With two number one games in Tracksuit Manager and World Championship Boxing Manager, Goliath Games have built up a reputation for producing quality software. And all this with their first two releases. Now they are back and kicking with Subbuteo which we previewed last month.
In our insight feature, I described Subbuteo as just '... another football game...'. Since then, I have been given an exclusive preview of the finished game by Amiga programmer and Goliath partner, John Jones-Steele. I now realise that Subbuteo is not football - it is a totally different ball game. To the first-time player, it may look like footy, but that is where any comparison ends.
If you have ever played the 'most popular table football game in the world', you will know that there are a myriad number of rules that differ between the game on the green cloth and the game on the turf. For example, if you slightly touch any player in Subbuteo, including your own team, a foul is automatically called. If you hit the ball when your opponent holds possession that is a foul too. So is leaping on the table, standing on your opponent's goalkeeper, breaking his back and scoring a goal while he lies in a heap of broken plastic.
If you have taken a look at the rolling demo on the coverdisk, you will have an idea of how the game works. The major feature of the game is the pitch, which looks impressive, but not half as good as it looks in the finished game where it rotates and flips twice as fast and twice as smoothly as the version in our demo.
Of course, with any product from the Goliath stable, there are a million and one options, and you have to decide whether you want to take part in a league with up to seven friends (any empty spaces filled by computer opponents), or just go for a friendly one on one. You know you are on to something when you see how the options are presented. For example, the colour menu allows you to choose they Day-Glo outfits your team will wear. A Subbuteo box of players is shown, and if you do not like their strip, click on 'no' and watch the box spin away into nothingness, only to be replaced by another box, featuring another set of colours. Now that is what I call style.
Playing the game is as easy as oversleeping. After walking around the table and having a good look, you then select the player you want to 'flick', who becomes the centre of rotation, as demonstrated on our cover disk. Then, as with 3D Pool, you rotate the pitch to set the direction of the flick. The ball will always travel into the screen. Unlike the pool game, elevation has no bearing on the shot. It is there to help you plan some of the trickier moves. Once direction is determined, you have to select how hard to flick the player and how much spin, if any, you are going to use.
This is where skill comes in. Learning to gauge the two levels comes with practice. A novice player, such as myself, will be lucky if they hit the ball without sending it careering off the pitch or fouling another player. However, an experienced player can do almost anything he wants to, as Goliath's programmer, Richard Walker, demonstrated on my visit to Goliath Mansions. When I thought I had safely stopped his chance of scoring, by placing two defenders in his way, he managed to swerve his attacker around them both, hit the ball and score, all in one move. I was devastated.
The graphics are nothing short of astounding and they match the feel of the game. The use of still screens and short animated sequences stops the game from getting boring, and the frequent use of tie-in screens is impressive. All these features help give the impression that you are not playing a computer game, but a real game of Subbuteo.
That is what sets it apart. Goliath have managed to distil the essential elements of the original game and transfer them across to the Amiga. If every game was as good as this, piracy would die out. Who would object paying £20 for a game that is going to last you months. Get your flicky finger raring to go. This is going to number one.