Blood Bowl: review

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  • Format: Xbox 360 (version reviewed), DS, PC, PSP
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
  • Developer: Cyanide
  • Players: 1-2

Not since 1995 has Blood Bowl the videogame seen the light of day. Which suggests there’s a good reason for that. Originally, Blood Bowl was a turn-based tabletop board game. Underneath lay a dice and statistics heart. In many ways, it was ideal PC fodder in its day; a bit of maths and random number generating was a computer nerd’s gravy. Not any more. Today you’ve got to really wow the crowds.

Bringing the basic original ethics of the tabletop game to console gaming in 2009 is sheer lunacy. A videogame that stops for the sound of a die being rolled before deciding the outcome of a move? You’d have to glue the fingers of most console owners to the controller and fold their eyelids over the tops of their heads to get them to even take interest.

Brains or brawn – you decide!

Brains or brawn – you decide!

So surely this game has been developed because there’s a core fan base out there that wants to play their favourite American Football cum Lord Of The Rings fight fest? Perhaps so, but playing this game makes it very hard to see the long-term appeal – the first board game version was produced in 1987.

For the record, you have a pitch that vaguely resembles an American Football field (minus any goalposts) that’s divided into squares, and a selection of differently skilled, shoulder padded, species based teams to choose from. Dependant on your team’s race – and these vary from human and elf to orc and goblin – you might be fielding a group of mindless thugs who are much better suited to pummelling the opposition into giblets than actually playing the game properly, or you might be in command of a team of fleet-footed glory boys, too nimble for the knuckle scrapers.

Which, on paper, sounds like it might be a fun game to play. But there’s more. Each square counts as one move. Each player can only move a certain amount before they need to roll a dice to see if they can go any further. Also, whenever a player appears in a square adjacent to an opposition’s player, a dice needs to be rolled to see if you can get past. If you want to pick up the ball, a dice must be rolled. This is madness – have these people never read The Diceman? Now that would make a great dice rolling based videogame. But this? This is not what you bought that 52 inch flatscreen with the dolby surround sound orchestra for. This feels like something you should be playing on the portable black and white telly. In the spare room. Round your nan’s. It would be great if it worked like a FIFA or PES so you could switch to individual players to make tackles and passes and do little runs, maybe some nice setups and one-twos. And there is a part of this game that sort of tries to do that, but it falls well short of the mark. In Classic mode it’s simply an animated version of the board game, and not a very exciting one at that. But in real time mode, once the ball is kicked the whole playing field comes alive. Only you’re not just playing one player at a time, you’re the general, barking orders to every trooper in turn, running around like a headless chicken. To help you do this you can switch into concentration mode, where you stop the play entirely and give each player his order before turning it back on to see the outcome. Which results in you switching straight back into concentration mode four seconds later when you need to tell them all to do something else.

Maybe this is meant to be an intense and wild version of the dated board game original – god knows the classic version feels exactly like what the board game is, a relic of another millennium – but without having any real grasp of that same original version, you’ve got no chance with the real time one. Which doesn’t really matter and probably does you a favour since by not wanting to play this you’ll never actually go through the ropes of learning the slow, arduous classic version only to find that the real time one is just as arduous only faster – like watching the Keystone Kops hilariously stuffed into a police car as it swerves round the corner again and again and again until you cry.

Though it may very well turn out to have a legion of fans across the world and sell in the millions, as a console game in its own right it’s a fish out of water. However… there is a DS version as well. As a handheld, portable game with added touch screen functionality, Bloodbowl might be worth investing in. It’s complete conjecture because we haven’t played it, but the drawn out style of the classic mode and the grid set up of the pitch combined with the touchscreen controls might actually be welcome on a longhaul flight.

5/10

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Written by Neil

You're not reading this bit, are you? Stop looking, I'm not writing anymore.

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