5. ENGLAND CHAMPIONSHIP SPECIAL (23%, issue 11)

1991 was an exciting time to be a football fan in England. A heartbreaking exit from the semi-finals of the World Cup the previous summer felt like a low at the time, but the nation had its best crop of players in years and some real heroes. Domestically, plans to bring the cream of the crop from around the world – with the formation of the Premier League – were just months away. Little did we know how that would turn out for the national side…

EnglandCSreview

The digitised pics of England players were a nice touch. Probably the only neat thing in the game. And a reminder of what different times they were, too: nothing here was used with permission. They didn’t need it. These days, player likenesses and names are big money.

The previous summer’s Word Cup games had been the predictable farce: 8 bits never managed to emulate the beautiful game very well. World Cup Soccer: Italy 1990, Italy ’90 and Adidas Championship Football ranged from OK to awful. You had to go back to 1988’s Emlyn Hughes International Soccer to find something that was vaguely fun, or the same year’s Microprose Soccer for anything approaching accuracy.

The market was ready, then, for something new. By 1991 the C64 was churning out the sort of incredible software that could never have been imagined back at its launch. Could England Championship Special join Creatures 2, First Samurai and Turbocharge up there with the new breed of C64 classics?

Er, no. It’s a mess. It’s your 8-bit standard “overhead” view, with the range of options you’d expect: tournament, single game and practice. Tournament is the game’s heart, in which you try to win the trophy by escaping from your group and battling through the knockout stages to the final. In between games you can mess with your team formations and lineups. All that stuff. Except that you shouldn’t. Because the game “locks up” if you do, and the only thing you can do is turn off your computer and load up the game again. You can get through the tournament – but you can’t ever, ever change your options because of this issue, so you’re forced to play all manner of teams (attacking, defensive, etc) with the lineup that you start with. It’s a shocker of a mistake in a finished, full priced product. Was it ever playtested?

As for the game itself – there’s little authenticity here. The clock stops during throw ins and goal kicks (was anyone involved in the game a football fan?), and your team mates run around seemingly at random. All you can do is attempt to dribble the ball into the net yourself. Passing is useless, with the ball often simply bouncing off your intended recipient’s head.

Anything else? Well, there’s loads. Have a look at the full review if you’re feeling strong. That this game was released in such a state at all is unacceptable. The fact that kids were charged £10.99 for it is borderline theft. CF

CF SAID: “Over ‘ere son, in the bin.”

WE SAY: It crashes every time you play it. Every time. 

  • The widely circulated ROM of this game that you’ll find online includes a fix for the bug mentioned in this feature. 

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