AMERICAN football is low in my list of favourite sports. The sight of several hundred men dressed up in ridiculous costumes has always in my opinion, been a good argument against colonial independence. The manual goes on at great length about the various game options, but never goes so far as to actually explain the rules of the game. Things seemed bleak, and the prospect of watching Channel 4 on Sundays seemed my only means of finishing the review. However, by a great stroke of luck some friends popped in and demanded to see a game. As fate would have it, GridIron!! happened to be in the drive. Several hours later I still could not separate them from the computer, as phrases as "Turnaround on Downs" and "First down!" reverberated off the walls.
Much to my horror I found myself slowly being drawn into the game. The rules started to make a crazy kind of sense. I started saying "Ohhh!" and "Ahhh!" when things became close. Initial impressions were of total disbelief. Was this really an Amiga with a custom co-processor and the best graphics available this side of a Risc chip? Yes, it was. And what is more, an Amiga running a sports simulation from the people who brought us the incredible Wayne Gretzky Hockey. But forget blitters and sprites this time, GridIron!! shows you must what you need to see - 22 blobs masquerading as players moving around a pitch kicking the living daylights out of one another.
Sound is another matter -throughout the game the digitised roar of the crowd rises and falls as the action hots up. When the Touchdown picture appears and your player bounces the ball off the turf, the spectators go totally wild. The umpire's whistle signals any interruption to play, and an announcer gives the latest game news over the PA system. Very atmospheric.
For the benefit of those who, like me, are new to the game, here is a brief run-down of the rules I have grasped so far:
1. A team consists of dozens of players, up to 11 are on the pitch at a time. Some of them have silly names.
2. Each member of a team can attack any member of the other team, with some minor exceptions, even if the referee is looking.
3. Each team has four attempts to get the ball moved 10 yards up the pitch towards the opposition's goal line. If they do not manage this, the ball is given to the other team, who have a go instead.
4. 4. Points are awarded if the ball is successfully transported or caught across the goal line.
5. There are four quarters, each of 15 minutes. Thus a game can last two hours.
And you though the rules of cricket were strange?
GridIron! can be played with a friend or against the computer. The two-player option is more fun, but really needs tow mice to play properly. If you only have one mouse and a joystick, you will have to keep swapping over with your opponent. Very annoying. There is an advertisement in the back of the manual offering to sell you an extra mouse. Very tacky.
Each of the computer players plays the game independently withy his own direction, speed and momentum. You select from a pre-defined series of team movements at the start of a play, and each player gets on with it. Later you can create and save your own movement patterns.
If you are interested in American Footbal, or even if you only enjoy simulations and sports in general, GridIron! demands a look. You too could soon be shouting "Hup! Hup! " and not know why.