Genre: Sports Developer: Midway Games Publisher: Razorsoft Players: 1-2 Released: 1992
I remember getting Pigskin Footbrawl way back when and having absolutely no clue what it was. What the heck is footbrawl? Is it like football? I hoped it was more cooler than football, because that would be one of the sweetest things in life. Well, it turns out that footbrawl is basically rugby/football/capture the flag/brutal mayhem. WOW! That’s freakin’ amazing! Ever since I have owned this game it has been in my top ten football games for the Genesis and certainly is my favorite arcade football game next to Tecmo Super Bowl (for Genesis, of course). But, how does it stack up? Will it stack up or is it crumbling like the walls of a dungeon? Grab a big turkey leg, grab a big mug of ale and step up to the roundtable, because this is a mighty tale of a mighty footbrawl. A footbrawl set in the year 621 AD.
I don’t even know where to begin with this game. Here, I guess I’ll start with how it works. Like in real football, the goal is to get the ball in to the opponents end zone by any means possible. And by any means possible, I mean by running it in, passing it in, picking up a fumble, etc. The field of play is nothing like actual football, well, except that it is green and it has end zones. Strewn all throughout the field are various obstacles that will trip you over, or make you drown or make you slow down, similar to being sucked off the planet and falling into the fire pit in Mutant League Football.
Your team, led by You, the knight, contains a varying number of guys (the default is five or six, I’ll explain that later) with varying levels of skill. Some guys (the big belly guys) are big bruisers and usually sit back near your end zone as a last line of defense, while others are great at maneuvering the ball down the field. Most of the time, the best person at punching (oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that your players punch the other players to get the ball or to knock players down in front of you) and passing (or punting for that matter), is you the knight. Each side has two knights, and they are the “main” men (like prissy wide receivers of the old days) and do most of the scoring, as the computer controlled regular guys seem to be a wee bit clumsy with the ball.
Scoring works by, you guessed it, getting into the end zone, which is worth seven points (even though one of the fans holds up a sign that says “six points” for some reason). Teams get an extra point if they hold possession of the ball long enough for the “possession bar” to fill up. Sometimes it is in a team’s best interest to just keep running around near the end zone to let the bar fill up that last bit, and it can be a game changing performance (not the Pontiac® one) to get that last point as time expires to win by one. But, it’s not in your best interest to do that every time and especially when you are being chased down in a close game or the ball is loose near the end zone. When you score, a little “cut scene” is shown with the crowd and a fan paying a bribe or holding up a sign or something. There are two other cut scenes, one at halftime with a guy with a mallet with some bones telling you that when you punches, and a useless stats screen with Jerry Glanville (whom I think is holding a gun!).
There are some items on the field, such as spikes, maces, some sort of wire noose, and other things that bludgeon, beat or maim the opponent when you get into a scrum. Which leads us to the rugby part of this game. When there is a fight for the ball, usually there is a big scrum for it, and the players fighting for it turn into a cloud of dust and after a few seconds the group or guy who won the scrum gets the ball, and if by chance you the knight get into a one-on-one scrum for the ball with a regular player opponent (not the knight), and you have a “concealed weapon” (see: item), they will make a death scream and then you will automatically be rewarded with the ball and they will be shown with a big stab would or being choked to death or something of the sort. I mean, how cool is that? You get the ball AND you maim your opponent. You can’t do THAT in NFL Blitz. The opponent comes back as soon as the maimed guy gets off the screen. Also, you can’t possibly win the scrum when your guy is getting maimed by the other knight, even if you enter the scrum too. (Kirk: “He’ll die in there!” Scotty: “Sir, he’s dead already!”)
So, the controls in this game aren’t too bad, but take some getting used to. In regular gameplay, the A button changes offenses or defenses (basically, just moods). The moods are “Get Ball,” where a guy screams “GET THE BALL!” fairly clearly, “Scatter,” “Bad Attitude” (where a guy says “Let’s kick some butt”), “Man to Man”, and “Block” – none of which seem to do much of anything, though sometimes it seems better to run the ball with all of your guys blocking for you. Sometimes its also better to scatter everyone and out run the other guys to get to pay dirt. The B button punches, and when you punch, everyone punches. So, I think it’s a good idea to hit B all the time so you can knock everyone in your path over even if they don’t have the ball, they won’t run into you when you have the ball. The C button is the pass/punt button. When a computer player has the ball, if you just press C the player will pass it directly to you, the knight. If you press and hold C, a little blue (or red) scroll pops up and different options come up the longer you hold it. If you hold it a long time, a “drop kick” option will come up and you can punt it down the field.
Sometimes, it’s a decent tool to get down the field and put the ball in their territory and then fight for it down there to get a score, but most of the time I use it to get it out of my zone. It helps to memorize the layout of the levels, that’s for sure. The dungeon level is fun too, and there are a lot more unique obstacles and bottomless pits of the sort. If you are up big late, one of your “fans” will send in the TROLL (insert stock Jerry Springer oooh!), which is awesome. All the troll is almost unstoppable. You’ll have to be really good with your punching and try to take him down from behind to get the ball. The troll can play a very important role in the end of a game, which is fun and can take away from a little bit of monotony. If you are up HUGE early in the game on the Pro Pigskin mode, you can turn the whole opposing team (except for the knight) into trolls, which makes the game crazy nuts hard (but I have still won a few games).
However, there are a few bad things about this game, unfortunately. These things probably are worth score deducting as well. One, if there is music in the game, it must be really, really quiet because in my cartridge version and on my emulator I cannot hear it, even with the sound blasted all the way up with external speakers. Two, the graphics aren’t really that great. The cut scenes are terribly lame at halftime and at the end of the game, and it doesn’t look or feel like it was ported very well. Three, the gameplay can get kind of monotonous in the single-player mode. Also, it was ported by a company of whom I have never heard of, which violates the beloved second commandment of my article. Overall though, this game is another game that is all about picking it up and playing it with a friend. I have so many stories about playing this game I could write another article. So, add this game to your collection, grab your mace and get ready to spike your friends in the face, Jerry Glanville’s Pigskin Footbrawl is the real deal.
SCORE: 8 out of 10