Rugby: The World Cup logo

Just one question: why are the English such good losers? It's not as though it's anything to be proud of is it? We got stuffed by Australia and everyone's walking around saying "Oh well, we put up a good fight". What rot! We lost and that's all there is to it. Anyway, I'm not a good loser and here's a game which gave the chance to stuff the Aussies well and truly.

In true let's-cash-in-on-a-popular-sporting-event style, Rugby The World Cup is a representation of the clash of 16 nations in Rugby Union. To this end, you can play either a one-on-one match, pitting one country against another, or start a complete World Cup tournament which enables up to 16 people to participate.

In effect what Domark have attempted to do is create Kick Off for people who play their balls oval rather than round.

From the main menu, single or tournament games can be chosen, and the match length can be set. Once teams have been decided a match proper can start. The teams troop out to the pitch, assume their positions and the side what won the toss, kicks off.

The up and blunder
The beauty of the best sporting simulations is their simplicity. Kick Off (there's that game again), worked because of the simplicity of the controls. Domark have tried to bring this to RWC, but there are many more permutations a player can make in the game of rugby.

During the game you control the nearest player to the ball, he'll get jumped by about eight very large men, so you're presented with a couple of choices. You can either kick the ball, pass it, or get tackled, in which case you either lose possession, or a scrum ensues.

In Rugby, as any British schoolboy will tell yo, you can't pass forward, so as the pack comes down on you, you can lob the ball down a line of players in the hope that one of them can make it to the try-line. Thankfully, this element of the game works brilliantly and it's very easy for you to get the ball quickly out to your faster players.

If a scrum takes place then the idea is to push the other pack forward so that you gain possession of the ball. This is done by waggling the joystick as fast as possible in left and right directions. Win the scrums and your scrum-half can feed the ball out to your backs. Should the ball go out of bounds, a line-out takes place, these are also won by waggling the joystick. The thing is that line-outs and scrums take place a lot, so by the end of a game of WCR your right arm will feel like it's played a real game of rugby.

It is possible to create fast flowing rugby, though if you're controlling an England side, you could be accused of not playing in keeping with the side's style. Each team has its own quirks and attributes, so while it might be entirely possible to completely decimate a team in scrums and line-outs, you might find out that they've got much faster backs than you and thus you end up losing.

Step forward William Webb Ellis
Graphically WCR works brilliantly. At the risk of accusing Domark of plagiarism, it's all terribly reminiscent of Kick Off, and as any Amiga owner will tell you, that's no bad thing. The screen scrolls quickly and smoothly around, the players are just the right size to be visible, but still controllable and the scanner option enables you to run for the posts rather than the corner flag.

Sound is bland, but then, few sports sims suffer because the sound is weedy. Gameplay is smooth and, for the most part, extremely rigorous. It's easy to imagine this being the kind of game which, if played against a friend, would lead to a very different kind of scrum on the living-room floor, particularly if you keep winning scrums and line-outs.

Deutschland, einig Rugby-Land?

Rugby: The World Cup logo

Bei Domark scheint man eine missionarische Ader zu haben, jedenfalls will die englische Company die Sportfans aus Germany nun zum Rugby bekehren. Ob's gelingt, ist zweifelhaft - trotz der ausgezeichneten deutschen Anleitung.

Rugby? Kann man das essen? Eher nicht, auch wenn der Ball hier aussieht wie ein Schokoladenei. Um dieses Ei ringen nun (im wahrsten Sinne des Wortes) je 15 Mann starke Teams, jede Mannschaft möchte die Lederkugel hinter die gegnerischen Torlinie ins "Try" tragen und dort ablegen (Touchdown).

Doch auch erfolgreiche Schüsse zwischen die Torpfosten bringen Punkte - allerdings nur, wenn man über die Latte trifft! Das hört sich irdendiw so ähnlich wie Football an, und zwar nicht von ungefähr: Der amerikanische Nationalsport ist sozusagen eine "Weiterentwicklung" dieser urenglischen Freizeitbeschäftigung, mit der sich die spleenigen Insulaner bereits um 1820 die Zeit vertrieben haben.

Domarks elektronischer Rugby-Weltcup (16 Länderteams in vier Gruppen; nach dem Viertelfinale KO-System) erinnert auf den ersten Blick recht deutlich an "Kick Off".

