International Rugby Challenge logo

Sellotape back your ears and grunt at people with Domark's latest...

A very timely release indeed this, with England steaming through the Rugby Sevens to win. It seems fitting that we should release a game and have a quick gloat. But this respectable win doesn't take away the fact that you have to be six foot two, 15 stone and drink masses of bitter to be a rugby player.

If you are a ten-stone weakling and a coward to boot like me you don't want to be on the wrong end of huge bloke hurtling through the air with an odd-shaped ball. So what can you do if you still want the excitement and the gameplay? Get the computer game, of course.

When I first booted up IRC, I was impressed by the smoothness with which everything ran. The title screen and intros were very tastefully executed leaving you ina good frame of mind for the game.

The control screen isn't the most detailed I've seen but after a few minutes of fiddling you get the hang of what all the tools do. One aspect I found very impressive was the use of hot keys on the menus - it's possible to just press the one designated letter of the option you want instead of waiting until your cursor gets over there.

By far my favourite aspect is the fact that you can play the game on different levels, so if you are purely interested in the action, you can completely ignore the management side and vice-versa.

If you just fancy going for a quick knockabout you don't have to take into account that three of your men are injured and that you are in deep financial trouble - that is if you don't want to. As soon as IRC came into the office it was a case of nudge nudge, wink wink, some plonker's made a rugby game.

But as it turns out they have made a pretty fair job of the control method. It's similar to many of the football simulations - the member of the team that you are controlling at one particular time is depicted by an arrow above his head. This changes as the ball moves around.

As you probably know, you have to get the ball past the line at the end of the pitch and as near to the posts as you possibly can. Once this is achieved you can convert your try and gain more points.

The conversion entails you kicking the ball from a set distance away over the crossbar but still between the two upright poles. In Rugby the conversions control is very similar to a golf sim - you have to click at the right time for the speed and power then you have to click for the aim.

To pass to other players on your way down the field there are two methods. You can either click your button quickly and your player will make a pass in the direction where a team member should be, or you can hold down the button and a target will appear. You have to do this pretty quickly and aiming takes a bit of getting used to but it works in the end. As far as we could tell the rules and the gameplay were almost perfectly faithful to the real thing.

There was the occasional discrepancy or niggle, for instance when the opposition kick the ball back into your half your men seem to run around it and not pick it up until the opposition have caught up with it. But apart from that IRC is a winner! Well done Domark.

International Rugby Challenge logo

The sports simulation is a much used and abused game genre with few starts and many journeymen. Sensible Soccer is the shining star that software houses seek to emulate - but unfortunately, Domark's International Rugby Challenge fails miserably. It remains firmly rooted in the players' dressing room. In fact it doesn't even make it off the team coach.

The intro sequence consists of a revolving globe and you're treated to a truly dreadful tinny organ (accompanied by a drum machine) version of the hymn Jerusalem which simply refuses to leave your head. Then it's time for the 'action' (dare I use the word).

There are all the usual sporty options to choose from, including match length (five to 80 minutes), wind speed and player statistics. And here's where the fun starts. Select the two player option, both using the device 'joystick'. Out troop the teams, as you and your mate await for the battle to commence.

The match kicks off (over which you have no control) but after a short time you notice something amiss. One player is controlling both teams, while the other frantically waggles their joystick to no avail. It seems that in their infinite wisdom, the writers have decided that only one player can use a joystick, the other gets to choose between keyboard and mouse.

If you are one of the unfortunate people who have bought the game before reading this review, you may be slightly relieved to learn that Domark have assured us that you can have another copy free of charge, once this 'problem' is rectified. Still, all rather disappointing.

Strain of a game
But what of the gameplay? The overhead view is fine but the scrolling suffers from a continual jerky flicker. This is not only annoying but also a strain on the eye after a while. The graphics are nothing special and the sound effect are weedy and virtually non-existent.

An arrow points to the player in possession of the ball, and the nearest player on the opposing team. This works OK when you're attacking but when defending, the arrow flits from player to player making tackling difficult. Running with the ball is fun (for a few minutes), weaving in and out of your opponents, but invariably you can score a try without have to make a pass, leaving opposing players flailing in your wake.

