Blocky Soccer Review

Blocky Soccer Review

Jul 2, 2016

It’s easy to look at Blocky Soccer and immediately assuming it’s nothing more than a Crossy Road clone. Thankfully there’s enough differences to make this thing stand on its own two feet.

The game has you participate in mini ‘tournaments’ that are simply three games played back to back. If you’re thinking that you’re going to play full games of soccer, you’re mistaken.

Each soccer match consists of watching a ball move from one goal to the other. I assume there’s some random number generation going on, as it seems to move back and forth randomly. If the ball hits your goal, you simply get the spin of a roulette wheel which will either see the opposition score or miss. As soon as the ball hits their goal the scene changes as this means you’re about to attack their goal.

This is where Block Soccer is, at its most, Crossy Road. You are a footballer at the bottom of the screen and you need to swipe left and right to avoid defenders coming at you from the top of the screen. You also need to keep an eye out for defenders tackling you from behind, as they can also appear at the bottom of the screen. It’s pretty straightforward, even if it does get tricky when you’re bombarded with defenders. Once you’ve dodged enough tackles, which is a random number, you’ll then need to take your shot.BlockySoccer4

Once you’re in front of the goal everything stops and you’ll have an arrow waving from left to right placed in front of you. Shooting at the goal consists of two taps. Your first tap will stop the arrow swinging. Once you’ve done that the arrow fills up to show how hard you’re about to punt the ball. Tap the screen to stop it filling up and take the shot.

Easy. Right?

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, there’ll be a key in the goal. If the ball hits the key, it’s yours. You also gain keys if you win tournaments too. What do keys do? Well, they unlock new kits and eventually new stadiums to play in. The problem is that these kits aren’t that interesting. Some are quite cool – as they let you play as an animal or something weird, but most are just slightly different colored variations of the same model you’ve been looking at for hours already. Also, nothing else really changes. Unlike Crossy Road – which it’s hard not to compare this game to – it’s not as if you play with different types of ball or come up against different types of defender.

Which isn’t the worst thing in the world but it does mean that there’s very little to see once you’ve unlocked a kit or two.

Star Knight Review

Star Knight Review

Jun 27, 2016

I love a good platformer, me. Super Meat Boy, Shovel Knight, you know the type. Sadly, it’s never been a genre that touchscreen devices have been able to get a handle on. Touchscreen controls being what they are, the precision required just doesn’t exist when you’re tapping on a screen.

Star Knight probably knows this (or at least the people making it do). Star Knight is an action platformer but it’s a slow action platformer. Not painfully slow, not boringly slow but more deliberately slow. It’s also somewhat ‘floaty’ in the way you jump. These may sound like criticisms, but they’re not. They’re deliberate design choices that make Star Knight play differently to other platformers and also embraces the limitations of the controls available to mobile players.

It also helps that the somewhat slow and floaty physics of the game are put to good use with varied and challenging level designs. Sometimes you’re asked to wall jump you’re way to the top of a level, other times you need to make accurate jumps from platform to platform. On top of the platforming there’s also enemies in your way.StarKnight3

Combat is pretty straight forward. You have an ‘attack’ button and a ‘special attack’ button. Your character will then swipe their sword in whatever direction you’re facing. Occasionally you’ll want to press the ‘special attack’ button, though this will mean a larger version of your sword swings and your attacks do more damage. This basic combat has a levelling-up system of sorts bolted onto it, as you can collect tokens in levels which improve your attack and health values.

The enemies themselves are pretty varied, some will fly, some will shoot things but all of them are a little boring to fight. This is a real problem when it comes to boss battles. These are battles that last much longer but lack any variety in attack patterns so it becomes a bit of a grind to defeat these foes.

Which is a shame, as the main platforming element of Star Knight is pretty great. It’s all wrapped up in a really smart art style that makes journeying through levels, identifying dangers and spotting hidden items easier and more intuitive. The game is primarily black and white and uses splashes of color to highlight things that can kill or cure you. It’s a smart visual design that makes it easy to see what’s going on.

