Brian Nesbitt gets up out of his seat and then sits right back down again to enjoy the first of Simulmondo's sports simulations for the armchair fan.
There's never been a 'real' soccer simulator on computer. MicroProse's International 3D Soccer made an attempt, but although it managed to look the part, the gameplay left a lot to be desired while Kick Off 2 has come to be looked upon as a sport all of its own.
So now it's Simulmondo's turn. In what the Italian developer describes as the 'first simulator in the I Play line' (which is one of the few sentences in the slim manual which actually makes sense), you're offered the chance to take part in a 'proper' game of football as you strive to lift the coveted European Cup.
Be warned though. like other simulators (flight and so on) this one has to be learned - there's a huge variety of joystick combinations which will take some time to master. But also like other simulators the results are rewarding - and there's a number of extra options available (such as full TV replay facilities) which aren't to be found in even the best arcade fare.
ANCO'S KICK OFF GAMES have the arcade end of the soccer market so tied up at this stage that the only way that anybody else is going to come away with a result is if they go for realism - which is exactly what Simulmondo has done here. And the good news is that, with one or two minor let-downs, the results are successful. Anyone expecting fast-paced no-holds-barred action can look elsewhere: in fact, because you elect to play a single player, you can even go long stretches without touching the ball (although wise players will use this 'quiet' time to make space for themselves for when the ball does arrive). Also, I Play: 3D Soccer recognises that soccer is a team game, so it's just as important to pass the ball and move into a new position as it is to make a bee-line for the goal every time the ball lands at your feet. It's not all good though: the options promised in the manual fail to appear when the program loads, it's next to impossible to make your player head the ball (even though all of the computer players manage it with ease) and shooting isn't as instinctive as it should be. However, if you take all of these points into consideration, what shines through like a beacon is the program's massive potential. If you're prepared to put a little more time than usual into mastering the complex control method, then patience will reap huge rewards - and I, for one, can hardly wait for I Play: 3D Soccer 2.
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