Platform: Atari 2600
It was mandatory for every videogame console sold in the United States with ambition to sell having, at least, a title about American Football in its catalog. Atari already had tried one for its Atari 2600 console, but it was a virtual consensus that it lacked in many fronts.
Facing a huge comptetition from Mattel’s Intellivision with a vastly superior library of sports titles, Atari decides to launch a second wave of sports titles. The two first videogames, were about the two most popular sports in United States: baseball and american football. Shortly after, the company chooses to rebrand them in a new line called Realsports.
If we compare this title with the previous one of this sport from Atari, definitely it is more realistic, at least with the shape of the virtual footballers. The limitations of the console did not allow to having all the players in the field of a real-life american football match.
The videogame allows one player to face the videogame AI, feature relatively common in sports videogames of those years where two teams faced each others. This videogame offers the possibility of different formations either at offense (7) and at defense (4), specifying with the joystick the play, according if the player is attacking or defending. You can consult the next table:
|Up and left||Long pass top|
|Left||Run top||Against short pass top|
|Down and left||Short pass top|
|Down||Kick||Against long pass|
|Down and right||Short pass bottom|
|Right||Running botttom||Against short pass bottom|
|Up and right||Long pass bottom|
With the joystick button you can start the play and later it’s used to execute a pass or kick the ball. In my opinion it was a bad idea asigning the least used play, kicking, in two directions, and two oftenly used. It was very frustrating playing the first time in hometown and seeing only kicks. Until a dude tried to select a play using a diagonal.
Once we discovered how to pass, we saw the game either lacked some features like the fumbles, or that as the play starts when the offensive player press the button there are no offsides. But, the cherry in the cake, is when a defensive player intercepts a pass, well, it falls to the floor as if tripping with a hole in a field where a musical was performed the day prior to the game. Also, if a rival player, even if it’s grappling with another, touches the virtual footballer with the ball, it’s an instant tackle, so try to get thru where there are no rivals.
In two-player games, it’s interesting the match because of seeing who chooses wisely the play either at attack or at defense. In one-player games, the AI is not very skillful, so it can be seen as a practice mode.
You can think that for the next Atari console, the game could have important improvements. But in this case, the main improved area where the graphics, and also the funny way to choose a play using the keypad ot the console, selecting a play in a three step system, from 18 available. In defense there are less options. Along with the instruction manual, came a formation manual.
So far, so good, because two-player games are quite competitive. But in one-player games, well, the videogame consider it of practice… LITERALLY because the human player has to select both offensive and deffensive play using two controls attached to the console. If you ask me, it’s not very intuitive.
This version appeared a bit later, but I consider worthy to mention that the Atari 5200 is basically a trimmed down Atari 8 bit computer oriented to videogames. In theory, it’s not hard porting from one platform to the other.
That wrote, I can understand this version looks very similar to the Atari 5200 one. But I can not understand is why the most notorious improvement is only a board at the top of the screen, and, that there are less offensive plays. There is even more, as the funny mechanic of one-player games having to select plays on both sides of the field remains.
For some reason, Atari decided to sell some playing cards with the image of this game. As far as I know, this was the only videogame with that kind of merchandise. You can see in this link a picture of one of those boxes of playing cards.
The game is funny, and just like many of the first sports titles of the time, is way funnier playing against a human player. It’s a really nice try from Atari, but probably it ended convincing them that their best is not in sports videogames, because there were no more tries in that area until the end of the Atari 2600 time, just prior to the 90s.
Console Icons taken from Retroarch.
Image used in datafile taken from AtariAge
Picture of playing cards courtesy of Rob // Atari Spot.