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Mutant League Football

Genre: Sports Developer: Electronic Arts Publisher: Electronic Arts Players: 1-2 Released: 1993

I discovered the wonderful Sega-16 sometime in early 2006. I had been a Genesis fan since that magical Christmas morning in 1991, so naturally this site became a daily spot for me. Reviews, features, interviews, I just couldn’t get enough. When Ken announced that he was looking for a couple of staff writers to fill in, I jumped at the opportunity. I still remember getting the acceptance email, feeling thrilled that I would get the chance to write about one of my favorite consoles of all time. It seemed like a perfect fit.

I wanted my first review at Sega-16 to be a special one. I picked Mutant League Hockey (MLHockey), a game I can remember having great fun with as a child.  I was ready to reintroduce that game to the Sega-16 readership as a forgotten gem, a game that deserved to be in every retro-fan’s collection!  Then I played it… It felt slow, clunky, and shallow. It was certainly fun, thanks to its unique gameplay, but it felt very different than I remembered, failing to live up to my own expectations. I had planned on reviewing that game’s predecessor, Mutant League Football (MLFootball), but became a bit discouraged. It’s now three years later, and I’m finally ready to review MLFootball!

That’s a really long introduction to a review, but I think in this case it’s warranted. I feel I may have been a bit unfair in my review of Mutant League Hockey. The value and fun factor of MLFootball all depends on your expectations. If you approach the game in the same way that I approached MLHockey, you might be disappointed to find a shallow and unpolished experience. But if you expect a fun and eclectic game, built with multi-player in mind, you would be hard-pressed to find a better experience on the Genesis.

MLFootball is a solid football game in the vein of early Madden titles.Contrary to popular belief, the game doesn’t utilize any Madden game engine, though many may feel a similar style of play between the two games. Similarities aside, you have to give the creators credit. They developed an excellent framework to build this game on. Because of this, it plays fairly smooth, includes simple and understandable play selection screens, and both the air and ground game will feel instantly familiar to gamers of the era.  Where the game differs from Madden is in its macabre setting. In place of popular players of the time are robots, skeletons, and aliens. Like MLHockey, most teams and players have names based on actual players and teams, like the Deathskin Razors (Oakland Raiders) and Joe Magician (Joe Montana) and Scary Ice (Jerry Rice). Sure, it’s not all that clever, but you’ll chuckle a bit when reading through the rosters.

While the game lacks a multitude of modes (there’s playoffs, championship, and all star options, all of which can be played with a friend) the frenetic gameplay is where MLFootball really shines. There’s a great amount of variety here, rare in a sports title. In addition to all the standard football plays are trick plays which allow you to either attack your opponent or get a leg up in competition in some zany way. There are exploding balls, jet packs, and much more; you can even bribe a referee! Even more options are added through different playing fields. An icy field will completely change the way you approach your passing game, and voids or pits will force you to adapt your running game. These obstacles also effect the endurance (or life!) of your star players, which adds just enough strategy into the game. Believe it or not, all of these options help balance the experience. I, somewhat new to the game, often played one of my best friends, who has put countless hours into the game over the years, and most of the time our games were nail-biters, with the win being based on the final drive.

While the game starts life as a fresh experience, things can get repetitive fast. The small amount of modes and lackluster AI limit the amount of fun you’ll have alone. But bring a friend along, and things remain enjoyable for far longer. I found MLFootball to be unpredictable and exciting when playing against a friend. As I stated before, the game just includes so many options to mess with the opposing team that the gameplay never gets old. Sure, the visuals, while bright and colorful for a football game, have not aged very well, and the audio is very grating on the ears (screaming, gibberish, sound effects, it’s all terrible!), but the main experience here is very satisfying.

Genesis fans looking for a fun multi-player experience, and sports fans looking for a fresh take on the genre, would do well to hunt MLFootball down. You will have to temper your expectations, to be sure, since the game doesn’t have lasting appeal as a single player experience, but there are few Genesis games as good when playing with a buddy. MLFootball doesn’t take itself too seriously, and neither should you hold it to the same standards set by Madden and Montana. The arcade style gameplay allows the game to sit aside the more football simulation games available, and it actually has allowed the game to age more gracefully than its contemporaries. The game can be found for considerably less than its successor, MLHockey, and it is absolutely a title worth having in your collection.

SCORE: 7 out of 10

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