Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
It is the year 2029 and the grizzly, bloody sport that is Speedball has finally been outlawed. The underground stadiums have been closed down and the game is officially dead. However, the Government realise that as an indirect consequence of Speedball's demise, crime has risen. Therefore, in an effort to return to the stable society of old, they introduce a controlled but yet even more violent game based on the old Speedball. Two special league divisions are swiftly created with new teams assembled from the experienced Speedballers of old along with talented newcomers who fancy their chances.
Just like the original Speedball, the aim of the game itself is to score points. However, in this new game it isn’t just putting the ball into the net that provides points. The Speedball authorities have created cunning midfield devices that are used to glean extra points. The once vertically-scrolling pitch has also been replaced by a massive eight-way scrolling stadium. Just like the original game there are no rules, meaning that the game is as heavily reliant on extreme violence as on skill.
You start the game as manager of the worst Speedball II team ever - Brutal Deluxe. Using your managerial skills along with your arcade reflexes, it's your job to guide them to the top of the Speedball league table. Simple... or is it?
Goals are usually worth ten points but there are ways to boost the value of a winning shot. Located in the middle of the pitch on each wall are score multipliers. Throw the ball through one of these and extra points are added to the potential score of your next goal. Only by making good use of these multiplying devices do you stand any chance against some of the teams in division one.
Scoring goals isn’t the only way to get points in Speedball II. Locate in the midfield section of the pitch are a number of recesses in the wall. Throwing the balls at these lights up a special star. Two points I are awarded for each star lit, and bonus ten points are up for grabs if you light all five. Considering that a goal only scores ten points, the stars are well worth your attention.
Using the gym is the key to success in Speedball II. After every game you have the opportunity to boost the attributes of each player by spending money on a specific part of their training programme. You can concentrate training on a particular player, or boost the whole team in a single attribute. Alternatively, you can save time just by selecting ALL, which boosts every player in every attribute. Using your training programme, it’s possible to increase the strength, stamina, and even the speed of your players.
As you play Speedball II, you'll doubtlessly comes across the icons littered around the area. Collection of these has different effects. For example, there are icons that temporarily boost your speed and power. Other icons have effects on the opposing team. Once icon even freezes the opposition, enabling you to score a goal with ease. In two-player mode, a reverse joystick icon is available that completely confounds your opponent by messing around with his controls!
As regular readers of MEAN MACHINES should know, Speedball II is already out on the 16-bit Megadrive. This version is much the same as the game reviewed here, but features improved graphics and sound along with smoother gameplay. This scored a worthy 88% when we reviewed it in our mega February 1992 edition of MEAN MACHINES.
As any self-respecting Master System owner should know, a version of the original Speedball game is also out for the Master System. This game is much simpler than the sequel with only a smaller, vertically scrolling playing area. The gameplay has none of the managerial aspects or the midfield devices of the sequel but it’s still pretty good fun and worth a look.
Oooh! Scrap on!
Hit that crazy bouncedome for two points a
Kick off Speedball style.
Everyone ignores a coin.
I wasn't really impressed with Speedball on the Master System, but this is a completely different kettle of fish. The original game was quite slow and tedious, but even with the bigger play area that the Master System has to cope with, Speedball II manages to retain the same manic pace as the Amiga classic. The graphics are fine. Obviously, the colour and definition aren't quite as smart as the 16-bit versions, but the actual gameplay remains really close to the original. My one gripe is that the player intelligence isn't quite as advanced as the original versions and with no Kick Off-style scanner, passing the ball is made very difficult because you can’t really see where your players are. Other than that though, Speedball II remains an excellent sports sim that should appeal to anyone owning a Master System.
As well as featuring astoundingly good graphics, Speedball II sports fast, exciting and action-packed gameplay, especially in two-player mode. It's slightly tougher than the Megadrive version, not through the computer opponent being more intelligent, but because the Master System team members tend not to read the ball as well as their Megadrive counterparts and consequently they don't set themselves up to catch a long pass. It’s not a real problem though, and is easily cured by using short passing play tactics. Other than that there’s nothing to fault, and sports fans who are after something a little more challenging and brutal than most games of this ilk should check this out immediately.