Want to turn a green lane into a brown lane, tow a Gulaschkanone across a snowy field, or roam the Western Desert trashing Axis airfields? Get a 4×4. Want quick introductions to games of interest to wargamers and simmers? Read a 3×3. Prior to penning one of these articles I’ll play three tempting titles for at least three hours each. While it would be cavalier to call the reports that result from such brief auditions ‘reviews’, it’s conceivable they might lead to more prolonged playtests, and prompt or prevent the odd purchase.

“During the past seven days I’ve engineered no virtual violence” isn’t something I get to say very often. Now and again a compelling train, bus, boat, or civilian flight sim will persuade me to turn my back on ersatz war and weaponry for a spell, but this is, I believe, the first time I’ve ever been cajoled into a week-long ceasefire by a trio of splendid sports games.

Tiny Football, Super Video Golf, and Ultimate Racing 2D 2 have more than moreishness in common. All under a tenner, all dainty downloads, all the work of solo devs, and all perfectly playable with a keyboard and mouse, today’s threesome manage to capture the flavour of their chosen sports without swamping the player in keystrokes or bullying them with brutal difficulty.

Tiny Football

Early on Martyn Bissett’s nostalgic Early Access digit warmer does give off worrying ‘git gud’ vibes. With no tutorials, manual, or configurable difficulty settings, your first few matches are likely to be frantic, dispiriting affairs. Twenty frustrating minutes passed before one of my blocky turf scuffers managed to bulge an onion bag for the first time. It was only when I discovered, by chance, I could curl my passes and shots in mid-air, and realised that opponents such as Qatar and Panama are, in effect, Tiny Football’s ‘easy’ difficulty level, that I began to improve and enjoy myself.

Every player on and off the pitch has skill and fitness ratings, and a preferred role. These, together with a pinch of RNG and your manual dexterity and situational awareness, determine the outcome of tackles, passes, shots, and saves. Pick a talented, fresh team and a relatively weak opponent, and you’re far more likely to trap that long pass, beat that keeper, emerge from a tackle in possession, or keep control of the ball during an ambitious mazy dribble.

Presently, which sprite is your ‘active’ cursor-controllable player is always decided by the CPU, there’s no sprint option, and tackles, passes, and shots are all triggered with the same key press (the duration of the dab determines the ferocity of the action). FIFA fiends may scoff at this sort of simplicity. If, however, you have fond memories of Sensible Soccer, then TF’s pared-down approach, married as it is to solid AI, relatively slow pacing, and a range of replay-friendly modes (customisable one-off matches, leagues*, cup competitions, and tournaments) is sure to delight.

* Only the top tiers of the English, Scottish, French, German, Italian, and Spanish men’s game are modelled at present. Although the dedicated can rename unlicensed doppelgangers and teams via the bundled editor, as there’s no way to make entirely new players or alter skills yet, it’s not possible to, say, recreate a historic team.

I’ve yet to play a dull match or encounter a predictable opponent. Glorious defence-sundering pass combos… blistering shots… spectacular saves… rattled woodwork… frantic goalmouth scrambles… plausible own goals… eye-watering fouls… game-changing dismissals… nerve-racking extra time and penalty shootouts… the controls might be minimal and the graphics primeval, but Martyn’s demo-blessed work-in-progress abounds with footballing magic.

Yes, currently the magic comes with a few bugs (occasional freezes during toss-ups, weird offside decisions, and goals seemingly scored through the side or rear of the goal) but none of the issues I’ve encountered this week will stop me playing or recommending this 90 MB firecracker.

* * *

Super Video Golf

Remember that sweltering summer in the mid Nineties you spent picking soft fruit in Somerset? You stayed in that caravan with Petr and Barbora and whiled away your evenings watching Blackadder videos, and playing Virtual Golf on Petr’s Sega Saturn? Super Video Golf will bring the memories flooding back!

The foes in SVG are the foes found in all good golf games – wind, water, trees*, over-ambition, and poor technique. Although this £7.50 lunch-hour devourer isn’t likely to dent sales of PGA TOUR 2K23 or EA SPORTS PGA TOUR, sound fundamentals, competitive artificial opposition, and a decent selection of courses (10, all fictional) and formats (stroke play, match play, or skins), mean anyone after a low cost, low spec, alternative to the glossy, licensed golf sims can purchase with a fair degree of confidence.

* See on for a qualification

Shots are executed using a traditional two-click swing meter. Your first key press halts an advancing power bar, your second arrests a retreating needle ideally – if hooks and slices are to be avoided – mid-meter. Applying backspin is impossible in the current build, as is hitting fades and draws.

If Trederia Games ever gets round to implementing collision detection for trees (sadly, birches, pines etc are basically decorative out-of-bounds markers at the moment) the latter limitation will grow in significance. The incorporeal timber together with somewhat toothless rough and bunkers, are, I’d argue, SVG’s most disappointing deficiencies right now. I miss bad lies. I miss cavernous sand traps. I miss hearing the clatter of ball against bough, and situations where I’m forced to choose between a safe sideways shot and a risky low punch towards the green.

