Indie game developer Quirkat has brought foosball to the PlayStation Network in an attempt to popularize the tabletop game on PlayStation 3 as it has been in arcades, pubs, and clubs for generations. The result is a fun and often quirky gaming experience. While holding to the traditions and rules of the nearly 100-year-old game, Quirkat includes variations and optional twists for gamers to enjoy, including PlayStation Move support for deeper immersion.
Pro Foosball is true foosball at its core. The basic tenets of the game are here and hold to the rules and gameplay feeling very well. Like the tabletop game, players are given opposing rows of foosball figures to control. Players kick the ball with the left analog stick and shift the row up and down with the right. As the ball moves, the game shifts your control to the nearest row in relation to the ball. The game’s A.I. does some work for you with the rows that you do not currently control, with additional realignments in relation to the ball’s position. This is convenient, but can be problematic at times, especially when using Move. If the ball is moving fast enough, the row will sometimes perform the opposite of what is desired and some cheap goals result.
The learning curve of the game’s controls is another issue. Frustrating to start, the controls take some time to get used to. This isn’t to say the controls were designed poorly; indeed, they work well once time is taken to master them, but some may not have the patience. After awhile, the game’s pacing and moves feel great. Shooting the ball from my own base defense line straight into the opposing goal was particularly satisfying. Using Move instead of the controller will also take some practice. Moving the wand toward and away from the camera shifts the row while twisting and flicking handle passing and shooting. This works well and is a nice representation of the real tabletop mechanics, but like the analog sticks, Move will take time to master.
The graphics of the game are sub-par, but they don’t diminish the gameplay and the lack of top-notch pixel-pushing isn’t a major gotcha for a game of this type. The game offers various locales, several of which require unlocking. New locations change up the style of the table and the figures, but don’t add anything to gameplay and the needless locale cutscenes prior to each match do nothing but highlight the lack of graphical prowess. Of course, this is foosball, not Madden, so my gripe is minor.
Where the graphics lack, the gameplay physics shine. The ball moves naturally across the table and reacts to obstacles with sounds and effects that work very well. Quirkat took foosball gameplay to another level with its “Foos Madness” section. Here, players can apply magnetic balls, low gravity, low friction, long tables, tables with hills and valleys, or even tables without walls. Just to make it more interesting gamers can pair any of the two for some true foosball madness. The combinations can be remarkably fun, but not always. I found low friction coupled with hills and valleys to be simply aggravating while low gravity and hills can be hilarious fun. Since players can mix and match these combinations, unique likes and dislikes will pepper this clever inclusion to the game.
Pro Foosball shines when playing against other people. Multiplayer configurations include one-on-one, two-on-two, or one-on-two. All the various configurations of gameplay are still available, which can make for some memorable fun. The lack of online multiplayer is disappointing, though. Picking up a game of foosball with friends online could have added another dimension with tournaments or a simple, random pick-up-and-play with a stranger. It IS understandable, considering the game’s price ($7.99), but it’s still a feature that is missed.
Pro Foosball is an innovative, fun, and surprisingly addictive version of its tabletop namesake. While the online multiplayer option would have been welcome, for its price, Pro Foosball offers great value for single- or multiplayer experiences and delivers. There are some quirks in gameplay that can be frustrating, but they do not ruin the overall experience. The inclusion of Move as an option enhances the realism of the game, and while the controls take some practice to master, gamers will find much satisfaction in both playing side-by-side with a friend and taking on the game solo.