Another plus is that there’s tons of levels and there’s also an arena mode where you can battle enemies. It’s safe to say that I didn’t spend too much time in this mode as the combat is, as mentioned, weak.

Star Knight is ultimately a quality title. Some varied platforming, solid controls and a great art style are slightly dampened by dull combat, but in the end, it’s a hit.

Soccer Manager 2016 Review

Soccer Manager 2016 Review

Jun 27, 2016

People always think they can do better than the manager of any team they support. That formation? That transfer? That substitution? All wrong. Let me show you how it’s done.

So that’s what I was hoping for with Soccer Manager 2016. It offers all you’d expect from a football (soccer) manager game. You can set training schedules, formations, transfers and so on. All of the big European leagues are represented and there’s all of the logos and player portraits you’d expect.

The main issue is that it’s all far too slow. The game is essentially a series of menus and it’s takes far too many clicks for you to actually get into a game. Also, the game is heavily designed to be played ‘on the cloud’. Essentially, this means that the game is constantly saving and uploading save files to the internet, so if you have a remotely questionable internet connection it’ll become a real grind.sm162

The menus are also pretty ugly and when played on a smaller screen a bit too fiddly, with some buttons and menus requiring precise taps of the screen. On top of the poor visual presentation I found an odd bug where you can’t mute the audio at all. This meant I had to mute the phone, so my ideal scenario of listening to a podcast whilst lifting the Champions League trophy was dashed.

The simulation of the football matches themselves also resulted in some questionable outcomes. For five straight games, my players received red cards. Then I had one game where I only got two players yellow cards, which was then followed by another three match streak of red cards.

Another issue with the matches themselves is the way in which you make substitutions and formation changes. In most games it’s a simple case of dragging and dropping players from position to position or from the bench to the pitch, but not in Soccer Manager 2016. Instead, everything is done through menus, meaning that if you want to alter that midfielder’s position into a more defensive role, you need to scroll through a huge list of formations.

On top of this, it’s hard to predict exactly what impact your decisions will have when it comes to tactics. For example, you can choose someone to be the ‘playmaker’ of the team. What does this mean? Do you need someone who’s good at passing here? What if you have a defender who’s good at passing, then what? What if your ‘playmaker’ is slow?

On top of this it’s impossible to know how your players are going to develop… unless you purchase some in-game coin. This is a free to play game, after all, so to do better you’ll need to pay. You’ll pay to view a player’s potential, you’ll pay to unlock stadium and training improvements quicker and so on.

Which is a shame as the entire game needs to be quickened up. It’s ultimately solid, despite some odd red cards and a lack of feedback to your actions, but slogging through menus slows everything down to a real crawl.

Invaders Inc Review

Invaders Inc Review

Jun 20, 2016

Sometimes I play games to build. I want to grow an empire, lead a sports team to victory or just construct a castle of sorts. Other times I’m all about that destruction. Wiping out civilizations, demolishing towns and annihilating entire planets. Invaders Inc is the latter rather than the former.

It sees you playing as a race of aliens looking to make Earth their new home. If you’ve played Plague Inc., you’ll have an idea of how this plays. Like a cross between Risk and Xcom, you need to invade different countries and build-up your offenses.

This may sound exciting, but it’s really quite dull to play. For starters, this whole game plays out at one pace. You can’t fast-forward the game, so at some points you’re sat there waiting for something to happen – a new ship to be built (which is done automatically), a new genetic upgrade to unlock or a new weapon to invest in.invaders2

All of these upgrades and improvements are unlocked through nothing more than a series of menus, meaning the gameplay boils down to waiting and clicking through menus. This wouldn’t be too bad if there was some grand strategy to the things you’re doing. However, there’s not.

