Foosball is one of the most famous table-top games, but not because it’s a name people recognize (most people I’ve ever mentioned foosball to have had a perplexed look upon their faces as soon as I uttered the name), but because it’s a game you can find everywhere from bars to college lounges, and it proves to be a fun experience to even the uninitiated. It’s a hectic game that has you spinning rods at top speeds, and even if you’re not practiced in the table sport, you can still manage to have fun. That’s why 3Division’s plan to bring it to game consoles and handhelds (PS3 and Vita) seems like a good one, but in its attempt to make the game accessible to both new players and engaging to veterans of the sport, it fails to satisfy either of the two camps.
Foosball 2012 is as basic a game as can be. In addition to the tutorials that explain the simplistic controls, you also have a world tour mode, online multiplayer and quick matches, for those in a hurry. These all seem like the required modes for an enjoyable sports game but they all end up being boring and lacking in any challenge thanks to one thing: the controls. Now, when you think about foosball, what comes to mind? A wild flurry of movements by two people, moving as precisely and fast as they can to spin those rods arounds and send the ball flying into their opponents goals. It should be admired that they tried to bring such a chaotic game to a simple gamepad, but in the process, most of the challenge and control is taken from you when the game attempts to make the controls as simple as possible. By way of several assist systems, the game tries to convey the sense that you’re always in control of the ball, when most of the time it’s the actual game AI that’s doing most of the work for you.
For example, all the foosmen on your rods have a magnet-like quality that suck the ball towards them if it’s near enough. In essence, you don’t really control the rod and the little men, you control where the ball moves. Depending on where the ball is in the table, the game tries to move your foosmen accordingly and simulate the same movement you were trying to perform. All in all, 80% of the time it feels as if your men and the ball are moving on their own and you just flicked your analog control just enough to activate the AI and let it take over. The same can be said about shooting the ball, which is done with the right analog stick, by flicking it in the direction you want the ball to go. The problem is that the ball almost never winds up going where you intended it to go, and when you do make goals, it’ll most likely be out of luck than skill.
This might all sound like a good thing to people who don’t really know how to play foosball, but is this game really intended for them? You know that most people who purchase this title are people who’ve partaken in foosball at some point in their lives. And for them, this won’t prove to be a good experience. Foosball is a game where everything boils down to technique. You only have limited control over your foosmen, so it’s all up to the different techniques you can employ to move faster than your opponent, to get that little ball in-between his foosmen. When all that technique and precision is taken away, there’s barely any game left to play.
For $7.99, you get both the PS3 and PS Vita version of the games, which at first sight might seem like a great deal. Both versions are nearly identical and with both, you can upload one’s save file to the other and continue from there. The problem with this price as that the charging doesn’t stop there. Many special foosball trick-shots are locked from the beginning of the game, further exacerbating the lack of control and technique offered by the game. To gain these trick-shots, you either have to grind continuously throughout the boring game or pay to buy them from the PSN Store. This just seems like a money grab that attempts to put the games only source of enjoyment behind a lock, making the game that much more unenjoyable to play.
The main difference from both is that the PS3’s version has Move support, which to my surprise, is this game’s saving grace. When playing with a Move controller, you are asked to emulate all the movements you would perform over a real life foosball table. All the assists are taken away and you are left with your skill and speed. This is how the game is meant to be played, and when you pull off impressive feats and make that last goal, you’ll feel as if you really accomplished it. The problem is that when playing with others, unless they themselves are also using a Move controller, the game becomes insanely unjust. All the assists that come with the dual shock or the Vita make it extremely easy to beat anyone attempting to take you on with a Move controller. So if you want a fun and fair experience, make sure both players have a motion controller.
In the end, Foosball 2012 is a game that is saved by its Motion control options on the PS3. If you have a couple of friends with Move wands, this might be a good $7.99 investment. Otherwise, you should stay away from this boring experience. Just go out and find a real foosball table.