The humble Commodore Amiga and the Bitmap Brothers – if ever there was a match made in heaven this was it, a development team with it’s own very particular style and the ability to milk limited hardware for every ounce of ability.
The combination delivered some of the most enduring games and franchises of that particular generation and some personal favourites of mine, which as noted in a recent post are reportedly on their way back to me via the iOS store.
Speedball 2 Evolution is the first step.
Whether post apocalyptic of just basic sci-fi future sports are inevitably fast, furious and violent – Speedball 2 never did disappoint on those counts. Set in a bolted together steel arena the game was the successor to Speedball, a classic in its own right, but the sequel was a great example of how to turn an exciting game into something so different and so much better.
For the uninitiated, two teams fight over a steel ball in a small arena. The game is violent and tackles eventually lead to broken players being hospitalised by robot stretcher bearers. Scoring is a beast of its own, traditionally there are goals at each end, throw the ball through the goal and score, however the better players take advantage of some of the multipliers that lie around the arena and can quickly rack your score up in the hundreds if you know what you are doing. Of course brutally disabling an opposition player also counts as a goal, which is nice.
The arena is also constantly peppered with power ups which aid and assist your players in a variety of ways, basically they are true to the original so I won’t be listing them here.
This version plays very well, in fact it kicks the lacklustre XBLA version in the nuts quite deservedly given the difference in the platforms, Jon Hare and his Tower Studios have delivered a game that is playable enough for a quick blat, but carries the depth and skill growth that won legions of fans back in the day. Controls can be tilt based or virtual stick, and for once I have no preference, I have shied away from tilt controls in the past, but this incarnation seems to suit Speedball.
Visually Speedball delivers in its colourful update of the Bitmap style and the variety of backdrops for the arena are a very nice touch, again by comparison the XBLA game in classic mode was too much the homage and felt more jaded than the Amiga graphics.
The old cutscenes are still there and a nicely styled intro has been added, the game is well configurable and feels just right in every way.
Speedball 2 Evolution offers the player a range of ways to play, the campaign is still a firm favourite which adds an element of management and player shopping to the recipe for your success, the quick match is great for the littlest room or the bus and the multiplayer, while still only local does the game justice if you have a friend with an iDevice and a passion for the old school.
There is no doubting the satisfaction when a game is going your way, sliding tackle followed by a multiplier, a pass then hitting a scoring star, then a cross field pass to the right wing, electrifying the ball and throwing it through the opposition keeper, the ball causing his stamina to crash and sending him from the field. Classic gaming joy.
It took me a while to stumble across the game in the app store since it was released back in February, but the classic fun and my excitement for the future releases from Tower have helped me get over that.
If you were there in the nineties, this game belongs on your iDevice if you weren’t then an education is in order, click, buy and don’t look back.