The Average Gamer

Speedball 2: Evolution Review (iPad)

Back in 1990, I bought latest Bitmap Brothers game on the Amiga. Its name was Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe and it was pure brilliance. Now over 20 years later, Speedball 2 is back and running on the über-sexy iPad as well as the iPhone and iPod Touch. Developed under the guidance of Jon Hare from legendary 1980/90s software house Sensible Software, this game has quite a reputation to live up to.

Hello, old friend

Initially I felt right at home with Speedball 2: Evolution. The graphics, menus and even the team names were all very familiar. The title music contains elements of the original stonkingly brilliant Speedball 2 title track by Nation 12. Ok, the new track is not bad, but I wish they’d included a lot more of the original track. As in the original game, you take control of a Speedball team called Brutal Deluxe, or in my case The Avg Gamer. You start off with $1500 in the bank to either transfer in new players or train up your team in the gym. You can choose to upgrade single or multiple abilities on any number of players. The interface in the gym works really nicely with the touch screen; well implemented and simple to use.
Thankfully, Tower Studios have included a short tutorial for people new to the game, or old grizzled players like me who want to learn how the new controls work. It is entirely optional, but I recommend it for the simple reason that it will remove any doubt as to the best control method to use. Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe was designed to be played using a joystick and buttons. In my case I used my trusty and indestructible Competition Pro 5000. That poor joystick would get some serious abuse during every Speedball game I played. Given my history, I was very curious how Tower Studios had translated the controls to a touch screen. The results are mixed.

You control the player closest to, or with, the ball. If you don’t have the ball, tapping the screen makes the player perform a slide tackle. If you do have the ball, tapping the screen makes them throw it. Tap on one of your teammates and your player throws the ball directly to them. Tap and hold the screen and your player will lob the ball as far as they can. The AI controls the other players in your team so you don’t have to worry about them following the play. Intelligence is also one of the abilities you can upgrade in each player in the gym. A more intelligent player will be better at reading the game and be in the right place more often.

OMG, noooo!

So far, so good. Everything is in keeping with the original and entirely sensible. Now we come to the default control method. The tilt. This is where it all goes horribly, horribly wrong. You are expected to tilt the iPad to move the selected player. OMG. This is the most fist-eatingly annoying control method I’ve ever used and one that is completely out of place in a fast paced ball game. I actually wanted to kill my iPad and my team after playing a few games with the tilt controls. Aggghhhhhhhhhh. Tower Studios have ruined Speedball 2: Evolution. You bastards!
Thankfully, there is another and eminently more sensible control method via the virtual on-screen joystick (pictured). You choose which side of the screen the joystick lives and then you’re away. You can move the joystick area around the screen by lifting your finger and placing it back on the screen. By using this virtual joystick I finally felt like I was playing Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe again. My players responded (mostly) to my commands, they could pass, tackle and score goals. Phew. It’s not perfect, by any means and it isn’t as good as using a real joystick. I felt the gameplay was slower when compared to the Amiga original, but then it would have to be as the control method is crippling you slightly.

Jon Hare has told The Guardian that the tilt mechanism is very intuitive after about 30 seconds use and that the virtual joystick is a retro way of playing. Sorry Jon, that’s bollocks. The tilt controls are awful and that’s not because I’m old and want to use a joystick. The tilting action is clumsy and frankly uncomfortable to play, particularly on the move. Also, you look like an idiot flapping your iPad around everywhere. This is not something you’d want to do at work in your lunch time or if you fancied a sneaky game. Or anywhere in fact. Try it now. Grab your iPad or a large plate if you don’t have an iPad and flap it around in front of you with your arms bent. See? Stupid control method.

Game on

The gameplay hasn’t changed at all. Simply get more points than your opponent. Points are gained by scoring (10 points), hitting a bumper or a star (2p), lighting all 5 stars (10p) and knocking out an opposition player (10p). You can also pick up really handy team-wide power ups during each game – like freezing the opposition players – although the effects only last for 5 seconds. Pickups are scattered around the arena and these affect individual players (e.g. increase stamina) until they are tackled. You can also activate score multipliers by throwing the ball up one of the ramps on either side of the pitch. Do this once to increase any points gained by x1.5 or twice to double your points. I used a mixture of scoring goals and killing the opposition to rack up the points.

I’m happy to report that Tower Studios have included all the classic sound effects from the original game. “Get Ready”, “Ice Cream, Ice Cream” and “Replay” are all there and sounding better than ever. You also get to hear the Amiga disk loading sound whenever the game is loading. Brilliant. Click, click, click.

As with Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe, the main point of the game is to manage your team from the bottom of league 2 to the Intergalactic Championship. You have a maximum of 10 seasons to play with. Earn money by winning, which you can spend on your team. Usually the first season is fairly tough as you build up your players and then you can start kicking butt. There is also the challenge of unlocking the other 5 Speedball arenas as only the original arena is unlocked at the start. There is a quick match option if you can’t be arsed with the career mode. Preset competitions (cups and leagues) and a custom competition (create your own cup, league or tournament) are also available.

For those commuters amongst us, the game can be paused at any time using the on screen pause button. Locking the iPad or pressing the home button also pauses the game allowing you to resume it later. Handy and essential for playing whilst on the move.

The social network

Given all the social network melarky that’s about nowadays, it was inevitable that some of it would find its way into the game. Speedball2iPad_GotHimIn Speedball 2: Evolution’s case it’s Facebook. You can invite your Facebook friends to play and check out their career stats if they do. Multiplayer games are also available over wi-fi or bluetooth. Having lots of Speedball 2: Evolution, iPad owning Facebook addicts may just prove to be useful for once ;-) You can also listen to your own songs whilst playing, when you get sick of the in-game music.

If you invite friends to play the game via email, then you get a $2,000 cash boost and another $2,000 boost when you join the Speedball 2: Evolution fan club via email registration. There is a game boosters section where you can buy $10k, $50k and $100k cash boosts for real money. $100k boosts costs a whopping £2.99. That’s more than the game itself. Madness!


Speedball 2: Evolution is a faithful recreation of the Amiga classic Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe on the iPad. It looks and sounds brilliant but is completely unplayable when using the tilt control method. However, when using the virtual joystick the game is almost as playable as the Amiga original. If you haven’t played Speedball 2 before this is a pretty good place to start.

Speedball 2 is out now on iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch for £1.79p from the App Store

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