Power and direction
Following the ball is not an easy pastime. Too often you are left searching the screen for the ball and the Kick Off style scanner is not a great help - just a mass of swarming dots.

A BDM (Ball Direction Meter) comes into play for scrums, lineouts and conversions allowing control for power and direction, and in a sea of drivel, it works reasonably well, particularly on conversions.

Unfortunately, there is simply no 'feel' to International Rugby Challenge - that difficult-to-define quality which makes a game really worth playing. As a sports sim it is light years away from Sensible Soccer, and as a computer game, it is way below current general standards.

You're better off buying Domark's Rugby The World Cup - it scored a favourable 82 per cent when it was reviewed (AF30) but its successor is badly presented, and to be candid, a disaster.

Domark assure us that all copies of International Rugby Challenge with the error (two players cannot both use joysticks) will be replaced free of charge. Phone Domark on 081-780 2222 to check for availability first. Then send your original copy to Domark Ltd, Ferry House, 51-57 Lacy Road, Putney, London SW15 1PR.

Fröhliche Eiertage?

International Rugby Challenge logo

Kennt Ihr noch "Rugby - The World Cup"? Nein? Nun, das Game stammt von Domark, kam vor anderthalb Jahren heraus und schiesst sich dieser unter geändertem Namen als Neuauflage in die Regale der Händler.

Obwohl: Genaugenommen geht es bei dieser zutiefst britishen Veranstaltung ja weniger ums Schiessen, weil der Ball (hier mal nicht rund; sondern eierformig) von den eigenen 15 Jungs hinter die feindliche Torlinie getragen werden soll. Derlei seltsames tun wird mit Punkten belohnt, und Schüsse gelten nur dann als Treffer, wenn sie über die Lätte gehen. Kein Wunder, daß die Englander auch auf der falschen Seite Auto fahren...

Das alles war bereits zu Zeiten der Erstveröffentlichung so, doch beschränkte man sich da noch auf die Weltmeisterschaft, und es könnte nicht gesaved werden. Wahrend man bei der gelungenen, auch für ahnungslose Kontinental-Europaer geeigneten, Sticksteuerung geblieben ist, bietet die internationale Herausforderung nun Abhilfe und Abwechslung.

Speichern ist neuerdings Ehrensache, man kann zusätzlich im Five-Nations-Cup mitmachen oder gar diverse Regionalligen (z.B. Amerika oder Australasiën) aufmischen. Und allerlei Optionen wie einstellbare Spiellänge, Zweier-Modus oder freie Mannschaftswahl unter 16 Nationalteams sind ja auch nicht übel.

Übel ist dagegen, daß die nicht allzu schnelle "Kick-Off"-Optik dank des völlig einfarbigen Rasens und der blockigeren Sprites nun eher schlechter aussieht als anno 1991, und sogar deutlich mieser als bei der flotten PC-Version. Da macht auch der ganz nette Titelsound samt gelegentlicher FX im Spiel das Leder nicht mehr rund: Die Neuauflage des Raufsports war eher überflussig. (jn)

International Rugby Challenge logo

A challenge? Yes. International? Perhaps. But is it rugby? It would appear not.

Since I started working for AMIGA POWER, I've had a lot of abuse from quarters. Readers, rival journalists, complete strangers in the street, my own parents, they've all had a pop. It's all water off a duck's back, of course - I'm from Scotland.

Now, though, for the first time, something's happened that's made me seriously consider my future as a writer. I'm faced with a three-page review of International Rugby Challenge, and I really and I truly don't think I'm going to be able to find the words to describe just how dreadful it is.

Let's set out our stall by starting with a quick comparison. The previous lowest-rated game ever in AMIGA POWER was European Champions by Idea, which got a less-than-impressive 4% in issue 17. And European Champions is, approximately, 50 times better than International Rugby Challenge. Now (gulp), let's get specific.

