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Zeppelin Games Ltd
Sport: Action
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Jon Pillar
Chris Bourne

Footy, eh? I can't fathom it. At the time of writing (Monday), the European Championship is still going on, and I've completely given up trying to figure it out.

You can, therefore, imagine my unbridled joy when Linda sent this 'un curving in a lazy arc towards my bow-legged desk. I loaded it up with trembling hand, but that was because the tape had caught me a nasty blow on the wrist. But enough of this whimpering nonsense, onto the game. (Yes, we were kind of wondering when you'd get round to it. Ed) It's a game in the tradition of Match Day. You know the kind - no tables of results, no fiddling about with the vast statistics of the substitute left-flanker from Key Largo, just straightforward ball-booting. Well, hurrah! That's what I say. Hurrah.

Hurrah for the idea, anyway. The actual game itself is a different matter. It starts sweetly enough. You waddle around a few menus, choosing your skill level, a one- or two-player game and which country you want to represent. Then its onto the pitch and hoo boy, into a whole passel of trouble. (As they say down the Southern way.) Your amazingly ugly players jerk around the screen like an embarrassingly hopeful audition for Thunderbirds. Meanwhile, the push-screen scrolling causes your opponents to leap about six pixels at a time, juddering so badly as to raise knowing tongue-clucks from passing temperance workers. It really is a shambles.

Maybe, though, the gameplay is so tremendously wonderful that it saves the game? Sadly, no. The inlay boasts that 5-a-Side is, and I quote, "played to full soccer regulations... it is an accurate simulation of the real game, covering all playing possibilities." Evidently, they've forgotten the asterisk and the tiny text at the bottom of the page, saying: "This is a complete lie." The game is more simple than Simple O'Simp's remarkably uncomplicated cousin Reg. You just nip about, bouncin' the ball off the sides of the pitch (yup, the game's played inside an invisible box) and attempt to beat the Speccy-controlled goalie.

There are a few things that impressed me. Firstly, the player you're controlling is really easy to spot, 'cos (a) the graphics are large, and (b) he flashes like a Three Mile Island tourist. Secondly, no player is allowed inside the five-yard box, so careful shooting is the order of the day. Thirdly, you can switch control to the player nearest the ball by bashing the fire button. Apart from that, alas, it's a bit of a clunker.

Tackling consists of running at your opponent and getting the ball from him. Works every time. Actually booting the thing is a bit more cunning - the strength of the shot depends on how long you hold down the fire button. However, even at full whack it's a pretty measly shot. The overall effect is of, well, an incredibly poor footy game played rather slowly, really. Tch, eh?

5-a-Side is a remarkable achievement. Yes, considering that Match Day 2, the Speccy's finest footy game, came out yonks ago, it's remarkable that 5-a-side manages to be so bad. Yuk, yuk and thrice yuk.

Simply put, the fourth worst game I've ever played.


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