I think it is best to start off this review with an honest admission that I don’t play too many video games about sports. But, by the wrap up of the NCAA tournament this year, I was in a basketball mood. So, off to my trusty Vectrex. Hmm…it seems no basketball games were ever released for the Vectrex. Well, perhaps soccer would be the next best thing. Heads Up Soccer (or Heads Up Football as it was released to all those residing outside the U.S.) promised to deliver “all the excitement and challenge of a real soccer tournament complete with the roar of the crowd!” I may have to take their word for that. I haven’t attended a soccer tournament since I was 8, and at that point I occasionally played fullback and typically sat on the sidelines. So, the big excitement for me in soccer games usually came from the orange slices one of the moms would bring after the final whistle. And, I think one time we went for pizza. Now that was exciting!
But, back to Vectrex soccer. Things start out promising enough. This is a good looking game. The field is a nice green (provided you’re using the game’s overlay, of course) and the players are well rendered. The 3D sort of view could very well be a high bar for the 1983 era. Now, when I began my first game, I was playing in a brightly lighted room. I started the game and a phantom team immediately scored against me. And then did so again. Perhaps this game was some sort of sporting/ghostbusting blend. Nope – turns out that you REALLY need a dark room to be able to see the opposing team. The game could be especially difficult in a two player match. The person with the faint outlines of players would be at a real disadvantage. Sadly, the Vectrex computer player didn’t seem to be hindered by any inability to see his own team. The computer player scored a steady stream of goal after goal against me. Eventually my eyes adjusted. And, a nice feature is that the ball has a little “x” inside it when it is being controlled by your opponent. I saw a whole lot of that “x”.
I’m blaming my teammates for my poor performance. When playing, I found that if you’re not controlling a player, they pretty much just stand there. The computer opponent’s goalie was speedy and effective. Mine was pretty static, unless I was controlling him. Come on team – show some life! Don’t make me do all the work!
The Vectrex’s joystick/four button controller work very well – with different buttons for passing and kicking. The same buttons allow you to cycle between your players when you’re on defense. Sound is limited to a brief opening tune, some whistles, and the roar of the crowd. Nothing special, but nothing intrusive either.
I found this a tough game. Maybe too tough. And I wasn’t thrilled about the lack of support from my computer team. But, the computer opponent was challenging. And, the graphics are quite good. Any lack of enthusiasm for this game might be due to my limited interest in sports games in general. Because, I must admit, I found the controllers effective, the graphics good, and the opponent capable. As opposed to many other Vectrex games, this one represents a very sustained challenge. So many other games for this system are either easily beaten or quickly become repetitive. So, I’m giving this game 3 stars out of five. If you’re a big soccer fan, you may consider it to be deserving of an even higher rating. But, if your gaming interests run more to shooting and jumping, you may not find it to your liking. Three stars allows me the chance to straddle the fence on this one a bit. I’ll be more decisive next time around. Maybe. For now, I’m off in search of some orange slices. And maybe some pizza.