Some people would have you believe that football isn’t a game in which 22 semi-literate thugs chase a pig’s bladder around.
Rather, they say, it’s a game of supreme strategy and wits. Like chess, but with bigger thighs and too much hair gel.
Soccer Moves enthusiastically adopts such a view, but it’s not the drab experience this might lead you to expect.
It might look like a sports game, but Soccer Moves is actually a neat little turn-based strategy game. Rather than direct your team of 11 around a pitch with virtual controls, FIFA-style, here you sketch out the runs and passes of an amateur duo.
Real time skills and reactions play no part in a game of Soccer Moves, as you have all the time in the world to plan your approach before the results play out in front of you.
Presented with a series of scenarios in what appears to be a local park (though you can work your way up to grander stadia), you must bypass the bully-boy defence and bury the ball in the back of the net.
Pass and move
The game’s systems initially feel a little vaguely defined, and there’s a fair amount of trial-and-error involved before you’ll fully grasp how to succeed in Soccer Moves.
Touching the screen anywhere away from your two players will enable you to direct a pass. You typically only have one or two of these at your disposal, and the range is implausibly limited.
Meanwhile, if you touch and drag on your player you can determine where they’ll run to when the action kicks off. In this way, you can play the ball into a team-mate’s path for a shot or a return pass.
Shooting, which is initiated by touching the goal, plays out like a bonus mini-game. With the view pulling in behind the shooter, you can drag to aim anywhere in the goal. The real skill is in releasing your finger as the fluctuating star meter stops on gold for maximum reward.
An extra timing-based element is introduced along with goalies mid-way through the game.
Know your opponent
You’ll be faced up by an assortment of defenders culled from the football cliche handbook. For example, there’s the solid bruiser who will swing his arms at you when in range, the progressive wingback with "loose morals" (whoever could they be referring to?) and the cultured sweeper who can cover almost the entire width of the goal.
Bypassing these defenders can be a little frustrating for die-hard footy fans, as your success will be determined by the area-of-effect boxes that surround them, even when you appear to have a clear sight of goal or your team mate.
We know this is a strategy game first and foremost, but sometimes we just wanted to attempt an audacious long-ranger rather than relying on the cold science of the game’s systems. Maybe we’ve been playing too much New Star Soccer.
This lack of spontaneity becomes even more evident with the game’s power-up system, which gives you limited-use ability enhancements. In practice, these feel more than a little cheap. Things like the dribble move make a half-hearted attempt at asking for some skilful input, but it’s essentially a free pass to get past a defender or two.
These power-ups need to be bought with the in-game currency, which can, of course, be bought with real money. We found that you could earn enough through play to purchase a fair few without the need to open your wallet, if you use these power-ups sparingly. This becomes tougher to do as you enter the latter stages.
However, the requirement to spend in order to meet some of the bonus goal requirements (beat a man, aim for the top left hand corner, dress as a zombie) is a little galling, even if it’s only virtual.Soccer Moves is an enjoyably absorbing twist on the turn-based strategy genre, but it lacks a little of the flow and the spontaneous spark that footy fans have come to love about the sport.