No stats this time!
It’s time to look at a fairly recent Wii U game I got to play. I haven’t had a chance to play a true cash-in title in quite a while so it was nostalgic to an extent. That being said, the game was pretty underwhelming and falls for most of the traps that the Wii U games tend to sink in. The Gamepad and Wii Remote are both mandatory which is an issue since the Wii U should be able to play the game with its own controls. It’s like asking you to have a Gamepad while playing a Nintendo Switch game.
There are 6 games here and they range from okay to downright bad. It’s really something that Wii Sports has aged a lot better with the controls and pure gameplay. ESPN is just not on the same level and that’s really a bad sign. None of the games feel like they had any real care in them and they were simply slapped together for a quick profit. There is barely even a main menu as the only options are to click into the games or look at your in-game achievements. Those are your only options so the game is incredibly quick as you have probably already begun to suspect. Well, lets look at the games.
First up is Football which should have been great, but unfortunately the game messed this up by making it all motions controls. Throwing the ball is actually very difficult because the game won’t read your commands and by the time you are able to toss the ball it is usually too late so your guy will drop the ball. A lot of the game also boils down to luck as you pick 1 of 4 directions and hope that the other player picked a different one. If you pick the same one then the defender ends up stopping the attacker. It just doesn’t feel like Football, especially since you can’t run the ball at all even after catching it. All you can do is throw the ball which doesn’t even work well. Thumbs down on the first sport.
Then we have Tennis which has controls that are worse than the Balls of Fury game for the Wii. It’s made to be like Wii Sports as you swing your arm around and try to connect but the sensors aren’t perfect for this one either. You’ll have a very tough time hitting the ball and an even tougher time trying to get it to go where you want it to. The points all last way too long and so do the matches. It may be fair to say that this is the worst version of tennis that I have played in a game.
Not to be outdone, the Golf game here isn’t any better. In fairness to this minigame, it’s no worse than most Golf titles. It’s just that Golf isn’t for me and this is not the game to change that. You will have a hard time hitting the ball just right because you’ll end up swinging too hard to compensate for the sensor not reading your light hit. That means you can expect to get a Bogey instead of a Birdie.
Then you have Karting which is the best game almost by default. It’s not great or even that good, but at least it feels like a real game. You can actually accelerate accurately and the stages had a little effort put into them. By now it’s a pretty small bar, but I’ll take what I can get. This was probably the best game out of the 6 and it shows that racing games are still the foundation upon which everything tries to get built. It’s just easy to at least give you the impression of being in control here.
Next is Baseball and this one has the same issues as the Football game. It doesn’t feel much like Baseball because so much of the game is completely out of your control. There’s just no fun to be had here which is a real problem. Pitching feels pretty OP while batting isn’t satisfying. This leads to a poor balance for sure. Finally we have Soccer. Admittedly this one isn’t too bad. It’s up there with the Kart game for at least being entertaining. The controls are simple and you can actually score. It feels like soccer which is the important thing. So, all in all the game got 2/6 of the games right. I can’t really give it a ton of praise for that, but I’ll at least give it some credit.
Not enough to recommend the game though. When you see the name ESPN slapped onto something you expect a certain level of quality. This game did not fulfill that at all. It just went through the motions and ultimately gave you a title that you can’t really be all that proud of. The graphics are okay, but nothing special. They’re going for an art style like Backyard Football, but with less of a budget. It’s all colorful, but not very impressive. The soundtrack and presentation are basically nonexistent here so that isn’t doing the game any favors here either.
There is some replay value through the achievements that the game gives out. Each sport has 40 achievements and there are 28 social ones. Completing all of these achievements will be very difficult unless you have another player to cheese them with. I got a reasonable amount of achievements, but since they don’t unlock anything there really isn’t much point to them either. There isn’t even a mode to play all of the sports at once. It’s like playing Mario Party but without the party mode and knocking the dozens of minigames down to 6. Even if these minigames were amazing (which they aren’t) it would be tough to hold my attention for very long with such a limited selection.
