I guess coincidences can be pretty coincidental sometimes. Only this morning I was feeling completely soccer-starved. I was longing for a good, solid footie game to review. There's nothing quite like them really. All those, er, footballs and stuff. Great. Anyway, just as I was giving up all hope, Gazza materialised before my eyes. My response was audible in the next building.
Described on the packaging as "The Country's most exciting computer game, endorsed by the country's (with a small C this time) most exciting player", Gazza's Super Soccer has got somebody who's apparently addressed as Paul Gascoigne plastered all over it. Presumably he's the "exciting player" alluded to previously. There are also loads of pics of chunky-thighed players embracing each other, so in that respect things are pretty traditional. And, of course, Gazza's autograph is scrawled casually across the front of the box. The scene is set.
At this point in a footie review one normally mentions the game's overwhelming similarities to all its contemporaries, and then goes on to describe all the unique features that set it apart from the rest of the crowd. In Gazza's case, though, this could be a little tricky. The first bit's easy enough - the game is indeed extraordinarily similar to every other footie game around. The trouble is that there isn't an awful lot in the way of radical departure from the norm. Deftly dodging this crushing blow to my reviewing credibility, however, I'll bounce back and attempt to overcome the problems that this lack of originality poses.
Before you can get stuck in and 'kick leather' (or whatever the hip term for footie playing is), there's the usual lengthy setting-up procedure to go through. You know, arranging league tables, naming your team, defining the controls and all that kind of thing. And d'ya know what, I've just found something to write about. Having done all this setting up, and maybe worked your way up the league a bit, you can save the game. So what, I hear you ask (or was that more of a discrete snore?). The spooky thing is that having done this you can then reload the set-up into the C^$ and Amstrad versions of the game, as well as The Speccy one. This opens up the possibility of rushing out and buying a Commodore and an Amstrad, and also the appropriate versions of the game, and then swopping between playing the game on three different computers at will without having to waste time setting up your teams all over again. A splendid idea if ever I heard one.
So once you've managed all this you can proceed to the game proper. Initially you're presented with a to side-on view of the pitch. Boring, eh? Fear not, though, for as soon as the ball begins to disappear out the side of the screen the whole thing waggles through 90' (or even 270'). Having taken a few steps backwards, disentangled yourself from the power supply lead and pacified the cat, you'll find yourself staring into whichever goal-mouth you were heading for. While this makes aiming at the goal and stuff a lot easier, it doesn't half throw your sense of direction.
As usual, you control one player at a time, and the others scuttle around trying to make themselves useful. If you haven't currently got control of the ball, pressing fire puts the player nearest to the ball under your control. This takes a bit of getting used to, but it means that you don't find that the control flips unexpectedly between players as in, say, Match Day. The only exception to this rule is the goalie, who is toggled between by cresting Enter.
Graphically things are merely acceptable. It's usually fairly clear what's happening on screen, as there aren't too many of those horrible tangles of sprites that you get in other games. The snag is that sprite movement is hardly slick, with the players jerking about in a rather unsatisfactory fashion. They also have a curious habit of disappearing altogether when they stray near the edge of the screen. And sound? Basically the usual peeps and roars, but nothing to complain about.
Your appreciation of Gazza's Super Soccer will depend on three things - a) whether you like football, b) whether you can face the prospect of Gazza leering at you every time you pick the thing up (I don't think I could) and c) erm, whether you think it's any good or not. Personally I thought it was kind of okayish, sort of, certainly not completely brilliant but then not entirely crap either. And I don't think I can make things much clearer than that. On the whole, good news for Gazza fans and tragically forgettable for the rest of us.
A fairly sound footie sim with the dubious benefit of Gazza's seal of approval.
This is Gazza's Boot-O-Meter. Although it doesn't carry a TM as far as I can see, it claims to be a unique innovation. According to the instructions it allows you to control the strength, 'heigth' (whatever that may be) and spin on your kick. In practice, things prove to be slight more tricky.
A bit of pre-match hassle, involving you having to choose the names of your players. I've opted for the convenient 'Goalie' and 'Players Two to Eleven'. Nifty, huh?
Player nine slouches up to the ball, gazing into the middle distance. It's been said that the kick-off an decide the outcome of the whole match. Actually it hasn't. I just made that up.
With Luton one nil ahead (my team!), I'm going in for the kill again. At least I would be, but Player Five seems to have spotted something more interesting in the stands.