Talking of greens, although the 180 provided, like the fairways that precede them, tend to be a little on the flat side, more contours are on the way, as is an improved putting meter (counter-intuitively, short putts are harder than medium length ones in v1.10.2).

Earlier this week I’d have described the game’s silicon playmates as slightly too consistent… slightly too formidable.

While I still feel CPU club wielders really ought to underhit putts occasionally (Currently, they never come up short) I’ve now witnessed enough wonky putts and wayward drives, and participated in sufficient down-to-the-wire nailbiters, to revise my opinion.

Approachable, engaging, tense, even amusing at times (This is what happens when one of your shots happens to collide with the camera drone) Super Video Golf thoroughly deserves its daft title adjective.

* * *

Ultimate Racing 2D 2

Many moons ago, after reading Popski’s Private Army, I started work on a top-down LRDG game. The project never progressed beyond a rough prototype, but I recall being pretty happy with the handling characteristics of my WASD-controlled jeep, and the way targets could be trashed with mouse-directed MGs and bouncing grenades as I sped around the test map. By the time another ludological pipedream dragged me in a different direction, I’d implemented aircraft strafing runs and had a rudimentary hexagonal strat layer up and running.

The engine that allowed my little WW2 4WD to hurtle, swerve, skid, and prang naturalistically, is the same engine that powers the brilliant Ultimate Racing 2D 2. If UR2D2 isn’t the best thing ever made with GameMaker then I’m Max Verstappen.

Applimazing’s £7 Early Access sequel looks and sounds a lot like its much-loved predecessor. The Dutch dev might have faced ‘1.5’ jibes if it hadn’t been for additions such as damage, penalties, a manager mode, editors, and new cars, tracks, and tyre types.

Like most UR2D2 features – qualification, tyre wear, dynamic weather, etc – damage is optional and fully customisable. Play with it switched on and set high, and the thuggish driving style that often paid dividends in UR2D suddenly becomes unwise. Even though pit stop durations aren’t dependent on, and handling doesn’t seem to be affected by, the condition of your vehicle, using the cars of rivals as brake augmentation aids and anti-skid devices, isn’t advisable in contests in which damage is active. A clumsy, inattentive driver in such a race can very easily end up with a ‘DNF’ beside their name.

The new manager mode builds on UR2D’s spectator options. After choosing a class, naming their drivers and team, selecting car colours, and, if they wish to, handpicking a series of venues, rather than personally guiding a speeding sprite around a twisting circuit, the player influences races in real-time by dictating the tyre strategies, racing lines, and aggressiveness of their two drivers. It’s less demanding than driving in person, but I find myself itching to get back behind the wheel after a few laps of instruction issuing.

For me, UR2D2 is at its best when the race duration is long (250-lap races are possible), weather and tyre wear is in play, and the game’s admirably malleable “AI skill” number* has been set a tad outside my comfort zone. The longer the race the more likely I am to attain that Zen-like state I generally only experience in 3D race sims. That state where I’m barely aware of what my fingers are doing and my steed is caressing apexes and passing rivals in a manner that brings to mind a raptor on the wing.

* Because that number can be set anywhere between 1 and 130, UR2D2 can be adapted to suit players of absolutely any ability.

The realism and physics might be more Need for Speed than Assetto Corsa (Don’t expect subtleties like manual gears, suspension tweaking, and slipstreaming) but switching vehicle classes can radically alter the way you approach a familiar circuit. Whether you like your rubber depositers tail-happy or terrier-like, skittery or firmly planted, lightning quick or stately, you’re sure to find something to suit in UR2D2’s extensive showroom.

Perfect for gadflies and those only able to game in brief bursts, but also capable of satisfying folks looking for structure, lengthy solo careers, or great local multiplayer action, Ultimate Racing 2D 2 is a game I’d have slapped an 85%+ score on in my days as a PC Gamer reviewer.


  1. I consider myself something of a top down racer aficionado – some may say “snob” – from Way Back. Either way, I’m quite picky, but I really love how UR2D/UR2D2 drive. There are a few more polished top down racers out there (Circuit Superstars, Art of Rally, etc) but I honestly prefer the handling feel of UR2D2. What UR2D2 is, I’m afraid, a bit short on IMO is character. Yes, there is a “career mode” where you can work your way up the motorsport ladder – while I can’t say it’s at all poorly done, it begins to feel very same-y very quickly for me. I am a huge fan of “Cranks and Goggles”, which, while short and simple, absolutely oozes character. I would love to see UR2D2 sprinkled with a bit of that magic to give offline players more narrative inducement to want to climb the ladder.

    Although, being terminally American, I have no interest in nor knowledge of the sport we call “soccer”, I am very interested in the concept of “looks/plays like a simple/retro sports game, but outcomes are attribute driven” games. In my younger days, I played many, many hours of sports games – football, baseball, basketball, even hockey – but, the older I got, the more suspension of disbelief it required as I turned bum players/teams into superstars by outfoxing AI with deft analog stick manipulations. I’m almost entirely a “management sim” devotee when it comes to getting my sports fix today, but am intrigued by the idea of games that blend the two concepts. I fell deep into the “Retro Bowl” rabbit hole a while back and, while that game is not exactly deep from an attributes perspective, it did give the feeling that your players were nicely ratings-limited so as to give you the impression that your basic “GM” off field decisions carried as much weight as your on field decisions. I would love to see someone do the same with basketball.

