The packed in seats of the auditorium fall into a silence of anticipation. The players poise themselves on the playing field, each one covered head to toe in enough gear to protect them through a moderate sized nuclear explosion. They each wait for the moment in their own way, some praying, some bouncing lightly back and forth, some forcing down the urge to vomit. Seconds stretch out to eternity as the two opposing teams face each other, coiling like snakes ready to strike, waiting for that perfect moment. Time does funny things, and one could almost believe that everyone in the arena will be stuck, frozen, doomed to wait forever. Then the ball bursts forth with an explosion in the center of the field and the silence transforms into a cacophony of crunches and thunderous cheers. It's time to play Crunchball 3000.
Crunchball 3000 is, as you may have guessed, a sports game. The twist, though, is that this is a fictional sport played in the distant future. Even though the setting is more science fiction than reality, most players should find at least a few familiar things, due to the fact that Crunchball is patterned after the very real and contemporary sports of hockey and soccer.
In general, you have two teams of ten pitted against each other, with one ball between them. You score points by driving the ball into the opposing team's goal by any means necessary. Throw it in, run it in, you can even manage to get tackled and let the ball fumble in all on its own. You'll use the [WASD] keys to run your currently highlighted player, the [G] key to tackle or to throw the ball if you have it, the [H] key to pass the ball or to change players on defense, and the [J] key to cycle through the formations for your players.
Once the game ends, it's time to take off the pads and put on your coach's hat. In between games you'll have to direct practice, buy new gear, and even trade players at the end of the season. If you're smart, you'll keep a close eye on your stats and those of your opponents, because how well you prepare off the field is just as important as what happens on the field.
Analysis: Good sports games in Flash can be hard to find, which is probably one of the reasons we haven't featured many in the past. It can be even worse if you're trying to find casual sports games. You're talking about cramming in all the statistical data, the physics, the gameplay, and then squeezing it all into an experience that can be enjoyed in ten or so minutes. It's a tall order, but one that Crunchball 3000 fills with ease.
Crunchball's success is largely due to the fact that the fictional sport is a streamlined rendition of several real ones. Hockey, basketball, and soccer are the ancestors of this futuristic blood sport, but by omitting most of the rules, not only was the game easier to produce, I'm sure, but it's easier for the casual player to pick up and enjoy. It is at once new and exciting, but familiar enough to not throw people off.
Don't mistake streamlining for a lack of depth, though. With three tiers, thirty-two teams, and well over three hundred players, Crunchball has enough raw data and stats to satisfy even the guy at work who knows which player hit what home run in a World Series that took place decades ago. On top of that there's quite a bit of customization available to you, right up to the color of jersey your team gets to wear.
The goodies for sports fans don't end there. Not by a long shot. At the end of each season, you can trade players. Is your line up not holding up well against other teams? Pick up a better player. Are you short of cash? Sell one of your high dollar players to restock the coffers. You even get a decent amount of control over how you choose to improve your team from week to week by selecting which attributes you wish to work on, buying new gear, or even partaking in less than legal performance enhancers.
I know. At this point you must be thinking that this game doesn't sound very casual at all. That's where you would be wrong. Even with all this depth, each actual game only lasts for a minute and a half. Further, there are single games and multiplayer games that don't require the full time investment of career mode.
And when you clear away the stats, the trades, the different tiers, etc. what you have is a game that is still tons of fun. Sure, when you're just starting out it may feel a little sluggish, but you just haven't built up your players yet. Train and buy gear wisely, and eventually your team will be speeding up and down the arena and throwing some bone crunching tackles.
I would say Crunchball's one weakness as a sports game is that there isn't much depth in developing and adapting strategies. Sure, there are a ton of formations, but I found that as I progressed from the lowly third tier to the first, I only needed to employ one strategy to rack up an impressive lifetime record. Now this means that I'm either the greatest Crunchball player of all time, or the challenge and adaptability of your opponents could have been tweaked upwards a touch.
If you're a big fan of sports games and have been dying for something to play at work on break, this is it. Even if you aren't really that into sports games, Crunchball 3000 boasts quite a bit of accessibility. So gear up, warm up, stretch out, and pay no mind to the 6'4", 320 lb behemoth giving you the evil eye. Scars build character and you ain't got time to be scared. Are you ready for some Crunchball?