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Brutal Redux: Crunchball 3000

God, I just love how Brutal Deluxe feels as it sits on your tongue.

Nosing through the comments thread on Kickabout League between relaxing games of simulated foot-to-ball, I caught Supraliminal disparaging the game and hailing the wonder of Crunchball 3000. Awesome, thinks I. If it’s better than Kickabout League, that’s great. I’ve found a new crush. Sadly, after playing, it’s really not, being a straight Speedball 2 clone with none of the online multiplayer options or subtlety of play of Kickabout League (You may note the repeated links are me trying to make more of you play the thing. C’mon. Man up). Which isn’t to say it’s not a bit of a giggle. Some more details below…

Speedball 2 is a bas-relief bass-soundtracked hyperclassic I suspect someone at RPS will be writing more about in the near future, so it’s always welcome seeing it again, even if in a stripped down form. You can play either a campaign against the computer or against a fellow human on the same machine. The campaign season allows you to train and improve your members – not as detailed as Speedball 2 with its player-by-player upgrades, but with you making the whole team train for one sort of ability, buying different equipment for everyone or even doing drugs and risking losing the match. Sneaky. It works on a movement and two button system, with tackles and throws being on one button and passes and player-switching on the other. In practice, it’s somewhat fiddly – the further out Sensible-esque graphics don’t really help a game whose point was always the big, hefty sprites to help make things as clear – and visceral – as possible. Also, it’s worth noting that Speeball did all it did on a single button, and while we gain “proper” passing with Crunchball i) it was never the point of Speedball II and ii) we’ve lost the upfield lob by holding down buttons. In other words, the extra buttons don’t add much bar the ability to be pressing the wrong button at the wrong time – when a game motors like this, transparency of the system is paramount. Oh – and the game doesn’t yelp “Ice-Cream” occasionally. You’ll have to do it yourself. Ice-cream! Ice-cream!

The last one’s not a real criticism, of course, but me realising that you may be thinking “He’s just criticising the game for not being Speedball 2! That’s not fair! You should take a game on its own merits. Don’t be a dick, Kieron!” Which is right. But…

1) Speedball 2 understood intricately why this sort of game worked, and by using it as a comparison, I can show why Crunchball doesn’t punch nearly as hard.
2) It’s such a shameless Speedball lift that I don’t really care. Rip something off like this, and go the whole hog.
3) I’m totally a dick.

But it’s certainly something which shows how serious webgames are getting. A cut-down Speedball game you just play in the browser? 17 years back or so, and that was state of the art. Now it’s something you can casually have a campaign of, playing a match, boosting your players and carrying on. If you want a touch of the nostalgic kick for kicking in the face, go play.

(I’d go play Kickabout League. European server to minimise lag. And try a team game. Up to 4 human players a side. Proper football.)

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Kieron Gillen

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Kieron Gillen is robo-crazy.

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