Playing Facebook Soccer With Footy!

Another soccer-themed title has shown up recently on our weekly list of emerging Facebook appsFooty! from Power Challenge, with just shy of 500,000 monthly active users, following a steady stream of others.

A cross between sports games and virtual spaces, Footy resembles older games such as Epic Goal in that players build up their own soccer space, and actually control their team within the various matches they will inevitably play.

Players are given control of their very own soccer team with the idea to progress their team up the leaderboards and become the top player amongst friends. Oddly enough, Footy comes with no player management of any sort, centering its play around actual matches.

Jumping into the play mode, users are able to participate in a “Winning Streak” game mode, in which they are put up against other random Footy players. Once in the game, players control their team with context-sensitive clicks. Clicking on the ball will send the nearest players to it, and clicking on an opponent with the ball will cause nearby players to try and slide tackle them. Also, dribbling is done with a sort of path-drawing mechanic (drawing a path from the friendly player with the ball, using the mouse, to a point on the field) and passing is done by clicking on any teammate. As for shooting, when close enough to the goal, clicking and holding will charge up a shot, and shoot upon release. Every thing works similarly to Epic Goal in that clicking on the ball, or an opponent holding it, will send nearby teammates after them (slide tackling if it is the other team’s possession). As for direct control, players may only steer or a team member who controls the ball. The rest all just sort of move in the general direction the ball is moving.

Unfortunately, all of this handles rather slowly. That isn’t really even the biggest problem though, as it’s just flat out boring. Players run back and forth for a period of time shooting goals, but there is no flair or style to it. It’s just not exciting at all. Coupled with the garbled gibberish that the players speak, it’s hardly a pleasing experience. Granted, the game is still marked as a beta rendition, but as a core game play element, it still needs a good bit of work.

The other problem, is that playing games is only good for earning money. In this Winning Streak mode, players accumulate a win multiplier that increases their winnings each time they keep the streak going, but the only thing the cash can be used on is virtual items that are placed on one’s soccer field.

Sounds good right? The problem, is that each of these items can only be placed in specific spots, and while this is not necessarily a bad thing, it doesn’t allow for the creativity that other virtual spaces offer. The reason it works in other games, such as Title Town Racing, is because the core of those other games is far more in depth, and such a feature is added on as an extra thing to do amongst many. With Footy, it is the whole other half of the game. Moreover, the only purpose décor serves is to further enhance how much money is earned per game. But when the games are boring and the virtual spaces are boring, neither element can support the other, let alone enhance the game experience.

The other mode to play is a Pendant Match mode. Playing similarly to Winning Streak, players can play opponents and collect their pendants as a sort of trophy. A good idea, but unfortunately, this mode is limited to only friends, so if they don’t play, it’s not going to do much good. Not that there is much incentive to play much with friends. As far as social integration goes, it is nothing more (at least noticeably) than leaderboards, gifting, visiting each other’s space for a daily reward, and the occasional Facebook wall post.

What really seems like the problem with Footy is a sort of identity crisis. It has bits from traditional sports games, elements from virtual spaces, and even some collection game mechanics, but none of them really stand out. They are all just basic mechanics that try to enhance each other, yet none come off as fun, thus making said “enhancement” pointless. Moreover, there is no real sense of progression. Yes, players level up, and as they do, they are rewarded with more spaces to place decorative items, but unlike Epic Goal, the team never seems to be improved. In the noted title, players could actually make them run faster, shoot better, or defend more accurately. None of that is present here.

Overall, Footy has a lot of work to be done. The core play mechanic of the actual controlling of soccer matches needs to be improved drastically. It just feels so uninspired, and while it is functional, is almost painful to play through. Then, when it’s time to use earnings to build up a virtual space, there’s minimal room for creativity until one’s cash is spent and its back to the drab matches. In the end, while Footy may be growing now, its long term appeal may find itself stunted in the near future.