iPhone gamers are nostalgic. The App Store has played host to ports of R-Type, Flashback, Giana Sisters, Sonic, Monkey Island, Broken Sword, and many more vintage licences. Just this week SEGA added Altered Beast to the retro game tally.
There are already emulators running C64 and Spectrum games, and an Amiga emulator from retro specialist Manomio is being playtested as we speak.
So it's no surprise that the recently announced Speedball 2 Evolution has been generating a bit of interest in the video game blogosphere. Originally released by Bitmap Brothers in 1990 for Commodore Amiga and Atari ST, Speedball 2 is a stone cold classic.
This latest return to the Speedball 2 universe is being produced by Jon Hare's Tower Studio (in collaboration with Vivid Games). As a founder of Sensible Software, Hare is responsible for some of the Amiga's greatest moments, including Mega-lo-Mania, Cannon Fodder, and the Sensible Soccer series. Speedball 2 would appear to be in safe hands.
We spoke to Hare about Speedball 2 Evolution's gameplay, how much you'll have to pay for it, and what the studio is doing next.2D or not 2D? (2D)
“Speedball 2 Evolution is pretty similar to Speedball 2 in that it's a 2D, top-down futuristic sports game,” says Hare. “Although the hardware's clearly capable of 3D, we went with 2D because the gameplay works better that way – a lesson I took away from developing Sensible Soccer for XBLA. The key for us is that we're making a great 2D game with top quality 2D art, rather than an average 3D game.”
In terms of gameplay, Hare says, Speedball 2 Evolution is faithful to the original Speedball 2 and retains that game's one-stick-one-button simplicity. “Anyone can play.”
The 'evolution' of the title refers in part to the expanded tournament structure. As in Speedball 2 you'll be able to spend credits upgrading your team between matches, but Speedball 2 Evolution expands the boundaries of the series by introducing an Intergalactic Champions League, where you'll be able to play against 12 intergalactic teams of humanoid extra-terrestrials on themed fire, ice, and cyber planets.
This isn't the only evolution. The iPhone is a very different beast from Commodore Amiga, on which most of us played Speedball 2 using a Quickshot or some other plastic wrist-breaking device. Tower Studios and Vivid have built the game around the hardware, and some may be surprised by the approach the partnership has decided to take.Cut your coat according to your accelerometer
“Speedball 2 Evolution uses tilt controls,” says Hare. “You tilt your device to move, and touch anywhere on the screen to throw the ball or attack. An on-screen D-pad is also available, but we decided to use tilt by default, because it doesn't clutter up the screen. It works best for the hardware, and I'm pleased with the result. I think this is the best Speedball 2 since the '90s.”
There are other less obvious changes to the Speedball formula in Speedball 2 Evolution, says Hare. “The player selection is subtly different. It's like a cross between Speedball 2 and Sensible Soccer in some ways, but most players probably won't notice the difference.”
Of course, Speedball is a sport, and no sports game is complete without multiplayer. Speedball 2 Evolution will feature Bluetooth multiplayer. Game Center integration will also be included, along with Facebook Connect and Twitter.
On the subject of future releases, Hare hints in two directions. “I want to make a new football game,” he says, “but we're in a good position for retro games so we might look at bringing another Bitmap game to iPhone – probably Chaos Engine.”
Few will be disappointed at either prospect. The Bitmap Brothers's Chaos Engine is one of the better Amiga era shooters, and Jon Hare is responsible for creating Sensible Soccer, one of the best loved football game franchises of all time. If Hare can master the hardware, this may be one to watch in 2011.
Hare seems cautiously confident about the future. “Out of the blue the iPad version of our latest game Shoot to Kill just went ballistic and stormed into the top 10 on the App Store in 18 different countries, reaching #1 in France and #2 in US and China, so who knows what Speedball 2 Evolution and all of our other future games can do."
Speedball 2 Evolution will be out on iPhone and iPad early in 2011. The price hasn't yet been decided, but Hare reveals that it'll be somewhere between £1 and £9 on iPhone.[Editor's note: This interview was first published on December 21st 2010. Republished with screenshots released today. Speedball 2 Evolution will be out this month.]
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