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Speedball II: Brutal Deluxe (Amiga) artwork

Speedball II: Brutal Deluxe (Amiga) review

"So there are eight directions on the joystick, with the four clicking on and off. There's one fire-button. You can hold it down for different lengths of time before you release it."

So there are eight directions on the joystick, with the four clicking on and off. There's one fire-button. You can hold it down for different lengths of time before you release it. In the game, this is used to make the currently controlled Speedball-player run, tackle or punch towards different (straight) angles. And the ball can be thrown with different strengths in the direction you run, but with an added “spin” if you yank the controller towards the end of the throw. The ball can then be caught by moving near it as it falls down, or by leaping towards it in flight.

The way this works on the field is that the player always controls the toon with the ball. While the AI runs your players towards reasonably clever positions near the ball otherwise. The standard formations also make your players stick to about the same positions, and will actively try to run into good positions if you are advancing. Or intercept opponents on the way back, allowing you to control the character and choose whether to tackle yourself, or to block the opponent on the way in.

It's an assisted control-scheme that works well with two-player as well, either in versus or cooperative mode – you push the button to call a nearby toon to the action in the screen. While whether or not you succeed at getting the ball, or delivering it before being punched to the metal floor, depends on timing and the condition of your players.

There is another aspect to the AI assistance too: the animation consistency. It probably seems limiting to only be able to run straight ahead or at 45 degree angles. But in truth, as it appears to you on the screen, that makes perfect sense. Instead of doing any intricate catch-ups or speed-bursts before the tackle, that entire process is simplified to choosing the timing of the tackle. The same impression is what you're left with when throwing, since the AI will move into range with slightly more precision than you have, and then allow you to take over control soon enough to make you control the action.

If you play league in Speedball 2, you can then pick at the formation and behaviour of the players you have on your team. It's not actually necessary to pick at to win, but you can create strategies and schemes that make your team specially effective in particular circumstances by pushing for specific attacks, or bolstering the defense, etc. What about hiring some brutal veterans from the now defunct and banned Speedball 1 league? It's expensive, but might pay off, if you can control the behaviour of the AI.

But most players – even very experienced video-game players – will probably never figure out the intricacies of the Speedball league and training system. And that's perfectly fine, because you will easily enjoy the game after a couple of minutes just as it is. Still, if you do play the game more, and advance through the league with your team, you will want to find out how the system is put together. And the game allows you to do this without having to wade through a large manual.

Visually, the game is also both immediately pleasing, as well as with enough depth to never seem simplistic. Space-age football leagues, and references to the sports and action-movie booms of the nineties aside for a moment – Speedball 2 looks like a cross between hand-ball, hockey, and American football. And is played in a steel-encased arena. Brutal Deluxe, the team you will play or manage throughout the game, is one of the teams playing in the now unbanned Speedball 2 league.

There are no specific sponsorship feats you need to perform to gain bonuses in the game, but you can tell the rules of the game were designed with viewership numbers in mind – anti-grav fields and point bonuses, as well as gaining clear advantages from brutal tackles reveal as much. If a player is downed after a particularly brutal match, a sponsorship jingle is announced in the background while the player is hovered out of the court by a medical drone.

But the reason why this game works, both for casual players, and then for casual players who play the game more than an hour, is that the core game-mechanics are solid. While the extras are actually extras, on top of that solid experience. That the visuals and sound was brought up to a level that didn't immediately scream “video-game” with the Amiga 500 version certainly also helped, along with the smooth control-scheme.

So there are eight directions on the joystick, with the four clicking on and off. There's one fire-button. You can hold it down for different lengths of time before you release it. That should be too little to create a sports-game that has depth, without also making it too complex, or dependent on meters and boxes. And it should not be enough to create an illusion of fluid controls, without also making the control of your character feel too stilted, or the movement too scripted or assisted by the AI. In short: the Bitmap Brothers found the perfect balance between scripted action and control in Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe, in a way that any amount of ports, including the 3d version, never accomplished afterwards.


fleinn's avatar
Community review by fleinn (March 12, 2011)

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