DSiWare is like any other downloadable game platform: it features gems full of creativity and compulsive play, and then it has titles like Goooooal Europa 2012, which tries to hide its painful inadequacies with a ‘fun’ title and a tenuous link to a major football tournament. The idea of a table football game with stylus controls may sound like an entertaining diversion on paper, but the actual result is far from ideal.
The controls and method of play in Goooooal Europa 2012 are peculiar in that they take anything that’s fun about table football and exclude it. The concept of frantically manoeuvring plastic footballers, while maintaining composure to score that all important goal, is replaced by a static, turn-based approach. There are table-top football games out there that play this way, but the concept doesn’t transfer well to a handheld console.
Each team’s players have dips around them and the magnetic ball will, depending on its speed and direction, stick to members of either team. When you’re out of possession you simply sit and wait, twiddling your thumbs with no way to defend your goal, while with possession you use the stylus to drag and release players to pass and shoot as your opponents look gormless. There’s strategy involved, sure, and the physics make sense in the context of the game, but it’s incredibly limited and lacking in any form of stimulation. The margins for error between scoring and seeing the ball sucked up by opposition defenders is miniscule, but due to repetition and lack of engaging play you’re unlikely to care enough to really master the angles.
Some effort has been made to liven the experience up with achievements, a ‘campaign’ of challenges to work through, as well as options for one-off matches or full blown Euro 2012-style tournaments. Classic Mode is the basic game, while Arcade Mode replaces the ball with a timebomb. Starting at five seconds and adding time after every pass, the idea is to try and blow the opponent’s players off the table while scoring goals in the process. Frustration abounds, however, as hitting a powerful pass that rebounds aimlessly for five seconds before destroying one of your own players further highlights the static lack of control.
As for the multiplayer option, this involves two players taking turns on one system, resulting in an experience even slower and less interesting than single player. When you throw in modest visuals lacking an attractive colour palette and stock crowd noises, it’s an experience that underwhelms on every level.
Goooooal Europa 2012 promises to bring fast-paced table-top football action to a handheld, but instead delivers static tedium. The inability to defend without the ball, the painful simplicity and the dull tempo of play make this a failed concept. Some ideas are best left behind in the coach’s office.