Some old games never die… they just seem to have a habit of being continually reinvented or reimagined for new formats ad infinitum. Sometimes they are straight clones of the originals keeping the gameplay intact and stay faithful to the originals and keep the loyal fans content, other times authors try to make enhancements and add new features and give the games what they believe to be a much needed facelift when bringing their interpretations to a new audience. Some work, some don’t and this time David Krunic has taken Atari’s original arcade classic Pong and brought it to PlayStation Mobile…
Pong is undeniably the simplest of games ever released. Dating back to the 70s and the first arcade video game released, it not only put Atari on the map but spawned countless home console clones that created the home gaming industry. For the first time ever we were able to play games at home on our TVs. We had seen nothing like it before and being able to play something so innovative was breathtaking. Manufacturers frequently rebranded the games calling them “tennis”, “squash” (when walls were added) and all manner of variants and we were drawn in by the gameplay and none of us could believe it when colour was added!
Now that was back in the 70s but now we’re in 2014 and we’re looking at PlayStation Mobile. Technology has come on leaps and bounds, but when you look at Kick It! Football you’d struggle to think that much progress has been made… What we’re given here is a “football” game (and I do use the word football loosely) presented in a top-down view but in reality it’s a Pong clone. It can be played as a one or two player game and the object – as with the original – is to stop the ball from getting past you into your goal while knocking it into that of your opponents. The first player to score ten points wins. The only real difference in the game mechanics is that while Pong and its myriad of clones limited the movement of your “bat” vertically, you can now move in all directions as long as you stay in your half of the playfield. While the game may sound basic, the original was strangely compelling despite its simplicity and if done well enough could make for a fun diversion.
Sounds okay so far? Well, on paper it’s fine until you actually start to play and this is where things go horribly wrong. Visually the game is set on a football pitch and while not stunning, the look of the grass is passable even though the goals at each end the screen look unfeasibly large. The ball is reasonably drawn (although there’s no lighting or texture to it – just a plain football design) but the players… they look dreadful. Words can’t describe these other than a stick with a ball in the middle of them. There’s no animation on the players or the ball during the game to even hint that these are supposed to be people and a far better option for the visuals would have been to revert to an original Pong styling or even something futuristic… anything really apart from football.
It’s not just the visuals that struggle here… Sound is non-existent apart from a “thud” each time the ball is hit and I’ll be completely honest here and say that even my old Pong clone that I owned in the 70s actually had more variety in the sound effects! Nothing at the end of each game, nothing when a goal is scored and nothing on the menu screens.
All of that could be just about forgiven if the gameplay was strong enough to make up for it… but despite Pong being an incredibly simple game, somehow even that has been lost along the way. As a player you have the option to control your player using either the left stick or touch screen. For the two player mode, the second player uses the right stick and while this works quite well, the touch screen is unresponsive and results in jerky movement around the screen. The size of the goals themselves make them pretty redundant for the purpose of the game – rather than needing to use a degree of skill to aim for them, all you really need to do is hit the ball past your opponent to win akin to the “tennis” games on most of the Pong clones. There are more serious issues though. Once a goal is scored, the ball is immediately back in play and launched at the players so if you’re not ready to react you could find yourself losing another point before you know it.
At the same time, if you get too close to your opponent and the ball is between both of you, rather than seeing it bounce back and forth repeatedly it will do this for a second or two and then pass straight through you and into your goal, again losing you a point. And because you will still be in that facing position, the ball will launch straight away, repeat the same thing and lose you even more points in quick succession – during one game I lost six goals in under a second this way. The game also offers three difficulty levels and once again these throw up further problems for the player. Rather than increasing the computer AI for the game it just increases the speed at which the computer moves its player. One the lowest difficult setting it already moves faster than you can, but once you move onto the hardest setting it’s all but impossible to keep up and win games.
When I review games I honestly try to put as much time as I can into every review. I do appreciate how much time and effort developers put into their games – large and small – in bringing them to market and I try to find something of merit in every game I look at. Even games which on first impression I struggle to enjoy I have found do have some appeal if I’m willing to spend time with them but I truly struggled to find anything worthwhile here.
Even at the lowest price point that Sony allow PlayStation Mobile games to be sold at, I would advise people to avoid buying this game, but considering the fact that this is being sold for the same price as games like Night Riders: 3D Arcade Racing, it really does make me wonder. I know Sony want to encourage as many developers as possible to release titles for PSM but perhaps they should take a closer look at some of the games that are coming out. They all have to go through an evaluation process but maybe this one slipped through the net? One to steer clear of and quite possibly one of the worst PlayStation Mobile releases to date.
At A Glance
- Title: Kick It! Football
- Publisher:David Krunic
- System: PlayStation Mobile
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: N / A
- Cross Play: N / A
- Online Multiplayer: Local Multiplayer Only
- Memory Card Space Needed: 9Mb