My first reaction to the news that Speedball II was going to be remade for iOS was one of apprehension. How could anyone successfully re-create one of my favourite Amiga games on an iPhone?
But I needn’t have worried. For a start, the original Bitmap Bros team of Mike Montgomery and John Philips, along with Jon Hare of Tower Studios, have been in charge of the project to bring the cult classic to the small iPhone screen. Secondly, Speedball II Evolution gets everything right, and then some.
If you haven’t played the game before, Speedball II is a mix of football, rugby and future sports. Two teams of 9 cyborg players face off to get their metal ball in to the goal and score points. As well as scoring points for goals, you can achieve further points by hitting the various wall positions or the large circle in the middle of the pitch or by injuring other players.
Each player and goal keeper has an energy bar. Fights between teams deplete this and add another element of strategy to the game. Concentrating on knocking out a key player on the opposing team will add to your score and force them to replace the player with a substitute, but it might also take precious time away from the game.
A career mode allows you to take your own team or one of the 16 classic and 12 new teams through 10 seasons to reach the ultimate Speedball Champions League. You’ll encounter 6 different play fields that all have their own individual style. It’s a long slog to get to the ultimate goal, but every win feels just as rewarding as it did in the old days.
Single player quick games and even a local multiplayer option bolster the game options, though the multiplayer seems to be finicky about pairing certain devices, we couldn’t get the iPhone 3GS and 4 to work together over WIFI. The multiplayer, when it works, is a great addition to the game and adds another layer of challenge. Online multiplayer would have been a nice touch, but we’ll just hope that arrives in a later update.
The default tilt and gesture-based controls are surprisingly effective, tilting the device allows you to move while swiping tackles and touching the screen shoots or passes in the direction you are facing. On paper it seems like a terrible system, but it works perfectly and avoids the issue of having a finger over part of the screen. For those wanting a more traditional control scheme, there is a virtual joystick along-side the same touch controls which is pretty responsive. After trying out both methods, I stuck to the tilt controls for the career mode.
Though graphics and sound have been updated to some degree in order to make the most of the hardware, the game is still faithful to the original, more-so than the recent Xbox Live version. You can tell that members of the original team have guided Vivid Studios through the creation of the game, with Jon Hare of Sensible Soccer fame also involved in ensuring Speedball 2’s quality. Everything works perfectly on the small iPhone screen as if the game was originally made for the device.
In re-creating a classic game, Vivid Studios have triumphed with this iOS version. Every ounce of fun has been successfully transplanted from the Amiga classic. But more than that, they’ve added to it without diluting what made the original so good. Both fans of the original and newcomers alike will have a great time with Speedball II: Evolution.
- Sound: 9
- Graphics: 9
- Gameplay: 10
- Longevity: 9
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