Most ball games are complicated enough. Football, basketball, hockey and the rest all have their own peculiar rules which can have even an aficionado scratching his head at times. And these games are all played on one single pitch - just imagine what a game that was played on five pitches would be like!
This game of three players, three halves and five square pitches is surprisingly simple: eight teams, each of eight players, make up a league. One, two or three human players take control of a team each and during a match attempt to score goals in either of the two opponents' goals. The team with the most goals at the end of the three periods wins. The five pitches are all linked by tunnels, through which no players can pass. The centre pitch is where the kick-off takes place and on each wall there is a tunnel entrance leading to another pitch. Three of the four entrances are colour-coded to show that the pitch on the other side contains a goal belonging to the team with that colour. Send the ball - or projectyle as it's known in the game -through the tunnel and it emerges onto another pitch that has that team's goal on the opposite wall. The tunnel on the fourth wall however, which is the one always at the bottom, leads somewhere a bit special - the Frantic Zone. On this pitch there are three goals, one for each team.
The rules of the game are terribly easy - anything goes! This means you can bump, bash and smash into the opposition as often as you like in your attempt to get to the ball and knock it around to keep it out of your pitch, then get it onto an opponent's where there's a goal. Once a goal is scored the scoring team is credited and play begins again from the centre pitch (if an own goal is scored - which happens very often, especially in the Frantic Zone - the opposing player who touched the ball last is credited with the goal.
The match then continues in this fashion until the end of a set, at which point all the teams move one place to the right. Suppose your goal was on the top pitch for the first set: once the second set starts, your goal will be on the right-hand pitch. No-one ever gets the bottom pitch because that's always the Frantic Zone. After three sets (about six minutes of real time) the match is over, the scores are logged and the points are dished out.
The players each have peculiar attributes and all remain in the same pitch that they start the game in, so it's well worth checking out their stats before deciding where they should play - a fast chap on the start pitch is a must. Before a match the players can be trained, and their attributes increased: however, not only do they then run the risk of injury but training costs money and the only way to get any money is to pick up the dosh symbols that appear on the pitch at random. These benefits appear regularly throughout the match on all the pitches and can be collected by the first player to slide over them. The money can be used to finance your training program while all the other benefits - such as 'freeze opponents' or 'block exits' - only last on the pitch they were picked up on and only for a maximum of 10 seconds.
The closest the gameplay comes to a game in the real world is ice hockey. The players slide all over the shop in pursuit of the projectyle (your players automatically turn to face the ball wherever it moves) and you're able to move the player using the joystick with the fire button acting as the accelerator.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
The perspective, viewing from directly above, works very well and everything is smoothly animated. The effects are fine and so is the music - and you can toggle between the two at will. Games are played on different pitches belonging to different teams, which makes a welcome change during the game not only from the aesthetic viewpoint, but also because the different playing surfaces change the way the game's played. Looks great.
Bags of it. The shortest league season requires you to play 18 matches, so get ready for some long playing sessions. The multi-player option and multiple skill levels mean you won't burn this out for a very considerable while: and fortunately there's always the save game option to fall back on.
The action is fast and furious -especially with a couple of friends - and though at first it seems as if too much of the gameplay is left to luck, a few hours of play will convince you that it is in fact very skilful. You need to use some sound tactics to beat the better of the computer-controlled teams. Cracking stuff that can be as exciting as Kick Off when you've got a few mates round.
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