Overall, ESPN Sports Connection is not a good game. It’s probably the most disappointing game since Star Fox Zero. There just should have been so much more to this title but it could not deliver on anything. Even the karting, while okay ends up making Mario Kart Tour look good. You could just buy a game that specializes in one of these 6 sports instead of buying the mini version. It can be done well like Wii Sports, but for the most part I tend to see a pattern of these kind of games being low quality. The game is only 2-3 dollars so it’s not a big loss if you buy it, but I would recommend going for something else instead. This one just won’t last you very long at all.
Play Time 1h 11m
It’s time to venture back into the world of hockey! After I managed to secure a win last time I’ll admit that I walked into this one with a lot of confidence. It wasn’t a question of if I would win this time, but rather by how much would I claim victory. Turns out that the CPUs didn’t like this and they fought extra hard. Unfortunately I was not able to claim victory over them this time, but I put up a good fight. They just had an extra tight defense this time and their offense wasn’t bad either.
I can’t say that there was much of a difference between 13 and 12. I jumped right into the match and got my best hockey swings in. As a quick recap of the rules the goal of Hockey is to hit a puck inside the enemy net. They have a player standing watch over it at all times and they will do whatever they can to stop the puck. Their team was quite successful at this. Usually my plan is to either pass the ball to a nearby teammate who will punch it in or I’ll do some quick jukes as I approach and try to aim it at the opposite corner. I did manage to score a goal, but unfortunately they got 2 so I was not able to stop them. I had more success with direct shooting than passing this time, but it seems to vary from match to match.
I quickly tried a rematch which I came close to tying, but they scored a goal near the end so I was stuck. After the quick matches I figured I should also try one of the other modes because I don’t do that very often. I went into the shootout mode and managed to win that one. For some reason that mode is always a little easier than the actual game. I suppose because it’s 1 vs 1 there are less distractions so I can just walk up and do my best. There weren’t a lot of other modes that I could see. The others seemed to be variations of the main one so you could jump in and start a franchise or be a GM for example. You could probably spend a ton of time there.
NHL is the kind of game that never really has to end. The amount of replay value it has is equal to how much you enjoy the game. You can sink dozens/hundreds of hours into it if you wish but if you’re that hardcore of a player then you’ll probably be playing NHL 18 rather than 13. Considering that the game is only around 2 bucks it is really a steal to grab this one. This is the final mainline NHL game I’ve got, but I do have 2 spinoffs coming soon so my hockey marathon isn’t quite over yet. I still have more chances to try and secure a win.
Meanwhile the graphics are definitely as sharp as ever. The game looks very nice and you always have a good feel for what is happening on screen at all times. There isn’t much of a soundtrack that you will notice, but once you’re in the game it’s not like you’ll be worrying about that for long anyway. You really get absorbed into the match and the presentation is definitely on point. NHL always delivers there.
In terms of difficulty I imagine that hockey will be one of the more challenging games. All these reviews are on the Pro difficulty level although I’ve dabbled with others in the past. The rookie level is pretty easy to win on and anything above Pro is almost impossible to score with so you gotta hope for a 0-0 deadlock. Pro seems just right to me even if I very rarely get any wins on it. It just seems balanced and while the defense is almost unbreakable, it never feels unfair. I think that’s a subtle distinction that you always want to keep. In some games it feels like the A.I. is totally cheating by breaking the mechanics or teleporting, but I haven’t noticed that here. Of course it could just be that the computers are being extra slick.
Overall, NHL 13 is a fun hockey game. It really keeps up with the others and feels more natural than some of the older ones. While you don’t notice the difference much on a game to game basis, I can definitely say that it was more enjoyable than some of the older ones. I think a case could be made for it just feeling like that because I’ve been playing so much hockey though. I won’t deny that this could be true, but either way I’m definitely glad about that. The higher the games go the better right? Stay tuned for my next voyage!
It’s been a while, but it’s finally time to take a look at the next NHL game. I’m thinking that the wait actually ended up being a good thing because I finally managed to win a game. I’d been getting closer and closer as the games went on, but this time I was able to just get into the game and cleaned up shop. I won with a decisive 3-2 score which felt pretty good. It’s really hard to say why I was finally able to score, but I will say that I just kept up a high tempo offense all the way through.
