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SummaryA turning point for Humongous, but is the game really that good?
The GoodAfter some of the disappointing sales that Backyard Baseball turned over, Ron Gilbert had to push the team into thinking it was a good idea to make another game. Thus, Backyard Soccer was born, and man alive, did it ever save them. Not only would the series go on to outsell what was thought to be their original killer app the Junior Adventures, but they would also be granted three major sports licenses for use in future games! So, wow, this game must be great, right? RIGHT!? Umm, you might want to take a seat for this one.
The main cast is all still here, with no exclusions or additions. The core gameplay still follows Backyard Baseball's footsteps -- choose a field, choose a team name, and draft your players from the thirty character lineup to make your nine-player team. You can choose three difficulty levels and if the game will be short or long.
The seasons in this game are entirely different from Backyard Baseball's; rather than playing through fourteen games and then going to the playoffs based on that, you advance through three different divisions. One really nifty thing is that each division has its own set of fields -- in the first division, you only play games on recreational fields, but the second division has you playing on high school fields, and the third brings you to college fields. Now that is a clever idea, and makes you feel satisfied about making progress. You can also participate in the Off-the-Wall Indoor Invitational mid-season in each division, which is an optional three-game tourney that awards you a place in the Hall of Fame if you win.
The BadAs you may have guessed from that last sentence in the opening paragraph, I am not very fond of this game, and that is unfortunately because of a lot of small problems that really build up to make this a less-than-stellar experience.
Firstly, the AI in this game is TERRIBLE. Look, I'm not going to say Backyard games had fantastic AI in the first place, but geez Louise this takes artificial stupidity to a whole new level. They seem more concerned about passing the ball back and forth between others than...oh, I dunno, SCORING GOALS. I've gone for entire halves where they only spend time passing the ball back and forth, and when they look perfectly open to make a shot, they just pass it back to a teammate halfway across the field! It doesn't get any better when you have the ball in your possession. You can often kick the ball into a corner of the field and just stand there, and they will do absolutely nothing about it while you run the clock down. You can very often kick the ball into a corner, go get a glass of water, rotate your tires, do your homework, take out the trash, empty the dishwasher, and come back to see the other team hasn't done anything about it. That may be exaggeration, but that's exactly what it feels like.
Also, the seasons in this game are simply way too long. I get the idea that the developers saw how short the games were and remembered how atrociously long the seasons were in Baseball, so they added the division system to adjust it accordingly. Unfortunately, this backfires horribly -- because of how awful the AI is, the seasons just drag. It is cool to see the different tiers of fields as you progress and I like the credit sequence you get as a reward, but at a 45 game minimum, not even counting if you want to participate in the Off-the-Wall tournament? Shoot me in the face.
The power-ups are also really lame in this game. At their core, they all do exactly the same thing -- they just help you score goals. They rarely appear too, so they very well didn't even need to be in the game. Soccer 2004 would add a few more powerups showing some of the potential they had, but the ones we get here have no variety. One is a cannon that shoots the ball at a soaring speed into the goal, one is an underground powerup, one dodges the opposing team when you shoot, and one is a bowling ball that runs over everybody. Although they can be amusing to see, once again they all are mostly the same.