Football Games Room is a game that caught me by surprise. On the surface, its concept of bringing tabletop soccer to the Xbox 360 seems a little bit hokey, after all, why would you want to play a simplified version of soccer when you can get last year’s FIFA for around 20 dollars? However, after playing GreenStone Games’ first tile, it quickly becomes apparent that tabletop soccer is not just a watered down excuse for its fully sized counterpart. Instead, it is experience all its own which is filled with a surprising amount of depth and plenty of fun of for gamers of all stripes.
The premise of Football Games Room is an incredibly streamlined one: put a bunch of pieces that look like soccer players onto a table and then allow the player to control them in the world’s most popular game. This simple concept results in a stripped down presentation where pretty much the only thing to look at is a zoomed out view of the table with avatars around it. The distant camera can occasionally make it difficult to distinguish if you actually scored goal but other than that the presentation is never a detriment.
Luckily, the lack of serious production values doesn’t hurt the action on the pitch one bit. Controlling your players is accomplished with the left stick while aiming passes and shots is done by aiming with the right stick. The pass aiming system feels a bit strange at first but eventually becomes second nature, allowing you to direct shots with ease. What’s more, by including a passing assist feature which can be toggled on and off, GreenStone Games’ title can become substantially more technique based with the press of a button.
The surprising amount of skill necessary to succeed in this tabletop soccer title doesn’t stop there. The players all lack both a sprint ability and any distinguishing characteristics. While it is disappointing to not be able to play as your favorite superstars, the lack of any real differentiation between players forces you to rely on solid passing, a firm knowledge of your formation (of which there are many), and the correct application of easily adjustable tactics to score goals. While this will disappoint gamers who like making long runs and executing flashy moves with Lionel Messi, it provides plenty of cerebral enjoyment to make up for the loss.
Defense, on the other hand, can’t quite claim the same amount of fun. Every player is surrounded by a little circular disk which denotes their country and allows them to carry the ball. However, because of this disk, it becomes very tough to play defense with just one player, as the man on offense can just rotate away. This is partially fixed by the ability to charge tackle and steal the ball from the attacker, but it never makes defense feel fully proactive
Although there are some problems with defensive play, they don’t overshadow other parts of the game. Football Games Room gives players a wealth of modes, some great thinking-man’s soccer, and even a decent soundtrack to boot. The simple presentation and reactive defense might turn some players off, but most players will be able to over look them for the tactical fun of offense. When combined with the unique concept of a tabletop soccer game, this makes Football Games Room 80 MSP well spent whether you are a hardcore soccer fan or just enjoy the occasional game of FIFA.
[Football Games Room]-80 MSP