You see, the ‘strategy’ is all to do with each country’s heat, cold, science and military values. These values all relate to your own aliens IQ, strength, heat tolerance and cold tolerance values – and that’s it. If your aliens have a low heat tolerance you need to invade a mild climate country and then invest in, you guessed it, your heat tolerance. If a country has a high science value then you need to invest in your alien’s IQ values. There’s no risk or reward to anything and it’s all quite predictable.

Eventually, the invasion stops being a secretive operation and it soon descends into an all-out war. This might sound exciting, but like everything else in the game, this is all about bars filling up and upgrades being bought via a menu. You see, as you’re invading, the human’s ‘awareness’ gauge slowly fills up. It’ll fill up more quickly if you invade ‘high-science’ countries – this can be slowed down by upgrading your alien’s ‘stealth’ capabilities.

You should see a pattern here. One bar fills up so you need to buy an upgrade. You wait and watch bars fill up and as a result, you then buy another upgrade. Rinse and repeat. War breaks out but nothing changes as – yet again – you simply watch bars decrease this time.

It’s a real shame that such a good premise fails in its execution. Having played Plague, Inc. I could see what the game was aiming for, but there’s little polish or flavour to the game.

Stickman Soccer 2016

Stickman Soccer 2016

Jun 20, 2016

Soccer games have been getting more and more complicated as the years have gone on. Now you’ve got through-balls, lofted passes, finesse shots and so on. It’s sometimes too much and these complicated controls don’t translate well to mobile phones or tablets.

Stickman Soccer 2016 looks to remedy this. It does this by giving you two buttons – one that passes and one that shoots. If you’re defending, you have a button to switch which player you’re controlling and another button to carry out a slide tackle.

That’s it. It’s unbelievably simple yet does produce some moments of fun. On the harder difficulty settings you’ll need to pass the ball around enough to try and get the opponent’s defenders out of the way. Also, shooting from afar doesn’t result in goals too often, so passing and moving are required.

Defending is a little harder as it seems a bit random as to whether your tackles work or not. On the harder difficulties it seems like the AI can read your mind and dodge out of the way of sliding tackles with cat-like reflexes.stickman4

Aside from the basic arcadey gameplay there’s really not much else to talk about. Sure, there are teams to unlock, and they have different stats and kits, but there’s nothing else to really aim for or complete. Seasons can be played out, but there’s no real progression or development to your team – you won’t be taking part in transfers or developing talent.

Also, the different leagues and cups you want to play in need to be unlocked through watching adverts. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the game didn’t ask you to watch 5 adverts in a row before unlocking the content. Why it can’t ask you to watch an advert after every 3rd game, I don’t know. Instead it wants you to watch all adverts in one block and it’s a real slog.

The adverts don’t just get in the way when you’r eunlokcing content but they also intrude when you’re playing the game. Whenever you finish a match or pause the game, an advert takes over your screen. Sure, you can buy an IAP to get rid of these adverts, but the game is so slim on gameplay I’d find it hard to recommend.

Also – a quick mention of the game’s attempt at representing women’s football. Essentially, it alters the ‘normal’ stickman model to one with inflatable balloons for breasts and a pony-tail. There you go ladies, enjoy!

Stickman Soccer 2016 is a bare-bones arcade game that goes from being too easy to too hard in the blink of an eye. It’s also got very little variation to keep you playing.

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga

May 31, 2016

I’ve played plenty of Lego games in my time. From Hobbits to Batmen, I’ve enjoyed the platforming fun they provide and appreciated the humour they manage to cram into their levels and their cut-scenes. I’ve never, however, played one of these games on a touchscreen mobile device.

So it took me no time to decide that I wanted to get my hands on LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. It’s essentially an action platformer set in the first 6 episodes of the Star Wars. Whilst some Star Wars fans will want to deny all existence of the prequels, fans of Luke Skywalker and Jar Jar Binks alike will have something to look forward to.sw2

The game itself is fairly straightforward. As it’s an action platformer you’re required to make your way through the levels, jumping from ledge to ledge and taking on all manner of enemies. Where it gets interesting is the way the LEGO license is used, as some puzzles within levels can only be completed by putting together LEGO bricks to make bridges and all manner of level-specific objects.

