If you're old enough to recall the days of the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST, then the name Speedball 2 is almost certain to bring you out in misty-eyed bouts of nostalgia.
This futuristic sports title defined an entire generation of gamers thanks to its compelling premise, chaotic gameplay, and addictive two-player mode - the latter of which is oddly absent from this Xperia Play port.
Half rollerball, half football, the deadly sport of speedball basically involves getting a metal sphere into your opponent's goal. However, by taking down rival players and putting the ball through special score generators you can earn even more points. The team with the largest figure on the scoreboard at the end of the game is declared the winner.
One of the most irksome features of the iOS version of Speedball 2 Evolution was the controls - the tilt-interface was worse than useless, and the touchscreen controls resulted in your fingers obscuring much of the on-pitch action.
The Xperia Play version removes that issue - movement is controlled by the eight-way D-pad and everything else is mapped to a single button.
That might sound simplistic when you consider that the Xbox 360 version of FIFA 12 makes use of every button on the pad, but simplicity has always been one of Speedball 2's greatest assets. With just one button in charge of everything - from tackling to passing - it’s blissfully easy to pick up and play.
The competitive element of Speedball 2 Evolution is vitally important to its popularity - back in the days when we all used to crowd around our Amigas, it wasn't the single-player Career mode that was keeping us entertained - it was the viciously competitive two-player feature.
As we've already mentioned, this element has been removed from the Xperia Play version of the game. There's no local multiplayer whatsoever (Bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity were both present in the iOS edition), and it goes without saying that online matches are out of the question.
To make matters worse, the game is plagued with technical issues. We couldn't get it to load initially on our phone, and it was only when we’d switched off wi-fi that Speedball 2 Evolution decided to play nice.
Once into the game we discovered that it's currently impossible to exit the Gym screen as the 'back' button refuses to register, and we were also greeted with several in-game crashes, forcing restarts.
These teething troubles will no doubt be rectified by the developer in a future update, but it's disappointing to see them slip through the net - especially when this release is so narrow (outside of the Xperia Play, only a handful of Android devices are currently compatible with Speedball 2 Evolution).
Playing on my own
It's a crying shame that these problems exist, because - bugs and lack of multiplayer aside - Speedball 2 Evolution plays like a dream on Sony Ericsson's phone. The control is sharp and precise, and absolutely ideal for the frantic gameplay that has made this 16-bit classic so famous.
The updated visuals are also less objectionable than hardcore fans would have you believe. Yes, we miss the lush, chunky pixel-art of The Bitmap Brothers version, but these up-scaled equivalents still look incredibly attractive.
As it stands, Speedball 2 Evolution on the Xperia Play is a mere shadow of what it could be. If there's any justice in the world, the developer will add in the essential two-player mode in the not-too-distant future. Until then this offering is only worth checking out if you're a die-hard fan of the original.
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