How many jump'n'runs can one person play and still enjoy? After all, the genre had been pretty much perfected throughout the 1980s already. How to set a new game apart still? Theme and style can help. Oh, and some gameplay gimmick., originally planned under the much more appropriate title , gets most of these things right.
Released in autumn of 1993, Krisalis were maybe even a little early with their game. The 1994 football world cup was still 8 months away. Too far to ride on the hype. Though somehow appropriate, as the plot (yes, there is a plot!) concerns locating the shattered parts of the world cup trophy, reassembling them and finally keeping it safe from an evil comedy alien.
Equally appropriately, the player can freely select the jersey colours to match their favourite team. Easily implemented, large gain! Also above that, the player sprite easily scores. Well-animated and equipped with a large head allowing for quite some expressiveness, it remains nice to behold throughout the entire game.
Likewise, graphical level design offers quite some variety. Starting out in England,subsequently travels to Italy, Russia, Japan and finally the USA. Cartoony cliché imagery of each place makes for pleasant scenery all around. Even if thematically, some choices are a little… generic? England and Italy were and are “football nations” for sure, and the USA were the hosts of the upcoming world cup, but Russia and Japan… why not Brazil, Argentina or (then) current reigning world champion Germany?
In gameplay terms, this visual promise of variety can't quite be fulfilled. Overall elements remain the same throughout. Whether you're moving across a Russian battleship or a Japanese high-speed train, through the lush greens of rural England or the American desert makes no big difference for the challenges ahead. In the same vein, an Italian waiter and native with a tomahawk act suspiciously similarly – though again, the highly articulated large sprites should make players sufficiently forgiving about this. Also, the bosses make up for this, each acting in a unique way.
And then, of course, beyond all these aspects of style and theme, there is the gimmick.doesn't just jump and run, but also kicks… his ball. There is no jumping on enemies' heads here. Instead, they are disposed of with targetted ball hits. Beyond that, the ball can even be used to collect items in inaccessible places.
A number of different kicks and tricks are available and the controls are well adjusted to allow for everything, but give the more complex ones just the right required skill level to not be trivial, but still manageable. Adjusting the height of kicks is essential to progress and easy to carry out. A bicycle kick isn't all that easy (just like in real life…), but strictly speaking also not needed ever. Unless the player wishes to go for extra bonus points.
Speaking of bonus, going through the whole game is possible without looking up and down. Though finding and accessing secrets is necessary to actually finishing it, because only a complete set of special items allows a shot at finding each trophy piece. The bonus level to achieve this is actually rather unimaginative, but apart from that, a good scheme to motivate players to explore.
With good graphics and overall fair gameplay,is one of the few genre entries I occasionally return to. Just to shoot some balls. Not caring much about some of them bursting, not trying to pick up all the collector cards. Taking in the scenery. Even when I finally fail, often sooner rather than later, there is no frustration associated. It's just such a pleasant game all around.