The only way to do this, I thin, will be to be methodical. So let's start with the options screen. The default set-up has you playing England, against Scotland, using mouse control (of which more later) in a 40-minutes-each-way match. To change any of these options, consult the manual to find out what the icons mean, then jerk the pointer slowly across the screen with the mouse and hold the fire button down for a couple of seconds until a menu comes up. Mostly, these are fairly obvious - if you don't want to play as England, click on the little team crest icon until it changes to the side you want.

If, however, you want to change the opposition (or if you want to play as Scotland, who you can't choose at first because they're your opponents), things get a bit more complicated. First, you have to go to the ''Number of Players' menu and select 'Two players'. Now the game allows you to click on both the team crest icons and you can choose your favourites. Go back to the 'players' menu and choose 'one player' again. Start the game.

Suddenly you realise you're still using the ridiculous and unworkable mouse control. Quite the game. This brings up a stats screen full of great info like how many 'trys' you've scored and how much 'possesion' you've had, so have a bit of a chuckle then choose the 'Manage' option which in fact gets you back to the initial options screen.

Choose joystick control, and for good measure read the instructions on how to operate it properly. International Rugby ChallengeWhen not in possession of the ball, click FIRE and hold to retain possessionInternational Rugby Challenge. Mmm, sounds like a good one.

Right, time to start the game properly. You didn't forget to choose a shorter match length, did you? Because the game IS prone to locking up in the middle of a scrum if you play a longer game. Good.

Damn. Being methodical isn't going to work - there just isn't enough space. I'm going to have to go for the 'edited highlights' approach instead.

I've never seen anything this bad

Like how in two-player mode, you can't both use a joystick. Like how it's practically impossible to tackle or be tackled, and hence the game consists almost entirely of one team kicking off, you picking up the loose ball and running it straight in for a try.

Like how when you cross the try line, you automatically put the ball down without getting the chance to run it in behind the posts. Like how when you kick a conversion, your player's stip changes to white shirt and black shorts whichever team he's playing for. Like how the line judges are always the same number of pixels in height when you kick the conversion, and hence look six inches tall when you're doing a close-in one.

Like how players try a diving tackle, then immediately do another one from the ground, then another one and another one, so they're flapping around looking like they're swimming a 100-metres butterfly race.

Like how the ball catapults around senselessly off the screen, leaving the scrolling to catch up with it five or six seconds later. Like how the player you control is almost never anywhere near the opponent with the ball, even though he's got three of your men practically standing on his toes, or how if the ball's loose one (or more) of your players can actually run right over it without picking it up or coming under your control.

Like how sometimes you can actually have the ball, but be controlling one of the players in your own team who isn't the one who's holding it. Like how the ball's so small and difficult to see, and when the other team's got it the player in possession isn't highlighted, that you can never tell where it actually is.

Like the 20-second loading delay before and after you kick a conversion. Like how you can throw the ball backwards for over 40 or 50 yards. Like how a ruck consists of the two teams lining up in single file behind each other a couple of feet to the side of the ball, which eventually leaps off one way or the other of its own accord. Like how line-outs are awarded without the ball going out of play.

Like how when you play Scotland against France, the two teams play in two practically-identical shorts, you clowns) which are impossible to tell apart in the heat of play. Like how the game calls the French stadium the Parc de Paris instead of the Parc des Princes.

Like how the computer side will happily run around for 10 seconds with the ball lying in their try zone, waiting for one of your players to come and flop down on top of it and score a try. Like how when you pause the game, the action freezes but the clock doesn't - start a 10-minute game, score a try, pause, wait for 10 minutes and unpause, and you've won.

This hasn't been much fun to read, has it? Not much zing, not much zip, not many jokes. Fact is, I haven't even started to list the awful, awful flaws in this game. (Well, obviously I've started, but I haven't covered even half of them).

You really have to see it in action believe it. I took two days of convincing before I'd believe that this was a finished version of the game and that someone wasn't trying to set me up. I've been playing video games for about 16 years now, and I've never seen anything this bad. The longer you play it, the worst it gets (the sound is a sick joke too, by the way).

I loved Domark's original Rugby: The World Cup, but this, a year and a half's development later, is so inferior it utterly beggars belief. It's inferior to everything in the world. Ever.

