Football is great, and recreations of my favourite sport are always bound to go down well with me, especially if they’re a take on a classic board game like Subbuteo. With that in mind, it’s probably obvious why I wanted to pick up Tabletop Soccer! Somewhere in the middle of Final Fantasy Tactics and FIFA, it’s a game that offers a proper strategical attempt at playing the beautiful game.
What is important in a game like this is ensuring the mechanics are rock solid, and for the most part, the developers, Dancing Developers, manage it quite well. It’s all fairly straight forward, drag your player to move him, double click in open space to pass there. There are even some ‘boosts’ that you can use to enhance your play, giving you the ability to curve your pass into an onrushing forward, who’ll then be able to blast it right into the top corner.
A lot of the development time appears to have gone into the multiplayer aspect for Tabletop Soccer. It truly is phenomenal how far-reaching it is, even if the community is presently on the low side. It’s entirely cross-platform, so if you have it on PC, you might face off against your pal who has it on their iPad. Another nifty feature is the account management, which allows players to carry over their teams and tactics from device to device. It’s incredibly clever, and something that a lot of developers could learn from, as that level of cross-platform play is a wonderful achievement.
When I say the ugly side, I really mean the presentation. The game looks absolutely terrible. It sounds a bit shallow to criticise it, but it really is appalling. Even the menus and match interface are woeful, but the worst of all, are the players in the game. They all look like Miis, which is definitely not a good look, given the players bodies are approximately the same size as their heads. Going along with the presentation, it’s worth mentioning the sound in the game. I can’t work out how they thought any of it sounds good, because it really isn’t. Prior to the match, you’re ‘treated’ to five short air-horn like blasts before the dead silence of the pitch. If you take a shot, you’ll immediately know if you’ve scored, because a disembodied voice will say “yes” or, what I assume is “no” in slow motion. It’s an incredibly weird sound effect, and genuinely is one of the worst I’ve heard in a video game ever.
Another aspect I really didn’t get on with is the boost abilities. While they are well thought out and do add value to the experience overall, they don’t have tooltips. The little boxes that tell you what the item you’re hovering over does are incredibly useful, especially if you blast through the tutorial and don’t remember what each one does. I was often pressing the boosts, thinking they were one thing only for it to not do what I expected it to do. In terms of game mechanics, it’s tiny, but this is a case where the small things really matter, and the extra attention to detail would have gone very far.
You’d expect, in a game like this, the ability to construct plays and execute them flawlessly to undo your opponents and score you a worldy. Unfortunately, there isn’t – not really anyway. You’re able to string a few passes together, but I would never really describe it as totally fluid. It’s pretty rigid, and most of the time there is only one or two real tactics that will get you in a position to score. It isn’t terrible, but once you’ve found a winning tactic, you’ve pretty much completed the game.
I feel like I’m being a bit harsh really. Tabletop Soccer is definitely not a bad game, and for less than £2, it’s gotta be worth it, right? Well, maybe, but if you’re not looking to inflate your games library and actually only purchase decent games, then you’d probably prefer to take a look at Football Tactics instead. It offers the same stuff, but with much nicer presentation and generally better mechanics. In a pinch, however, this game isn’t too bad and will definitely give you a bit of fun, especially if more people get involved to play it.