Some time ago, I reviewed Chop Chop Runner, a simple but addictive little iPhone game. Well, the athletic star of that game has branched out and is now trying out his hand (or should that be foot?) at soccer... but does it have the razzamatazz and appeal of Brazil or the footballing skills of San Marino?
You've probably guessed by now that this is a football game, albeit a simplified one which sees just three players take the field for each side. As with real football, your objective is simply to score more goals than your opponents before the match ends. Lose and you're out of the tournament; beat them and it's onto the next round and some increasingly skilled opponents.
In fact, Chop Chop Soccer is really football with all the rules cut out. Anyone expecting the equivalent of FIFA or PES will be sorely disappointed. About the only thing it shares in common with "real" football is that you have to score goals. There are no fouls, no corners or throw-ins, and the ball never goes out of play. This has two advantages: firstly, it makes for a fast and furious game of football. Secondly, (in theory) it gives it a potential wider appeal than more serious football simulations.
Things start off promisingly. The graphics are bright and colourful, making great use of primary colours to give the game a strong visual appeal. The little footballers are quite large and full of character, and have an appealing cartoon-like quality that kids especially will love. They might not be the most realistic graphics in the world, but they suit the "fun appeal" element which this title is clearly aiming for.
The same is true of the sound. A number of jolly little tunes accompany various aspects of the game and fit well with the funky visual style, without ever becoming too annoying. Sound effects are relatively limited, but well implemented. Kicking the ball in particular makes a rather satisfying "thwok" sound which will make you smile the first few times you hear it. Graphics and sound may be functional, but they work well and whatever faults the game has, it's certainly not down to the presentation.
What really kills the game are the controls. The beauty of the controls in Chop Chop Runner was that they were so simple. OK, they took a little time to master, but they were straightforward to pick up. Chop Chop Soccer has aimed to retain this simplicity of control (again, by stripping the game down to absolute basics), but it's not really worked. To tackle a player, you simply run into them; to kick the ball, you swipe your finger across the screen; to dribble, you rotate your finger in a circular motion. All nice and easy to pick up quickly - helped by a good little tutorial on the early levels.
The real problem is that they have been so horribly implemented the game becomes virtually unplayable for anyone but the most patient of souls. They are so unresponsive that getting the player to do what you want with ball relies far more on luck then skill. Kicking the ball in particular is particularly badly implemented and there is an almost tangible delay between swiping your finger and the ball being kicked. It's particularly an issue when shooting at goal since if you come into contact with the opposition goalkeeper, he automatically takes the ball. I lost count of the times I was running in on goal, swiped my finger across the screen, only for the delay to mean the ball wasn't kicked in time and the goalie calmly took it off me.
It's not even as though I didn't give this game every chance. Remembering that it took me a while to get the hang of Chop Chop Runner, I had plenty of games to try and master these controls; I even removed my phone from its case to make sure that wasn't causing the problem, but all to no avail: the controls remained flaky and unresponsive rendering what could be a fun little game far too annoying to consider.
There are a number of different game modes and challenges which you can take part in, but if you're anything like me, you will never go anywhere near them. The control issue renders the game so unplayable that the longevity of the title is an irrelevance. You will get seriously hacked off with them long before you ever complete the game and will soon consign it to the "deleted" section of your iPhone. It might only cost 59p, but all that buys you is some severe frustration. Maybe if you're prepared to spend hours and hours mastering the controls, you might get something out of it - but that rather defeats the title's intended pick up and play gaming style.
It's a shame because as the Five-A-Side option in the Commodore 64 title Microprose Soccer showed, a fast-paced, cut-down version of the sport can be tremendous fun to play. Sadly, Chop Chop Soccer looks and sounds good, but will just leave you steaming at the unfairness of the game. If the classic Sensible Soccer is the Premier League Title Holder, Chop Chop Soccer is in danger of relegation from the Beezer Homes League.
So, to finish the overstretched World Cup metaphor we began with in the opening paragraph, Chop Chop Soccer is a bit like the England National Team. Full of promise, you go into each game hoping that THIS time will be the time, only to find yourself feeling badly let down after just a few games.
© Copyright SWSt 2011