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.)

10 Comments

  1. Fr3ak says:

    So what was your reason to write about that? do you think Speedball 2 Fans will care about this game? Common…
    I really like RPS and your points of view, but this article is just useless in my eyes.

  2. Pags says:

    I actually got more of an urge to play Hyperblade than Speedball 2 when giving this a go, probably because of the cool uniforms.

  3. felix says:

    Thanks for reading my comment anyway!

    It’s weird, I found the controls on Crunchball to be amazingly fine, whereas Kickabout was slow and the sprint mechanic annoyed me. Odd that you found the opposite.

    After some practice on Crunchball I was able to finely aim a shot right at the goal with more accuracy than Kickabout, which I think is pretty cool since Kickabout has an aiming arrow and Crunchball only shoots the direction you’re runnng in.

    I totally take your point that it’s a shallow Speedball copy, but are there actually any decent Speedball copies or sequels around right now? I feel it’s a very polished game, with good AI and strategy, the rapid pace of higher leagues is really cool.

    The only thing that they got wrong was the upgrade system. There’s no incentive to use the smaller training upgrades.

  4. The Innocent says:

    9 out of 10 adbots agree:

    Kickabout League is better than Crunchball.

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  5. Supraliminal says:

    Yes it was felix who came up with crunchball at the first place, I just exaggerated the point a bit.

    Why I prefer crunch over kickabout is a soup of many factors (oddly said duh).

    Well the controls are simplier and more accurate, I think.

    There are more players on crunch and they attack each other in some bloody (not really) rage (well not really), ending up in a mass of armorplated people hitting other armorplated people just to get the ball. It’s always so satisfying to see sych a behavior. In clear words C has 10 players each side K has 4 each side if my math is correct (it might not be)

    In kickabout players don’t improve or evolve, they just have one thing they are good at: one kicks (the ball) hard, one sprints and one tackles the best. That is a dull decision, which leads in one guy making the goals, one sprinting and so on.

    Lastly tactics have a greater affect in Crunchball(over)3000
    and you can change ’em in the heat of the battle(I mean game of course) and really alter the course of history/the match.

    This is clearly a personal opinion, and I wouldn’t really fuss about it.

    Oh one bad thing about Crunch just passed my mind: they can’t drop the ball accidently. Nah maybe it’s because the poeple oh the future (behold) have better grip.

  6. viper_irl says:

    “ice-cream ice-cream” :)

  7. CitizenParker says:

    For me, the spiritual successor to this game will always be the under-appreciated Xbox game “Deathrow”. Man, that game was brilliant.

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