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NFL Quarterback Club (Game Boy) artwork

NFL Quarterback Club (Game Boy) review

"I've never seen a game of American Football in my life. To me, football is the sport played by legends such as Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, and Pele, rather than the States' Thanksgiving Day prerequisite. All my knowledge of the game comes from movies such as Remember The Titans and the Rick Moranis 'classic' Little Giants. As such, I really have no idea whatsoever why I purchased NFL Quarterback Club for Ninty's Game Boy way back in the mid Nineties. Luckily for me, Quarterback Club requires no pr..."

I've never seen a game of American Football in my life. To me, football is the sport played by legends such as Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, and Pele, rather than the States' Thanksgiving Day prerequisite. All my knowledge of the game comes from movies such as Remember The Titans and the Rick Moranis 'classic' Little Giants. As such, I really have no idea whatsoever why I purchased NFL Quarterback Club for Ninty's Game Boy way back in the mid Nineties. Luckily for me, Quarterback Club requires no previous knowledge of the sport, due to the fact that, well, you never actually play a game of football for the duration of the title....

Quarterback Club takes it's inspiration from games such as Track and Field, as opposed to American Football sims such as the Madden series. Choosing one of thirteen quarterbacks included here (including one or two that even I, in my complete ignorance of the sport, have heard of, such as Troy Aikman and John Elway), the game sees you competing in the 'Quarterback Challenge' - a competition that tests them on their speed, accuracy and throwing arm, spread across four events. Each event will last you a little over a minute (if that). And that's all there is to it. A little over five minutes after picking the game up, you'll be staring at the end credits sequence, never mind how well you've performed. Regardless of genre, there is simply no excuse for a game to be this short - it's an insult to whoever actually forked over their hard-earned on it, and it quite possibly makes Baby Jesus cry. But it is possible to forgive such a durationally-challenged game if it plays so well that you'll be playing it over and over again. Quarterback Club doesn't.

Once you've chosen your player (and to be fair, it makes no difference whatsoever to the way the game plays - they all handle in exactly the same manner), it's time for the first event: the Accuracy Challenge. You are required to throw the ball at a series of targets. Starting off with a stationary target that is but a few feet in front of you, you progress to targets that move from one side of the screen to the other, each one further away than the last. As an introduction to the game this does actually serve it's purpose rather well - throwing the ball roughly where you want it to go is made easy by a small power bar in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. With just two button taps you can set the strength and direction of your throw, and from there it's just a matter of hitting the target (naturally). It's all very intuitive and well realised. The problem is, though, that this isn't just an introduction to the game - the fact is that by the time the last target has trundled merrily off of the screen, you are shockingly a quarter of the way through the game.

What follows next is the Speed and Mobility section. In this side-scrolling event you must run a minor obstacle course - you duck under a horizontal bar that's in your way, run around a cone and a cardboard cut-out player, jump something (I'm not too sure what it is that you jump - whatever it is it's a little bit of a graphical mess) and once again hoss your ball at a target - the faster you complete the course the more points you earn. This section is by far the most varied in the game, although it is fundamentally flawed due to the fact that every single character in the game plays in exactly the same way, and so naturally every single one runs at the same speed. So, assuming you don't somehow manage to mess up and charge straight into one of the obstacles (which would be hard since you move at a relatively slow pace anyway) all that will differentiate your time from that of your competitors is how well you do in the target throw at the end of the course - the more accurate your shot, the more time is cut from your end result. However, the fact that this part of the game is side-scrolling means that it is frustratingly difficult to achieve much accuracy here - your view of the target is pretty much non-existent since it's facing your character, and your character is facing the side of the screen. Little details like that really should have been picked up before the game was even released, really - it's such an obvious error. However, as frustrating as it is, this section is different enough to the last to leave you hopeful as to the level of variety the second half of the game will hold.

