Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
There was a time, in the late eighties and early nineties, when The Bitmap Brothers could do no wrong. The isometric wonder of Cadaver and arcade brilliance of Magic Pockets and The Chaos Engine defined my Amiga days as strongly as the work of Sensible Software, and Xenon II: Megablast blended tight design with electronica long before Wipeout came onto the scene. But it’s Speedball 2 that dominates my memory of those days, and with good reason.
There are so many instantly iconic flourishes in Brutal Deluxe: the simple animation that denotes the arc of the ball so perfectly, the medbots that remove an injured player, the cry of the ice-cream vendor…
Going back to the game now, the view of the pitch/court/arena feels too restricted and the pace too rapid. I want more control of my team as a whole, as well as the individual player sliding, crunching and sprinting after the ball and whichever opponent is unlucky enough to be carrying it. At the time, that frantic pace and sense of barely controlled chaos was the whole point though. Speedball 2 was a sport reduced to razor sharp focus on possession, scoring and violence, with no unnecessary distractions. The off-field elements do just about enough to create a sense of progression and persistence.
For all that it feels like a product of its time, I’m not sure that I’d encountered a better futuresport game until Rocket League crashed into my heart earlier this year.