So how do we go about awarding a percentage to a new game? Do we just print the first number we think of? If not, what things in a game can sway that score up or down? Welcome to a practical guide to scoring. We'll start with just an Amiga, the two TV Sports Boxing disks and a starting average of 50%. (Other magazines might use 70% as their average score but here on AMIGA POWER we use 50%, mad and irrational fools that we are.)
Right. The background is that TVSB is the latest in a series of sport sims from Mindscape, using talking heads in TV studios as graphic interludes. TV Sports Basketball, TV Sports (American) Football... Additional commentary in this review comes from Frank Bruno.
Boxing games are not the best of computer game types. Beat-'em-ups are usually cited as the worst, most mindless, repetitive and dull games you can stick in your floppy drive. Boxing games, like wrestling games, are just beat-'em-ups where you can't go anywhere.
Maybe it's possible to do something original with the genre, but these sort of games usually just involve two characters with big heads facing each other, accompanied by lots of frantic, scarcely thought-about, joystick handling.
A soon as the arcade action part of TVSB hits the screen, it's clear that this is nothing different in that respect. So straight away the game plummets down to 20%, a fair starting point for a single screen beat-'em-up game.
"Not a very good start, Harry, know what I mean? They've got a lot of catching to do to. They can do it, know what I mean"? I really believe they can, know what I mean, Harry?"
There are actually quite a few moves you can perform and a little bit of thought is likely to result in more success than just piling in and waggling like mad, which is a good sign. You can move up and down, step back to let fly with the big punch or go in close and rattle in the short ones. Waggling like mad is still the most enticing option, but the score deservedly rises to 28% on the grounds that there's certain tactical element to the action.
There's a certain tactical element to the action
There are also occasional overhead shots, which pop up every time someone is knocked down, and briefly at other junctures. These are very small with tiny sprites on a tiny screen. A little bit silly really, but harmless. And you can't take points off for harmless silliness, can you?
The 'exhibition mode' was the first option on the main menu and it's that to which we turn first. There's a two player option, so this is one of those games that you can turn to for a tete-a-tete battle when you're tired of tackling the computer opponents. A jump to 35% for that then.
"They're starting to pick up now, Harry. They've landed a couple of good punches. Anything can happen, that's the thing about boxing, Harry. Know what I mean, Harry?"
The one-player option is very limiting in exhibition mode. You select which fighter to be and which fighter the computer will be, then take to the ring. The fighters are ranked according to how tough they are, so you can easily adjust the difficulty of the bout depending on your choice of fighters. Seeing how long it will take till you flatten Baldy Bones isn't the most involving of game objectives. Down the ladder to 29%.
One of the most involving parts is the 'create boxer' section which lets you select the characteristics, abilities and appearance of a boxer. You can then take to the ring with your new creation (or let the computer play as him). An excellent feature which takes the score up to 34%. But it's not a lot of use if all you can do is stage one-off fights.
Fortunately there's also the 'career' mode. This allows you take control of a fighter (one you've created yourself or a ready-grown), making tactical decisions throughout their boxing career. This is great fun, with loads of features: a manager to advise you, a trainer to work you into shape, rankings to climb, performance-aiding substances to buy (all legal, if a bit supernatural) and money to earn. And lots more, including fights to be fought. This adds strategy and role-playing elements to the basic game and lifts TVSB's rating up to a quite creditable 56%.
"You know Harry, the boys done all right. Not the most brilliant of performances, but they had a job to do and they went out there and did it..." Oh sorry, that's Emlyn Hughes.