GOAAAALLLL! The tradition cry of foreign football commentators, and players of Kick Off. The fastest and best football game ever. After experimenting with Extra Time, and playing around with Player Manager, Dino Dinner (sorry, Dini), has perfected his art with Kick Off 2. Or has he? To be honest, no.
Now before you rush for the poison quills listen up, and hear the tale of how a brilliant program has become more complex, more difficult, more challenging, but not necessarily better.
Kick Off 2 represents the cumulation of the developments seen in those other programs I have already mentioned. Thanks to this, it plays more like Player Manager than Kick Off, but without the management bits, naturally.
An interesting gimmick is the ability of three or four players to play against each other at the same time, with the aid of a joystick adapter. While creating frantic fun, the experience does not really bear repeating as everyone plays in position, resulting in all fruitlessly chasing the ball. Casting that ability aside, the Kick Off 2 player can indulge ina simple one-off game, a one-off game between two of eight international teams, an eight man international league, and eight man international knockout cup, or a special event (more of later).
On an options menu the player can decide to set the time limit (three mins per half minimum), the pitch type (normal, wet, plastic and soggy, each with its own pitch graphics), skill level of each team, tactics for each team, extra time in the cup competition, after touch or not (yes, if you want to score against the good computer teams), league skill level, game speed, and choice of referee.
Quite a line up, and there are more options on other menus, including a nice one that allows you to change the strip design of a team, along with its colours.
On the simple one-off games, you can load your own tactics from Player Manager, as well as your own PM teams. While this means that your fave team can take on your mates using your own tactics, it unfortunately stops there.
While I can understand the limitation of not allowing you Player Manager team to take part in the league, cup or special event, it seems pretty stupid that the tactics cannot be used. In fact, although you are offered a number of tactics from the options menu, you can only use the standard four in the league, cup and special events. Disappointing is not a word for it.
Actually, on the pitch the Player Manager gameplay has been tightened up so that you are unlikely to hit the ball over from six yards.
Unfortunately, the goalkeepers are now far too good. There are just two ways of being fairly sure of scoring, but getting into position to do either is very difficult. This results in goalkeeping errors deciding many games, and 0-0 draws proliferating when playing the computer.
Now this goes against the grain of what the original program was all about. The fact that the player cannot dribble properly, made the speed of play and scoring of goals the greatest attribute of Kick Off. The speed of Kick Off 2 is less, no longer blindingly fast, merely quick, and goals are hard to come by. Sure, it is far more of a challenge and there is great variety, but I feel something has been lost.
Meanwhile, the other changes on the pitch include variable strength corners, controllable goal kicks and throw ins, the ability to change formation whenever the ball goes out of play, and Brazilian style taking of free kicks in front of goal. There is also an action replay to review any goals you do manage to score, and save them to disk to prove it later.
The special event menu allows new competitions to be loaded from expansion disk, but gives you the World Cup to be going with. All the right teams in all the right groups are on offer, and you can change them around if you wish.
Having played all of these teams it strikes me that Dino does not have much clue about the strength of international football squads. The Italians are far too weak, and the Rumanians and Austrians particularly too strong.
At least there is some balance and challenge for all skill levels in this competition. Getting Cameroon or the United Arab Emirates through the first round is an achievement, while players of Brazil should get at least to the quarterfinals.
Another bug with this section of the game is that it rarely allows you to alter formation from 4-2-4 that is incredibly annoying.
So there you are, there is a lot packed into Kick Off 2, and with the prospect of up to 25 expansion disks from Anco, you could be playing it for years. However, scoring is hard, far too hard for any but experts, and there are still some aspects of the gameplay that I would like to see changed. Kick Off 3 remains a possibility.
Until then I say go out and buy your Kick Off 2, it is a very good game for all my minor niggles. Better than the original? I say no, but then I have completely mastered that, so Kick Off 2 provides a much needed challenge and, of course, a chance for England to be world champions.