Blimey! Where's Marcus? This is the sort of thing he should be doing. Oi! Marcus, come here!... Ahem. Dr Berkmann seems to have decided he's sick of footie games and done a runner. You'll regret this, you scamp!
Ah, well. Gremlins Soccer Squad. It's done a fair number of footie games over the years, hasn't it, Spec-chums? They're not a brilliant, but at least this compilation gives us four quite different ones so there's little danger of repetition. So, let's kick off (ahem) with...
Roy Of The Rovers
Weird, this one. I'd even venture well weird. The story seems to have been cobbled up more along Viz lines than those of Roy's own strip (oo-er). Get this - the Melchester Rovers ground is due to be bulldozed and turned into a multistorey pet food emporium or somesuch, and Roy's organised a celebrity five-a-side match to save it. But yikes! Roy's team has been kidnapped and our hero has to rush around the place rescuing his buddies in time for the five o'clock kick off.
In other words there are two games here, the first being a sort of adventure where you run around the streets of Melchester looking for clues as to where your team has been hidden. The computer flips the screen around 90' every time you turn a corner (so you're always walking horizontally across it), and you can pick up objects or talk to people you meet using option windows pulled from the top of the screen. The puzzles are pretty tricky though and since you've got a time limit it looks like you'll have to play the second half of the match with only one player. Lumme!
As for the footie bit itself, it's a sort of inferior Match Day II, but with trickier controls and teams that are almost impossible to tell apart. Still, once you get good at the first bit and manage to find one or even two other players you might be in with a chance. Not the greatest footie sim, but it's quite fun the way the two parts hang together.
Footballer Of The Year
Another weird twist on the soccer game. In this one you play a rookie fourth division striker, hoping to work your way up the league and through various teams to be nominated Footballer Of The Year. You have a wedge of money and must buy Goal Cards (which give you a chance to score when you play them) or Incident Cards (which give you random bonuses like Chance Cards in Monopoly) as well as play the game. Graphically quite nice, but it's a bit dodgy the way the league positions of teams bear little resemblance to the number of games they appear to have won or lost. Nicely programmed, but a bit lacking in the playability department for my money .
Gary Lineker's Superskills
A totally different ball game (ho-ho). This one's all training, comprising weights, press-ups, squat thrusts and the like. It's a multiload, so you've time to rest from the monkey bars (that really crap thing they have on army assault courses where they make you hang from a ladder upside down) before moving onto the ball skills. There's juggling, dribbling and shooting to get right, and a fair amount of joystick waggling involved to build your power up. Like Daley Thompson in Ocean's Olympic Challenge you get to cheat a bit by taking glucose tablets. And that's it really. Not all that much to do with football at all, but quite a fun gym sim all the same.
Gary Lineker's Superstar Soccer
Another of Gremlin's management-game-cum-footie-action packages, this one features a nightmarish pic of our Gazza on the loading screen. In fact, it's probably inferior to Footballer Of The Year in that, even though it's got more to it, what's there is less polished. The first half is all trading and training players as you build up a squad of ten, (possible recruits are graded in terms of age and skill) and then it's onto the match itself which actually uses only six players. Its jerkier than Match Day II, harder to control and generally less fun all round. You choose the joystick control of either the centre forward or goalie, while the computer looks after the rest of the team. Choose to control the coach as well and you can pick from a menu of attacking or defensive tactics. It's all perfectly playable, but falls between two stools, being neither a full-blown management game or an arcade game.
And there we have it. Gremlin certainly like its football, but does football like it? This is quite a fun compilation for soccer fans but, to be honest, the point of the actual game seems to have eluded the programmers a bit. Most of these attempt to combine management strategy and arcade soccer in some way and aren't that brilliant either. Wouldn't you be better buying Match Day II for the action and Football Manager for the strategy and tossing the idea of combining the two down the dumper for bad ideas where it belongs? (Clue - you you would.)
Quite a fun soccer simulation, but no real standout games. For fans only.