App Reviewed on: iPhone XR
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Sports games are not exactly my forte. This is doubly true if we’re talking about playing on touchscreens. But, every so often there exceptions to the rule. Football Drama is one of them. I can’t say it’s the most intelligible game I’ve played, but I kept returning to it because it knows how to handle sports on the small screen in an interesting way.
On and off the field
Football Drama is kind of like if someone made an adventure game out of a sports management sim, and the whole thing is wrapped in art house sensibilities. You play the game as Rocco Galliano, an infamous coach who is pulled out of retirement to coach one more season for Calchester Football Club.
Throughout this season, your main goal is to coach your club to the best of your abilities, but that’s not all you do. You also contend with the press, have back-room dealings with association big-wigs, and even have private conversations with your cat in between games. It’s all very strange, but it gives Football Drama a lot of flair and personality that many other sports games lack.
The beautiful game
For the bulk of Football Drama, you’re coaching soccer matches. This basically involves using a limited toolset to influence the performance of your players against their opponent. You decide if you want your players make an offensive push when they get the ball, for instance, or if you want to slide tackle while on defense. You also choose what to practice prior to each game to boost certain stats and can use special cards to influence matches, though their effects are never immediate and might not always succeed.
There appears to be a lot of stuff going on underneath the hood of Football Drama to determine the outcomes of the management decisions you make, but the game doesn’t really let you in on how any of it works. During matches, there are bars charting your team’s “pressing,” “focus,” and “surprise” stats, for example, but it’s not clear what they are, what makes them move up or down, or why that matters. Despite this, matches never feel completely random. You can always sense what you need to do with your team, even if you don’t know exactly why.
This “play by feel” approach is what I find most appealing about Football Drama. Instead of playing odds or min/maxing stats, it’s a game that only gives you just enough information to make a semi-informed decision. The problem with this though is that soccer matches are bookended by dialogue sequences that—while intriguing—are almost impossible to understand and can be frustratingly repetitive.
The writing in this game is just so bizarre that it’s difficult to parse what people are saying to each other. Then, when you do decipher it, you’re usually given responses that feel equally nonsensical. There are times when the game trades in language that is more intelligible, but that’s usually just in the commentary for soccer matches and during select story sequences. This all would be easy to ignore, but there’s so much of it, and the game routinely forces you to pay special attention to it to continue making progress.
The bottom line
Football Drama is definitely a bit of a double-edged sword. It’s opaque and mysterious in a way that makes it alluring, but this also results in it being confusing and kind of frustrating. For me, I mostly found its odd nature appealing, but there are definitely things about it that I wish were better.