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Super Shock Football
by Andrew Blake on Monday 5th Oct 2009

With the right pair of rose tinted glasses you might enjoy this game.

Nostalgia is a funny thing. Through my own rose tinted spectacles I look back on pretty much most things from the 1980s as the pinnacle of greatness (or awesomeness to the max as the cool kids of the time would have said), whether that be anything I played on the Amiga or the cinematic masterworks of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Being from Britain I suspect that a fair number of my contemporaries feel that way about childhood classic Subbuteo - for our transatlantic cousins, it was a plastic facsimile of "soccer" where kids flick plastic players at a plastic ball… or each other’s eyes… or the floor, and why won't the bloody ball go into the bloody goal?! I hate this game it's stupid let's go watch Knight Rider instead. As mystifying (and in all likelihood crap) as that may sound to our American readers, nonetheless the game still generates warm feelings in a large number of 20 and 30 something British males.

For our readers in the UK, it turns out the States had their own Subbuteo equivalent - Electric Football. Played with a degree of randomness even greater than flicking tiny plastic people, their game involves placing players on a vibrating table that seems to be a demonstration of chaos theory at work. After placing players in a chosen formation the table is set to vibrate, with the little figures fanning out randomly in the hope that, like the proverbial butterfly flapping its wings and causing a tornado a million miles away, your choice of putting the player just there will result in it moving randomly towards the ball and into the end zone for a touchdown.

Super Shock Football is a pretty much note perfect recreation of Electric Football, which is both its greatest achievement and its greatest failing. With a cutesy art style and graphics modelled on the real life game it certainly looks the part, with initial impressions being very charming. Once play starts however you realise quite how faithful a conversion this is, with the randomness being very much intact. Allowing you to choose from a selection of different formations for each play, or moving the players yourself into a custom formation, the game gives you an illusion of control, of actually being able to influence what happens next. When you launch the action though it does become completely random, with your carefully designed configuration meaning absolutely nothing – go for a pass, leave the ball with the quarterback, create a strong blocking line, none of this matters when the players lurch off in random directions that have no bearing to your planned strategy.

Admittedly, when one of your players does make a random run for the end zone it can be momentarily thrilling (hooray, something is finally actually happening!), but when the same player then spends the next minute turning in circles on the same spot while nothing else bloody happens the initial thrill turns quickly to boredom and then annoyance. Making matters worse, when playing the AI the game appears to be selective in its randomness – seeing your players vibrating in circles every time they have the ball whilst the computer players 'randomly' get a perfect vibration down the pitch is a sure recipe to close the game down and just play Peggle instead.

Aside from vague feelings of being cheated then, the core issue with Super Shock Football is that it is too good as a conversion of Electric Football to a digital format. Whilst the randomness may have created giddy fun as a group of kids clustering around the board in the 1980s, as a game and a form of digital entertainment this needs to stand on its own merits and, most importantly, actually be fun. Unfortunately in this case frustration is the word that springs to mind, with the lack of cause and effect in your formations, the boredom of watching players spin randomly for sustained periods of time, and the cheating AI creating an experience that I just can't recommend.

That said, nostalgia is a funny thing, and if you have the benefit of being able to play this through rose tinted spectacles created by fond childhood memories of Electric Football then add another point to the score below. Whilst as an entertainment experience Super Shock Football is lacking, as a direct conversion it has scored a touchdown.

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  • Sound: 7
  • Graphics: 8
  • Gameplay: 5
  • Longevity: 5



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