Speedball, and even more so its sequel Brutal Deluxe, had been big, influential hits. Other games applying a similar style to basic (or, to give it a more positive spin, proven and trusted) concepts of the sports genre started flooding the market. One of these copycat games iswhich goes as far as almost copying the player portraits verbatim.
The sport presented here is a simplistic ball game where two players (two human opponents or one against a computer-controlled one) try to throw the ball into certain scoring zones before it is bounced back from the invisible walls or the arena while obviously trying to prevent the opponent from doing the same. Any kind of body contact is not possible; rather, both players need to stay on their own side of the pitch. So gliding left or right to catch the ball and then throwing it at just the right angle to hit the targets while avoiding the other player's attempts to block it is key.
At first glance,looks rather attractive in its three-dimensional view on the arena. The checkerboard pattern on the floor, with tiles lighting up as the ball passes them, actually helps orientation immensely. Opponent skills vary vastly, with the training drone being adaptable while the real players whom you can play in the “underground league” for money will, of course, just be the way they are (but still different from one another). Different pitch layouts, with obstacles scattered all around, but always symmetrical to keep things fair, make for additional challenge.
So it's not too bad, until you realize it's really not much more than a glorified Pong: try to get the ball flying at an angle so that it will pass the opponent and consider its bouncing pattern when it will hit the walls. Those only being implicitly visible (the perspective does not allow for actual walls to be shown, but empty tiles indicate where they will be) does not exactly help to foresee well where the ball will go. Defensive maneuvers are actually more or less impossible given the graphical viewpoint.
The only hope is therefore really to score higher than the opponent. In this respect, unfortunately, hardly any games ever seem to be close at the end. Maybe it's my clumsy playing style, but either I seem to beat an opponent easily or I get my ass handed to me so badly that “sitting” through the final three quarters, basically watching the opponent score higher and higher becomes quite tedious.
In the end, no stylish menu pictures can save this one. Sporting a simple core game mechanic is not the problem; making it worse by moving it into the third dimension is. This decision makesactually less playable than the hundreds of Pong clones and variants which just have a plain overhead view.