Soccer Bashi (WiiWare) - Review by Chris
Things have generally been quiet on the WiiWare front in recent times, as it seems that many of the big developers have moved away from it as well as some of the smaller independent studios, who are citing file size limitations are halting their games coming to the service. Luckily, there are still developers out there bringing new content each and every week and here we have an offering from Icon Games, who have taken the tried and tested Breakout template and added a twist to it in the hope of it appealing to those who've tired of these kinds of games. Is the twist enough to elevate this to 'must play' territory or does it get bogged down by adhering to a tired template?
Soccer Bashi is, for all intents and purposes, a Breakout clone through and through, coated in a soccer and futuristic themed aesthetic to try and offset some of the drudge that comes with yet another one of these games. Comprising primarily of two main modes of play, you're objective regardless of which mode you select has you controlling a paddle at the bottom of the screen, with a set number of lives available to you, as you aim to destroy all the various coloured blocks and enemies littering a playing area, all the while racking up points to create a cumulative total for a high score. If you've played any number of these games, you'll immediately feel right at home here as the template remains largely unchanged, although there are inclusions which aim to liven things up.
Of the two modes, Arcade is the most substantial, offering up 10 zones for you to conquer each with 8 levels and a boss character that need to be cleared before you can unlock and progress onto the next zone. You'll have to essentially sit down for the long haul and play an entire zone in one sitting if you wish to unlock the other zones as while there is a save feature in the middle of each zone, this is merely here so that should you run out of lives, you can use a continue to start from this point rather than starting from the beginning again. It's therefore disappointing and inexplicable that there is no true save feature in place for those who only have a few minutes spare to play. Still, it would be a much bigger issue if the levels on offer provided anything in the way of enjoyment but after the initial few levels, things quickly become mired in tedium.
Although varied in overall layout, levels quickly become a chore to play through as they provide little to elevate the game from the Breakout template and thus quickly become boring long before you reach the last zone. The inclusion of certain blocks which act as hazards to your paddle as well as enemy characters really do little to make for a more tense and enjoyable experience and while there are plenty of items and pickups which can alter your paddle, making it bigger, smaller, magnetic or allotting you twin paddles, these don't change the difficult much. And, although acting as another mode allowing you to pick and choose a series of levels to play through at your leisure, Tournament mode doesn't stray either, continuing the same dull gameplay although thankfully in shorter bursts. Even adding a second player to the mix does nothing to the game other than making the levels easier to complete, although this will probably lessen the tedium if you are a completionist and want to finish everything on offer.
Perhaps the best inclusion in the game is the level editor, allowing you to create and save up to 100 of your originally designed levels. It's a nice touch and although the tools are very basic, and the grid based nature of setting everything up takes a little getting used to, it certain shines as perhaps the only example of something in the game worth investing your time in if you've got a creative mind.
You'll only need to use the Wii-mote to play the entire game yet while you would presume that the game would opt for a more tradition, button based setup, that isn't what you get here. Instead, the developers have opted to make use of the Wii-mote's pointer functionalities, with you pointing at the screen to move your paddle. It obviously allows for quicker movements, which definitely helps with some of the more pressing levels, but it feels initially odd and a nagging feeling that there should have at least been an option to use the d-pad continues to play on you the more you play as getting the angles for shots is more difficult with such a sensitive control setup, prolonging many of the game's levels beyond the realm of enjoyable.
Taking on a football and futuristic theme, the visuals in Soccer Bashi are by no means terrible but they're hardly the best you'll see on the WiiWare service. It looks good for a Breakout clone, with bright coloured blocks, a variety of themes used for the stages given each one their own personality and a generally smooth flowing presentation, but the football theme feels unnecessary as it adds little to the game, other than the ball actually being a football and the stages having the lines from a football pitch painted on them. It all looks much better than the menus, however, which look garish and positively try to force the game's themes down your throat.
To say the game's music is unpronounced would be an understatement, with the audio clearly taking a backseat throughout. What music is in the game takes on a decidedly techno feel and while it may hit a nostalgic note with one or two gamers, it does quickly become irritating and really doesn't do much to set the scene let alone have any relevance to the theme of football. It's overshadowed, however, during the gameplay by the various sound effects and overlays which will definitely hit a nerve as an attempt to create ambient stadium sounds, such as vendors selling food and drink as well as cheers from the crowd, fail to hit the mark and feel unnecessary within the context of the game, especially considering how often they loop.
The addition of a sporting theme to the overall gameplay template does little to help Soccer Bashi feel like anything more than a dull and lifeless Breakout clone. Any small amount of enjoyment from the initial play quickly diminishes and falls prey to tired gameplay mechanics which fail to entertain for any length of time. A level editor and the inclusion of cooperative play may stave off boredom for a short time but ultimately, Soccer Bashi really isn't going to keep you coming back for more after that first play and even the low price tag isn't enough to warrant a download of the game when similar things are available on the WiiWare service which are ultimately better.
Pro: Cooperative play, level editor allows you to show your creative hand
Con: Gameplay feels tired almost immediately, Arcade mode quickly becomes a chore to play through, audio work isn't great
Final score: 3.5
|Developer:||Icon Games Entertainment|
|Publisher:||Icon Games Entertainment|