Let me start out by saying I’m a novice when it comes to foosball. My technique consists of spinning the rods as fast as I can and hoping I’m aligned with the ball to shoot it away from my goal. So by taking this review on, I thought maybe I’d learn a few things about how to play, something that could translate over from the video game to real life. Yes, I learned a few things. Yes, they could translate over, but I still suck at foosball, either digitally or at a real table, although the game does enough to help with my lack of skills to make it look like I’m competent.
You’ve got a few options for how to play this. There’s Quick Match, in which you pick all your settings for a quick match-up, pretty self-explanatory. Online Mulitplayer lets you pit your skills against other players. Then there’s Tournament, which is this game’s version of campaign mode, where you move through an ever increasing difficulty of challenges to earn various unlocks to use, from different moves to tables and looks for your team on the table. I spent the bulk of my time in Tournament mode. I don’t like to lose, and not having everything unlocked leaves me with an empty hole inside. So, to get all the trick shots unlocked you have to progress through the Tournament, playing against various cities, earning points as you go. The better you do, the more points you get. You get up to 3 per match, but if you get scored on once, you only get two points. It’s pretty easy early on to max out your points, and I had my first trick shot unlocked in a few matches. Then things got a bit harder. You can, of course, go back in for a rematch, even if you do win, to try and improve your score, but as long as you win, you unlock whatever the prize was for that round.
Quick Match was okay on the Vita. You can really work on clearing trophies in here, as this is where you can set your own terms more easily and wipe the floor with your opponent, hitting all the things you need to unlock that trophy. The other option is to play against a friend on the PS3, which you don’t have on the Vita, or have that friend join you against the CPU. I didn’t spend much time with this, but will probably in the future. Online Multiplayer lets you invite friends off your friends list into the game or set up random matches with people. This plays pretty much the same as Quick Match, as you can set what the victory terms are and what table you’re playing on. Multiplayer was kind of fun, but I ran into lag issues that were annoying. Most of my time was spent playing the Vita version, as I can take it around the house wherever I need to be and goof off. My PS3 is wired. I actually get better response through my wi-fi than my wired anyway, but I’d get weird moments where it looked like I scored but the game just wasn’t showing my opponents quick moves fast enough, and suddenly that ball isn’t past the goal, but is rocketing towards my goal, which is not good, before the game would catch up. Playing head to head on the same screen is a bit more fun, but if you really want to play against an opponent and no friends are around, you have that online option.
The game looks almost the same whether you’re playing it on the Vita or the PS3, while the PS3 does have a few visual extras that make it pop just a little more over the Vita version, but you’re not going to notice it while you’re playing. I didn’t notice it that much until I was comparing screenshots. What we get is pretty decent, and there is a nice variety between the tables and the actual foosmen, so that you’re not stuck looking at exactly the same table over and over again. The music is okay. For the most part I didn’t notice it. When you’re focused on the ball and where it’s at, what music is playing is furthest from your mind. Honestly, you could play this without music and it’d make almost no difference. The ball ricocheting around sounds about right, but it will get annoying for those around you that aren’t playing.
The PS3 version has optional Move controls, but you can use the controller just fine. Both the Vita and PS3 version function and play almost identically. I do think the response from the PS3 was just a little bit better than on my Vita, but not by a whole lot. You use the left analog stick to move your foosmen across the table and to try and control the ball. The right stick is more for spinning and firing the ball than anything else. The face buttons are tied to your trick shots, once you have them unlocked through grinding them out in the Tournament. You can also shake the Vita or your PS3 controller if the ball gets stuck, which is the equivalent of smacking the table to get the ball to move. There are a few camera options as well.
The game does quite a bit to help novice players out. There are arrows that follow the flow of the ball, you get a bit of help controlling the ball with your sticks, things like that. I do think someone who’s versed in both video games and Foosball will actually be able to master this pretty well. The online matches I’ve played, you can tell who’s like me, wildly tossing the ball around pretending at control, while the person who’s precise can move the ball between sticks with grace and set up that perfect shot. It’s a tricky balance, and I think there will be very different opinions on whether they got it right or not. I mean, while the people with precise control are doing well, they should be trouncing a player like me who hasn’t come even close to ball control, but because the game helps new players out so much, I’m usually at least able to tie someone who would obliterate me on a real table.
Between the Trophies, multiplayer, and unlocks, there’s a bit to keep you playing. It’s fast and fun and it doesn’t take long to get someone into a match with you if you don’t have any friends with the game. They’ve got it pretty well polished, and even the initial load time on both handheld and console are relatively short. Tournament mode has the balance struck pretty well as you move through it, adding levels of competence to your opponents as you move through. When they tell you you’re going to be playing an advanced table, they mean it. The price is really decent for what you’re getting here as well, and since it does have multiplayer, it’s something you can whip out and play with friends or online for awhile. I think my only gripe is that it doesn’t seem to match players up at all based on skill level. I’m just a few steps above terrible with this game, just like at a real foosball table, but I kept getting paired off against people who really knew what they were doing. That could use a little tweaking.
They’ve done some neat things with the tables, and offering an unlock system for something like this was kind of interesting. Really though, this is Foosball we’re talking about here. Not much to change or it wouldn’t be Foosball, so as far as originality goes, it’s a little lacking. It can be addictive, especially with that feeder bar that comes with the Trophies and unlocks. It’s easy to pick up and play a few games when you have a chance. What I really like is that you buy it once and it unlocks on both the Vita and the PS3, and it’s a decent price. That, and as long as you’re connected to the PSN, your progress in one is reflected in the other one, so you don’t have to go through and unlock everything twice.
One thing I didn’t like was the cash grab feel the game has to it for unlocks. When you go to unlock you have two options, grind it out in Tournament mode, which can suck for players like me who might actually find the later stages difficult, or you can go to the PSN store and drop cash for the unlocks. You don’t have to pay the cash, but it’s a constant reminder to you, in game, that they have that option available to you. It’s just the moves and the table variations, and they are cheap, only another $4 or so, but I’m not feeling it. Other than that, though, the game runs smooth, plays great for what it is, and is a lot of fun even if you have no clue what you’re doing.
Sound: Above Average
Control and Gameplay: Good
Addictiveness: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Good
FINAL SCORE: ENJOYABLE GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
With the option to play on the go and on your home console for one low price, and to not have a Foosball table cluttering up your house, I’d say this version of the game is a pretty decent deal. It plays well enough for novices that they can survive against more experienced players, but serious Foosball enthusiasts might be a bit turned off that someone who hasn’t quite mastered ball handling or precision can keep up. Online is a bit of a mixed bag due to some visual lag, but single player or head to head plays just fine. Overall I’ve enjoyed it and it’s a reasonable price for what it is.