It could be argued that the arcade football genre is more or less dead at this point. While these days FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer take part in a constant two-horse race – the Celtic and Rangers of video games, if you will – the days when we were swimming in less realistic arcade-style football games are gone. Many long-time football gamers pine for the likes of RedCard, Super Sidekicks, ISS, Tecmo World Cup, Virtua Striker... not even the two Mario Strikers games have a modern-day equivalent. Step forward Golazo!, which tries to take football games back to the early ‘90s. Literally, in this case.
Set in the year 1992, Golazo! lets you choose from 51 international teams and take part in one of three modes: Quick Match, International Cup and World League (which is just a 20-team league format). The latter two are solo affairs only, which is a shame: we’d have loved the option to play them in co-op with a friend. Winning a game in any mode will earn you coins, which can be spent in the game’s shop on new kits, balls, goal celebrations, boots (or “snickers”, as the announcer mispronounces it) and accessories, including the frankly terrifying option to kit out your entire squad in hockey masks.
Gameplay is suitably coin-op inspired: the ball is stuck to your feet, you have just three types of kick to worry about – pass, lob and shoot – fouls are extremely rare, and everyone moves delightfully speedy (there’s a sprint button and a useful tackle-dodging button in there too should you need to turn on the flair). It also attempts to make things interesting by granting teams power-ups every now and then. One team could suddenly find themselves with super speed, making it even easier to dance around opponents, while the other could be granted super tackles, letting them perform ridiculous Shaolin Soccer-style slides right across the pitch. These can be turned off if they aren’t your cup of tea.
The presentation is a mixed bag. The game commits to the idea of ‘90s football by basing many of its fake players on famous faces from that era, although the most notable ones simply play the role of manager and don’t really feature beyond a caricature on the menu screens. More immediately satisfying are two retro-themed filters: the ‘arcade’ one is your typical CRT scanline filter and does what it does, but the ‘VHS’ one does a brilliant job of blurring your screen and washing out the colours just enough to fool you into thinking you’re watching a game someone taped off the telly back in the day. Thumbs down to the irritating announcer, though, who’s annoying tied to the game’s sound effects channel; this means you can turn him off, but need to turn off every other sound effect and the crowd noise along with him.
The list of teams on offer is a little strange too: while the obvious heavy-hitters like Argentina, Italy, Brazil and the newly-unified Germany are in there, there are some odd inclusions and omissions. With the greatest of respect to folks in Panama, Iran and the Congo (the latter of whom have never even qualified for a World Cup), it’s bewildering to see these teams included but not Scotland, who were actually decent in the ‘90s. And let’s not put it down to Argentinian developer Purple Tree possibly thinking England and the UK are the same thing, because Wales are in there too, despite having done sod all internationally until 2016 (sorry, Welsh supporters).
The only other issue is the AI, which depending on the difficulty you choose can tend to be either painfully dumb (our first three goals were all own goals, while at the other end the CPU regularly rounded our keeper then just stood there) or annoyingly decent (shooting isn’t always very accurate, but players on Normal and Hard seem to find the net more often than not). Naturally though, these sorts of games are generally best played with friends anyway, and multiplayer – with support for up to four players – is really the best way to go here, because everyone has the same advantages and disadvantages. You’ll want to play it on the TV, though; the camera’s too far out to make tabletop play comfortable.
Golazo! is a competent love letter to '90s arcade football games, accurately capturing both their strengths and weaknesses. Playing alone against the CPU can be a frustrating affair, but get some pals involved and this one's got post-pub entertainment written all over it.