Have you played Atari soccer today?

The Atari 2600 (or VCS if you’re even more decrepit than I am).

Let’s get it out of the way, then. Thanks to the Stella emulator, a full romset and searching for the word “soccer” I’m giving you four for the price of one which considering this blog is free to read means absolutely bugger all.

Apparently this game was endorsed by Pelé – it’s hard to tell as there’s not really any mention of it on the box. I wonder if he actually played it and if so, whether he included any goals he scored into his infamously inflated tally. Hey, if he can count ones he got in fever dreams after necking too many Viagras…

54 game modes, eh? [Insert GIF of “ain’t nobody got time for that” woman that Russell Howard played to fucking death]

Start a game and oh, it’s Pong… fancy Pong but still…

You control a trio of Tic-Tacs bound together like they’re in a chain gang. The sequel to this should have been called “Gonna Dig Me A Hole”.

Kick the ball and you get to see their legs. I say legs, they look more like aelirons. I guess they’re UFOs flying in formation which probably explains why they have such little influence on the movement of the ball. It shunts about like a puck on a broken air hockey table. Not to mention it’s a bloody square.

If you do happen to score though, you get a nice little fireworks display on what I assume is one of those gigantic but charmingly crude scoreboards Americans are so fond of. Best bit of the game, that. Otherwise… it’s shit. But you might have guessed that.

Hang on… this is just Pelé‘s Soccer again. I knew there were a ton of rip-offs on the 2600 but this is taking the piss.

Oh… it says it’s the same game on that shiny sticker. Fuck.

Moving on…

…checks to see it’s not just Pelé‘s Soccer again… again

Phew.

First things first – recogniseable human beings. Sort of. Legs so bandy, they look like John Wayne’s got off his horse and not drunk his milk. That and he forgot his Vitamin D tablets. Never mind a football, you could get a medicine ball through that thigh gap.

Side on, they’re not much better. Running like they’re trying to perform the Moonwalk while moving forwards and bending over to reach for the remote control at the same time. Just like LiberoGrande, they also make Iggy Azalea look arseless. Say no to backstreet silicone injections, kids – they’ll be amputating your legs before you know it.

Where was I? Right… I thought this game was somewhat easy at first as my opponents didn’t seem to be doing anything. Probably idiotic A.I. once more, I thought. Whadadyaknow? I was wrong! Who’d have thunk it?

Turns out this is a two-player game. Two-player ONLY. I felt I missed the point as badly as those people who complained to the BBC after they took off an episode of the Antiques Roadshow to show Nelson Mandela being released from prison. This actually happened.

As a deeply lonely individual, I had to improvise. Digging out a spare USB controller and taking off my socks, my toes took on the role of adversary. So there I was playing with myself wiggling my joysticks.

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(Use this space to make your own masturbation jokes. Honestly, you’re sick in the fucking heads, the lot of you.)

What’s so real about this then?

Players per side – three. If you’re on your lonesome, you’re in charge of the indigo lot against those TWATS in salmon pink. I nickname my absolute gods of men Geddy, Neil and Alex as they all have to act as rush goalies, leading to a load of 21-12 scorelines on your way to the odd one little victory or two against those ABSOLUTE BASTARDS. HAHAHAHA HAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! Kill me.

No permanent waves here as the entirely invisible “crowd” barely utter anything save for the occasional burst of static. I promise I’ll stop now.

Each of your Adonises, your perfect human specimens, your saints is somehow confined to a third of the screen – top, middle or bottom like Strike It Lucky. Not that it stops them from destroying those COMPLETE COCKWOMBLES.

You switch between them by either pushing the button when not in possession or by somehow successfully completing a pass. This is indicated by said protagonist being illuminated in a slighter brighter hue like Eddie after his Ready Brek (please note: the ethereal glow gained from ingesting said porridge mix can only be attained by adding so much sugar that you hallucinate one just before falling into a hyperglycaemic coma).

OK… completing a pass. Again, ball movement is somewhat non-Newtonian. This particularly affects shooting – the number of times the ball will park itself right on the goal-line just before one of those STUPID PINK CUNTS manages to clear it, start a counter-attack and invariably score is frankly terrifying. This shit gets old quickly.

In conclusion… I blame myself for knowing exactly what I was getting myself into. Only before someone else beats me to it, mind.

In a Class of its own?

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I like the Atari Lynx. There, I said it.

