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Pigskin: The Best Football Video Game Ever!
by: Dr. Boogie

I don't really care for sports. Have I mentioned that here before? I try to mention it to everyone I hang out with, along with my hatred of children. It's good to get these things out of the way early on in any relationship. Anyway, I love video games, but for the most part, video games about sports are pretty much just as crummy as the sports they feature. Take football, for example: huge men field an oblong ball and reward each other with a hearty slap on the ass. Then, a linebacker screws up his knee really badly and has to retire, at which point he jumps on the lecturing circuit, telling high school kids about the dangers of drugs and letting them try on his enormous Superbowl ring. How can you make a game about that? For the longest time, I thought it was impossible, but the folks at Midway found a way around this problem with some old, old, seriously old school football action in Pigskin 621 AD.

Before literacy...

I call it the best football game ever. "But what about Mutant League Football," you ask? Sure that was good, but Pigskin was so much more. "Tecmo Bowl?" Another good one, especially when playing as Bo Jackson, but again, Pigskin wins. "And what about Madden (insert year)," you ask? No. Just no. Now I admit that I'd love to have seen Pigskin 621 AD get a new coat of paint every year, but I think it withstands the test of time just fine.

Of course, I wouldn't make such a lofty claim without evidence. Consider the following:

Punching is so important it requires TWO buttons!

It was surprisingly simple for a football game. Normally, a football game would involve a number of different offensive and defensive plays, as well as a lot of fuss over inconsequential things like "injuries". Pigskin worked all of this down to three buttons: pass, punch, and strategy. Want to pass the ball? Just hold the button down til the right player portrait pops up and you're money. Need to get the ball out of the hands of your enemy? Just hit the punch button and not only will your team captain throw a punch, but the entire team will follow in kind, as though there were some sort of hivemind punching rule in effect. And then there's strategy. There are three strategies for offense, and three for defense. They run the gamut from the straightforward "block" to the far more complex and interwoven strategy of "get ball". There's also a play called "bad attitude" that works for both offense and defense, but I have yet to determine what it does for your team, apart from getting your team captain to yell, "let's kick some butt!"


I've been saying for years that one good way to really jazz up the game of football is to add some obstacles to the field. Nothing fancy, just a couple pits here and there, a few discreet changes in the elevation of the field, an ankle-high spinning pole, stuff like that. The creators of Pigskin understood this and threw in a whole mess of stuff to cover the field. Logs, statues, tables, rugs, and even treasure chests would knock you down for a spell, and if you weren't careful, you could blunder into a pond or an open stairwell (no medieval OSHA) and have to wait precious seconds to climb out and rejoin the game! Plus, if you got an early lead over the other team, they would hire a guard to stand on the field and try to trip up your players as they ran by:

See that you do.

A dastardly deed. And speaking of dirt tricks...

You'll put yer eye out!

Obstacles I've been suggesting for years, but I gave up years ago on my suggestion that the players be given weapons during the game. Pigskin reminded me of what I once held dear. Knocking the other players down with a shot in the mouth was fine for a temporary fix, but when you've had enough of the other team, just pick up one of the weapons lying around the field, run right into those jerks, and boom: mace in the face, sword in the gut, and decapitation to name a few. For some reason, though, the game considered such horrific acts of brutality to be "injuries" instead of, I don't know, "deaths". It was quite strange, especially considering that the "injured" player would change into a skeleton a few seconds after being "injured" by and axe to the face. That might take more than some Icy Hot to fix that.

Send yourself in!

This one is bound to be a favorite of any who hasn't exactly mastered the game. Once you got a healthy lead on the competition, normal methods of cheating simply wouldn't suffice. That meant it was time to "send in the troll!" One of your players would be swapped out with a highly aggressive and much tougher (in fact, immortal) troll. This was great because it meant that even if you weren't the best at football, the game would still give you a leg up when things weren't really going your way. That way, you could still win, and if you did win, your defeated friend could rest assured that he would've beaten you had it not been for that troll. Everybody wins!

Sometimes, though, one troll isn't enough:

Yo mama?

Well, that can only be...

Buy those guys some noses!

A single troll can help if you're a few points behind, but if you're really getting spanked, you can expect to take part in a Troll Bowl. Every player on your team becomes a troll, and your opponent has got quite a challenge on his hands. Of course, he has to agree to take part in the Troll Bowl (unless you reached over and hit his button when prompted to hit the button "if you dare"), so there's that. Still, it's just like what happens with a single troll: if he wins, the troll'ed up player gets to laugh about how he totally turned the game around, and the loser can grumble that it took a whole squad of trolls just to put an end to his complete dominance of the game.

If all that isn't enough to convince you that this is the best football game ever, I don't know what will. It's a damned entertaining version of football, and it's easily accessible to even gamers that don't really care about sports all that much (like yours truly). Combine that with a healthy amount of cartoonish violence and gore, and you've got yourself a game that everyone can enjoy. Well, apart from parents looking for a scapegoat, but they don't really count. Hell, they grew up with Tom & Jerry; a man getting his head chopped off with a sickle is downright tame by comparison. Oh well, it's not like they can get retailers to start carding kids for football games, right?

No more, Mr. Cleeeeeeeeaaan!

Questions or Comments about this piece?
email Dr. Boogie

*** You too can play Pigskin! ***


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