What’s amazing is the sheer amount of content that’s on offer. Each film, of which there are 6, is made up of multiple levels. Each level has multiple cut-scenes, all of which are full of humour and sure to delight kids both young and old. All of your favourite characters are playable (as well as some of the more obscure ones) and they all have different skills which means replaying levels is well worth doing. C3PO, for example, can’t run or jump but he can access control terminals which will unlock areas otherwise impossible to get to.

The only issue I encountered is the controls. This is a platforming game and as such it requires quite some precision to be able to complete some of the harder jumps. LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga offers you two options. The first option is your standard on-screen controls, where you drag your thumb around and it acts like a normal controller. As is always the way with this type of control scheme, the lack of physical feedback when pressing buttons makes it less than ideal and will see you falling into Rancor pits.

The other solution is ‘tap controls’. This dumbs down the control scheme so that all you need to do is tap to where you want to go. For the more difficult jumps all you need to do is tap close to the ledge and then swipe upwards and the game does the difficult jump for you. This is too easy. I hate sounding like Goldilocks, but there’s no control scheme that’s ‘just right’ so I found myself with on-screen controls that were too hard or tap controls that were too easy.

It’s a real shame, as this would otherwise be a game I recommend without any hesitation. As it stands this is a game that I recommend but with the caveat that you need to be prepared to battle some wonky controls.

Groove Planet Review

Groove Planet Review

Apr 30, 2016

I’ve been playing Android games long enough now that I’ve run into a fair few ‘clicker’ games in my time. It’s always difficult to stand out in an over-crowded genre, but Groove Planet has got a unique angle. It’s a ‘clicker’ enfused with a music twist where you have to click in time to the beat. Could we call it a ‘beater’? No – better not.

The idea is that you’re mayor of an extraterrestrial planet. You’re tasked with making and spending ‘beats’ – which is basically money. Using your beats you build musically themed building – recording studios, radio towers, for example. These buildings earn you money without needing to tap and from there it’s pretty much like every other ‘clicker’ – watch the number grow, buy buildings to make the numbers grow quicker.

What you can do is tap alone in time to a beat. Tapping in time to a beat will grant you a bonus that soon multiplies in size. The reward is substantial and well worth doing. The problem is that this is just one of many extremely generous ways that the game increases your income, soon making progress trivial.

For example – during your time with the game there are missions you can complete. These are often very easy, such as tapping 200 times or earning a certain amount of money. Completing these missions grants all of your buildings a permanent buff, often 250x production, sometimes even 500x production.

There’s also ‘chances’ that appear very often. ‘Chances’ see you presented with 3 albums. You don’t know what the album will do and there is a chance (hence the name) that the result will be negative. However, receiving a positive result gives you huge buffs, which watching an advert can make even bigger and any negative results can be ignored by spending the game’s premium currency or, again, watching an advert.

This means that you may be working towards one goal, say building a new giant microphone, and it’ll seem like a real challenge. However, if you hit a couple of missions, get a good ‘chance’ result and tap to the beat a few times and you’ll be seeing your bank balance where it needs to be in no time.groove 2

This goes against what a clicker should be, as they need to reward patience and time spent not ‘on’ the app but at least with it installed and you checking in regularly. Having the rewards dished out so easily means it fails as a clicker in that regard but the game also fails in another regard. There’s no incentive to leave it running and to keep returning to it.

You see, most clickers are all about setting up a better production line of money and leaving it to get on with it so you can come back to the game in a few hours or days and reap the rewards. Groove Planet doesn’t reward you for leaving the game alone.

Another problem is that Groove Planet has you construct a specific building which is responsible for collecting money in your absence. The issue here is that the sums of money this building can hold are so small, they’re insignificant and yet to level-up this building soon becomes too expensive and a waste of money.

