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ISN'T IT amazing how clever these American Football (thereafter football) players are? I mean, they all go to university and they all come out with degrees. So maybe they have to spend at least 30 hours a week outside training, but why can't we be like that? Then again, how many of us would want a degree in Applied Running About or Advanced Drooling?

4th and Inches is all about the tactics and skills of football. Best played with a joystick - in port 1, a pain for single players - it includes two-player options using mouse or stick, timing options of five to 15 minutes per quarter, and a Biblical quote from a guy called Paul.

It's also got some semi-rancid tunes, which initially sound lovely but drive you up the wall when you realise they're played every down.

As with the real game, there are many possible plays with many variations on each, involving different combinations of players. Other things that stay the same are the silly names. Shorts and Nickels are defensive; Double Tight Ends and Pro Sets are offensive. And quite rightly, too.

You have four downs to gain 10 yards, otherwise you lose possession. The first thing to do is choose the formation - five are given, with the sensible one as default. You make your choice and the little chaps rush into formation.

Next you have to choose the play - again, five are given. Finally you select the position that will do the action. Football freaks will be incredulous at the lack of jargon used here.

If you choose a totally gaga option when making an offensive play, the program burps at you. The guys at Accolade must have spent hours drinking Coke and jumping up and down in front of the mike.

Virtually anything goes defensively - but not very effectively if it's really implausible. It can be a little annoying to see a carefully planned play result in a 38 yard gain for the opposition. The playfield doesn't scroll along, instead it flicks in the manner that some sports productions do, with a flash to the next view. This is all very well, but the action is usually split up just when your running back is about to get creamed. The little chaps, who in real life are anything but little, are neatly produced with clean graphics and good animation.

The computer opposition is utterly fallible and will gladly leave plays incomplete just to make you happy. They still tend to beat you 27-3, but you can't have everything.

4th & Inches makes you want to play it, even though the tunes make you want to join the Neighbours School of "Acting".

4th and Inches logo

Accolade/US Gold, Amiga £19.99

Thirty-two, sixteen, forty-eight... Hut! Hut! Hut! Everyone knows that Americans worship American Football more than they do the Pope, but what is it all about?

Well, your basic objective is to transport the ball from one end of the field to the other, scoring a touchdown if you reach the other end. You've got a number of different offensive and defensive moves at your disposal.

You take the role of both coach and players, selecting the team, strategy and different types of play, then putting those strategies to practical use. Played using either mouse or joystick, you can go just as silly in front of the telly as the Americans do in a crowd of a hundred thousand other lunatics.

Zzap's Thing: I'd give more than 4 inches!

Gordon Houghton With TV Sports Football as its competition, you've got to admit that 4th and Inches doesn't look so good. Technically, the Amiga version is just as accurate as the 64 and gives you pretty good game of American Football, but frills-wise - there just aren't any. The graphics are just a bit more well-defined than on the 64 and that's about it: no improvements in terms of presentation and nothing to add that bit of extra spice to the game. If you like your simulations bare and boney, you'll definitely love this. Everyone else, try it out first.
Maff Evans Whereas TV Sports Football uses the Amiga to produce some quite dazzling graphic effects, 4th and Inches doesn't show any improvements over the 64 version, released about a year ago. There's not much in the way of sound, either: just a couple of basic tunes and a second or two of sampled crowd roar. This is an accurate, if slightly easy, sim of American Football - but faced with a choice between this and the competition. I know which one I'd rather buy.