WiiWare | Icon Games | 1 Player / 2 Players (co-operative play) | Out Now | 500 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer)
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10th May 2011; By KnucklesSonic8
When you visit the Main Menu for the first time, there are three different play modes you can get involved in. The main 'Play' option allows you to play either by yourself or with a friend, clearing levels to move forward on the overall Zone Map. 'Tournament' acts as your 'Free Play' option where you can customize your brick-breaking session, and finally, there's a Level Editor that enables you to easily lay out your own stages. Sadly, you don't have the ability to share these via WiiConnect24, so anything clever you come up with will only be appreciated in a local setting. While there is no competitive battle mode to speak of, you are able to track individual progress using the four profiles provided.
Soccer Bashi's controls are simple enough: just point the controller at the screen and move your paddle left and right as the ball makes its way around the level. The more bricks the soccer ball destroys, the faster it will get and the more combos you'll be awarded. But once it makes contact with the paddle again, the ball will revert back to its normal rate of acceleration. One of the most notable features in this game is the 'Volley' move where a well-timed press of the B Button will send the ball back at double the speed. It may seem like something small and insignificant at first, but later you realize that this is what ultimately works against dreary moments of boredom.
You'll encounter different kinds of bricks as you get further and further away from the first Zone, Bashi Stadium. Some require multiple hits before they're cleared off the board (indicated by two lights), some move back and forth, and some are just completely indestructible. I was annoyed, though, with the blocks that had to be hit from up above twice as this proved to be a test of patience.
Occasionally, power-ups will appear in place of destroyed blocks for you to snatch and reap the benefits. The usual stuff is here including paddle upgrades like Retract, Extend, Magnetize and Laser, in addition to ball upgrades like Metal, Fire, Turbo, and Triple. The only power-up that's special is a scarcely-seen explosive that destroys all remaining bricks. Whichever power-up you grab will be displayed on the circular part of the paddle and will continue to remain active until you pick up a different one or get hit by an enemy attack.
Speaking of enemies, most of the threats you'll encounter come in the form of robots that float in the air along a horizontal line. Other robots walk on the sides of the arena like ninjas, and there are even some aggressive blocks that will fire homing attacks at you once they've been hit once. None of the attacks the enemies emit are permanently damaging, but they can rob you of any active power-ups or stun you temporarily. Each Zone also has a boss that only shows his face after you've cleared the other levels before it. These are a little more challenging because of the space they take up and the fact that a single shot from one of these big guys can actually destroy your paddle completely.
In keeping with the soccer theme, in the center of every level along the top is a rival paddle who basically acts as a goalkeeper of sorts. Getting the ball past this guy is definitely not easy, which is a shame in some ways. Theoretically, this could have provided another way out for players who were getting seriously irritated with those last few blocks. Maybe I've just become less patient when these situations pop up -- you can thank Alphabounce for that. Still, the AI has been designed in such a way that it's rare to actually get a goal on him, so I think there was some missed potential there.
I noticed that that the game becomes more enjoyable once you reach Zone 4. It's at this point that the layouts become more skill-oriented and less about random placement or having the bricks create a picture. When you compare the later levels to the ones from the first two zones, the game appears to pick up very slowly with not a whole lot of excitement to be had early on. I was happy to see stages become less and less static as you progress since it kept things interesting. Thanks once again to the better stage layouts and the volley feature, things do improve as you go along.
Really, the best levels are the ones where you're really involved -- moving around constantly, trying to keep the ball in the air whilst avoiding groups of enemies who are bound to see you fail. Admittedly, though, you can't escape the fact that the game can get boring at times especially if you're not big on these kinds of games. Moving away from just the fact that some level designs are weak, there are occasions where things are it seems like things are going nowhere fast. It gets to a point where you're dying for power-ups like the Laser Paddle, and that can be a big turn-off for some.
Now that I've spoken positively about it a number of times, I'm sure you're wondering what makes this volley move so special. Be assured that this isn't simply because the ball gets faster. Whenever you have a ball upgrade active and you successfully volley the ball back with double speed, it'll rip right through the standard blocks instead of bouncing off of them. The game would indeed be a lot slower without this feature in place and not nearly as enjoyable.
To be honest, the system doesn't always work the way you'd expect it too. I found it strange that after having cleared all the blocks in one level, I still had to defeat the remaining enemies. Shouldn't they be destroyed instantly? Then there were a few times in later levels where the ball got stuck in the same pattern of bouncing back and forth between two or three metal blocks, and it was irritating to just sit there and wait for the ball to break free. Plus, framerate dips did occur during some of the boss fights and even for an entire level in one case. These sorts of things shouldn't happen and I was a little disappointed to see them transpire.
As far as presentation goes, the visuals worked just fine. I liked the fact that each Zone had its own visual theme to add a bit of variety to the mix and I also appreciated the ability to unlock new block skins. The music was a bit of a mixed bag -- some good, some decent, and a couple really annoying ones. I think the game would have benefited from more music tracks because it seemed like the same ones kept popping up time and time again. But it didn't drive me crazy so I suppose that's a good sign.
What did get under my skin, though, was the useless and cringe-worthy background chatter. In an attempt to add atmosphere to the game, the developers included sound effects and voice clips of expressions you'd hear at a real-life stadium. The cheering, the "Ohhhh!"-ing and the clapping were fine, but the vendor calls were not. Although you wouldn't think so unless you were actually playing the game, hearing a voice clip of someone yelling "Ice cold lemonade!" was a bit out of place. This was something I experienced in Arcade Sports too and I even called it out in my review. But apparently the developers really wanted it in for some reason beyond me. An announcer I could understand, but vendors? Come on now.
Soccer Bashi isn't a perfect game by any means. There are a series of flaws that not everyone will be okay with, but for $5, I still say it's worth buying. For the price, you get lots of levels, decent boss encounters, a co-op option, and a user-friendly level editor. There are a few rough patches along the way, but for the most part, the game is enjoyable and shouldn't be seen as a bad buy.
21/30 - Good
Gameplay 8/10 - Standard gameplay mechanics, occasional power-ups, volley feature makes a big difference, boss fights, progression in the level designs
Presentation 6/10 - Visuals are just fine, music is a mixed bag, annoying background chatter, some minor technical flaws
Enjoyment 3/5 - At its best when you have a bunch of enemies attacking you, slow to get into at first but gets better, can get boring over longer sessions
Extra Content 4/5 - Lots of levels to get through, co-op, level editor, unlockable skins, unable to share custom levels, good value for only $5
Equivalent to a score of 70% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)