Title: Pigskin 621 AD
Rom Player: MAME
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie

Synopsis: Ah, football. Well, American football, at any rate. The strategy, the suspense, the sweaty men slapping each others’ asses. Truly, it is a sport worthy of a great video game. Too many football games, however, focus on plays, downs, and other “rules.” Thankfully, Pigskin 621 A.D. has taken football back to its most basic roots, all the way back to when it was played by two teams of bloodthirsty barbarians and savage warriors out to do whatever it takes to get the ball and drive it into the end zone.

That’s right, rather than two teams filled with overpaid prima donnas and felons, the two teams in this game are all medieval warriors from varying parts of the world. The idea of getting the ball to the end of the field remains from traditional football, but that is the end of it. Each quarter begins with a man blowing on horn, and from there on, it’s anything goes.

I’m not kidding, pretty much anything goes. The field itself is strewn with obstacles varying from bushes, to ponds, to bookshelves, all of which will hinder both teams as they try to take the ball and run. Once someone has the ball, the main way for the opposing team to extricate the ball from him is by punching him. Since there are no downs or fumbles, you may see dozens of altercations in a few minutes as both teams collide in a massive melee.

Each team is controlled more or less by a captain. Consequently, the captains are named Thor Akenbäk, the blue team leader, and Atilla DeSoil, the red team leader. Whenever the captain punches, everyone else on the team punches, as they are able. The captain also makes on-the-fly calls for passes, changes in strategy, and even a bit of foul play. Holding off on the foul play for a moment, the team leader also has the unique ability to perform an actual tackle to bring down a fleeing player. This move proves to be quite useful, as doing too much weaving will more likely than not cause you to trip over something and fumble the ball.

Getting back to the “anything goes” aspect of the game, when a player collides with a member of the opposite team while in possession of the ball, a scuffle will break out in the form of a turbulent white cloud and a symphony of grunts and groans. When one such fight breaks out, the rest of both teams attempt to join in, and the team with the most players in the fight gains possession when the fight is over. This can be better than just punching your opponents because the losing team will be floored for a couple seconds.

Of course, there is another method of dealing with troublesome players: scattered about the field are weapons and tools such as torches, swords, and lengths of rope. When a team captain runs over one, they pick it up and make it a “concealed weapon.” Then, when the captain has the ball and collides with an opposing player, the fight cloud will appear, but the captain will perform a brutal coupe de grace, slaying the player and continuing with the ball. Frankly, I will go to great ends to do this. Fortunately, lost teammates are returned after someone scores.

As an added bonus, there are certain game measures to insure that one player doesn’t get too great of a lead over the other. The first of which is the introduction of a spearman to the field, which will use his weapon to trip members of the winning team. The next step, though, replaces one of the losing team’s members with a troll, a player that can punch harder and who can’t be killed with a concealed weapon. As if this weren’t enough, the higher difficulty settings of the game dare you to press a button, then things enter into the dreaded “troll mode.”

If there were any faults in the game (And that is a big “if”), they would have to be in the team AI. Often, your teammates will accidentally run right into a pit or slip in a puddle of mud. This is a two-way street, however, and the computer’s team will fall victim to such blunders as well. Also, the team strategies, such as “scatter” and “bad attitude,” seem to have only psychosomatic benefits, as each one does very little to alter the team’s mentality. Changing it does cause the computer to change its strategy as well, so I suppose that’s something.

Given the year when the game was made, the graphics look surprisingly nice. Everything has a cartoony feel to it. True, the graphics wouldn’t be giving today’s modern, everything-is-ultra-real-3D games, but characters and effects are done cleanly, without an excess of pixels or choppy animations.

Sure, some of the sports enthusiasts out there might not appreciate this variation on the typical football formula, but who cares? I can go to any used game store and find a medley of unwanted realistic sports games in the various shelves and bargain bins. This game brings to football that little something extra that makes such a limited genre appeal to gamers that would normally be put off by sports games of any kind. Download this one and get medieval!

Best Cheats: None

Game Play: 10
Graphics: 8
Music/Sound: 7
Originality: 10
Overall Rating: 9


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