Soccer Up! Review
Posted by Jacob Crites
Shoots too narrow
On the Wii Shop Channel, EnjoyUp! Games describes Soccer Up! as being "a funny soccer game." We're willing to bet you and EnjoyUp! Games have different senses of humour. But we're also willing to bet you have different definitions of "total control," "inertia" and "soccer." Indeed, much of Soccer Up!'s promises and intentions appear to be lost in translation, if not outright untrue. Jimmy Greaves famously said football is "a funny old game." He didn't mean it like this.
Just out of curiosity, when was the last time you played a truly unplayable soccer game? It's probably been a while. The rules are so simple, the gameplay so straightforward that it's tough for developers to screw it up too badly. Some games are better than others, certainly, but at this point it's like making a chess game: there are good chess games and mediocre chess games, but at the end of the day it's still chess.
Ah, but not so with Soccer Up!, whose mechanics are so broken and unreliable that the whole thing becomes less a game of soccer and more a game of total sensory disillusionment. "Grrr! Come here you stupid ball, you — wait! What just happened?! Grrr!" is a commonly shouted phrase while playing the game. Where does this "funny" side come in, exactly? Broken controls? Glitches? The inability to switch players? Oh, chortle-dee-dee! Excuse us while we mend our splitting sides!
About those controls. The description on the shop channel attempts to sell Soccer Up! as a "soccer game that allows you a total control of any action of your team players." That sure is a funny way of saying "you can't switch between players, dash, pass accurately or reasonably score a goal." Every action necessary to play a game of football is either cumbersome or nonexistent. If you're using the sideways Wii Remote scheme, 1 is used for "low kicks" and 2 for "high kicks"... or wait, maybe it was the other way around, because neither consistently does either one. The Nunchuk controls don't fare much better, since your character still only moves in eight directions regardless of whether or not you're using the control stick.
But the main issue is the inexplicable decision not to let the player manually switch between players; instead the game seems to switch to whichever teammate is closest to the ball. Combined with the fact that you also can't sprint, and your opponents can inexplicably always run faster than you, and because slide-tackling is completely useless, forming a legitimate strategy is impossible. Because slide-tacking almost never works, stealing the ball from an opponent requires running into the ball at an opposing angle and hoping it sticks to your feet, but remember: the game is constantly swapping your playable character for you, so just when you're coming in hot on the ball, the cursor will swap you to some other dude 20 feet away, completely destroying your defensive play. Soccer Up! is a game where you watch brutally difficult AI play soccer while you fumble around wondering what the heck is going on.
The in-game help screens and operations guide will not help you, by the way. They're full of incomprehensible, poorly translated nonsequitors like "each action have to shoot powers," and "once shot the ball you can control the effect with the direction on the control pad. Practice and you will be able to do incredible shoots!"
If you read all that and still feel compelled to buy this game, then there's no stopping you. But hey, we believe in full-service reviews around here (to quote the great Roger Ebert), so here's a few more reasons to soccer down. The game looks awful, for one thing: fuzzy, undistinguished little character models on a lusterless, stagnant field. Had it come out on the N64, these would be average visuals. It's not on the N64.
The saving grace would appear to be that you can play as your Mii (who doesn't like Miis, after all?) and customise your team. Thing is, you'll have to play it for two hours first to unlock that. Two hours. That's a whole lot of torture to endure to play as a cartoon version of yourself. You could play local multiplayer if you want to see two teams fumbling around in confusion on screen instead of just one. Of course it's all much more bearable with a few friends, but then most tragedies are.
It comes down to the fact that there isn't a single good thing about Soccer Up! It ranges from lazy to infuriating in every department, from the broken controls to the detrimentally limited gameplay. Even at the budget pricing of 500 Nintendo Points, Soccer Up! still somehow ends up asking way too much for way too little.