Review: Strategy Soccer


Strategy first, soccer second, That's how this quirky game from Onslaught Media is titled, and I think they're on to a Championship winner here, at least for S60 5th Edition phones (no Symbian^3 yet). No, it's not in the Premier League of mobile games, but there is promise here. That's likely to come in a future game, because I'm not sure how far Strategy Soccer can be extended. That's okay though, because I'm enjoying 'Soccer', at the same time recognising it's not going to have massive mainstream appeal.

Author: Onslaught Media

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There is no arcade action in here, Strategy Soccer is a turn based game, with no penalty for taking as long as you like. The football pitch is represented by a 7x9 square grid, while your football players are on circular bases and each of them fills one square. They do look vaguely familiar but best not to draw too many conclusions.

Naturally there's a football, and the goal is to get the ball past the goalkeeper. Do that more times than your opponent and you win. Simple!

Strategy Soccer reminds me a lot of war games. As you and your opponent take turns (you can play as a two player game on the one smartphone, or play against a computer AI), you'll work to get and keep control of the ball, and move it up the field until you are in a position to go for goal and shoot the ball.

Each of your player gets 12 "action points" per turn, and you spend these to:  pass the ball to another of your players (assuming there are no opposing team members in the way), move your player one square, with or without the ball, shoot the ball at goal, or tackle an opposing player to try and get the ball. Naturally everything takes a certain amount of points so you will need to decide on how to attack, move your players around, and get a clean shot on the goal - while keeping up enough of a defensive position so that on your opponents turn you're not going to go a goal down.

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Unlike professional football, Strategy Soccer can be quite high scoring. In a sense it's more like tennis. If you assume that on every second turn you are likely to score when you kick off, and your opponent will do the same, then if you can score just the once on your opponents kick off (as in a 'break' in tennis serve), and keep your goals going in, then you've a good chance of winning the game when the simulated 90 minutes is up.

So this is a strategy game which rewards attacking play a lot more than defensive play, although defence is needed too. Say a 65/35 split in favour of attack. I like that split!

Controls are easy enough, following a tap to highlight, then tap to move principle. If you need to do any special actions (such as passing or shooting) then these are done with soft-keys at the base of the screen.

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Presentation is not slick, this is not going to win awards for the best use of menus or creation of atmosphere, but it does the job, it's clear what options you are choosing, and you get to the game fast enough. Onslaught Media need to do a bit more work in the graphical stakes, but I'd rather have to work on that rather than on basic ideas and implementation, which they have nailed.

Strategy Soccer could be extended in a few ways - I'd be tempted to recommend that they code up "Strategy Soccer 2" as an improved sequel, hiring in an artist but also adding in some options to play remotely (this would be a great "play by email/MMS" game if they could get that working), and doing a second marketing push on it. Fundamentally there is a good game here, and while it might not have instant appeal for everyone, it's good enough to stay on my smartphone.

And one last thing... there is no offside rule. Yaay!

-- Ewan Spence, June 2011.

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