Italia '90 - World Cup Soccer

by Antony R. Lill, Novotrade Rt.
Virgin Games Ltd
Crash Issue 78, Jul 1990   page(s) 41

Virgin Games

World Cup Soccer '90 is the only 'official' World Cup soccer game, and thus the only one allowed to sport the little stick man mascot (named Ciao). It's also taken from an arcade coin-op of the same name, though it must be an obscure one 'cos I've never seen it. So, two licences packed into one Speccy game - does quantity equal quality though?

It's your chance to go to the top and grab that coveted gold trophy, though the other teams will obviously put up a fight. First choose a one or two player game, tell the computer whether you own a colour or black and white telly (I kid you not) and pick to play England, Belgium, Italy or Spain. The first qualifying game is played against the US of A (isn't Gridiron Football the American sport?).

The task is simple: score as many goals as possible in the time allowed (which is what soccer's all about, really -Ed). The player under your control is highlighted by an arrow, a good thing because all your team mates look the same. Control of a player can be switched by pressing the firebutton when not in possession of the ball.

When in position to score a goal the view changes from a side view to behind your player with the goal in front of you. The same sort of view is presented when you're defending (though you control the goal keeper). If you beat the USA you move onto the next match, and the next until you hold that cup in your hands, or fail miserably as the case may be.

Sprite movement is very nice, but then the backdrop for the main pad of the game is green so the computer's little memory chips aren't stretched too far. My two main niggles are the opposing teams' colours, a garish pinky splodge (yuck) and the lack of sound (unless you count the annoying whistle). Still, it's playable, and by no means the worst around.

MARK [70%]

I'm not a great fan of soccer games as a rule, but I did find World Cup Soccer 90 quite good fun (until I was knocked out in round two). This is a basic football game: none of the endless options you get with most, just a pitch and a few players to kick the ball up and down. The graphics have a digitised feel to them, but I don't think they are. The programmers have tried to give them a more realistic look than the stick men or cartoon players of other games. Their colouring is a little splodgy at times, especially when the players get together and clash. One fault I did find is that free kicks, goal kicks, etc are computer controlled leaving you just watching, and the goalie doesn't dive! To save a goal you just position him where you think the opposition are going to boot the ball. A good basic football game.
NICK [71%]

Presentation: 74%
Graphics: 63%
Sound: 40%
Playability: 73%
Addictivity: 69%
Overall: 71%

Summary: No-messing footy. Good, but lacks triff-making polish.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 55, Jul 1990   page(s) 10,11

Virgin Mastertronic
£9.99 cass/£14.99 disk
Reviewer: David Wilson

You'd only have to have the intellect of a small frozen pea not to have realised there's a World Cup this summer. (I resent that remark! Small frozen pea's voice) I mean, you surely didn't think it was a coincidence that every single software company in the world (and their dog) were inundating us with 20 trillion (at the last count) football games this year, did you? (Actually, yes. Small frozen pea's voice) I rest my case.

Anyway, of the aforementioned flood of footie games, here comes the only officially licenced one - it's Virgin Mastertronic's World Cup Soccer italia 90. This game originally came to the toff 16-bit machines from a coin-op converted by some bizarre Hungarian programming house! Our version though, you'll be pleased to hear, has come via those much more sensible Probe chappies.

Gone is the horribly baffling Hungarian version of the World Cup qualifying charts, but so too has the ref, the red and yellow cards (yuk yuk!) and the players being carted off on stretchers (boo hiss!). What we're left with is your usual one or two-player sort of overhead viewpoint arcade football game in which you lead Italy, England, Belgium or Spain on their bid for the World Cup. Why? I mean what happened to Scotland, Eire, Brazil, West Germany and the other 16 qualifying teams? Perhaps Virgin thought these were the only teams worth watching!

Anyway, the control system again offers little new - as usual you control the arrowed player (press Fire to move to another player). When pursuing the ball you press Fire to perform a sliding tackle and when in possession press Fire again to kick. Where World Cup Soccer 90 differs is in the way it switches viewpoint once you approach the goal - you find yourself positioned behind the striker staring into the net! Oh, ad if you're defending you get to control the goalie. Anyway, you both sort of move left and right in a crab-like fashion, then the striker shoots and the goalie (sometimes) dives (usually the wrong way). But don't dawdle too long though or you switch back to overhead view as a defender deftly whips the ball out from under your feet!

