Academy of Champions: Soccer - WII - Review
If the degree of difficulty were to be scored on a scale of 1-10, it would be an easy 10; if scored in terms of player ability, the moves in Academy of Champions: Soccer would make Ronaldinho sit up and take notice.
Ubisoft’s new franchise is in the Academy of Champions theme, with the first release keying on soccer and featuring icons Pele and Mia Hamm. The title, aimed for the younger set of players, is well done, though it does suffer a bit from some of the problems that hamper other soccer titles and the default camera can be too limiting at times.
The game has a seemingly simple premise – you create a character (a young boy or girl) and get an invitation to the Brightfield Academy – which has a feel much like Hogwarts of Harry Potter fame, except this is a school where soccer is the curriculum and the houses are teams you meet on the pitch.
The game has a very limited and simplified set of game modes – there is the story line, quick play (for one or two players), mini-games and then there is the lockerroom where you can buy equipment with the experience points you have earned during the game modes.
The game also incorporates the Wii MotionPlus technology and you can even do a slalom-like course to demonstrate ball control using the Wii Balance Board.
But even without those peripheral elements, the game plays well with a regular ‘old’ Wii set-up, as in with the Wii-mote and nunchuk. The gameplay elements are boiled down to the essentials. The A button is pass or slide tackle (forget cards for tackling from behind, no refs in sight means you can slide from whatever angle you wish), while the C button (on the nunchuk) switches players and the Z button allows you to dash. The thumbstick on the nunchuk is for player movement. Tapping the Z button will allow you to do a flipping dodge move to avoid a tackle attempt. When you get in range, you target the area where you wish to shoot the ball with the Wii-mote and then press B to shoot. It’s all rather straightforward, but the storyline mode actually gives you training in the different areas via mini-games. You can also recruit players to your team, gather information on opposing teams, play in scrimmages and then go into training mode to elevate the grade skill of your players.
The week has four training dates with mini-games, and then a road block, which is essentially the game you have to win in order to advance to the next week. Should you now win that game, you unlock the previous week (as you go through the days and complete all the assignments of that day you lock it) for the chance to earn more experience points to skill up your team to tackle that road-block game again. This is a progressive difficulty track that might get a bit hard too fast for younger players.
The camera starts off with a distant look that allows you to see the field, but once you take control of the ball on offense, the game zooms in closer and you can’t see the field as well. There are arrows under the feet of the player controlling the ball that tells you where teammates may be but this is rather imprecise. And, like a variety of other games, should you hold onto the keys too long, the command may bleed over. For example, you are trying to pass the ball to an open player on the backdoor of the opposing team’s goal. You hit the A button and hold it until the player controlling the ball actually goes to pass it. But the game has read that action and instead of cancelling all commands as the ball is en route, you have the player who is wide open (and all he or she needed to do was tap it into the net for the goal) passes to the next available player, who happens to be 20 yards back. And because you have hit the B button for the first player receiving the pass to shoot, after the second pass is implemented, the player receiving the ball, who has little hope of scoring from that range, shoots the ball, which is promptly gathered up by the goalie.
Most of those problems are endemic to other soccer titles, so while a little frustrating they are certainly not new.
As for the look and sound of the game, the game’s visual elements are well done. There is a charm to the game that combines hand-drawn elements with solid animated characters. The background sound is merely Ok – the principle characters all have a gibberish language and the sounds are generally what one would expect.
Boasting an arcade-like presentation, Academy of Champions: Soccer is an effort to appeal to a younger demographic and launch a new franchise. It is a nice little title, with charm and challenge, and the presentation is kept fun. Taking all that into consideration, AoC: Soccer shoots and scores.
Review Scoring Details for Academy of Champions: Soccer
Limited gameplay modes, a camera that doesn’t always give the best view of the field for tactical purposes, but controls that are easy to understand use are the hallmarks of this title.
The game uses color really well and the animations are solid.
The sound does marginally what it needs to. There is text to read to advance the concepts of the game.
While the modes of play are limited, what the game does present is handled in a decent fashion.
Two players on one machine is the extent of the multiplayer elements.
A decent little game aimed for younger players. It has style and looks good. There are some minor issues but nothing that is overwhelming.