A long time ago - I don't know when - I saw the original Rollerball on TV, the brutal future sport involving motorbikes, rollerskaters, studded leather gloves and heavy metal balls. It was entertaining, if not for the plot then for the idea of the sport ever taking off and becoming a thing in the first place.
Surely there had to have been a game or two that did a similar thing to that, and sure enough, there is. A few of them in fact, with Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe taking the crown - with force.
You manage a team in a 9 v 9 game of football meets handball meets pinball meets ice hockey. It's as hectic as it sounds and as much as the sport has supposedly been reformed into a non-violent game, it is a hard-hitting pastime.
But it sounds fun, right?
Boy, is it fun. I was playing the Sega Mega Drive port, and it is frantic.
There are multiple rules to Speedball, but they can be summed up simply. You need to score more points than your opponents, naturally, and there are different ways to score points as well as different power-ups that help you to score those points.
In the screenshot above, there are tokens on the floor that do something. There are many somethings that tokens can do, from freezing your opposition for a few seconds to reversing the controls to shutting a door in front of your goal. Timely picking up of these tokens can lead to easy points, if you can identify what they are before running over them.
On the top right is the score multiplier. Chuck the ball in here once for a small bonus on everything you score, or twice for a larger bonus. Below that, you can aim for the stars on the wall, scoring some points for lighting up each star, and yet more points for lighting all five up.
There are other targets to hit across the arena, and of course, there is the opposition goal, each target with its own scoring system. While many players will want to charge forward to the goal, racking up a few points on the way will always help you out, especially if you miss the goal and lose possession.
It's not a violent sport, but you can even score points for forcing a substitution from the opposition, and the thwacks and punches you constantly hear through the short matches - 180 seconds in length - will mean someone will get taken off at some point.
There are a number of modes of play, including a cup and a league. You'll be managing the team of Brutal Deluxe who will need a fair bit of coaching and improvement. You can purchase upgrades for your team and increase various stats, and there is a trading system in place so that you can find the best players the sport has to offer.
The screens that show the management side of things can be a little fiddly to navigate, but there is apparently an option to have the computer sort it out for you. While some players may find this micromanaging great, in a game like Speedball I just want to get out onto the pitch.
Unfortunately, the competition is fierce. Fiercely fierce. Utterly dominating every single part of pitch fierce. Maybe I was up against the league leaders, but losing by 90 points in your second game isn't too fun. I lost by a lot less in the first game, but it was still a loss.
What I noticed was that for the most part, my opposition wasn't scoring too many points that weren't straight up goals. The odd star here and there and few multipliers were activated. They just knew exactly how to shove my defence out of the way and how to exploit the massive open goal my wandering keeper left unattended.
There is a two-player mode, however, and it is this mode that easily puts Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe onto the 1001 list. The game can feel a little rigid and stiff - it doesn't exactly allow players to have 360-degree movement - but it is so fast and fun that you just don't care. You go with it, thumping players left and right, perhaps having a plan in mind, but probably not, and then the match finishes and you do it again.
It's been remade and re-released down the years, topping a few 'Best Multiplayer' lists for good reason. It's just that fun.
It looks great, sounds great and plays great. There's depth if you want it and entertainment if you don't, so you've no reason to ignore Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe.
Scraped ideas for the game included designing your own courts and arenas.
Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe, developed by The Bitmap Brothers, first released in 1990.
Version played: Sega Mega Drive, 1992, via emulation.
Version watched: Amiga, 1990 (Al82: Retrogaming Longplays & Reviews)