Version Reviewed: 1.0.2
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
The problem with most multiplayer games on iOS is that even many well-realized multiplayer components are still secondary experiences. This makes finding players extremely difficult. Soccer Showdown goes around this problem in the most obvious way: by making the multiplayer mode the core game mode. This makes it easy to find players to play with, as the only players playing are playing the multiplayer mode. See? Easy.
The game takes the most controversial way to settle soccer matches, penalty kicks, and turns the conflict into a game. Players alternate between the shooter and goal-keeper. The goal is obviously to get the ball in the goal when shooting it, and keeping the ball out when in goal. This is all done against an online opponent via Game Center matchmaking.
Part of what makes the game so addictive is that it's very easy to jump back in to a rematch after a closely-contested match. There's always that pressure to try and save a shot, not knowing which direction to go in. When shooting, there's the pressure of trying to make shots, of knowing when to take them right away, and when to delay, to try and catch the goalie off-guard when they're nervously anticipiating the shot. It takes all the best elements of penalty kicks and distills it into a great multiplayer experience that's easy to replay again and again. The game is free to play, with coins earned for leveling up by succeeding in games. Those coins can also be purchased with in-app purchases. Most of the items are just cosmetic, like differently-designed balls, gloves, and shoes, with special items for a lot of coins that provide faster experience gains. The game still ultimately boils down to in-game skills, though.
There are a few glitches - sometimes shots that go in are not properly counted. As well, it seems like some shots that don't go to the back of the net but cross the line don't count. As well, sometimes games just kind of get frozen and don't continue. Fixes for these issues have been submitted to Apple. As well, the controls are not entirely as intuitive as something like Flick Soccer; it happens way too often where a ball is kicked slowly, only to stop right in front of the disembodied goalie hands. In discussing with the developer, this was partially intentional, to allow for a greater range of shot power, but accidental shots are still possible.
It's amazing that Soccer Showdown, a game from a small developer like Naquatic, could come and make Game Center integration a key part of its product, and make it actually possible to easily find games to play. That's the most distressing part about most Game Center multiplayer games - having fun games yet no one to play with! Here's a title that figures out how to do it right. Bravo.