International Rugby Challenge

International Rugby Challenge
Disappointingly, Domark's decided not to bother with the expense of getting any real players' names to use in the game, so we get a load of programmers instead. Wow.

International Rugby Challenge
Mmm, there's some fabby options here and no mistake. The sound one's weird - switch it off once and you can never get in-game effects back again, only music. Tch.

International Rugby Challenge
The laughably-titled 'Quick Start' option throws you straight into a match. Mind you, I don't remember Murrayfield having a capital letter in the middle of its name. Grammar, eh?

International Rugby Challenge
On this screen, you can, if you're careful, set up a tournament or a tour of one of several areas of the world. Careful, though - you still have to play the game.


International Rugby Challenge
The screenshot on the top shows the game paused a few seconds into a 40-minutes-per-half match.

The screenshot below shows the same match unpaused again a couple of minutes (real-life time) later. Bloody hell.
International Rugby Challenge


International Rugby Challenge is bad. But exactly how bad is it? We decided to set up a scientific comparative test with some of the most-bad things we could think to find out.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths, terrible atrocities committed in the name of 'ethnic cleansing', the disintegration of entire nations into endless warring factions pitting brother against brother and father against son.
Badness Rating: Not Nearly As Bad As International Rugby Challenge.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths, relief supplies being looted and plundered by corrupt officials, starving people being shot by the opposing sides in a prolonged and pointless civil war.
Badness Rating: Close To, But Not Quite As Bad As, International Rugby Challenge.

Slightly speeding offence punished by life-threatening assault with heavily weighted sticks, perpetrated by four armed police officers against a defenceless man lying motionless on the ground. Led to huge riots in Los Angeles area, causing millions of dollars' worth of damage and several deaths.
Badness Rating: Approximately Half As Bad As International Rugby Challenge.

Wanton destruction of a vital section of the planet's atmosphere by entire population of industrialised world. With aerosols. Lowered resistance to lethal ultra-violet radiation causes massively increased incidence of skin cancer, not forgetting catastrophic climatic change and global warming, which in turn brings on melting of the polar ice caps, widespread flooding of much of the world's arable land and hence massive food shortages. Combination of these effects almost certain to lead to complete eradication of human life on the planet within the next 200 years.
Badness Rating: Would cause death of Jeremy Beadle, therefore Still Not As Bad As International Rugby Challenge.

Self-explanatory, really.
Badness Rating: Actually, This One Probably Is As Bad As International Rugby Challenge. But It's A Close Thing. And No Mistake. (Right, that's it, you're coming with us, sonny. Get in the van. The Taste Police)

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DOMARK £24.99

After losing the rights to screen FA Premier League matches on 'normal' TV, the major channels have turned to rugby as a way of catching the post Sunday dinner audiences.

As a result of that and some excellent showings from the England team, the sport's popularity has undergone a meteoric rise to the point where Joe Public is actually interested in friendly matches as well as the major tournaments.

Cashing in on the sport's popularity, Domark have taken their original 1991 rugby game, made a few minor adjustments here and there (and I mean minor) and churned it out in time to catch the Sevens World Cup.

What's beyond me is why they didn't produce a sevens game. Rugby Challenge is so similar to the first rugby game that there's no point in buying it if you own its predecessor. Basing it on rugby sevens would have made sense as it's a far faster game which requires completely different tactics to its 15-aside cousin.

For those unfamiliar with this game, it covers just about every feature of the sport from line-outs to place kicks. The player graphics are small, which makes the action confusing at times, but on the whole the gameplay is fluid and fast. The action changes for kicks, with you viewing the goal from behind the kicker. To get the ball through the uprights you need to stop a steadily increasing power bar at the right place by pressing fire.

To keep you occupied you can take your team to the world cup, five nations tournament or on a tour against teams of your choice. There's also a replay feature which lets you watch the best moments of match over and over again until you're utterly sick of them.

If you're a die-hard rugby who hasn't bought the original, you won't go far wrong here. Even if you're not a fan of the sport, the Kick 0ff style game play makes for an excellent diversion from the usual footy games.