Indeed I own a third of all the games ever officially released for it in the UK. I do only have 24 though which kind of makes that statistic less impressive. A powerful piece of hardware for the time, what with its in-built sprite scaling and handling of audio samples, its relatively large amount of superb arcade conversions made it the handheld of choice for the more discerning (and indeed wealthy) gamer. Mind you, mine cost me a tenner brand new and sealed.

One of my personal two dozen is – of course, if you have any clue what this blog is about – World Class Soccer or as the boxart would have it World Class Fussball/Soccer. Quite the curveball you threw there, Atari – two names for the sport and neither of them is what most of the potential buyers for this game would call it.

First impressions are good – the intro screen making good use of the system with its decently animated goalkeeper and title logo zooming into view. Options are simple but effective – game difficulty and length, whether or not your player switches automatically and either a dry or muddy pitch.

Choosing your team is nicely done as well – moving left and right highlights the various continents and up and down scrolls through the countries. This was 1992 so Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia are still just about in one piece, the CIS is a thing that existed yet you can select Kampuchea which already hadn’t been around under that name for thirteen years. Somebody on the development staff was obviously a fan of the Khmer Rouge.

Being a vaguely patriotic sort, I chose to play as Wales. I should have taken the fact that it’s the Union Flag that looms down onto the match-up screen rather than Y Ddraig Goch as some kind of portent of doom. As it was, I just took it as ignorance.

Then again, it doesn’t really matter who you choose as every team is exactly the same in terms of ability.

Yes, it only gets worse from here

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I could have taken that screengrab from a match between any two teams, you know.

You always control the blue side and play against the red side. If you are familiar with the concept of oni from Japanese folklore (or colour therapy in general for that matter), you’ll know that blue represents calmness, rationality, control and serenity. Red meanwhile is passionate, wildness, spontaneous and unpredictable. A few minutes of playing this and you’ll realise that this game laughs at those concepts in the face.

The graphics look pretty nice in that shot, don’t they? Well for a handheld that was originally released when Milli Vanilli were still being taken seriously, that is. Just you wait…

The frame rate is bloody abysmal – you’ll be lucky if it gets up to 5fps. Couple this with the fact that the camera is being controlled by someone on the piss, what with its constant zooming in and out (definitely a case of the programmers going “LOOK WHAT WE CAN DO!”) and sudden changes in direction that often bear little or no resemblance to actually following the path of the ball. I don’t tend to suffer from motion sickness but this did make me feel thoroughly queasy.

The gameplay though. That takes the absolute fucking biscuit. In fact, it takes the entire McVities factory.

Your only choice is to lump it and hope one of your players can run onto it. Running with the ball is even more awkward than it is in Kick Off (in my opinion, the most over-rated football game ever made) and passing is laughable. You’ll just prod it forward like a toddler’s toe poke.

Shooting somehow is even more pathetic. You have to be lined up perfectly in the direction of the goal – no automatic shot direction or aftertouch here, I’m afraid. And even if you do get one on target, the keeper will gather it up without even having to try.

Even then, this game still finds ways to get worse.

Your keepers are manually controlled. I shuddered and felt a chill just typing that. As any fule kno, this has never been made to work in any football game ever made, not even the good ones. So how would you expect it to go in a piece of shit like this? No prizes for guessing… 12-0. To San Marino.

Says it all.

Welcome

First of all, let’s get the basics out of the way.

I’m Liam, 34, 5′ 9″, Welsh, Leo, GSOH. Yourself?

I have set this blog up as a refuge from the constant barrage of most football video game stuff you’ll find online, the corporate behemoths of FIFA and PES that between them have destroyed the competition. Although I have to confess I’ve been on the Konami side since the days of ISS Deluxe on the Mega Drive.

The intention here is to bring attention to those lesser-known or fondly remembered but long since abandoned titles.

Whether it be once promising but now long since derelict franchises like Actua Soccer or  This is Football, arcade favourites like Virtua Striker or Football Champ, the just plain bonkers such as UEFA Dream Soccer or Red Card and of course the just plain crap. European Super League, anyone? Anyone?

I’ll try and avoid clickbait but if I do have a good idea for a top 10 list, ULTIMATE BEST or SHOCKINGLY WORST, I won’t be afraid to go with it. Maybe I won’t actually use those words for titles, though.

Thank you, spread the word and hopefully I won’t get too stuck with blogger’s block!