You know what? We'd take one team of footie-playing 13-year-olds from any playground in the country and put them up against the best team that the English Premiership has to offer. You might think that's bit of a one-sided contest. And you'd be right. The Premier League players would get whupped. There's no team harder in its defence, tougher in it's tackles or more vicious in its attacks than a group of teenaged schoolkids. Think about it; you've got the crazy kid in goal, the one who'll dive flat out to save a shot, knowing full well he's going to land on the tarmac and grit playground. There are the feet-first tackles in the rain and puddles and may God have mercy any player who gets trapped with the ball in the corner of the playground. Then there's the ball control itself; given that most matches take place with a tennis ball, any one of these kids would be past John Terry before you could say "nutmeg".
It's clear, when seen from this perspective, then, how the sport of Speedball came about. Get two teams of seven hard-as-nails nutcases, wrap them up in armour, give them a metal tennis ball, a hard playground surrounded by walls and then let them go nuts. There's no pretence at subtlety; just pick up the ball and run. And don't get mown down by the opposing defence. It sounds simple and it is. But it's also utterly, utterly brilliant. Games are frantic affairs as you try and score goals by hurling the ball past the opposing goalkeeper, and bonus multipliers are available by flinging it at the pinball table-inspired furniture littering the arena.
It's an idea that the famed Bitmap Brothers (if you don't know, ask your Dad) came up with back in the late 80's and this, Speedball 2 Brutal Deluxe, is a perfect copy of the game that sold millions on the old Amigas, Ataris and Megadrives of our youth. But you don't need to be familiar with the game's past to enjoy its present. The visuals are terrific; they're certainly not flashy but they work, and work well. The sounds are meaty and the controls are what the term "pick up and play" was coined for. You move with the joypad on your phone and throw/pass the ball and perform tackles by pressing '5'. There's nothing else to it, which enables you to fully enjoy the action, tactics and strategy.
Because aside from the on-pitch action, you can also captain your team (the titular Brutal Deluxe) up the ranks of the Speedball league. With 15 other teams to fight through, it's a challenging prospect. You have some help, though, as when you play and win you earn money, which can then be spent on improving your players' speed, strength, agility and other such abilities. You can also trade players, sign new ones and generally be every bit the guv'nor.
Buy this game and it'll be one you come back to time and time again, it really is that good. There are few other games that we can think of that offer as much value for money or long-term play appeal, even though your average match will last little longer than 5 minutes. But that just stands as testament to Speedball 2's brilliance.
NB: The original version of this review detailed a Bluetooth mode, which was subsequently removed by the publisher before the game was finally released. We apologize for any confusion caused.