Soccer Addict is Hexacto's follow-up title to last year's Tennis Addict
game except this time the setting is on a soccer field rather than a
tennis court. Before I begin the usual deliberations of critique, I
should probably declare to everyone that I know very little of soccer.
Outside of North America, I know that soccer is referred to as football
but from where I live, the word football conjures images of helmets,
tackling, quarterbacks, receivers and the Super Bowl. So when it came
to reviewing Soccer Addict, I almost convinced myself this title would
be dauntingly difficult since I barely knew the basic rules of play.
Hexacto has done a great job in making Soccer Addict easily accessible.
There's a quick tutorial to coach you on the different moves you can
carry out and Hexacto has carried over its trademark PSI stylus
interface to Soccer Addict. It saw its debut in Tennis Addict and
in that game, I thought the stylus play was fairly quirky in trying to
mimic the control of a tennis racket. The interface actually plays
immensely well with soccer. With a few strokes you can do everything
from passing to penalty shots with very little compromise. While there
is a tutorial present to instruct you on how play commences, these
tutorials are merely static images and are not live. Curiously, a live
playable tutorial was available in Tennis Addict so I'm not sure why
this portion was cut. I certainly would have liked to practice at
setting up passes before actually embarking in a real game.
Gameplay is split up into three different modes. You have the usual
exhibition and tournament style of play where you lead a country of your
choice to victory. You also have a shootout mode that confines your
game exclusively to penalty shots; a fun mini-game in itself. The games
are fairly long even though time moves in an accelerated fashion.
Typically, you'd probably devote a good ten minutes to a particular
match. On the PC, this is not problem at all but in a PDA format,
anything more than five minutes would be considered almost an eternity.
Luckily, Soccer Addict allows you to save whenever you leave a game in
progress and handles abrupt shutdowns during a match admirably. There
aren't any individual statistics to keep track of and the teams are
ranked entirely by nations so soccer superstars are not included at all.
France, for example, is easily the toughest team of the lot with
countries like Korea or Saudi Arabia bringing up the rear. Whether this
is true or not in real life, I'm not sure. At any rate, Hexacto saves
on licensing costs of commercial British clubs or FIFA and possible
licensing costs related to using individual player names.
The actual soccer plays out in a top down fashion. You have a choice
between three arenas of play but I found in general, the fields do not
really make much of a difference during the actual game, save providing
the greenery a slightly different color tone. The players you control
are fairly tiny for a PDA screen but the trade-off is you have a large
view point that unfortunately is not adjustable. Obviously the
developers have taken this into account and whenever there is a special
event, like a tackle, head butt, or save, an animated close-up window
pops up to illustrate what's actually happening.
Playing actual soccer is fairly easy. Your players, who are all
unnamed, dribble automatically when they move and they have a simple
circle around them to indicate which one is in play. The color of the
circle indicates how fatigued the player is. You will always be
controlling the player (on your team) who has the ball, although that
does not mean you'll be playing the game out alone. If you draw a line
to a teammate, you will pass a ball over. Draw a long and quick line to
the net and you'll kick the ball higher. It might sound simple and the
screenshots might look pretty bland but Soccer Addict actually made
soccer an entertaining experience.
Whenever a player is near the opponent's net, the crowd cheers louder
and it's this type of effect that really gives Soccer Addict its sense
of excitement. Soccer for me has always been a relatively blasť affair
but this game certainly does all it can to make it interesting. There
are, however, some faults with the title. While your teammates
understand where and when to form walls, their play in the middle of the
field is not as competent as other areas and that's irrespective of
whichever country you choose to play. If you have the ball and you give
it up to the opponent mid-field, your teammates have a tendency to
return to their defensive positions instead of challenging the ball
carrier. Thus, the transition behavior of the AI in mid-field is
noticeably weaker. You can tap on any player on the field to control
them. That rectifies that situation but you can't really do much with
the goalie because the playing field is so tiny, there's very little
opportunity to effectively play the goalie. You can, however, play the
goalie during shootouts but penalty kicks and tie-breakers are a paper,
rocks, scissors affair. You're allowed to kick left, right or center
(or off the screen which is something you don't want to do). The goalie
is allowed to block left, right or center. If both these choices
coincide with each other, a save is made. It's rather simplistic
considering the sophistication of the actual gameplay itself.
There isn't much in the way of substitutions and coaching in this game.
You can set three types of formations during the game itself but red
cards that eliminate players off the field are only damning numerically.
You don't have any star players to protect or lose. Soccer Addict keeps
play at a brisk pace by minimizing the number of game-stopping rule
offenses. I didn't know much about soccer at all and I only saw a few
offsides per game (and they weren't all committed by me either).
Hexacto includes a conduit for you to forward your achievements to the
net, which looks to be a staple for all future Hexacto sports titles.
Soccer Addict is available for all major Pocket PC platforms. It's a
fun game that you'll be able to turn to from time to time, especially if
you like soccer. Those people who do not like soccer will also find
this an engaging title. Hexacto has done an admirable job in making a
game like this, with so many players involved, easy to grasp, learn and
fun to play. At no point in time did I feel like I was coddling or
managing my AI teammates, although I did find out that I couldn't rely
on them for everything. Soccer Addict sets the bar for all future
soccer titles at an immeasurably high standard. On other platforms,
EA's FIFA franchise thrives on its licenses of players and teams. In
fact, FIFA 2002 is slated for Pocket PC release this year. But Soccer
Addict shows that you don't need fancy things like that to create a game
of soccer. It is the best soccer title, par excellence, for the Pocket
PC; an addictive game that truly lives up to its moniker.
[08/10] Program Size
[14/15] Learning Curve
[ N/A ] Multiplayer