Mention the name Anco, and the chances are mental images of scantily-clad poker-playing women will pop into the average games-player's head. This stereotype is not entirely fair - because Anco have released some great titles in the past, including Karting Grand Prix - but perhaps Kick Off will go some way towards changing Anco's image in the public eye. It is the first in what promises to be a strong range of products coming up over the next few months.
As you might guess, Kick Off is a football game. One or two players can compete, each controlling a full eleven-a-side team during games of between ten and a full ninety minutes of real time. All the action is viewed from above and you control the player in the best position to get at the ball: the character under control is highlighted by a black line. The game has been designed so that players automatically dribble the ball whenever they come into contact with it. Shots or passes to another player simply require a tap on the fire button, and the longer the button is held down, the higher the ball will go.
Because of the dribbling it is tough to get used to turning with the ball, so for the first match or two you will end up kicking the ball half-way up the pitch in completely the wrong direction! You can hold the fire button down before making contact to trap the ball and turn in any direction you wish, then release the button to kick the ball. This makes things easier, but by taking advantage of the 'practice' option you will be in much better shape to play against someone who is trying to beat you.
Once confident with the controls, you can choose to play a single game or to compete in the league (the players and the computer can have their skill level adjusted, from International class right down to Sunday League).
There are eight teams in the league (so up to eight people can compete, if each selects a different team) and each team has a different playing style and skill level. For example, West Germany tend to tackle heavily (not always to their own advantage) while Russia are extremely fast and very skilful. A coin is tossed at the start of the match to determine whether you play up the pitch (screen) or down. Then you select a line-up, 4-2-4 for attacking play, 5-3-2 for sweepers and so on, and dive straight into the match.
Anco have really delivered the goods here. Kick Off is the best football game on the Amiga to date and should be in any gamesplayer's library, whether he or she is a fan of real football or not.