Okay, die Radarübersicht nützt eher wenig, und ein bißchen langsam rennen die Sportler auch, aber dafür (im Gegensatz zum Scrolling) fast ruckelfrei. Die Sticksteuerung geht prima von der Hand, nur die Rüttelszene bei einer Massenkeilerei macht einen etwas antiquierten Eindruck.

Sound gibt's natürlich auch, nämlich eine hübsche Titelmelodie plus "Stadionkrawall".

Rugby: The World Cup logo

Unashamed Kick Off copyist it may be, Domark's Rugby will echo the impact of the World Cup itself.

Me and my pal Duncan are a bit sports mad, so whenever there's a big soccer match or athletics tournament on the telly, we usually get a few beers in and cheer on our favourites. These are always good natured affairs, perhaps when our beloved nations (England and Scotland) collide.

When a good sports game comes out on the Amiga it's much the same, except these are never, ever good-natured encounters - or at least, they aren't when the sports game in question is actually any good.

Thus far, only Kick Off 2, Jimmy White's Whirlwind Snooker and Rugby: The World Cup have qualified as the sort of games that really get our competitive spirit burning, and, it has to be said, when playing the last in that list - the one reviewed here - things have degenerated from healthy sporting tussle through thinly-veiled hostility to virtual war. Yes, as a two player game, Rugby: The World Cup has been a Godsend.

It's deliciously rare that you come across a game that retains enough challenge to make you desperate to be good enough to beat your opponents, and when one does come along it should be savoured. Rugby will have you practising in private for those (perhaps rare) chances you'll get to out-wit and out-play your mates in the flesh (as it were), and in that respect this is a sports simulation in the truest sense of the phrase - the sort of game that, if you weren't doing it in the comfort of your own home with the minimum of physical effort (actually, that's not quite true - this does demand more sweat that your average sports sim, as we'll see) might almost qualify as sport per se.

Rugby: The World Cup is ridiculously fast, and for a computer game that uses characters the size of under-developed termites, stupendously violent. Here is a game that is as exhilarating as it is knackering - half an hour with this chunk of silicon chicanery, and you'll be sweating like, well, like a fifteen stone player.

So what makes it so astonishingly appealing? Well, as you'll have gathered form the screenshots and pre-release hype, Rugby: The World Cup is an unashamed rip-off of the Kick Off style of sports simulation. If the programming team Walking Circles had been commissioned to copy Anco's style, then they've earned their wages and then some.

But such artistic robbery is by no means the be-all and end-all of the game's success. Let's face it, Kick Off (and even Kick Off 2) has plenty of faults, whereas Rugby has very few indeed. The Kick Off similarities will be debated everywhere, and at tedious length no doubt, but as far as I'm concerned (and I'm the one writing the review, after all) they stop right here - Domark's game is above all that. It's simply too good to be cheapened by comparisons with a three-year-old soccer game that passed it's sell-by date some time last year - and anyway, it provides a different enough experience to more than stand on is own two feet. So let that be an end to such talk, eh?

The most appealing aspect of Rugby's gameplay is the way in which it has captured the spirit of the real game. This is no mean feat - in ten years of electronic experimentation, nobody else has ever come close. Alright, there've been a few management games, but these have been laughable or worse, wile attempts at action games have been so universally dismal they've all plunged into obscurity almost the moment they were released.

On this occasion though, the result is a good deal more satisfying. Almost everything from real rugby is here - line-outs, scrums, rucks and conversions. The only omissions are penalties and foul-play, which would have been exciting - especially given the importance of these in the recent World Cup itself. Some might argue that their absence here was a wise choice because you really do play your team as a team, and not as fifteen individual players, but I reckon that if this spawns a sequel (and I hope it does), then yes, there'll be penalties all right.

The most appealing aspect is the way it has captured the spirit of the real game

So how does the game actually work? Well, scrums and line-outs, the central conflict of the game, are won the hard way - by frantic joystick waggling. If you're faster than your opponent you'll keep on coming out of scrums with the ball, and it follows that you'll probably win the game.

For some, of course, that'll immediately sound like a down point. Fast joystick waggling is hardly ever a favourite among modern game players because it doesn't favour skill and dexterity so much as technique and, ultimately, stamina. Seedy jokes aside, your wrist hurts like hell when it's been waggling almost non-stop for twenty minutes - you get hot and bothered and frustrated but, hey, one look at the state of the guy you're trying to beat makes you want to carry on. It's the fact that you do have to push yourself physically, at least in some limited way, that makes this so satisfying a sports sim.

