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Domark Ltd
Arcade: Action
ZX Spectrum 128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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Chris Jenkins
Chris Bourne

This could just have been the most exciting game ever. Imagine; all the thrills and action of American football - attacking plays, strategic defenses, complex gameplans; but instead of humans, the players are giant bloodthirsty robots with exploding balls. Footballs, I mean.

Now if you're interested in American footie, and can tell a defensive sack from a running bleeder, this might sound like your idea of heaven. Even if you're not interested, the idea of a cross between a sports sim and Apocalypse Now might catch your interest. Trouble is, the idea is exciting but things don't quite seem to come together into an exciting GAME.

Cyberball comes in an over-sized box with a little 60-page game manual which explains the history of the sport, how to play the game, and the winning strategies. Once you get the idea, giant robots have replaced human players because the sport got too dangerous - you can choose one or two-player mode, and control options. After that it's largely a matter of practice; as far as I can make out the arcade elements are much less important than the strategies you choose from the multiple-choice menus between plays.

The two teams, the Destroyers and the Terminators, face off down a vertically-scrolling perspective screen; one team is in Offensive mode, with one highlighted robot under direct control, selecting Running, Passing or Option Plays. The other team is in Defensive mode, the object being to choose the best Short, Medium or Long strategy to help you tackle the player before he passes.

The offensive player'a aim is to score touchdowns by running across the defender's line, then to score conversions. Trouble is, your players can be damaged by tackles, causing them to lose control of the ball, and the ball itself becomes critically super-heated as play continues, and will explode if not reset by crossing the baseline.

If you like learning jargon like "Wide receiver in motion - pitch to left back swinging wide - wide receiver comes round for hand-off and follows surge left!" then you'll enjoy this game. It's very nicely put together and has cute little graphics. I can't help feeling, though, that it would have made more sense as a head-bashing arcade smash-'em-up, rather than the rather laboured strategic challenge it is now.

Label: Domark
Price: £8.99
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins

Great sports bash idea, spoiled by slow-moving strategic execution.


Screenshot Text

Wah? Simple to understand "plays". Give you the option to take the game and win! Or you could just get thoroughly confused.

Hut Hut! Cybernetic jocks face off for the big play Make those moves, sack that quarterback!

And the offense players face some stiff opposition from the defence. Pass that ball! Kerr-runch!