International Soccer Challenge logo

Publisher: Microprose Price: £24.99

A quick glance of the pictures on this page will no doubt make the exchange of your hard earned cash for the software displayed seem quite reasonable. But wait, you impetuous fools you! Put those wallets away until I have finished. A few things need explaining.

As far graphics and general presentation goes, ISC is great. The figures are animated convincingly, although a little slow on occasions. The option screens are full of alternatives for practice, league variations and even the World Cup.

The problems only really appear when you start to play the game. As with most of the football simulations the gameplay is simply not in the same league of Kick Off. Even ignoring the presence of the Anco classic in the market, ISC is still rather pedestrian, with runs from one end of the pitch to other the norm rather than a cause for excitement.

Corners, throw-ins and set pieces are all there. Even the ref, with his attendant linesmen make an occasional appearance - which incidentally makes a pleasant change from playing the game. The sound might just make the fourth division, with only the bare minimum of sounds popping up from the depths of dearest Paula, the singing dancing sound chip. There has been an attempt at some background music, but given the choice between that, and four hours of Kylie I know which I would go for.

Let's face it, the game simply is not very good. If you are a real football fan, and Amiga maniac to boot, it may be worth your while. If, however, you are after real value for money it will probably be worth looking elsewhere.

International Soccer Challenge logo

MICROPROSE £24.99 * Joystick

It was a fairly safe bet (you could have bet your knackers) that there were going to be a million and one football simulators released this year. World Cup Fever reached a frenzy and the Amiga game which was on the receiving end of that frenzy was Kick Off II. It would seem, therefore, to be this side of commercial suicide to release yet another footy game, especially after we all overdosed on Gazza and the boys.

Microprose have decided that there's room for "just one more upstairs" and have proffered their offering at the door of the Amiga Format offices. So what is it that makes this game any different to the zillion other footy simulators already on the market?

As soon as you load the game it becomes obvious that where Soccer Challenge tries to be different is in the graphics department.

Whose the Geezer in the Black?
The game starts with a flying camera view, gliding over the back of the stadium and down on to the pitch. It then pans right and we watch the players jog out of the tunnel and onto the pitch to assume their positions. This is where the animation first hits you. The jogging of the players is spot on and these are no matchstick sized, three pixels high pinpricks.

The game is viewed from about head height, from behind the players. However, just how much of the pitch you see depends on whether you've chosen to play in position or as the whole team. If you choose the in-position mode things can get very frustrating, because half the time you're completely out of shot. This is, however, a more realistic viewpoint than most football games offer.

Considering the realistic graphics, it's a shame that the scrolling is so bad. When there's more than three players in shot they start moon-walking all over the place and the scrolling slows down considerably. As a result it's hard to concentrate on getting the ball off another player. Another annoying feature is the fact that you can run straight through the other players. I know the Italians try this trick all the time, but in a footy simulator we could do without it!

Taking The Soft Option
From the options menu you can either play a World Cup game or a Superleague. The World Cup option enables you to play for one of the 24 sides that made it to Italy this year. The Superleague option consists of all the best teams from around the world - most of whom didn't make it to Italy.

You can also enter your team in place of one of the other sides. Game length times and the standard of the computer-controlled team can be adjusted and you can even enter your own striker's name.

Practice That'll Make You Go Blind
The practise section of Soccer Challenge is awful. IT enables you to spend a few happy minutes trying hopelessly to kick the ball to another player. It's a completely hopeless task, requiring pinpoint accuracy and exactly the right strength. If you can manage after less than half-an-hour you deserve to be capped. You'll get far better by simply playing the game a couple of times.

Perhaps the most serious failing of the game is the lack of a two player option. It could be argued that very few people actually engage in a head-to-head with a friend, but at least the option is there if you do need it. The game offers no lasting interest and is almost entirely unaddictive.

International Soccer Challenge logo

Kaum ist die Weltmeisterschaft ein paar Monate vorbei - schon bringt auch Microstyle ein Soccer-Game heraus! Aber besser zu spät als überhaupt nicht...

Bisher gab es bei Fußball-Spielen immer nur zwei Arten der Darstelling: Entweder mit Blick von der Seite a la "Emlyn Hughes", oder aus der Vogelperspektive, wie in "Kick Off".

Microstyle hat sich jetzt auf Neuland vor-gewagt und präsentiert das Geschehen aus der Sicht des (Feld-) Spielers. Ansonsten gibt es aber kaum revolutionäre Neuerungen: Man darf die WM nochmals nachspielen (bzw. schon mal für die nächste üben) oder sich in der Superliga mit diversen Spitzenvereinen messen.

In jedem Fall kann man entweder nur einen Spieler oder gleicht die ganze Mannschaft über den Platz scheuchen. Um erst mal an die Perspektive zu gewöhnen, gibt es auch einen Übungsmodus; dazu werden drei Schwierigkeitsgrade (von superleicht bis mittel-schwer) und eine Save-Funktion geboten (bei maximal zwölf Minuten Spielzeit wohl nur selten in Gebrauch...). Was aber gänzlich fehlt, ist ein Zwei-Spieler-Modus.

Die Kicker-Sprites sind bildschön animiert, die Vektor-grafik ist ausreichend schnell. Nur leider ist das Screen-ausschnitt ein wenig klein geraten, so daß die Übersicht darunter leidet - da hilft auch der unglücklich platzierte Radar Nichts.

Der Sound ist eine Beleidigung für die Ohren, die Steuerung dafür okay.

Trotz guter Ansätze ist International Soccer Challenge somit kein ernsthafter Konkurrent für die Klassiker des Genres. (mm)

International Soccer Challenge logo

Microstyle, Amiga £24.99

The sequel to Microprose Soccer features an innovative 3-D perspective, viewed from just behind the ball with you always playing 'into' the screen. Shooting passing involves holding down fire to increase the power, and then moving the joystick to put height, direction and swerve onto the ball - on the easiest of three skill levels, passes are automatically aimed. As in Kick Off 2, you can either control a single player or switch between team members (excluding the automatic goalie).

You can either play in a fictional world club Superleague, or try to win the World Cup, and save your position to disk. Extensive practice options allow you to perfect passing, penalty kicks, goalkeeping (on penalties) and corners.

Phil King The 3-D view must have seemed a good idea at the time, but sadly it just doesn't come off: as well as being a bit jerky it's too slow for the supposedly high pace of a football game. It also means that there can't be a two-player mode - usually the best option in sports sims. As with Microprose Soccer, the ball is glued to the player's foot, so no skill is needed to dribble - contrarily, tackling the opposition is very tricky. It's also easy to score with a set routine of running diagonally at goal and swerving your shot. This one's no substitute for Kick Off 2.
Warren Lapworth I've seen so many footie games in this World Cup year. I'm sick of the things. But at least Soccer Challenge doesn't use the dreary old plan or side view like 99.756% of them. The pseudo-first-person graphics work well if not for the speed; the filled 3-D pitch and stadium move as slowly as the sprites, which is a great shame because they're very well drawn and animated, Control is sluggish and although the sense of depth works well, any players behind your viewpoint are only visible on the radar. Most football fans will already have the best, Kick Off 2, and Soccer Challenge's 3-D isn't enough to seduce those who haven't.