No such luck, though, I'm afraid - we're back to throwing the ball again - this time in a Distance Competition. Every Track and Field game has it's fair share of pure 'button mashers', and this is Quarterback Club's. In a woefully simple section, you literally hammer at the A and B buttons for a few seconds, in the hope of keeping the power bar full, until your dude chucks the ball. This section is insulting really, as you don't even need to look at the screen while it happens - it's easily the worst section of the game. When you do manage to earn a respectable score here there's no sense of achievement to be spoken of, either. In the Track and Field titles the sort of events that require you to mindless hammer the buttons last a reasonable length of time, and as such you are left feeling like you really have earned your win if you manage to keep the crazy paced joypad abuse for the duration. Here you need to hit the buttons for only a couple of seconds, and as such when you throw the ball you can't help but feel detached from the proceedings, since you hardly even have time to get the sense that you've had an effect on the outcome at all.

And then we come to the final part of the game - a test of your 'Read and Recognition'. For all intents and purposes this is pretty much a carbon copy of the first event, only this time you have four targets ambling across the pitch. Half of these are flashing, and you must hit the flashing ones to earn points (the further away the target, the more points). It really is quite surprising that in a game with such a criminally small amount of content, the developers (naming and shaming you, Beam Software.....) still manage to repeat themselves. While superficially the fact that there are four targets should add some variety, it really doesn't - the other targets barely block the path of the target you wish to hit for more than a second, and the rest of the time you have a clear shot. No extra skill is required, it's no more difficult than the first event in the game.... as a finale this is remarkably inept.

And then that's it. The scores are totalled up, the winner crowned, and the credits scroll up the screen. Even if you came last in every event, you've still managed to see all that there is to see in the game. There are three difficulty settings, which increases the longevity a little, but even then you'll likely master all three within an afternoon's play, and following that you're not likely to ever feel the urge to pick up this game again. The Track and Field titles manage to pull off such simplicity due to their addictive nature - no such quality is on display here. There are some multiplayer options to increase the lifespan of the game - you and your friends can take control of pretty much all of the competitors between you, through the clumsy process of passing the Game Boy around, although to be perfectly frank, if you suggest a round of Quarterback Club as an alternative to any other option, your friends are likely to wind up questioning just what it is they like about you anyway.

Graphically, though, this game is rather impressive. Most the events take a 'behind the shoulders' approach, and the view of the pitch that this affords is rather detailed - you can see all the lines that have been painted into the turf , and the crowd in the background and such. The one side-scrolling section is the better-looking, though - your sprite is satisfyingly large and detailed on the screen, and the movement is rather fluid, if a little slow. This contrasts nicely with the lack of detail bestowed upon the cardboard cut-out player that features here - the sense that this isn't meant to be a 'real' player is created very nicely. It's just the mystery object that you must hurdle that lets the side down really.

The graphical highlight, though, must be the photo-realistic imagery that the game employs at times - digitised versions of the player's mugshots are on display in the character select screen, and these look very easy on the eye (I'm assuming that they do in fact resemble the players in question...), but this technique is used to it's best advantage in between the events, when a commentator (looking every bit as realistic as the players) actually moves around while his speeches scroll across the bottom of the screen. The piece of film that they loop for these sections is extremely short, meaning that roughly once every second or two the chap will wave his finger at you in a vaguely menacing manner, but even so, it really does show off what the humble Game Boy is capable of.

The music on display is slightly less able, unfortunately. While you do get a different tune for each of the four events, the only one to really stand out is that used in the first - the other three are all really rather similar, and have an unfortunate tendency to merge into one when you try to think back on them. The sound effects, though, are downright poor. The clunking noise when your ball his a target is just odd, more than anything else, but the low point is the downright surreal noise that rises up from your speaker when you run into a cone on the obstacle course - it sounds very much like a car scraping down the side of a wall, as opposed to a large man impacting with a small plastic object.

This is a game that really deserves to be forgotten. It looks quite nice, but that just can't hide the fact that it consists of a meagre four events, not one of which is even long enough to be considered a mini-game. No matter how good the photos may appear, I refuse to believe that they took up so much space that there was hardly room to fit a game on the cart too. And even if that was the case, surely somebody would have pointed out to the developers that it should be the graphics that were cut back to make room, not the game itself. The most ardent NFL fans may well find something worthwhile here, but for everyone else this is the videogame equivalent of coming home to find that Rik Waller has eaten all your porridge, broken your chairs and is now sleeping in your bed. Naked.

tomclark's avatar
Community review by tomclark (March 07, 2004)

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