I jumped right into a quick match of course and at first things were looking dicey because my PS3 controller wasn’t playing ball. It kept trying to make my player run downwards but after a few resets I was good to go. Of course by then I was already down 0-1. Perhaps it was the urgency that got me, but I quickly began to take shots at the goal and to my surprise I was getting through. For one of the shots it ended up going right through one of their defenders and to the edge of the net so the goalie couldn’t stop it. It was basically a hall of fame shot if I do say so myself. The other 2 shots were less remarkable but the important thing is that they made it through.
The controls are the same as the others games as you run across the field and try to score goals inside of the opponent’s net. You can shoot or pass the ball and additionally you can slam into other players as well as pick fights. I got into one scuffle during this match and I made sure to knock the other guy out. I didn’t even pick this fight, but once I was in it you can bet that I was aiming for the win. The gameplay all feels pretty smooth even if the computer does seem too close at times. You never really get a breather to stop and relax or you will see that the puck has been stolen.
The A.I. never lets up and I suppose that’s a good thing. It does force you to stay sharp and to keep a close eye on the rest of the field. Meanwhile the graphics are definitely as sharp as always The field looks pretty clear as well as the character models. I definitely had no qualms on this area. The soundtrack may as well be nonexistent since you don’t really hear it during the game. I’m sure it was okay of course, but not exactly a winner.
In terms of replay value you can definitely find a lot to do here. There are tons of different modes to play and its a sport game so you can just have a lot of fun facing off against different opponents. That’s really the true value of a sport game after all even if NHL wouldn’t exactly be my first choice. The game is also new enough where you can try to earn some trophies, but they are pretty tough. I didn’t even earn a single one during my match so I imagine this should take you a long time. If there are any online trophies then the platinum is impossible right from the start which is always unfortunate. Ah well, can’t get all of the platinums I suppose.
I guess for my gameplay hint of the day I would recommend going in close and shifting your stick from arm to arm with the X button. Then fire into the goal when ready instead of passing it to a teammate on the other side to shoot. The move doesn’t seem to work as well as it used to. The computers will either steal the ball right away or it simply won’t go in. The goals I got were simply from rushing towards the net and making the shot. You’ll still have to make dozens of shots before you get it right, but eventually you’ll squeeze it in there. It feels like luck and RNG, but I’m sure there is some kind of technique to it.
Overall, NHL 12 is pretty solid. I can’t really say that there is anything to differentiate it from the last installment though. I guess it’s possible that they tweaked how good the goalies are though. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve never scored 3 goals like this and I wouldn’t say that my skills just suddenly jumped a beat so it’s an interesting theory. If the game did make it easier to score that is certainly fine by me because I do like scoring. The whole game just feels faster and it’s a lot more satisfying. Of course I do understand why people who prefer the defensive side may not like this if it is the case. Well, I’ve got NHL 13 coming up at some point soon so it’ll be good to see where that one stacks up. Slowly but surely we are wrapping up the sport games. Long story short, if you like NHL then this is a good pick up for 1-2 dollars.
It’s been a while, but now it’s time to go up against a team in soccer. This is also the first time in a very long while that I got to play a small console sport game. Typically I just play the home console versions so it’s a nice change of pace to see how it goes on the handheld. It’s pretty smooth and the PSP has always been particularly great at emulating the home console experience. That being said, aside from Madden I can’t picture myself playing any sport game on the go for very long.
Since this FIFA is specifically about the World Cup all of the modes focus on this as well. The main mode has you jump right into the World Cup and aim for success. Naturally I was repping the USA as I jumped in to take names. To my credit I actually scored a goal and then held the lead for most of the game. Then as always seems to be the case for these titles the computer’s difficulty level suddenly spiked without warning and they scored with only about 10 seconds left in the game. I can tell you now that this felt really crazy. Just like that I had lost my win and had to settle for a tie. Since it was only round one of the World Cup they didn’t have us play extra time and just ended the game there. I felt a little cheated to be honest, but I was glad that I at least scored a goal. The next game was more of a standard 0-0. I ended up losing the World Cup since my record wasn’t enough but it was a good run while it lasted. The computer evidently didn’t think I was good enough to keep tying though as I had it simulate some games in another World Cup and I lost almost every one.
