Football Kicks – Slick, free-kick football action with multiplayer functionality
I’ve spent a fairly significant amount of my time on various adventures and forays into the fairly specific world of football games for the mobile device platform, and along the way I have encountered titles which claim to be many things played in many ways: football simulations both on field and off, unique takes on the sport, career adventures, skill simulators which require flicking, sliding, swiping, tapping, pressing and god knows what else. In the end, there seems to be one type of game which seems to rise to the surface of the pool of entertainment while others seem to struggle to stay afloat while gasping desperately for air: the free-kick simulation. These come in many varieties (games such as Flick Kick Football Kickoff and Soccer Kicks are notable examples), but the one I can’t seem to put down at the moment is Football Kicks from the crazy kids at Distinctive Wireless Inc. Taking what is undoubtedly the best (and indeed the only) aspect of football which is worth simulating, Football Kicks will have you swiping for free-kick success the whole day long, and is one of the few ‘Freemium’ games out there whose adherence to the money-making business model doesn’t annoy me to the very core.
Flicks, Kicks, No automobiles
Football Kicks is a dead-ball striking game similar to ‘Flick Kick Football Kickoff’ in that its format always has you kicking the ball from a stationary position on the floor in a variety of different modes and contexts . The strength of your shot as well as the direction of the ball relies entirely on your swiping motion; the ball is kicked by swiping in an upwards direction on the screen, causing the ball to travel in a straight line. Many shots can be taken this way but in some modes where there are obstacles (such as defenders) in the way which require a little flare in the form of a swerve shot. Swerving the ball is achieved by swiping in the direction you want the ball’s trajectory to bend: this takes a little getting used to, and a considerable amount of practice is needed before you’ll be able to get the ball to put exactly where you want it, which is sort of half the fun anyhow. Football Kicks isn’t as easy as simply scoring goals, however; targets of various sizes (depending on the gameplay mode) are situated within the goal area which must be hit with the ball. Forget the traditional concept of a goal: this would be all too easy.
In a refreshing break from many (if not most) mobile-device-based football games I’ve ever played, this game offers no less than a fantastic choice between six single-player modes of gameplay which all involve kicking the ball at a goal in one form or another. Sudden death is perhaps the most punishing, requiring you to hit targets in the goal: one mistake results in your dismissal (you are free to play again repeatedly, however). Beat the clock involves exactly that, with targets ranging in size, the smallest ones paying out the most points and some with a stopwatch symbol give you 25 extra seconds on ticking clock. Beat the wall is untimed but in it you are inconvenienced by increasing numbers of live defenders standing in the way of the goal, hindering your shots and requiring some good curving skills as you progress. These three games are free to play; any further modes must be purchased with in-game coins, which can either be earned through gameplay or purchased with reasonable sums of actual money (£1.49 for 2,500).
The paid-for modes are identical in format and involve further use of your virtual skills of flicking a round ball into various tight squeezes. One mode has you taking corners, which is a challenging act within itself, another involved playing against a goalkeeper for more a more traditional football experience, or indeed you can choose to play ‘Beat the World’ where a minimum points target is the only goal.
Football Kicks isn’t yet done with dipping us into the rich waters of variety, however, since you are able to customise both the look of your player and the appearance of the stadium in which you play each of the aforementioned games. Ok, so you have to part with a few FK coins for the pleasure, but you can swap out pretty much everything on your player such as his face and hair as well as all aspects of his clothing, and you can even purchase a female player for those of you looking to break the traditional misogyny and include a little gender variation in the sport (breaking down the barriers of change one goal at a time). Also available for purchase are five further stadiums; this customisation is purely aesthetical, but as far as I’m concerned, football is up to 70% aesthetics in the first place, so go ahead and get customising; it’s pretty fun to have control over these things.
The World is your Stadium
Football kicks can brush off single-player functions with no more than a flick of the ball and a nonchalant turning around as if they score 50-yard bangers for breakfast; it has a multiplayer mode to keep you going as well. This game involves shooting at targets, taking it in turns with your randomly-matched opponent: the highest score after five shots wins. This game has pretty much all bases covered in terms of its entertainment value.
Celebrate good times (come on)
The premise of Football Kicks isn’t one that is unique, groundbreaking or wholly original in its format; many games out there offer a similar format in which you are positioned in front of the goal with the sole purpose of directing the ball from the floor to the net with any number of variables and game modes available to you. It seems that no other football game does it like this one, however, with Football Kicks offering you some excellent graphics (modelled on real players, apparently), simple menus, extremely entertaining gameplay that is hard to put down, and all based on the Freemium model which somehow doesn’t irritate me in the slightest. This latter anomaly is most likely due to the fact that the game is so very good that I would willingly pay for in-game currency to purchase more modes/levels because I simply want to see more. In addition, you are able to earn coins every time you play, meaning that monetary/level progress isn’t restricted merely to the paying player. It is this polite nod to the more fiscal individual that most Freemium games lack altogether, leading to my opinion of them being extremely low before I even consider the merits of the gameplay experience.