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Soccer Bashi - Preview

posted 2 Dec 2010, 19:53 by Knuckles Sonic8   [ updated 10 Nov 2011, 20:11 ]
Recently we were informed by Icon Games that Soccer Bashi has been approved by Nintendo for distribution on the WiiWare service in North America. Plus, the game just released in Europe as of today! And what better way to hype up its release with a Preview article! Icon Games was kind enough to allow us very early access to the builds that led up to the finished product. All in all, I was very satisfied with what I saw and, most importantly, it was fun.

Soccer Bashi's structure resembles that of a typical block-breaker, with the exception of specific elements that effectively show a degree of originality and, theoretically, make the game more fun to play. The 80+ levels that exist in the game are split up into Zones, represented by themed planets in an unknown galaxy. Within each realm are a series of rounds that you'll need to clear, hopefully with all your lives in tact. The first two zones I played had 9 levels, with the last one being a boss encounter. Whether the remaining Zones will stick to a similar setup remains to be seen at this point. The bosses I was pitted against were moderate in terms of difficulty, but I did enjoy these segments in the game. I'm really keen on seeing what other bosses the player will come up against in the final release.

The gameplay is predictable if you're a fan of these kinds of games, but there are some subtle differences - although I use that word hesitantly. For one, your paddle is equipped with the ability to bounce or volley the ball back towards the playing field. With the right timing, you can increase the speed at which the ball travels. In keeping with the "Soccer" part of Soccer Bashi, on the opposite end of the playing field is a computer-controlled paddle that serves as another variable for you to consider when contemplating strategies on clearing levels. It is possible to get the ball inside the computer's end zone to score a Goal, again going back to the Soccer theme. Because it's not easy to perform, this will result in an instant stage clear along with a nice point bonus in return.

In between you and the computer, you'll find destructible and, in some cases, indestructible blocks as well. There's a nice variety of blocks that are used to create the different layouts you see in each level. You have the standard ones that can be destroyed upon contact, blocks that require multiple hits to destroy, and some that shoot out sparks of electricity at you periodically. In later levels, you'll also come across a handful of enemies that will similarly pose an obstruction in your path to victory if you don't learn to control your paddle effectively. While not as varied in number as the blocks, they still pose a considerable threat. They also fire sparks of energy in your direction, and if contact is made with the paddle, then it will be temporarily stunned. I appreciated having this variable included, and I'm sure that appreciation will continue as I venture through the other levels in the final release. Mostly because it keeps you engaged, and reacting quickly to surprising events and circumstances.

Some blocks contain power-ups that can have a positive or negative effect on how you play. These enhancements are also predictable affair, but they do serve their purpose. Some will increase or decrease your paddle's length, allow you to have multiple balls firing at once, or award you triple points for a short period of time. There's even a power-up that will instantly clear the entire board of blocks in one big explosion. This happened to me more often than I had expected, and even now, I'm a little uncertain if I like this feature or not. At least it does add an element of surprise in some scenarios. I liked that the circle in the middle of the paddle changed to reflect the active power-up. I also appreciated that you could only carry a single power-up at once, and what's more, if the fact that the effect would be lost once you sustained a hit.

Aside from the normal "Play" option, Soccer Bashi also includes an Editor where you can create your own levels. Essentially, the toolset used to create the levels in the game are made available to you, and it's all presented in a very user-friendly capacity. I found it really easy to use, and not intimidating even in the slightest which was great. It's just too bad Icon Games couldn't include WiiConnect24 for level-sharing capabilities, as I'm sure that would have increased replay value even more.

Other than what I've already mentioned, there were only a few areas where my brain wanted me to take the game and fix something myself. For example, I wished the score display was shown in a vertical fashion, with the numbers reading from top to bottom. Instead, the score is shown as if your head was tilted to the left. Also, while I did like some of the music tracks, there were a few that replayed too often. But whatever "issues" I had with the game were really minor and definitely things that you could overlook. There were some new features that existed in the most recent build I got to try that weren't originally present in earlier forms. Perhaps the notable of them all was the ability to play co-op with a second player. As it turns out, this was a suggestion I personally made to the team, so to see them include it in the end is really nice to see.

If you're a fan of Breakout-inspired games, you'll definitely want to keep an eye out for the release of Soccer Bashi. So long as there aren't any major flaws that snuck into the final release, I'm really confident about this title's potential success with the WiiWare community. In fact, if North America gets it for the same price as Europe (i.e., 500 Nintendo Points), based on what I've already played, I can honestly say it's worth the money.
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