We've had Kick Off, we've had Kick Off 2, and by golly if we haven't had Gazza 2, er, too. Well, now here comes Championship Soccer, a Sega arcade conversion that's looking to beat them all into touch as the fastest, simplest, most playable overhead-view footy game ever. Its a 1/2-player game, and I may as well tackle each in alphabetical order, so it's, er, 1-player mode to kick off with first.
You're competing in a full 'World Championship' (ie World Cup) tournament, so if you're confident enough to skip the oddly named practice game (Test 'match' indeed) it's time to choose the country you want to represent. Up pops in a snazzy world map and as you whizz about testing your geography (so that's where Cameroon is!) you can call up a teams statistics. These are a list of the team's strengths - Speed, Skill, Defence and Keeper - measured on a scale from 1 to 5. Settle on a country and you have to pick the players (these also have a list of statistics, this time based on Speed, Tackling Strength, Kicking Strength and Accuracy). Weed out the weeds and put your final 11 into a set 4-4-2 pattern.
ONTO THE GAME PROPER...
And the first thing that strikes you is the kick-off - it's just a case of first player to the ball! Boot this away and you'll notice the screen scrolls to keep up with it, not the players, so frequently you'll be running like mad without actually being in view (mind you, there's a handy scanner at the side of the pitch to give you the full picture). The Speccy decides which player you control, working on the 'nearest to the ball' principle, but as usual causing much cursing since in tight spots the player it wants you to be and the one you want to control are inevitably different. The controlled player is highlighted with an arrow, and as you rush all over the place the rest of the teams swarm about as their patterns dictate, although once the action gets going you'll soon have no idea who's in which position. Bang go all the impressive player statistics, but who said this was a serious game? Fast and fun is the order of the day, with things like throw-ins and corners dropped in favour of the ball ricocheting back off the touch-lines (as if you're playing in a box)
The Speccy has some mean tactics, its men jittering towards the ball like guided missiles, and using the three types of kick to full effect. A nice touch is the way you always kick towards the opponents goal, but I found the best way to win was not to bother about kicking at all, and just dribble the ball into the net. As long as you keep zig-zagging, the Speccy's players can't manoeuvre to tackle you, and it guarantees victory by at least 20 goals!
Of course, this doesn't really matter, as the only reason anyone buys Kick Off-type games is to beat their friends at them 10-0. Pick your teams, no fouls, no World Championship competition, just Spec-chum against Spec-chum! The only problem is, there's no Redefine Keys option and the keys you've got are all on the top row (1-5 for player 2, 6-0 for player 1), a hideously squashed arrangement that means you'll either have to wedge some card down the middle of the keyboard, or sellotape your unused fingers out of the way.
WELL, IT'S GREE, INNIT?
The other only problem is the presentation. Apart from some awful intro music and a neat whistle effect, there's no sound, and while the graphics are several steps up from the Kick Off doldrums, they can still get somewhat confusing as the pitch flits by. As everything's monochrome green, one team has white shirts and dark hair, and vice versa. Unfortunately, there are no graphics to show the light haired players kicking, or their goalie (they use the dark-haired versions instead), so if you're at the opponents goal, blocked by the defenders, it seems you're being hacked at by traitors from your own team!
Graphical glitches aside (you can always provide suitable sounds yourself), WCS ain't a bad little footie game at all. Not quite up to Gazza 2 standards, but playable nonetheless (multiplied by 10 in 2-player mode). A very strong return for Elite, back at last from the 16-bit wilderness. Three cheers and a hearty hurrah!
Communal gameplaying (almost) at its best. Just the thing to challenge your Uncle Frank to!
Go on then - do as the man says.
Oi! Who let the Harlem Globetrotters in here?
Actually, having that mini-pitch at the side isn't a bad idea. (Means you don't have to keep flicking into a different mode.)
Persil-white players and, er, rather a lot of another colour...