When I think of Foosball, I am reminded of days of old, spending summers at roller skating rinks, or attending a friend’s birthday party hosted at rodent mascot-ed pizza parlors. Even in the dorm I lived in during college had a Foosball table. Foosball is one of those crazy social games where you don’t have to be good to play, you just had to worry about not elbowing a teammate while spinning your rod or accidentally knocking your opponent in the nuts if you slammed the rod away from you to block a ball. Foosball is just a creative tabletop version of soccer/football that can be played without needing to be athletic. In a world of video games being made out of any real-world game, Grip Games has captured most of the magic of the parlor game classic in their PSN release of Foosball 2012 for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.
First off, it’s important to note that paying for either version grants the player access to download the game on both Vita and the PS3, a trend that definitely should continue and be supported in more dual-platform games. I would think that most gamers are like myself and don’t have an unlimited budget for games, but giving folks what basically amounts to two copies of a game for the price of one is a clear win for the consumer. This consumer-friendly Trojan horse could be the long term way in which Sony gets more Vita’s sold. A win for the consumer ends up being a win for Sony. Enough economics though, is the game actually any good?
Starting the World Tour on either the PS3 or Vita for the first time, the game asks if players want to run through the tutorial first. The first stage in the tutorial turned me off to the game. Maybe there is just a poor choice of wording in explaining how to use the rod-mounted athletes. Or maybe the first stage should be moved down to the second or third, but my initial impression of the game started off on the wrong note. Which is a misstep in an otherwise solid game. Basically the controls are such: left stick moves the rods up and down on the game field, the right stick moves left or right which spins the athletes in the appropriate direction, and the face buttons offer four power shots that become unlocked through playing the World Tour and earning stars.
While unlocking the power shots or defeating countries in the World Tour on either system, all of the data is uploaded to Grip severs so that when you play on the other device your progress continues without having to re-unlock items. Unlike MotorStorm RC, however, trophies earned on one device do not translate to the other. Progression through the World Tour unlocks additional options for the game as well. Different modes become available, such as different criteria modifiers for determines when a match ends. The first few stages are based on which team has the most points after five balls have been used. After that a match is one by whichever team scores five goals first. Ramping up the time invested in a match, additional unlocks include modes such as 10 balls or 10 goals, 15 balls or 15 goals, and eventually 20 balls per match. Playing against the AI in Quick Match allows players the option to select the difficulty, the look of the table, how many balls or goals, and which type of ball to use.
Some unlocks can be earned by either three staring fifteen different matches or for the sake of convenience, Grip offers a pay-to-unlock scheme via the PSN Store. The store unlocks are basically eight additional countries in the World Tour (which also unlock additional cosmetic items) or the Power Shots which can add a significant advantage when playing against the more difficult teams. Whether this in-app purchase system is viewed as good or bad is something each individual player will have to decide.
Gameplay for Foosball 2012 is basically the same on both systems, however there are a few differences that should be noted. On the Vita, the touch screen can be swiped instead of using the right stick to shoot the ball. On the PS3, the PlayStation Move controller is supported and I was pleasantly surprised by how much more the game felt like I was at an actual Foosball table. Twisting the Move right or left rotated the rods on screen, while pulling the Move away from the screen or moving it closer moved the rods in the appropriate direction. One thing to note about using the Move, though, is the rod and the athletes stay in whichever position the the controller is in; playing without the Move and on the Vita, the rods and players automatically snap back to center which I almost found preferable.
The game supports online multiplayer as well as local multiplayer up to four players, splitting two players between defense and offense on each team. The Move can be used in mixed company with the DualShock for a nice bit of realism (although I don’t have four Move’s to see if all four players can each play with one at the same time). One of the weird quirks I ran into while trying to play online was with the Invite system. My son was playing on our PS3 with his PSN ID and I was playing on the Vita, and I went to send him an invite. The message appeared on the PS3, but from within the game there were no invites detected. From the message within his inbox, there was no Join option. The only way we could get online play to work was if either he or I hosted a public game and then we would have to quickly jump into that match before some one else joined. The other minor quibble I have with the cross play feature is that the voice chat doesn’t work when playing Vita to PS3.
Aside from the few oddities I’ve mentioned, Foosball 2012 is a fun game at a great price. I find myself playing it more on the Vita than I do on the PS3 simply because the short matches and quick playability are better suited to snack gaming on the go for me, but the game controls well on both platforms and the fact that one purchase includes matching copies gives players the option to Foosball it up whether they’re home or away. While not necessarily equipped to offer deep, long-term satisfaction, Foosball 2012 is a great game to pick up for quick bursts of immediate gaming gratification.
+ Vita and PS3 versions for one price
+ Fun, quick gaming sessions
+ Cross play with Vita and PS3
+ Convenience unlocks can be bought
– Harder difficulties are punishingly tough
– Invite system doesn’t work
– Not an especially deep game
– Convenience unlocks can be bought
Platform: PS3 and PlayStation Vita via PSN
Publisher: Grip Games
Developer: Grip Games
Release Date: 7/24/2012
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-4 (local and online)
Source: Review code provided by publisher