Four weeks of football and films, with plenty of the Arsenal lads in action, a six pack of San Miguel and a fanzine by my side. Yes, the world cup's here again! Lock up the disbelievers and chain yourself to the TV. Or perhaps try a pre-tournament warm up with one of the many World Cup games currently assaulting the shops.
US Gold's last sorte in this field was World Cup Carnival. A pretty hideous attempt at a football game, but it did have nice packaging. Italy '90 on the other hand contains only the necessary instructions and Cup trivia booklet, but the game itself is a darn good crack at a footy sim. All the participating teams have been included, as have all the players. Each side is rated statistically according to the average ability of the players in the squad. Kicking out Bobby, I eased myself into the manager's hot seat for England's opening match against Ireland.
Setting the traditional England's 4-4-2-perhaps-we-might-get-near-the-goal formation I did my best to cram anyone connected with Arsenal into the squad, while ditching anybody who's ever been near White Hart Lane. This wasn't due to any personal bias, you understand, just skilful management. Eventually I got together a team to field in the big match.
As with most footie sims the view is from above the pitch, and the game scrolls up and down. For the player control the programmers have gone back to basics. Point your player in the right direction, and the length of time you press the fire button determines the strength of the kick. This time this control method works really well. It's easy to cross and passes can be kicked with pinpoint accuracy.
Initially the opposing teams aren't too tough. As with the real World Cup in England's group there's Egypt, Ireland and Holland - all (relative) push overs. The only real thing that spoils the football section is the scrolling. It's jerky and so are the players' actions, although after a bit, it's not really noticeable.
Corners and goal kicks are shown from behind the player in control of the ball. This doesn't effect the play at all, but it breaks the routine of a normal football game. Penalties are also shown from this angle too, although it's really difficult gauging your shot from this position. There are other neat touches, such as the Bruce Willis-look-alike commentator and some quiet useful information screens.
Inevitably somebody will compare this to Kick Off. That's a tad unfair, because that game's a classic of its genre. Instead I'm going to recommend Italy 1990 as the perfect warm up to the World Cup, although I can't imagine it lasting any longer than that.
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