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Classic Game Review: Star Bowl Football
What do you do when the season is over? When the local football field is finally snowed in and the final Bowl games are decided, does that mean you have to spend your winter weekends actually cleaning out the garage or vacuuming the attic? No…Not if you’re lucky enough to have an Atari home computer and a neat little Game star, Inc. program. have the name STARBOWL FOOTBALL (SF). Thin out your throwing arms, football fans, it’s football time!
SF is a sports program that was released in 1982, but has recently gained a lot of attention from the media. The general lack of good sports games for Atari makes this program especially interesting, as it is one of the best soccer programs for Atari currently on the market. Although many types of computer games can be abstract, we expect a sports game to reflect reality as accurately as possible. In this regard, SF fits the bill very well. It’s visually full of nice touches, such as a green, one-hundred-yard field marked at ten-, five-, and one-yard intervals with appropriate end zones, goal posts, and yard markers.
The football players themselves are smartly designed and very well animated. The sounds include several college fight songs, a bit of “The Star Spangled Banner,” the whistles of the referees, the roar of the crowd, and even the sound of a ball being kicked.
Overall, the graphics rate above average and I suspect will be satisfying even for us hard-to-please Atarians. Well, the game looks good. But what about the game? First of all, SF is easy to play. Although it claims to have 196 different play combinations to choose from, it actually only offers a choice of four passing plays and three running plays on Offense and the same number of counter plays on Defense. While this may not seem like much, it serves to keep the game moving at a fast pace. So, after a few minutes of learning the easy-to-understand game instructions, you’ll be managing your team like John Madden himself. However, the game is not easily mastered.
It requires a combination of strategy and timing to score big. In this case, you will be more successful against a human opponent than against a computer, because the computer opponent is too heavy to even be used for training. (For example, in a typical game against the computer, a friend of mine threw in the towel after the score reached 100 to 0. However, the game developers claim that the computer CAN be beaten, so maybe it’s a matter of persistence) .
In addition to one or two player mode, you can choose from two different skill levels, College or Pro. I would suggest the college level at first, but the Pro level offers the most fun once you’ve mastered the basics of the game. In SF, the action takes place on a horizontal football field with only about 35 yards visible at a time. The TV screen automatically rotates the length of the field to keep track of the game as the teams move up and down.
Just like in real football, the goal in SF is to beat your opponent with punts, field goals, or safeties. In trying to do this, you must learn to deal with the game clock, 30-second clock, interceptions, fumbles, and penalties. The entire game is controlled with a joystick, including game selection. There are six players on each team, only one of whom you control the ball carrier in attack and the free safety in defense. The computer controls the movements of the other men. However, you can program pass patterns for each Receiver and blocking assignments for the offensive line, as well as pass coverage for the cornerbacks and rushing assignments for the defensive line.
Once the ball is picked up, the quarterback has a chance to run with the ball or pass it to a receiver if you have previously (secretly) designated one accordingly. The free safety can hit or block the QB and try to make an interception or tackle. To complete a pass, you must press the trigger when the ball reaches the receiver.
It takes some practice to become an expert at this, so be patient! (Even then, if the receiver is tightly closed, the transition may be incomplete). Hitting someone while carrying the ball, even your own man, can result in a shot that can sometimes turn into an automatic turnover. Score a field goal, though, and your man does a little victory dance in the end zone that matches a successful “in-your-face” drive! Anyone looking for a clever and visually appealing football game simulation will definitely be pleased with SF. The main flaws lie in the clumsy, unrealistically hard PC gameplay and perhaps overemphasis on passing over running. But overall, I recommend this game to anyone who loves it and is looking for an excuse not to clean out the garage next weekend.
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