This means that Groove Planet is a clicker where you very quickly unlock everything and are offered no incentive to ever leave the game alone let alone return to it. What should be enjoyable, opening up the app and seeing what you can spend your money on, is instead an anti-climax.

Groove Planet is a ‘clicker’ that actually wants you to play it – which is exactly what a clicker shouldn’t demand. Why shouldn’t they demand this? Because actually playing a clicker is just clicking! By demanding your full attention you soon come to realise what a pointless and boring thing it is, to click on a screen mindlessly.

A shame really as Groove Planet looks nice enough and it’s neat idea, being able to play your own tunes and tap along to their beat. The problem is this is a game that should be much more passive but wants far too much attention.

Metal Slug Attack Review

Metal Slug Attack Review

Apr 29, 2016

I don’t think I’ve seen better animated pixels than in the Metal Slug series. Wildly goofy gaites and exaggerated throwing motions were always the staple of the series, which was known as a brutal hard side-scrolling shooter back in the day.

Metal Slug Attack has retained the glorious and gorgeous sprite work of previous Metal slug titles but instead plays completely differently.

Boiled down, Metal Slug Attack is a card collecting game where each card represents a troop you can take into battle. Win battles and you earn more cards. More cards means you can level-up your existing army, etc, etc, you know the drill. There’s all sorts of convoluted hooks in the game to get you to spend money on cards. Free spins of digital roulette wheels every day, coins that turn to gems, gems that turn to coins and tokens that are granted every 2nd Thursday of months ending in ‘Y’. It’s incredibly convoluted.unnamed-6

Luckily, you can ignore most of that and get into battle straight away. Battles are all about protecting your drop-pod and attacking the enemies’ instead. The two pods are placed at each end of the screen and you have to tap at the cards you’ve taken into the fight to spawn little dudes or dudettes that will dutifully walk from the left to the right, shooting at and being shot by the enemy.

The strategy is that your different troops do different attacks. Grenadiers lob explosives whilst other troops are capable of sniping from a distance. Some characters like to get up close and personal, carrying a knife and running to the left with no regard as to their own safety. Your points slowly fill up as the game goes on and you can spend points on an upgrade that makes your points fill up quicker. You gotta spend points to make points, as they say.

So it all looks lovely. I can’t stress how much I love the Metal Slug series’ 2D style and animations. The gameplay itself is fine, with some wiggle room for you to create an army that plays just how you want. The problem is that it’s all wrapped up in such a confusing and obtuse array of systems, currencies, special daily bonuses and limited-time quests. It becomes overwhelming to know what you should focus on, whether you should upgrade your characters or save them for some other poorly explained trade-in system that buried twelve menus deep.

If you can spend the time and read the wikis to get your head around how all of the meta stuff works, Metal Slug Attack might turn out to be totally engrossing and well worth getting into. As it was for me, I found it really pretty, enjoyable to play but ultimately confused me to the point of no return. As in, I played it for a week and now don’t want to return to it. A shame.

Damn Daniel Review

Damn Daniel Review

Apr 27, 2016

Why would anyone spend time making a game only to burden it with being associated with a meme that’s going to be forgotten in a week? That’s the number one question that sat on my mind during my time with Damn Daniel.

You see, Damn Daniel is basically a simple infinite-runner that’s grabbed onto the coat-tails of a meme, where one student points at another student’s shoes and shout “Damn Daniel!”. He makes comments on said shoes and it’s funny. Not actually funny but, you know, ‘internet funny’. Look it up.unnamed-3

You play as a cartoon version of the titular Daniel and you can see the trainers (sneakers) in question. They’re white and they stand out. This 2D infinite runner takes place in some form of infinite space, with a blue background broken up by blocks that you run over.

This needs to be challenging otherwise it would be less of a game than it already is. So what happens is these blocks drop away and sometimes they shift left or right. Basically, your route shifts right before your eyes and it’s your job to keep on top of this by tapping on the screen to jump to avoid gaps.

