Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
£24.99; 2 players
34, 57, 20, 78, 209, one number than infinity, hut, hut, hut...
Confusion City, first quarter, as a blue player plays his legs instead of the ball
Not the jolly old English game of footy, but the huge shouldered US variety of interest to avid watchers of Channel 4's Sunday night session...
There isn't room here to explain all the ins and outs of this complex and slightly silly sport, but to give you the gist, your team has four attempts to move a lemon shaped football ten yards up the pitch. If you do, you get another four attempts at another ten yards and so on. If you fail, possession of the ball goes to the opposition. Each attempt is called a 'down', and is followed by the amount of yards left to go, so the first attempt is always a '1st down and 10' (for example, if you're on a 4th down and 52, you're in exceedingly deep poo.) You shift the ball around by running with it or by passing just to make it extra tricky, you can only pass forward, once). If the player with the ball manages to cross over into the enemy's end-zone, a 'touch down' is awarded and you gain six points. This is followed by a rugby-style conversion (a kick at goal) for an extra point. If it looks like you won't manage to complete your 4th down, you can always go for a three-point field goal, otherwise you have to 'punt' (an American word meaning 'boot the ball very hard in no particular direction') towards the opposition, giving them possession. And that's it, in a nutshell. Oh yes, and you have to wear big shoulder pads and helmets with cowcatchers on the front, otherwise it's just like a normal sport.
In this fireside version of the game, each 'play' is made by selecting the formation from the nine on offer. A flashing cursor cycles through each play in turn, and you simply press button 2 to choose. The defensive formation remains the same each time.
The screen switches to an overhead view of the pitch, with both teams in the line out. Play begins with the ball being flicked to the offensive quarterback (QB). Depending upon the play called, you will either control the QB and attempt a pass (fire button and joystick pointing vaguely in the direction of one of your catchers), or the ball is passed onto a running back, who you attempt to guide up the pitch before he gets flattened by the enemy.
Meanwhile, the defensive player controls his own QB and guides him round the pitch, either to try and flatten the opposing QB before he can make a pass. You carry on in this way through four, 15 minute quarters and, amazingly enough, the team who has scored the most points when the final whistle blows is the winner.
In the single player game, things are different: the Sega team starts the game with a set score (depending upon which two teams you chose) and you then have one quarter to beat that score, by continually playing offensive moves.
The most unusual aspect of Great Football is the fact that it doesn't have a full-blown one player game to speak of. For solo gamers with no chance of finding a human opponent, this severely lowers its appeal, since you only ever get to practice your offensive plays. It's still fun, but not as long-lasting as some nice, competitive one-on-one combat.
The two player game is pretty decent, but lacks set defensive moves and relies too much on the human-controlled QB to sack/tackle/intercept the offensive play. This is one busy sprite!
With the far-superior American Pro Football only a mere £5 or so further up the price scale, you may have to think quite hard and long about which one to go for in the end. APF offers a very good solo game, is better graphically and has an extra level of complexity. But then again, if you're guaranteed another humanoid to play against, and could put that fiver to better use, (and let's face it, who couldn't?) you won't find Great Football such a big disappointment.
Tedious formation select method, but fairly comfortable hands-on player control
Plain, simple, but clear. Player sprites are neat, but flicker like crazy in line-outs!
Repetitive jingles, but plenty of smart sampled sound effects!
Quick-thinking and quick-moving on the pitch is needed to avoid those painful tackles! (Ouch!)
Plan your attack and you'll soon get your yardage up (oo-er!)
Great two-player action, but the versus the Sega it's not so hot
Not really up to the stiff competition from APF, but well worth a look if the whole family plays, and you’re on a tight budget.