Kickin' Soccer

Back in February, I mused that what the Mac platform needed was sports games —not the incredibly intricate and detailed 3-D games we find on consoles, but the top-down arcade-style games that were once popular on the Commodore Amiga and other computer platforms. Phelios has stepped up to the plate with an answer by introducing Kickin’ Soccer. It’s a solid start, and I can’t wait to see what else the game maker has up its sleeve.

As the name implies, Kickin’ Soccer is a soccer (football, to the rest of the world) game for Mac OS X (and Windows, too, if you’re in to that sort of thing). Reasonably priced at $10, it isn’t the most sophisticated sports game in the universe, but it’s plenty of fun for footie fans looking for something more action-oriented than the soccer management games that Feral and others have created over the years.

All you have to know to play Kickin’ Soccer is six basic keyboard keys— the cursor (or arrow) keys, Z to shoot and X to pass. That’s it. The game handles the rest.

You pick your team from a variety of 16 international squads, including all the favorites—England, Brazil, Germany, and Italy. You won’t find individual player stats or substitutions here&38212;just simple graphics showing you international affiliations.

Each team has different offensive and defensive strengths, and teams may vary their formations (the number of forwards, midfielders and defenders they have positioned). The demo limits the number of teams you can select from—registering the game unlocks everyone.

At kickoff, you can pass the ball to your other teammates by pressing the X key. Holding down the X key for more than a moment will “liftÝ the ball—handy if you’re trying to pass it to a well-defended teammate. Get it downfield and in goal range and you can kick. Just like with passing, holding down the Z key will cause your player to shoot the ball with a little more gusto. Catch the goalie unaware, and it’s goal time.

You can also try to steal the ball from the opposing team if you dare. Pressing the Z key when you’re close to the ball handler will attempt a tackle. But you have to be careful, because occasionally the refs will spot you and hand you down a yellow or red card. I’m not really sure how the game determines a penalty—it seems rather random.

You can play a single match in the game’s “arcade” mode or you can go for the cup in a four-game match mode. There’s also a two-player head-to-head mode, which is a lot of fun but crowds you around the keyboard. Unfortunately, Kickin’ Soccer lacks gamepad support, which it really needs.

The game can run either in windowed or full-screen mode, but resolution support is limited to either 640-by-480 or 800-by-600—curiously small windows. You can also adjust the half duration to 1, 3, 5 or 7 minutes.

Play balancing seems to be a bit off. The computer-controlled players can be absurdly tough, even if you’re playing a ridiculously mismatched game. The game also gives you no way of controlling which player you’re playing as—it will always default to the player closest to the ball. This makes it near impossible to switch to a defenseman, for example, if you’ve lost control of the ball and you’re chasing the opposing team’s forward as he kicks the ball down the pitch.

Sound effects are good—the game is chock full of stadium noise: The sounds of crowds cheering and chanting as their teams score or stage an active offense. The game is available as a Universal Binary that runs natively on PowerPC and Intel-based Macs alike.

Graphics are simple and to the point—chunky players throw up their hands in the air and jump up and down when they score a goal; their arms and legs move as they run up and down the pitch, and they’ll kick their legs outward as they try to steal the ball. Like I said, it’s very reminiscent of the games of another era that I loved so much.

The bottom line

Kickin’ Soccer is a throwback to another time when sports games didn’t need multi-million dollar budgets to be fun. With some tweaking to play balance and gamepad support, this diamond in the rough can sparkle.

Gooooooooaaaaal! With Kickin’ Soccer, Phelios has recreated classic arcade-style soccer gaming on the Mac.

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