    • I’d love to do a 3×3 ‘sports special’ with a US slant, but I’m hopelessly ill-equipped to write it. Does anyone fancy penning 400ish words on a favourite American football, baseball, or basketball title? If I can find three willing Cornerites, THC will get its first ‘crowdsourced’ article.

  2. Thanks Tim!
    I’ve had my eyes on Tiny Soccer and Super Video Golf for a while now (I wait until the Early Access period is complete with my games these days). I’m assuming that we have pretty similar recommendations from the Steam algorithm, and I’m wondering if you or any other Flare Pathers have any curiosity/experience with these games:

    Invasion Machine (https://store.steampowered.com/app/964650/Invasion_Machine/)
    – I still don’t understand if this is a strategy game or something else entirely

    Legend Bowl (https://store.steampowered.com/app/1106340/Legend_Bowl/)
    -Tiny Soccer, but American Football

    Deadstick (https://store.steampowered.com/app/771800/Deadstick__Bush_Flight_Simulator/)
    -Is this vaporware?

    Tin Can (https://store.steampowered.com/app/1315980/Tin_Can/)
    -plate spinning in space?

    We Who Are About to Die (https://store.steampowered.com/app/973230/We_Who_Are_About_To_Die/)
    -looks like a fun gladiator mutilate&manage….I really want a Qvadriga sequel…

    Cultic (https://store.steampowered.com/app/1684930/CULTIC/)
    This is the best boomshoot I’ve played so far. This is just a recommendation.

    Apologies if you’ve covered any of these before. Looking through my Steam wishlist, I believe like 30% of the games on there come recommended or previewed by you.

    Have a good one!

    • Thanks for the suggestions. I suspect a few of these will appear in future 3x3s. If REMEX is willing to talk to me, there’ll be Deadstick news in next week’s A2Z.

    • I have tried the We Who Are About to Die demo; not really my bag for reasons described below, but it is in a playable state if you want to try out the gameplay loop (I had one crash after 80 minutes on the match result screen, but it did resume when restarted). If you’re not in a rush, maybe wait for some refinements in an update.

      My beefs:
      1) Mouse-controlled combat
      It’s set up for m+k. The cursor is all important as that’s where you’ll strike or block, but it doesn’t half get lost when there’s a mass brawl or the audience are throwing fruit. People like the game enough that it’s presumably possible to learn better, but that would take more time than I was willing to give. Even if I were to fine-tune the sensitivity, I didn’t see an option to invert the Y axis, and I’m an inverted-Y type of guy. I still suspect I’d be fighting the camera to a certain degree.

      2) Rogue-like structure
      I’m used to level-appropriate gear. Here, most stuff (equipment, attributes, upgrades) would have bonuses that were largely offset by unusual downsides. My character was (the son of) a disgraced politician: I had two AI companions in every match, even those that were ostensibly one-on-one. On the down side, I was a target for the boo-boys.

      My two assistants did the majority of the work in matches. If there was enough space, I’d try and get behind the opponent(s) and hit them with a kick or shield-bash (same key, just depends if you’re holding a shield) as that was the only strike that would land with any frequency.

      You earn gold and fame from matches. At the start, the shop will only stock three pieces of equipment – once you’ve accumulated enough fame, you can spend some to increase that number. For reasons I don’t understand, you’re not shown what the equipment is: you have to click on the box and it takes a few seconds to appear for EACH CHUFFING ITEM !

  3. Between a Sensible Soccer clone, and Super Video Golf seemingly using Topaz (the Amiga’s default font), I’m feeling cast back to the A500 of my youth today 🙂
    if UR2D has lower resolution graphics, it wouldn’t look out of place on the Amiga either (from me, that’s high praise, not a complaint).

  4. I’ve long thought that the LRDG/SAS would be ripe for a “U-Boat”- style game. You would have navigation, vehicle-maintenance, and supply issues. Troop-morale/interaction could be an RPG element since, effectively, your “crew” of idiosyncratic warriors (“rolled up” at the start?) are trapped in a confined space with each other for an extended period. This is before you even get to the H&D-style combat bits.

    Anyhoo, most of my PC-played sporty games looked like the above three titles. Might give the golf a go. Spent many hours with Links 386, but dislike the bombast of the modern EA titles

    • Operating in a desert makes it very easy to create distance and find some time away from your colleagues. Just walk over the next dune at bedtime.

      While I couldn’t say whether the SAS adopted H&D-style combat they very definitely adopted rather different approaches. There’s not much hidden about a jeep with 7 machine guns on it driving through an airfield destroying all the aircraft.

      Which would also be excellent fun in a game so I do think you and Tim are onto something here.

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