On The Ball

Title           On The Ball
Game Type       Sport
Players         1
HD installable  ECS: Yes AGA: HD Only
Compatibility   all Amigas (AGA enhanced)
Submission      Isaac Abraham 

I first bought OTB (as I`ll be calling it from now on) in it`s ECS
incarnation, because I had a crummy old A500 with one floppy drive. Oh, how
I hated it. Coming on five disks, you spend more time swapping disks they
playing the game (and I`ll be talking about the game in a minute, don`t
worry). In fact, I hereby order you to not buy this game UNLESS you have a
hard drive and some extra RAM. You see, when you watch your team play, every
incident comes with a beatifully drawn animation. Unfortunately, on floppy
drive, this is mind-numbingly slow. A corner takes a full 34 seconds to load
in on 68000 powered machines. On an 030/50, 16 megs (with HD of course), it
takes all of 2 seconds, and then you can enjoy the game without frantically
looking for disk 4.
Anyway. It`s a football manager game, but, it`s real life. Get rid of those
dumb statistic based games, I say. In real life, do you know how good Chris
Armstrong is? Sure, you know he can`t shoot with his left foot to save his
life, and he`s great in the air. But could you say for absolute certainty
that he`s a an 18/20 for heading, and a 7/20 for influence? Rubbish.
Thankfully, OTB shuns stats like I shun Maths exams. The only things you
know is if a player is especially good at a thing, like creativity, or if he
is bad at a thing, like he has no stamina. The only other things that they
have are their strength i.e. ability rating, from 1-7, and their current
form, from 1-20. A player who was and 7-2 has the ability to play like Paul
Gascoigne but is playing poorly at the moment. Players also given character
assessments - their temperament, e.g. hot headed, their motivation, and some
some other ones that I can`t remember. But it all helps things bounce
along nicely as you instantly can build up a picture of your players,
instead of having to get a calculator out. Oh, and player names are
FICTIONAL. This means that you have to actually use some sort of managerial
skill, not just put in your dream 11 from last Saturday`s FA Carling
Premiership. Another plus point, IMHO. But, should you really want to, you
can edit all of the players in the game thanks to a nifty built in player
editor module.
The game proper starts at the qualification stage. You are in you office,
and can look at your team sheet, calender (to arrange team get togethers,
friendly, scouting missions etc.), stats page (bookings, goals scorers
etc.), and a few miscellaneous options. It also has an autosave feature,
which is mighty useful because the game has a nasty habit of crashing,
especially if you have a joystick plugged into port 2 of your amiga. So, you
pick your team, and go to the end turn bit. Next, an event usually occurs,
like a new, young star has joined the squad selection, or a injury to a
player, or even something like "your player Garcia has just gotten married.
As such, his form suffers because he is preoccupied, but he is very happy".
This takes time to get used to, but you really get a feel for your players.
When you play your first match, you`ll be surprised by the amount of cut
scenes and clips - the game plays like a condensed match of the day, with
about 100 animated scenes on disk for incidents like free kicks, corners,
goals, fouls, and so on. During half time you get to give your team talk,
and praise or criticise one player. This will affect your team`s performance
in the second half, but it can often be difficult to know who exactly is
performing well or badly, and you may initially find yourself praising the
wrong players.
But after a couple of sessions of playing the game, you`ll find that you get
the hang of it all - certainly it takes less time for a complete novice to
get to grips with this than with Championship Manager, say. I`ve only really
scratched the surface - I`ve missed out the training sessions options, the
World Cup itself, the scoring system, press conferences - the list goes on
and on. Every game really does unfold in a different way, and even when
playing with more than one person, the game still moves fairly quickly, and
it`s still fun to watch the other person`s matches. Yes, there are a couple
of faults, like the training sessions where you end up doing nothing for a
minute or so, or the poor spelling (!) and misplaced options, but niggly
faults aside, this really is the managerial game to end all others.

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