A Grande day out

First of all, I feel I owe you guys a bit of an explanation as to why this place has lay dormant for so long. I had always intended to take a bit of a break after Christmas ( I should have mentioned that at the end of my Euro ’96 review, really but I can barely think straight at the best of times, let alone a week before Crimble) as playing so many absolute steaming turds was starting to put me off video games. Seriously.

I needed a few weeks to reignite my love of the medium, reacquaint myself with some old favourites and recharge the batteries. Well, that and I was really struggling with sleep deprivation and could no longer trust my own critical judgement.

Then a couple of days ago, I got the fresh impetus I needed – that little push to carry on.

Thanks to a few kind words from Chris and Rich at the Football Attic podcast and Denis Hurley of Museum of Jerseys and Squad Numbers (amongst others), here we go!

So then, LiberoGrande

Yes… that.

Originating in the arcades in 1997, the PlayStation release (what be the one I’ll be rambling on about as my PC ain’t turbo-bastardy enough to run it in MAME with anything approaching dignity) emerged a year later.

Its USP was that during the course of a match, you would control one player and one player alone. A pretty standard feature in modern football titles but twenty years ago, this was enough to get me intrigued. And intrigued I stayed… until last year when I finally found a copy in a second-hand bookstore of all places.

Question is… should I have saved that quid for one of those crappy Poundland sandwiches like I had intended?

No, of course not. I mean, LiberoGrande is no great shakes but at least it wouldn’t give me E. coli.

Poundland sarnies? It’s not the insomnia you should worry about, mate

When you get started, most of the options are pretty self-explanatory. Two might throw you a bit, though. World League is actually a multiplayer mode, a tournament for up to eight players with no co-op. Player Challenge is a skill test to assess your accuracy and speed amongst other things.

Before you kick off, you get to choose your protagonist, all not-so-loosely based on contemporary stars. Mind you, there’s no fucking point going through them all here as Ricard Castro is clearly the best. Then choose one of the 32 teams that do not match up to those who played in France that year in a brilliant bit of foresight.

Into actual gameplay and one thing immediately broke my brain. You see, if you leave the game case open in front of you, the inside of the front cover proudly advertises the Dual Shock but the thing is… LiberoGrande does not support analogue controls. What the fuck are you doing confusing me like that? I know I should have checked the back of the box but I’m a man. Men are stupid and reactionary and stupid.

Once I’d realised my error, the controls continued to cause me great consternation. When the opposition has possession, Square and Circle will perform various kinds of tackles while X will cause you to chase the ball like I did in every school match I ever took part in… all one of them. This seems fine at first but for random, inexplicable reasons the game will decide not to take a blind bit of notice as to what you’re trying to accomplish about 20% of the time. Dunno about you, that’s what I’d call a significant margin of error. Or “shit”, let’s go with “shit”.

This does not improve when your team has the ball. Quite the opposite.

When one of your colleagues is in control of the pig bladder, pressing the aforementioned Square/Circle will command them to either pass, shoot or cross depending on control setup and context. Trouble is they’re deaf as posts and will mostly happily carry on doing their own thing which is usually losing possession cheaply, scuffing the ball straight at the keeper or booting it into the stratosphere. Hence having to try to do everything yourself but not really knowing how, like if Roy Race had become a decapitated galline.

Somehow… somehow… this is EVEN WORSE. Response switches from ignorant to just plain obtuse. You’ll run one way while trying to go the other. A simple pass will end up as a 40-yard lob. Your best chance of scoring a goal is to try and kill the football.

All that and the biggest indignity of all, you have a massive arse. You sprint like you’re attempting to twerk at the same time. Nicki Minaj has nothing on you and your booty.

I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly

Other that the disproportionate posteriors and the to-be-expected-by-now “running like you’ve just shat yourself” animation, the visuals are acceptable. There’s a pleasing chunkiness to it all… like a hazelnut and raisin Yorkie.

As for audio, you can choose to have music in-game which is similar to the Worldwide Soccer titles on the Saturn. Unlike Sega’s efforts however, this is less “guilty pleasure instrumental guitar” and more… erm… eh… I’ll tell you as soon as I can recall any of it.

In conclusion – preferable to food poisoning, but spend that money on a hazelnut and raisin Yorkie instead. Mmm… chocolate…


P.S. Apologies for calling Rich “Rob”. Proof reading isn’t easy sometimes.