'Tis the season to be jolly: we're just getting to the time of year when all the new footy games start appearing. Over the next month or so we're likely to see revitalised versions of most of the long-standing series.
Most of them will have you either playing the sport yourself or managing a team, but there's also a third kind of footy subgenre that contains all the little oddball games that just take some smaller aspect of the sport and make it into a game.
Ronaldinho Total Control is a game that definitely falls into this murky third category. Sure, it might not be headed for the full-match glories of the likes of the FIFAs and Pro Evos of this world, but not everyone wants to play a whole season of football when waiting for the bus, right?
Instead, Ronaldinho Total Control enables you to take control of a cartoon version of the man himself as he tries to break his personal record of keepy-uppies. It's a one-button game where you have to time your strokes carefully in order to keep the ball in the air whilst performing combos for extra points.
As is only fitting for a game of such levity, Ronaldinho Total Control's visuals are bright and busy rather than sedate and serious. The cartoon Ronaldinho is not a bad likeness, and there's a nice amount of animated background activity to accompany his leg jerks.
Unfortunately, the game itself doesn't manage to maintain the same levels of interest. Let's face it, the source material hardly suggests itself as inspiration for a deep and rich experience. Keeping a ball in the air can surely only hold your attention for so long unless you're one of those people who are just a little bit too driven: the four hours' sleep, real daddy issues, 'shucks pappy I will be famous' type.
Still, some effort has been made to stir things up beyond the simple kick-kick-kick that's at the heart of the keepy-uppie. Make enough kicks dead-on and you'll start doing a combo. Also, every now and then a special item will appear, causing the ball to float or speed up.
However, you don't get any control over this. These items come and go, but all you really have to concern yourself with is pressing '5' when the ball is in the aiming circle.
For a game like this to succeed, there would have to be at least some sense of mastering the skill or a funky combo system that belies the simplicity of rest of the game. Unfortunately, there's nothing like that here.
It would make sense if this was part of a mini-game pack, but on its own there's nowhere near enough content to satisfy. The only variation that's offered is that occasionally the backdrop will change, but if anything that's just a kick in the teeth because whether you're on the beach, the pitch or a street, you're still doing the same endless button-stroking schtick.
After all, it's not as if there's any structure for you to work through. There's only the one game mode, and no real progress to be made. Each time you play your only incentive is to beat your own scores.
There will doubtless be some who fall under the spell of some kind of masochistic addiction with Ronaldinho Total Control, forced to endure hours of boredom and carpal tunnel syndrome. There's only one way to protect yourselves for sure: by checking out Football Party instead. Ronaldinho's really dropped the ball on this one.