This is all fairly innocuous. No doubt you’ve played something similar before – the issue is that the shifting of the platforms feels unbalanced. It feels like sometimes the blocks will shift in such a way that escaping death is impossible. As if unfair deaths weren’t annoying enough, your demise is met by a sound clip from the meme that gave birth to this whole game.

“Daaammmn, Daniel!”

It gets very annoying very quickly and there’s little to make you want to keep on. The only glimmer of reward is that you can collect gems whilst playing and these unlock alternate clothes for Daniel to wear.

That’s it.

A highscore table and the ability to watch some adverts to grab extra gems are available but why bother? Damn Daniel is a bad example of what mobile gaming is about. A cynical attempt at riding the wave of popularity a meme is having by spitting out a sub-standard infinite runner. We can do better.

Damn, Daniel…

Rolling Sky Review

Rolling Sky Review

Apr 27, 2016

Imagine an infinite runner that has an end combined with a maze that shows you the way out. That’s what Rolling Sky is.

You control a rolling ball, controlling its horizontal movements by simply swiping left and right on the screen, as it makes its way from the start of the level to the end of the level. It’s so simple it requires no explanation. So ignore this entire paragraph.

The challenge comes through in the form of numerous obstacles that litter each level. Some levels are full of lasers, some are full of weights dropping from the sky and others have trees that cause you to explode.unnamed-3

Each level is set in stone. Where the spike pit was last time you played is where it’ll be this time. This means you have to spend time ‘learning’ each level and this is no easy feat. Some of the levels are seriously tricky and will require multiple attempts, especially if you want to collect the diamonds that are scattered about.

This would be annoying and boring if it weren’t for the presentation and the audio. The level’s are synched to the music which helps give everything a real punch. As the bassline of the song kicks in, the weights drop from the sky and it goes without saying that the music is pretty darn great.

Each level’s audio takes on a slightly different genre of music and the songs go through ups and downs with the levels representing this as well. When the song’s having a quiet moment you’ll be guiding your ball through a relatively simple slalom but when the beat kicks in, you’ll soon notice more hammers, spikes and other pitfalls coming your way.

Also nice to see is the way the game’s monetized. It’s not too abrasive, with 10 extra lives requiring that you watch an advert or wait for a period of time. You can also purchase your way out of this advertising which is a nice option for fans that hate adverts and want to throw some money the developer’s way.

On top of this there’s been updates throughout the game’s life, with new courses being added. Last I looked, the game was up to six. These courses only last about 3 or 4 minutes each, which may not sound like much of a game, but when you consider how hard they are to finish and how much harder it is to finish AND collect all the games, you’ve got something that should keep you busy for some time.

To finish, it’s safe to say that Rolling Sky isn’t revolutionary. It’s exceedingly simple but it’s all done exceedingly well. Well worth a download.

Billionaire. Review

Billionaire. Review

Mar 8, 2016

I did it. I made billion dollars and all it took me was a week of tapping mindlessly at my phone. Billionaire. is a ‘clicker’ game – all you have to do is tap the screen to make the numbers go up. Once you’ve got a big enough number you spend some of this number to buy something that makes the numbers go up automatically.

It’s game design boiled down to its most basic. Levelling up in RPGs, beating a high-score in an arcade game or killing as many people as you can in an FPS – it all boils down to numbers getting bigger and bigger.

Billionaire. gives this task a veneer of building businesses that make you money. From gymnasiums to magazine vendors as well as more unsavoury endeavours like ‘crack houses’ and ‘money launderers’ – you can build these business and watch your net worth grow.

The unsavoury businesses have a ‘threat’ value, though quite how this works is unclear to me. Even after a week or so of playing Billionaire. I still don’t get it. Every now and then you get arrested – this just means that you can’t click on anything for the time of your incarceration though you can watch a video or spend some gems to get out of jail early. It seems that the higher your ‘threat’ value, the longer you spend in jail, though I can’t be sure.bil2

Other things I can’t be sure of is why, sometimes, your businesses will be in debt. For no good reason and with no warning this happens. Another thing that sometimes happens is no progress will be made when you close the app. This is a massive problem when the whole appeal of the ‘game’ is to load it up every now and then to see the numbers get bigger. When you load it up only to see all of your businesses have taken the night off is a massive disappointment.

