Growing up in the 1980s as a kid, the sports titles were one of the most popular genres on the 8-bit systems as we tried to replicate the exploits of our favourite sporting stars albeit in a highly pixelated and somewhat restricted form. While interest in gaming on 8-bit home computers in currently experiencing a renaissance, the number of full blown sports games developed over the past decade for these machines could probably be counted on one hand. Well Voxel Towers looks to rectify this situation with their development of CPC Soccer: International Edition (CPC Soccer) for the Amstrad CPC.
CPC Soccer is a fun football/soccer simulation game that sees you take control of one of 20 international teams as you put them through their paces in either a friendly exhibition match (against a mate or the computer) or the CPC Cup, a knockout tournament consisting of 4, 8 or 16 teams in which up to 3 of your friends can join you in the competition.
Prior to starting a match, you will have the opportunity to configure the team formation and select your players. Each team has a different set number of overall statistical points which are randomly allocated to every player in the squad before each match. You will have to review these stats and revise your starting lineup before each game if you want to field your optimum team for every match. But in saying this, there is nothing to stop you from accepting the default line up, just don’t expect consistent performances if you do. As CPC Soccer is not a licensed game in anyway, the database of player names are derivatives of real player name and most will be recognisable to the current followers of the world game.
Once you have settled on your team, it’s time to hit the pitch. Here you will immediately be reminded of Sensible Soccer as the match action takes place with a zoomed out birds eye view and feature miniature size players. To be able to implement the specific detailed visuals they were after, Voxel Towers has had to use Mode 1 graphics. As a result, CPC Soccer only display four colours on screen – green, white, black and red with the team shirts colours being restricted to just all white and all red. But rather than this being to a detriment to the game, I found that it gives the game a somewhat unique retro charm to the way it looks that adds a sense of seriousness to the overall production values.
For those of you who have experienced Sensible Soccer, CPC Soccer plays at a similar hectic style and pace. The ball and the field scrolling move at 50 frames per second, providing a very satisfying sense of speed. However, with all this fast paced movement, it can get a little difficult to tell which player you are controlling (which is denoted by a flashing player). Something else that takes a little getting used to is the drawing or removal of players entering the immediate field of play on screen. This is done slightly in from the border of the visible screen with a couple of frame delay, which can give off an impression that players are appearing or disappearing out of nowhere especially when the action is moving around in different directions at full speed.
Unlike Sensible Soccer, the ball does stick to the players feet and you can successfully dribble the ball for a few seconds. But ultimately you will get tackled if you hold onto it for too long and you will need to pass the ball around to make successful progress up to the opposition’s goal and create a scoring opportunity.
Goal Keepers are difficult to beat for the most part and you will have to come up with some creative plays to get the ball into the back of the net. However, they are not perfect and are prone to giving up easy rebounds or even making positional errors. This subtle feature perhaps highlights the depth of the gameplay on offer.
Players can get injured and receive yellow or red cards for infringements. In fact, you can really feel the impact of your team being one player short after they have been sent off the field, giving even further support that CPC Soccer is closer to a simulation game rather than an arcade experience.
The overall simulated football experience on offer is really quite addictive once you get into the flow of things as your emotions run high just as if you were watching your favourite football team on the TV. To cap the whole experience off, at half time and full time, you are provided with game stats breaking down possession time, shots, fouls, cards and injuries.
CPC Soccer offers a few customisation options such as setting the difficulty level, the match time and redefining controls for all four players.
Voxel Towers has really pushed the basic Amstrad CPC set up to its limits in producing CPC Soccer. While a couple of graphical anomalies do exist, it is hard to deny the overall gaming experience is of a highly engaging level that will have you playing the game hours on end, whether it be by yourself or with a group of friends around. Amstrad CPC fans should rejoice in having CPC Soccer available to them, gamers for all other 8-bit systems can only look on in envy.
CPC Soccer: International Edition is being released as a collector’s cassette edition by Bitmap Soft.
A highly enjoyable ‘Sensi-Soccer’ style experience that includes subtle features that add a layer of depth to the game play on offer.
Retro gaming journalist promoting NEW C64, Amiga, Amstrad CPC & ZX Spectrum games. Runs the Retro Gamer Nation YouTube channel and is a contributor to RVG and Vintage is the New Old blog sites, Komoda & Amiga Plus magazine and various other publications.