Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
The SF 49ers' quarterback decides to boost his pension by endorsing a game. Julian Boardman checks out the size of his superannuation
Anyone who saw this year's Superbowl from Tampa Bay will realise why football (not soccer) is so huge in America. The tension in that stadium, not to mention across the world (well, my mate's living room anyway), as the Bills' kicker stood up in the dying seconds to take the 50-yard field goal attempt, which would decide the outcome of the game, was remarkable. Despite what you may think of the typically OTT showbusiness rubbish that surrounds it. American football can still be one hell of a game.
Why then does Joe Montana Football on the Master System totally fail to capture any of that atmosphere? The PC version, though, is a completely different bag of jockstraps and is detailed later on in the review.
The Master System game is played over four five-minute quarters between one or two players. The rules of American football apply where possible (things like foul rules don't make an appearance), four downs to move ten yards up the pitch and so on. After the coin is tossed, the kick off takes place and the receiving team has possession. A play-select screen then comes up, giving you a choice of play depending on your situation: a defensive play, offensive play, field goal attempt or punt. During offense, Joe Montana's recommended play will be highlighted as Joe's Play. There is so little variety in the plays available that you might as well just go for that and let him get on with it.
The joypad gives control over the quarterback, so he can dodge tackles or run until the ball is passed. Control then goes to the receiver who can try to shake off his marker to make the pass complete; once he's got the ball, he can run like stink to gain as many yards as possible. Obviously the pass may be incomplete or intercepted just as in a real game.
Sadly that is where the similarity with the real game ends, The limited number of plays to select means that decision-making is never a problem; the small sprites and perspectiveless side-on view result in confusion rather than speed, and once you have found a couple of plays that work well for you, it all becomes far too easy. Even before you get it sussed, JMF never becomes involving or addictive, barely diverting.
The game seems to have followed Joe Montana's recent form, down the pan.
JOE'S FOOTBALL LEXICON
Down - A chance for the offense to gain yardage. The offense has four downs to advance the ball towards the goal line. In order to keep the ball, the offense must either score or gain at least ten yards by the end of the fourth down.
First down - The offense's first play after the kick off. Whenever the offense gains ten yards, it earns another first down.
Line of scrimmage - Where the teams square up to begin each play. It is determined by where the ball rested at the end of the last play.
Safety - Taking your ball into your own end zone and being tackled there. Results in change of possession and two points for your opponent.
Time out - Called by either team at the end of a play to allow for a quick strategy session. The clock stops during this session.
Touchback - Gaining possession of the opponent's ball in your end zone and being tackled there. Results in your team getting a first down at the 20-yard line.
✘ Dull screen presentation, tiny sprites.
✔ High quality end of game screen.
✘ Truly naff title tune.
✔ Nice crowd sounds though.
✘ Too shallow to be adictive.
✘ A poor imitation of the real thing.
£29.99 • OUT NOW