Then there’s also the fact that the maths behind the game are very wonky. Some of the upgrades you make to your business’s cost more than they’re worth. For example, it can cost you 100’s of millions to allow your business to hold $100,000 more cash. This would take weeks to be profitable, assuming you’re playing the game every day and checking multiple times a day.

Also stopping this from being a prime example of what ‘clicker’ games are is the fact there’s just not enough carrot and too much stick. Most ‘clickers’ will set you short term goals and generally make it worth your time to keep on clicking away. Billionaire. fails to do this and sets incredibly lofty goals for you to reach and offers very little to keep you engaged in the moment to moment of playing.

It’s a shame, as the game’s incredibly good looking and has a real style. It’s just that playing it becomes more of a grind than it should be and it doesn’t reward you nearly often enough. It’s also seriously needy as it’s constantly asking you to rate it and wants to know if you’re ‘happy’, ‘sad’ or ‘confused’. Quite how they’re using these metrics, I don’t know. Add it to the list, I guess.

FIFA 16 Review

FIFA 16 Review

Feb 20, 2016

Porting a console game to a mobile platform has got to be a very tough task. Imagine, you’ve got to scale everything down from the polygon count to the literal size of the screen. Now you’ve got to re-map the control scheme so it works on touchscreen devices. Whilst you’re there, completely change the design of the game so it supports a free-to-play model.

Not easy. So it’s good to see that FIFA 16 (or ‘Fifa 16 Ultimate Team’ as it says on my phone) has made this leap mostly successfully. For a start, most of what’s available on the console version has been stripped out and you’re left with the card focused ‘Ultimate Team’ mode. A sensible decision that allows players to trade and upgrade their players until they eventually build their… ultimate team, I suppose.unnamed

Once you fight your way through far too condensed menus and you struggle to select the best line-up you have, you’ll make it onto the pitch. More credit goes to EA here as they’ve managed to squeeze some serious graphical fidelity out of even my pretty basic phone. 3D models naturally don’t look exactly like their real-life counterparts but it’s good enough – on top of this it’s animated well to give each crunching tackle or cannon of a shot the impact it deserves.

Controls, for the touch screen, are simplified to pass, run, shoot and ‘skill move’. The on-screen joystick will let you pick a direction to run and pass in though the computer often ‘assists’ you in doing so. The problem is, where the game’s controls and mechanics have been squeezed down to fit onto mobile devices, you naturally lose a great deal of finesse and control of these actions.

A simple through-ball to a striker making a run turns into a full-on hoof down field straight into the keeper’s arms. No good. The game does allow you to swipe and tap directly onto the pitch as an alternative way to control, but this is a far worse control scheme. You can tell that the developers have realised this is a limitation of the game and as a result they fully support Bluetooth gamepads. I sadly didn’t have the use of one during my review, though I can only imagine it makes playing the game easier.

Outside of actually playing matches there’s only skill challenges and lots of menus left to keep you going. Skill challenges are a nice idea and give you an opportunity to practice the moves you’ll need during the season, though they only really serve to highlight how annoying the controls are and to provide you with some extra coins.

Another negative is that the previously mentioned clunky menus slow down the flow of the game for two reasons. Firstly, they’re a pain to navigate and items aren’t where you’d expect them to be. Secondly, every time a menu loads up it seems to be pulling information from the internet. You’d better have a good 4G connection or a strong wi-fi signal if you want to be trading cards and bidding on players.

Overall this is an admirable attempt at getting a giant console game onto mobile devices. Sadly, poor menus and clunky controls hold it back from being a true champion and it instead provides some mid-table fun.