You can probably guess from the opening MIDI rap of the game that there's trouble ahead ... Joe Montana Sports Talk Football is long on Montana's mug and the play-by-play voice announcing, but woefully short on the gameplay.

The game has Montana and the NFL's blessing, but not the rest of the Player's Association, so you get teams with no player names. Gameplay modes consist of the usual one-off exhibition game, there's also actually a 16-game league in this one, but there's a couple of problems with it - one is that if you accidentally toggle it on from the menu you seemingly have to reset the game to get back out of it, and the other being that progress is saved by rather unweildy passwords rather than a backup battery.

The game actually has something of a robust camera system for a 1991-ish title; you can view the game from a horizontal (a la Tecmo Super Bowl) or vertical (a la Madden) perspective. You can also zoom out to "Blimp" mode which makes the players kinda look like Xs and Os running around. When a player gets the ball, in any of these view systems, the game automatically zooms in to a range of about 10 yards in front of and 5 yards behind the player. I actually like this system and thought it was the high point of the game - it's too bad the abysmal gameplay ruins everything anyway.

Let's check out the play-by-play announcing first, though, since that was the hook that got people sitting through all the bad gameplay and actually made this one a pretty good seller back in the day. There's actually a pretty beefy range of voice clips from the announcer, who sounds like a phlegmy but slightly more emotional Dr. Sbaitso. Aside from announcing the plays and team names, he'll also notify you of what formations the offense and defense are lined up in, and interject with timely updates on the score and reminders of how much time is left. It actually sounds passably like a simple radio broadcast of a football game at times, and for a 16-bit early-generation title it's even kind of impressive.

I guess it had to be, though, because again, the gameplay is Jank City. The first problem you'll likely notice is that there's no tackling animation whatsoever, or even a button for it; defenders get close enough to the ball carrier and then they magically fall on their ass in lulzy style. The game sports a playbook roughly equivalent to Madden, and the amount of plays and formations leaves Tecmo in the dust, but navigating the menus is odd and counter-intuitive. Games turn into epic defensive battles more often than not, because offense is far and away the most atrocious aspect of the game - the offensive line is like a sieve, and passing requires that you not only move the quarterback around (dodging the surging D-line that inevitably comes straight through on every play) but also simultaneously move a crosshairs around that you have to line up over the reciever you want to throw to, even if they are off the screen! Couldn't they have just stolen Tecmo's passing system? Running is a tough sell too due to the line barely ever blocking adequately for you, and defenders having to merely touch you to knock you over. Blatant pass interference (running into a dude to keep him from getting into the pass crosshairs) also never seems to get flagged even if you have penalties turned on.

With all the focus on the vocal play-by-play, they also apparently forgot to spend time on the graphics. All teams have a crap white outline with really thick lines for some reason that screws up their usual uniform style and makes the whole thing look amateurish. The field looks really basic and simplistic, like the top of one of those vibrating electronic tabletop football games from the 70s. To cut memory apparently players on each team use copies of the same sprite, which means teams are randomly either entirely black or white of skin tone.

The Montana games were apparently developed by the same team that did the Madden games, and you can see that they tried to incorporate a lot of the ideas here that eventually went on to make Madden the pre-eminent football franchise. Unfortunately, they jacked the gameplay so bad that none of the good qualities of the game really matter at all.

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