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Adidas Championship Football Amstrad CPC Review

The 2016 UEFA European Championship tournament is underway right now, unfortunately it is getting more attention for the fan  violence off the pitch than the actual competition. So to cast our minds away from all of that craziness, focus on the football and i look back at a soccer / football game released during the time of a World Cup Year, in 1990, on the Amstrad CPC, by Ocean Software.

At the time, i remember Ocean Software were concentrating heavily on very successful movie film licences like the highly acclaimed Batman the Movie and the arcade conversion of Chase H.Q. Both released in 1989. The last time that Ocean released a football game on the Amstrad CPC was way back in 1987, with Matchday 2, so it seemed a little odd and out of place that Ocean Software would be putting out a football game.

But, 1990, was a World Cup year, Ocean’s rival software companies had already been releasing various World Cup football titles, that were eating up the sales charts, so perhaps, Ocean, felt it necessary that, they, also had to release a football game and cash in on the 1990 World Cup video game sales.

Why the name Adidas Championship Football?  From my Google research, Ocean, were very late to the 1990 World Cup football game party, so late, that the World Cup had already finished. A possible reason for this may be due to the fact that because of  licensing agreements they could not use the ‘World Cup’ as part of the name in their game.

CPC Amstrad Adidas Football

Adidas Championship Football, was released on two other 8bit micros, the c64 and the Spectrum.  Both systems had reviews of the game in their respective magazines with different fortunes.  I learned that the Spectrum version was well received and hit as high as number 2 on the sales charts at the time, in contrast the c64 version received poor reviews from most of the systems magazines.

As for the Amstrad CPC version, I found no magazines reviews of Adidas Championship Football.  One of the reasons why I have decided to write a review of it. This is the second such weird occurrence, that I have encountered with Ocean Software, the first being the release of the world wide movie box office smash hit, called Robocop, that amazing Amstrad CPC movie licensed game, was never reviewed by the Amstrad magazines at the time.  Some online sources suggested that Ocean just forgot to send out copies of tapes / disks to the magazines for review purposes…..

I load up Adidas Championship Football on my WINAPE CPC emulator….. its been a while since I last played it, like years and years ago. I still find the name of the game weird as it has nothing to do with Adidas and its not really a championship style game, its a replication of the World Cup competition.

Everything at the start seems straight forward, flowing from one screen to another quite nicely,  it’s what you would be expecting from an Ocean game – cool looking loading screen artwork, followed by game intro of coders, then a very delightful and soothing cheerful continuous music theme plays.

You’re asked to choose your controls either keyboard or joystick.  Once selected you are asked to choose one or two player.  The drawback here is that you can’t play against a friend or family member, you can only play as one player and as one team. So even though you select two players it won’t give you a two player game as such but rather one player having two games as different countries.

Here was an opportunity missed as a two player game could have also served as a means for a practice option allowing the player to hone their skills and abilities, it would have been a nice feature. Once you select your player preferences then you move onto select a flag from 24 different nations.  All the biggest names in World football are there – Brazil, Germany, France, Italy, Argentina, Spain etc. After selecting your country, the draw for the competition is held and run autonomously by the computer placing 4 random teams into 6 different groups.

From here you are given a number of options which include changing your controls, changing the duration of a match, saving to tape / disk or turning off or on sounds.  The main option you will be using often is choosing your formations ie playing style 4-3-3 or 4-2-4 or 4-4-2 or 3-5-2. Now there’s only one thing left to do and that’s decide the coin toss before the match to see who kicks off and who receives first, its pretty simple just choose heads or tails and watch the coin drop.

All of the opening sequences are basic in appearance, yet I feel they still look impressive in the Amstrad CPC’s 16 colour, mode 0.  It may have a very simplistic feel about it but it works and navigation and selecting the options is so easy to use.

Playing the game however is a totally different story….

The game’s playing style is from a top down or overhead view.  This style of game view was starting to take off around this era of 8 and 16bit home computer gaming with the likes of Kick Off and Microprose Soccer as two examples. My internet surfing on this game shows that the Amstrad CPC version seems to be similar and more like the c64 version in appearance than the spectrum.  The CPC version has a much brighter colour palette than the c64 version as well as some other slight differences but the two versions seem almost identical.

The ZX Spectrum version on the other hand is quite different graphically, especially with on screen referee icons.  I believe it may have required disk and 128k to achieve that on the ‘ speccy’ version. That would have been a nice touch to the game, however the referee decisions only appear at the bottom of the screen on the Amstrad CPC version.

Size of the playing field is decent enough, with three quarters of the screen being used for actual playing football.  It is much improved on other Amstrad CPC footballing games I have played.

The remaining one quarter of the screen is used to display your country you are playing as and your computer controlled opposition country, the players numbers, your health / energy bars, the amount of power you are using to pass, kick and throw in with, the type of ball you are about to use when your player takes possession ie either lobbed and high or flat and with speed, the time remaining count down clock and of course how many goals you or your opponent have or have not scored.

Everything seems fine and dandy before the whistle is blown to start proceedings…. and then everything unravels and becomes an extremely annoying and frustrating game to play. I am not exaggerating, the controls are a damn nightmare to get to grips with.  Moving your player towards the ball and then trying to take possession can be quite a challenge. Then when your player does take possession of the ball, controlling it, keeping possession and running with the ball or simply passing it to another player on your side is your next challenge to master and much practice is needed.