The pitch is green (of course) and the two opposing teams are blue and black. Sound is confined to a simple whistle for free kicks, and a salvo of whistles for full time. Still, despite the limitations of Speccy graphics, the gameplay is smooth and addictive. The 16-bit difficulty levels have gone unfortunately and, contrary to popular belief, Soccer - in World Cup Italia 90 - is a game of one half. Win the four minute match and you're onto the next qualifier etc etc. Nothing ground-shattering here, but smooth gameplay and plenty of addiction. Perhaps not the est of the World Cup batch (largely because apart from the title and the instruction booklet it has very little to do with the machinations of the World Cup!) but a close contender as a pretty good footie game.

Life Expectancy: 78%
Instant Appeal: 80%
Graphics: 70%
Addictiveness: 82%
Overall: 79%

Summary: Above-par footie arcade ation. Not that bona fide a World Cup game, but addictive fun nevertheless.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 77, May 1992   page(s) 61


And now, the moment a number of you have been waiting for. It's remarkable, it's resplendent, it's Replay!

£3.99 cassette
081 960 2255
Reviewer: Stuart Campbell

The Speccy is a machine that's pretty well-served with footy games (Match Day 1 and 2, Emlyn Hughes, Kick Off 2, etc etc), but that didn't stop another truckload of them being released a couple of years ago when the World Cup came round again. This game was the bearer of the official licence, which makes it all the more strange when you consider that out of every Speccy football game there's ever been, this one bears the least resemblance to any World Cup tournament ever seen. For a start you only get to play one of four teams, either England, Spain, Belgium or Italy. An inspiring selection and no mistake. As a scotsman I pondered for seconds and seconds over which one I'd be, but after a few games playing for England and deliberately getting thrashed, I decided it was time to get a grip on myself and play the game properly. Big mistake. The first impression you get when the teams lumber out onto the pitch is 'Ugh. what repulsively crude and blobby graphics!' Still, unlike some other footy efforts where the players merge into one big impenetrable mass of colour clash, Italia '90 is nicely animated and reasonably clear. So I'll forgive the tacky look. What's harder to forgive is the gameplay. Sophisticated tactics go right out of the window here, the name of the game is 'Get the ball and weave your way up the pitch until you get into your opponent's penalty area, then when the view switches to a behind-the-player one with your striker against the goalkeeper, move from side to side for a while until there's a space in front of you and punt the ball straight into the net. Easy.'

Well, that WAS the name of the game, but Tronix decided that Italia '90 was a bit snappier. Anyway, after a few minutes of this you're likely to get completely bored and start exploring the game's other innovative features instead. Unfortunately, it doesn't have any, so that won't take you very long. Italia '90 is so basic that it doesn't even have halves, for goodness sake! Each game lasts four units of unspecified time, during which there are no breaks. The teams shoot one way all the time, and if the game is drawn at the end they simply continue playing until one of them scores. The winner moves into the next round (a sudden-death World Cup tournament?) against someone like The People's Republic Of China (well-known force in world football), and so on until you either win the Cup or lose a game. It's about as much like a World Cup - or football at all, for that matter - as Dannii Minogue is like a steam-powered ocean liner. Complete tosh.

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Overall: 44%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 101, Jul 1990   page(s) 26,27

Here they come, here they come, here they come! As predictable as rain at Wimbledon, the deluge of footy games make it through the tunnel (just) in time for the World Cup. Just like the Biggest Match, there can only be one eventual winner. So who, at the end of the day, will emerge with the shiny gold goblet and who, will be saying "Well, our marketing gameplan was sound, but the programmers didn't really give 100%. And it was an awfully partisan crowd"...

Label: Virgin Mastertronic
Price: £8.99
Reviewer: Jim Douglas

"Well, Elton, the boys went out and they tried their best, but at the end of the day, they just couldn't put anything together.

"Yeh, course, it would have been nice if we'd had more than seven men on the pitch, but the Virgin officials assured us that it would be okay. Obviously, we took it easy to begin with, saving some energy for a big finish, so it was a bit of a blow to discover that there wasn't a second half. I think it came as a bit of a shock to the lads.

"I was pleased to see that the officials were catering for people with black and white tellies, with the different strips for the teams. I don't know how it looked on your monitors in the commentary box, but the boys looked a bit wobbly round the edges for most of the match. To be honest. I couldn't tell who was who, but I don't really suppose it matters that much.

'Something I was less chuffed about was the way the boys didn't seem to be paying attention to anything I said to them. For the whole match, I'd be shouting at my defenders to get their act together and tackle, but they wouldn't listen.