It's by no means all brute physical strength though> Tactics play a major role as do plain common sense and devilish timing. Tackling is a matter of simplicity. All you have to do is to steer the nearest man toward the opposing player who's carrying the ball. Each man is underlined, but it's possible to move the computer designated bloke out of the way, in order that a more convenient player can be selected. This may sound unnecessarily complicated, but in fact it's really quite simple.

Walking Circles have succeeded in making all parts of the game that should run automatically tick along without a hitch. For example, when you turn around to pass a ball backwards, there'll usually be someone with eager arms waiting to receive. This is always the case when coming out of a maul, although you'll find you only get about half a second from your scrum-back picking up the ball to releasing it.

Here is a game that is as exhilarating as it is knackering

Half an eye on the scanner will reveal the lay-out of players, but you really have to be quick to succeed cleanly without bringing on any more messy rucking and mauling.

When one player has possession in space there are a number of options available. He can run for the line, pass backwards, or kick forwards. Whichever tactic you favour will determine the style of your team's game, and (probably) its success rate. This, of course, helps you draw pleasing parallels with the real World Cup, where some teams were most definitely running teams, while others relied very much on long kicks.

In fact, this isn't (unlike many tie-ins) subtitled 'The World Cup' for nothing. The Cup does, in fact, play a fairly heavy role in this game, which is all to the good. For a start, before the big event, there were plenty of us who thought rugger was a game for big blokes who were too thick and too slow to play beautiful, precious soccer. Afterwards, though, you can feel a new respect for the game elsewhere, and Rugby: The World Cup helps ram the message home. The only reason there haven't been great rugby games before this is that programmers have almost criminally ignored the game's potential.

So, full marks to Domark then. They'll be happily cashing in on newly won converts to the glorious game, and they deserve it. If there's such a thing as justice, people will be playing their own little World Cup tournaments up and down the country this winter - while the game is fun and challenging in one-player mode (the computer opponents are no push-overs, even when they're USA!), it's at its best when you enter up to human competitors (up to 16!) into the proceedings and play the tournament proper.

As I said, this is very much one of those games which you'll play on your own perhaps not so much for pure enjoyment as in order to become proficient for those times you'll be squaring up against your mates - that's being the case, my recommending it if you're unlikely to be playing anyone else has to be much more reserved. If you do have got lots of similarly sports mad mates though, it's a must-buy.

With other people it's heaps of fun, and no mistake - and that holds true even if you're the sort of person who normally hates rugby. Who knows, even the sport itself - despite everything - hasn't managed to change your mind yet, this game just might.

Rugby: The World Cup logo

The second of this month's rugby offerings (Rugby - The World Cup and World Class Rugby) has a slightly Kick Off-ish feel to it.

Rugby - The World Cup is Domark's contender for the rugy game hall of fame. Like Audiogenic's it features all the world cup teams, but this is where the similarities end.

Domark have opted for a simplified rules system. Forward passes are still penalised, line outs occur when the ball goes out-of-play, and there are plenty of scrums. Off sides and other more confusing rules don't get a look in. There isn't enough substances - or even realism - to keep rugby fans happy. The game is very much a matter of charging head-first into the opposition, rather than one that requires a modicum of strategy.

The graphics for the players are small but tidy, much in the same vein as Anco's footy sim, Kick Off. A radar in the corner of the screen shows the positions of all the players on the pitch, although it is a little hard to follow because the people look smaller than microbes.

Conversions are viewed from behind the kicker, a cursor whizzes past the uprights - and all you need to do is tap the button when it's between them to send the ball through for two extra points.

Scrums are decided through frantic joystick waggling. This usually isn't too hard on the arms, unless you get several scrums in a row, which normally proves slightly painful not to mention tedious.

The rest of the controls are very straightforward with the fire button being used to pass and kick. Once the controls have been mastered, the game becomes very easy, and ridiculously high scores are easily attained.

Rugby - The World Cup doesn't quite have the style and realism of World Class Rugby, so if you want more of a sim plumb for the Auiogenic game. However, if you're after a version of Kick Off with funny shaped balls this is probably for you.