Company: Sportstime (distributed by Gremlin Graphics and Mindscape)
Plataform: Commodore 64
Controller: Keyboard or joystick
Other names:Gary Lineker’s SuperStar Soccer, Superstar Outdoor Soccer
Football, sport known in the United States of America as Soccer, already with many videogames in arcade, consoles and computers by middle 80s. The company Sportstime tries its luck with a videogame of this sport mainly in the european market, but trying also to set a foot in the north american one, in many platforms.
Being more computer oriented, the game focuses more on team management as General Manager than on the matches themselves. This is mainly because you start managing a team in the lowest tier of football leagues (fourth division in the game) and must take the team until first division taking as many seasons as needed. As expected, the talent is scarse and it’s mandatory either to buy more talented players, or develop existing ones.
To this goal, the game provides a point system (limited per season) available to the “management” to increase players’ skills, make training camps or trade players with other teams. The game does not allow unfair trades to dismantle teams, and according how well performed the team, it can allocate more or less points. This is a really good way to leverage the teams in a certain tier.
In the first season, the videogamer can choose between a league in the United States of America, or in England, being the names of the teams real cities of the selected country. You start with a really low amount of points to spend. Take note that I have written season many times in the entry, that is because, the first one ends and immediatly starts the next one (forewarning these times with practically no rest for the footballers between tournaments), getting more points to improve the club. This is important, because as the seasons passes, the players can either grow, or getting old, the age plays an important role in field performance, Consider that to either hire or trade a player.
Now we refer to other feautre of the videogame, the matches. If the videogamers wants to, can change the performance in the field of the team’s matches. Being either the head coach, to choose offensive and defensive formations, define substitutions, and control either the goalkeeper of the striker. In an uncommon feature at the time, another human player can join to help the main one controlling other player (if player 1 controls goalkeeper, player 2 controls striker and viceversa), or controlling the rival team.
In the field, where you an play watching the field in an horizontal perspective, there are 7 players per team and it’s possible to exchange positions between players, which can generate undesired side-effects in performance. You can only control either the striker or the goalkeeper, as already mentioned, but also perform as the head coach, letting the artificial intelligence control all the action, situation I don’t recommend. At most, for beginners, control the striker, because when I controlled the goalkeeper there was not much difference in the scores.
The videogame in USA was known as Superstar Outdoor Soccer, but you have to consider that in those years, many videogames for MS-DOS computers had the limitation on screen of using only four colors from two different palettes: black-red-green-yellow or black-white-cyan-magenta, neither one really good for sporting videogames. This game uses the first one, however the playability is practically the same as the Commodore 64 version.
Personally I found this version a bit faster than the Commodore 64, but it can be due to the emulator used.
In Europe the videogame was known also as Gary Lineker’s Superstar Soccer, and the version I could play for this platform was in french, language I known very little, but the consistency of the menus between versions allowed me to play it.
The game uses better graphics, but frankly, controlling either the goalkeeper or the striker was harder than in the other ports.
The company created videogames which used the same engine but with slight variations for Hockey and Indoor Soccer. This speaks really well of the solid design used to create the game, but as videogamer I think would be a bit frustrated of seeing videogames practically identical.
I consider the videogame as a good one. The feature of handling the management of the team is a great feature, but the earlier matches can generate overwhelming scores which can be quite unfunny to some videogamers. Understanding the trading system takes time, but it’s interesting once you caught its mechanincs and it’s fun.
It’s not for a casual match, but for long-term planning and that way, the game is quite enjoyable. I find very, very rewarding when the club rises to play at the next tier.
Console Icons taken from Retroarch.