Football fans with an appetite for the macabre will love Grave Yardage; those more squeamish and discerning will feel less enthusiastic. Like it or not, there hasn't been such a wacky idea for a sports simulation since Ninja Golf.
In the Monster Football League, the official ball is a cross between a chicken and Cyclops' eye. If it isn't caught on a pass or a kickoff, the ball runs around loose for five seconds and can be recovered by either team.
The field, which scrolls horizontally, is 100 yards of grass, weeds, mud, and a liberal sprinkling of land mines. Running over a mine, being Aced (beaten senseless), or having your quarterback mobbed increases your opponent's score.
Crossing the goal line for a Smashdown earns you 100 points but is less profitable than dealing the Ultimate Death Blow by Acing all four adversaries on the opposing team. Whether to run for an easy Smash-down or to stay and fight should depend on your overall health and need for additional points.
Fortunately, you can replace your four starters as often as necessary with any of six remaining teammates. Each player belongs to one often monster classes, such as elves, ghouls, or wizards. Each class possesses different levels of agility, intelligence, speed, stamina, strength, confidence, and recuperative ability. Some squads are evenly balanced; many are not. A few are made up entirely of a single species.
The disk contains 11 different teams, ten fields, and five playbooks. Playbooks include ten offensive and ten defensive plays from a total of 20 choices each. You can use the teams, fields, and playbooks as they are or modify them. The results can be saved to disk.
Use the joystick to maneuver a player. Shift control to another team member at any time by double-clicking the fire button. Throwing or catching passes and the program's simplistic attacking and blocking movements are all accomplished quite easily in a similar manner.
Kickoffs and punts are fired from a cannon. There are no extra points, field goals, or safeties. Although plays have strange names, Capture Daflag, for example, they all appear to be quite conventional.
Other features are available from user-friendly menus. Choose the length of quarters, a computer or human opponent, computer or human selection of various options, and whether to play or to create a new team, field, or playbook.
You make your play selections between downs, but loading each play takes about 30 seconds. This adds approximately 20 minutes of waiting time to an 8-minute game and nearly two hours to a 40-minute one. Imagine an NFL game taking ten hours and you'll have some idea of how long that is.
The program's graphics make only moderate use of the 64's capabilities. The fields and moving figures are colorful and individualized, yet they and the text especially appear unclear and indistinct.
Sound effects are somewhat disappointing. We do hear the slashing of swords, the cannon's roar, and a variety of other bells and whistles. Missing, however, are the cheering of the crowd, the grunting of players, and the sound of bodies crunching.
The instruction manual is geared toward the MS-DOS version, but an insert lists the specifics for the 64. Though not error free, the documentation is concise and easy to follow.
The rules of the sport have been so simplified that most strategy-oriented football fans will find that the game lacks challenge. Likewise, because the hacking and slashing techniques are so basic, Dungeons & Dragons fans may lose interest quickly. Those who like their football down and dirty, however, will want to bury themselves in Grave Yardage for hours.
Commodore 64 or 128, joystick—$24.95