket money unwisely. It was way too hard to be fun. Games could be over in the blink of an eye, and even if you managed to keep the ball in play for an extended period of time, you could be stuck in a loop of low scoring boredom in which the defenders had reappeared and you had to do everything again.
While this may be the best Pinball Soccer game available for the C64, it doesn’t have a lot to recommend it. The Speccy game even had a couple of extra screens, including a snazzy Des Lynam picture before the first round. I have yet to play the Amstard CPC or (very different looking) Amiga versions. Though the Amiga version was coded by someone else, so perhaps it plays very different too. The C64 game was coded by Steve Siddle, who made a rather better effort with the Codies game Cue Boy, released a year later. To conclude, I think Zzap were being very generous in giving this game 70%, it is barely worth half that much. Keep your £3.99 in your pocket this time. There are better pinball games and better football games out there to spend your hard earned spare change on.

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