Player selection of the sprite character closest to the ball can be quite infuriating.

If you have the patience you may find that you get the hang of the controls and may enjoy the game but its not likely you will or many others will either.  You’re more than likely to smash the screen or throw your joysticks at the wall. What makes it so so so frustrating and annoying is the playability is awful.  The speed and movement of the football can be chaotic at times, with the screen scrolling around at quite high speeds and the computer opponent is able to string passes together with ease and with better accuracy than you can.

As the football whizzes around the screen you have to select the player closest to the ball who can take possession, a lot of the times it swaps between who it thinks is closest and you are very often left in ‘no mans land’ trying to figure out which player you want to chase the football. Once you have played the game a few times, you start to learn the patterns and you may become good at guessing which player you will use to chase after the football and take possession.

After not having any luck at finding a game manual in English I learned how to take better control of the ball –

There’s two ways you can do this, either have full power by pressing the button down and moving your player into the ball to take control of the ball, once you let go of the button your player will kick the ball in the desired fashion you have selected.  You can move your player in a 360 degree fashion and still control the ball allowing you to change directions but you must have the button pressed at all times. The other way to control the ball is to not have any power and just run with the ball with no button pressed until you want to pass it or shoot for goal.  This second method allows you to change the way you kick / pass / shoot the ball while still being in control of it.

A great deal of co-ordination and concentration is required because while trying to control your player with the football you need to be aware of your speed and power bars on the bottom of the screen  because they will determine the type of power, distance and height that the football will travel.  The straight arrow for high lobbed kicks and a diagonal arrow equals a low kick and with full power gives you maximum distance. This is really important for when you get close enough to shoot at the goal.  High lobbed shots will generally sail over the goal bar if you don’t time the distance correctly which is no easy feat.  The low, long distance kicks have a much better chance of scoring a goal.  The goalie is quite good at protecting his goal so you will need to be accurate in getting the ball into the back of the net.  Possible scoring chances come from walk ins, long range from center midfield, coming in from flanks at a diagonal direction, crosses into the box, corner kicks and penalties.

If you haven’t kept an eye on your screen you will more than likely find yourself passing the ball back to the opposition because when the ball hits your players it can just bounce off and into the possession of the opposite side or head out of bounds for a free throw. While all this is happening you hear these sounds like gun shots, that’s right gun shots and they are coming from either your team mates or your opponent laying a hard tackle.  The gun shot sound is quite apt as you usually see a player sprawled out with hands above their heads on the grass and they look quite dead.  This leaves you a man down while they recover from being almost murdered.

Players do get booked but it usually ends up as play on and occasional they get a booking and resulting free to the opposing team.  Players will get sent off from time to time but this appears quite random.

Graphically the game is nothing spectacular but what is does well graphically is its presentation of the opening sequences and of navigating and choosing your options.  There is good use of colours throughout the options screens as well as the playing game screen.  A possible negative is that your players are always wearing either blue or red shirts and not the colours of their nation while the game is being played. No speccy port style graphics, which is a relief.  Everything is clear, and easily identifiable.

The football may well look a little un-football like but its fine and there’s no problem seeing the ball or seeing your players, they are the right proportions.  Sound is cool, about three tracks play out on the main options screens and there are a number of spot FX during the game such as the shot gun sound when a tackle is being made on an opponent.  I quite enjoyed the FX sound of when the ball hits the goal uprights giving that extra ooooh so close feel of just missing scoring a goal.

Grab factor, well you probably won’t enjoy it initially but if you do find it a challenge and want to beat it then you just may find the grab factor and staying power will increase greatly.  There is three group matches to play to determine if you are successful to challenge in the finals and then there are another three games to play if you make it to the final round.

I have played this game extensively both recently and back in the day of the 1990s.

Initially, I did hate this game with such a passion, however for some bizarre reason, I am fond of this game, probably for all the wrong reasons…..

I don’t know what has kept me playing, perhaps I am just footy mad and love sports games and saw this as a really difficult challenge and a game I really wanted to keep playing until I succeeded with it. I did manage to succeed and win the world cup tournament and quite easily in the end even with one of the lowest ranked national teams, but, I still don’t think, I will ever master the controls and sprite character movement fully.

Having said all this, there are some things I need to point out – playing the game can become enjoyable, it did turn out that way for me.  I persisted and persisted and developed a game plan to win regardless of what country I chose to play as.  Getting used to where players will be, is crucial to getting anywhere with this game, it is very possible to do very well at this game.

There are elements of this game that are very good such as the playing area, use of the goal keeper, the colours and then I think of Microprose Soccer and there are elements in that game that are really good like the thunder, lightning, rain effects and banana power to curve the ball.  If anyone were to code a remake of these two football games into the one game, then I reckon it could create a great footballing game indeed for the Amstrad CPC and may rival the great Emlyn Hughes, Amstrad CPC football game.

5.8 out of 10…… really could have been a brilliant football game

Pros

= = = = = =

  • Easy to navigate throughout
  • Very simplistic but good presentation
  • some nice cheerful tunes
  • it’s a challenge make no mistake
  • Colourful, good use of colours and mode 0
  • When you get the hang of it you may just like it

Cons

= = = = = =

  • Frustrating and annoying controls
  • Frustrating and annoying sprite character movement
  • Would have been great to see the large in game referee icons like in the speccy version
  • No proper 2 player mode
  • Chaotic ball and screen scrolling movements
  • Only one format of game – World Cup style tournament
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