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OC HIGH: Student News & Views : VIDEO GAME REVIEW : Mutant League Football For Sega Genesis from Electronic Arts $49.95

September 16, 1993|WILLIAM SCHIFFMANN | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Fans of the National Football League think it's the toughest, meanest, most hard-bitten sport going.

Fans of Mutant League Football know better.

This creation of some of the more bizarre minds at Electronic Arts takes football several steps beyond the mayhem that routinely occurs each winter Sunday. In the MLF, guys like Mean Joe Greene and Ronnie Lott might, just might, have jobs as water boys.

They have been replaced by players with names like Puke, Spasm, The Ax and Rancid.

The MLF is divided into two conferences--the Maniac and the Toxic. Teams--16 in all--include the powerful Galaxy Aces, the Misfit Demons, the Slaycity Slayers and the Terminator Trolz.

And if you think Candlestick Park is a tough venue, you should try a few quarters at the Cemetery. The surface is toxic waste, and hazards include mines, fire pits, rocks and something called simply the Abyss. Other fields include Tripout Stadium, where the field is rubber and players bounce like balls when they hit it, and the Pen, with a field of ice.

MLF isn't up to the best football carts (EA's own John Madden series, which contributes to MLF, comes to mind) but it plays like real football, and the "extras" are a lot of fun to watch.

MLF is a bit on the gory side, as fits its origins. It's actually a replacement for war, dreamed up by big brains in the distant future to settle interplanetary disputes. These guys, many of whom have tails, are really more soldiers than players.

MLF is a one- or two-player game that allows you to select your team and the team the computer will pit against you. Each team has its own strengths and weaknesses. You can select practice to run through a few plays, then select a single game, which will not count in the standings, but allows you to get a feel for the competition. The main meal is the playoffs, which leads to the league championships.

You can change players, hauling in reserves for special situations or when your starter is dismembered or deceased.

The player you control is marked by a circled X. You can switch that featured player on defense so that you are always directing the one closest to the offensive player with the ball. On offense, the highlighted player is always the one with the pigskin (or whatever kind of skin MLF footballs are made of).

The usual penalties apply, but there are some unique to MLF. Like five yards for quarterback bashing, which is described as rushing with intent to kill. There's also a five-yard penalty for ref bashing. And there are fake penalties, usually called after a ref is bribed by one team.

You can even get involved in a forfeit. For instance, if all your quarterbacks have been killed. Not injured. No busted thumbs in the MFL.

Killed.

You can also select the plays and the formations they will be run from. Strategy comes in here, as you try to outthink the mutants and space slime on the other side of the line. Pass or run? Bribe the ref?

And there are the much-loved "nasty audibles." Featured are the bomb, in which the ball is rigged to explode when caught. The idea is to let the other team intercept, then BOOM!

You can also call up the rocket pack, which gives the ball carrier a jet-assisted trip to the end zone.

A popular call, at least in the stands, is Kill Ref. All semblance of football is abandoned and the entire team leaps on the ref and rips him apart.

The graphics are simple and sharply drawn, colorful and amusing. The sound is a real part of the game, with groans, squeals, grunts and crunches accompanying grotesque music. Game play is typical of sports carts; you sometimes need a few more fingers than you have, but generally things run smoothly.

Oh, yes, pay close attention to the halftime show. A bizarre group of scaly cheerleaders create weird formations, rolling and tumbling as fans "critique" their performance.

No, it's not the NFL. It's not even really football. But it is a lot of fun, especially in two-player mode. And be thankful the MFL doesn't get to play in the Super Bowl.

We'd still be mourning the Dallas Cowboys.

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