"I was a little confused after the reading through the instruction booklet to find that having had the theories of the indirect free kick thoroughly explained, to be told that there was no indirect kick available during the match.

"Now, you know me, I'm not too keen on stoppages during a game. So I wasn't at all pleased to discover that when I was sending my players in one direction and telling them to kick, and the other manager was doing the same (and he was controlling his boys with a joystick) everything stood still. In professional football, you can't reasonably expect to play a 100% game with so many accidental stoppages. It'd be almost as silly to expect two people to use Spectrum keyboard at once...

"That said, the pace of the game was reasonable. You could get the ball from one end of the pitch to another quite swiftly, and the boys, despite their fuzzyness - ran around looking fit and fast.

"I suppose, at the end of the day. The Virgin boys laid on a reasonable event. Shame they couldn't manage more than one half or a full team on either side though."

Graphics: 68%
Sound: 50%
Playability: 58%
Lastability: 60%
Overall: 60%

Summary: Unfortunately disappointing "official" World Cup tie-in.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 121, Mar 1992   page(s) 56

Label: Tronix
Memory: 48K/128K
Price: £3.99 Tape
Reviewer: Paul Berry

It's time to start the Mexican wave rolling out again because World Cup Soccer is back! Now for a budget price you can enter the contest (and try not to get knocked out by the Germans in the Semi Finals).

The aim of this game is to win the World Cup. (surprise, surprise!) after winning the qualifying rounds. Once through, your team is off to Italy!

Whatever team you pick, must qualify in the group to go on to the second phase, then the quarter finals, semi-finals and then eventually the final. It's a long road to the final, but it is worth it when you get there.

The graphics are good and are detailed. You can choose whatever team you like from Japan to Cameroon. The players are easy to control and well defined but the game is a bit on the slow side which can become severely frustrating during matches.

I never really got into this game - I actually prefer Manchester United and even Gazza 2. But if you think I don't know a football from a Black Forest gateau, then why not prove me wrong?.

Overall: 73%

Summary: Clear graphics and sensible control are spoilt by the sluggishness of the game. Fast paced-action it isn't but World Cup fans might fight their way through to the end of the road.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

C&VG (Computer & Video Games) Issue 104, Jul 1990   page(s) 73

Virgin Mastertronic
Spectrum £9.99, Amiga £24.99

What do you do when you're one of a multitude of companies who possess the rights to produce a footy game based on one of a number of teams, competitions and the like at around World Cup time, and you really want to do well in the sales figures? Don't buy just one license, get your hands on two of the little blighters!

That's what Virgin have done with this 'un, for, as well as the game being a conversion of the addictive coin-op soccer game, they're also clagging the Italia '90 stick man onto the box too, and calling it World Cup Soccer - Italia '90. Displayed in the now familiar bird's-eye view format, you take control of seven players from one of four countries, and must battle through the rounds to, hopefully, lift that cup and proclaim yourself champion of the footballing world. There isn't a half-time whistle; instead, the game plays right though until the finish, but does all the things which referees do best - annoy the players by dishing out throw-ins, free kicks and even red cards!

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Graphics: 89%
Sound: 76%
Value: 81%
Playability: 78%
Overall: 80%

Summary: Basically the same criticisms as the Amiga version really. The graphics look neat (although static players look decidedly disjointed), and controls are confusing but quickly learnt. Not a bad game if this is the sort of soccer action you're looking for.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

The Games Machine Issue 32, Jul 1990   page(s) 52

Spectrum £9.99

One of the biggest debates in the computer games biz at the moment isn't which is the best footie game on the market, oh no. It's who holds the official licence to this year's World Cup championship - judging from names and packaging, at least three software houses have. But Virgin are adamant it's them and who are we to disagree? (On second thoughts, don't answer that.) In their World Cup game, you can either play an exhibition match or go for the biggy and enter the Cup at the first qualifying round.

Strange. The sprites are strange blocky collections of pixels that, in an abstract way, represent footballers quite realistically, if you squint, put your head on one side, stand on one leg etc. Animation's quite good but on the slow side and a team's roughly coloured, causing lots of clash. Sound is restricted to the occasional bleep.

The games market is literally swamped with football games, most of them very plain and ordinary indeed, others divided between very good and bloody awful. World Cup Soccer hits the middle ground but its unattractive visuals and surprising lack of options pulls it toward the bad.

Overall: 60%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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