Speedball Tournament 2
Speedball Tournament 2 is like one of those clubhouses from your childhood with a sign on the front door that read something along the lines of “no girls” or “cool kids only”. Not just anyone gets in; you’ve got to meet certain criteria. If Speedball 2 were a clubhouse, it would have a sign outside that read “incredibly patient people only”. You won’t even remotely enjoy your experience with this Atari ST ‘classic’ if you haven’t got access to a joy-pad as the game is damn near unplayable otherwise. The menu is terribly un-user-friendly to even the friendliest and forgiving of gamers, and playing online against other, equally peeved gamers I’m sure requires you venture off into the World Wide Web to first register an account. It’s like the game doesn’t want you to play, almost as if it’s hiding something.
But once you get all that stuff sorted out it’s plain sailing right?
No. Nostalgia must be an imperative to player’s enjoyment in Speedball 2 because from where this neutral stands, the gameplay is never anything other than flat. This futuristic sport is just indoor football (soccer for Americans) but using your hands to pass and score instead of your feet. The game tries to liven things up by introducing power ups that appear on the field, score multipliers and small vents that teleport the ball, amongst other equally dull inclusions that do nothing to improve matters. Things are doomed from the beginning because the most important aspect to the game; the passing, is a clunky mess. It’s almost impossible to string passes together with any kind of accuracy because of the archaic 8 way directional movement. There’s nostalgia, and there’s laziness, developers. The action also moves at a frustratingly slow and laboured pace, making running from one end of the very small arena to the other, a chore. All the above coupled with a hit detection that is quite frankly missing, and Speedball 2 is a bit of an incoherent mess – it’s hard to tell where and who has the ball, all the players run towards the thing like a bunch of 10 year olds playing football at their local park, and you’ll be hard-pressed to care if you actually win the match or not.
One aspect that fairs a little better is the visuals, which adopts a very clean, if slightly sterile look. While all the arenas appear identical, the character models are nicely detailed when viewed up close and you can distinguish between characters further in the League Mode. Here, you’re able to customise your team in quite some depth to create players that fit specific functions on your way to winning the league – if you haven’t uninstalled the game by then, that is. You can play Speedball 2 with a friend in multiplayer, which is a far more enjoyable experience, if only because you won’t be the only one who doesn’t know what’s going on.
Perhaps if you played and loved the original all those years ago, Speedball Tournament 2 will be a welcome homage and thus, a bearably fun game. But for someone unaffected by past glories, I’m just left wondering what all the fuss was about in the first place. No wonder it was so hard to get into this clubhouse, it appears the foundations are fatefully unstable.