Blood Bowl Review
Welcome Bowl Fans, the Orkward Squad is on the field, it's dwarf down and maim
There is nothing like the opportunity to cause mayhem and chaos on the pitch, injuring opponents and getting away with it whilst the cheerleaders sing your praises as you do so. Such is the concept behind the original board version of Blood Bowl, now translated into the digital form.
Except on the PSP it doesn't live up to that concept.
Blood Bowl, a fantasy version of US Football, with even bigger pads, less rules and more humour offers the chance to coach your side to the top of the leagues or to defeat all in a cup competition, building the appreciation of the fans and tempting more stars to your ranks and so on.
Like the board version you get to build, manage and improve your team. There are single player options and multiplayer over the wi-fi or via Hot Seat option, cups and leagues and competitions aplenty in both. You can either build your own team from scratch,pick one of the eight races on offer each with the obligatory strengths and weaknesses, spend a million gold on the players and get going. Alternatively in the One-Off matches some of the iconic names from the series are available; Orcland Raiders to the Albion Wanderers and of course Bugman's Best are just three that can be picked and played with.
For cups and competitions you buy yourself players from an initial fund, name the team and add in bonuses such as apothecaries, cheerleaders or fan factor - all aimed at improving your chances of winning. Once a settled team is chosen and pieced together if you have any spare gold knocking around then you can have a go at a few inducements. Tempt a one off Merc to play for you, pay for the ref to take his glasses off at those critical accidents or may be purchase a re-roll.
Once done it is time to head onto the pitch itself and do battle for the honour of well battle. Each half consists of eight rounds where the two teams try to work the ball towards their opponents endzone to score a touchdown. If an error is made on either side during their moves on a turn a turnover occurs and play moves on. Each player has a number of statistics from agility to armour value, all help in determining how robust you are and how well you do in the game. That plus the occasional random die roll.
Which is where it all goes down hill.
Cyanide the developers, have delivered as per their licence a very accurate version of Blood Bowl. On the PSP the play is dull, move players to positions they may cause a turnover or make the pass or run that will score. Make the occasional dice roll and repeat until end of turn or turnover. Then repeat again next turn and so on. There is a bit more as each of your team can have a set of skills that can help them survive or do other tasks, such as throwing the ball - or the ball carrier in the right circumstances. Some of these do help but often not enough to make much of a difference. Otherwise as a core mechanic for a video game it sucks muchly.
The visual look and feel is at best functional and more often minimalist. You get a mottled green pitch and an initial high isometric view of the action that can be changed, though it really isn't worth while as when you do look closer the sprites are horrible and chunky and looks designed to be seen from the default view as the colours are less than detailed. Off the pitch there is little movement, no bouncing cheerleaders, or fluttering flags. Indeed looking about there is no sign of the fans either. Compared to the look of recent games, showing just how damn good the PSP can be when cleverly pushed this disappoints. High spots are the opening FMV and the teaser scenes to show the gameplay. Audio is similarly sparse, you gat a few rousing tunes here and there, crunch sounds, a turnover sound and other spot effects but no commentary. Music is by far and away the best element but is not heard very often during the games.
Madden this is not. The starting formations seem not to make a difference, you can edit them to how you want but find that there are too many ill-explained illegal combinations. You never feel in control enough to advance your teams' players, the RPG elements rarely come into play early enough and even persevering for weeks on easy you find that progression is torturous, the actual squad management options past the first game rely on your being even slightly successful involve gaining player improvement points which isn't going to happen at anything other than a glacial pace. Further there is a faint whiff that the rolls you and your opponent get are not evenly weighted as they suddenly pull off flawless drive after drive. It might be picky but a few spelling errors creep in also.
Taking on a human opponent is more satisfying but fades quickly, Hot Seat, where you pass the PSP around turn per turn is alright but you wonder if it is there because you feel that finding anyone else playing Blood Bowl for a Wi-Fi game is not massively likely.
The bottom line is that there are too many carry-overs from the table-top version, too rigid adherence to the rules, a boring core mechanic set and a distinct lack of humour that should be the trademark all the way through. Blood Bowl delivers a bad experience all round with a title that appears to have been created just to have it created. Avoid on the PSP as once more the Games Workshop game curse has hit true.