I do like the World Cup format although it’s not like it makes a huge amount of difference to me as whether I do a quick game or a world cup match it’s basically the same outcome. As expected the graphics here are definitely pretty solid. The soundtrack stands out more than some of the others as a song pops up whenever you pause the game. The tunes seem reasonable enough, but you likely won’t be hearing them enough to ultimately form much of an opinion. You’ll be too busy gearing up for the second half or starting the next game.
There’s a solid amount of replay value here. The games are a little too long to easily play on the go, but since the PSP can just go into standby mode you don’t necessarily have to actually finish a game. You can just do most of it and then just dip out of there. That’s always been a pretty nice plus for the PSP in general. I think how much you play the game will depend on if you already play FIFA on the home console games and are just using this as a change of pace or if this is your main FIFA experience. If it’s the latter then I can easily see you spending a bunch of time here.
Really the only difference between this one and a home console title in terms of gameplay is that it’s not quite as clear since you’re on a smaller screen. You’ll feel a little more constricted, but that’s more mental than anything. It’s really still the same game through and through and feels like a direct port. It’s definitely still fun even if you may have a hard time scoring.
I really feel like FIFA and NHL have more in common with each other than any other sport title. If you ignore the terrain (Ice vs Grass) there really aren’t any substantial differences with the two. The way you shoot and pass is the same and you’ve got around the same amount of players. Even the distance of the field is the same. I wouldn’t be surprised if EA is able to copy a lot of the code to use in between the two games. As a result I feel like my NHL training as of late transferred over into FIFA even if I wasn’t quite able to secure a solid win. I came close at least.
Overall, World Cup 2006 feels like a true soccer title and it’s a fun concept for a spinoff. It slightly scales the title down which is quite convenient for the PSP in general. This was the only sport game I had left on my portable backlog so you likely won’t be seeing another one again for a very long time. For the first time I’ve actually gotten my sport backlog down to 20 games so it’ll be quite the milestone to have that one empty at last. Finally I will have more time for trophy hunting, general video game lounging, and getting unstuck in some of the trickier games on the backlog. Lets not get ahead of ourselves though.
Time for the next NHL game on my marathon. It’s definitely been pretty surreal to play so many of these back to back. I will say that unlike NHL 10, you can feel that the graphics have gotten a little sharper here. Maybe it’s the field I was playing in for the tutorial, but the arena looked incredibly well polished. The white stood out and you could practically see through the ground. The players also felt sharper, but that could also partially be that the game is more zoomed in. Regardless, NHL 11 is definitely a game you’ll want to have.
Naturally I went right into the quick play mode after clearing the tutorial. I was ready to take the hockey world by storm and while I may not have secured the win I do feel like I did pretty well. I was laying on the pressure pretty thick and I did manage to score a goal which was hype. After that they started laying on the goals since my goalie cracked under pressure. I lost 5-1 or something like that, but it could have gone worse I suppose. At least I was always right up in there with the action which is the important thing. I am working on the aiming and passing, but it almost feels like it just comes down to luck by the end.
I can get a good shot out if I have space, but usually the enemy players are right on top of me at all times so I can’t get a good angle. No matter how fast I move they seem to move just a touch quicker than me. There’s just no escape and these guys are really good at stealing the puck from right underneath your nose. Once in a blue moon you’ll actually make it to their side with nobody on you, but it’s not like making the shot is a cake walk in that scenario either. I talk a lot about passing and shooting, but at the end of the day you’re also going to need to play tight defense because odds are that this is going to go to overtime with a score of 0-0. The computer never eases up on defense so you just have to surpass your limits somehow.
When it comes to the fighting gameplay none of the opposing players wanted to humor me. I only got to take one of them down and for the others they would just ignore me when I tried to start the fight. I guess they just didn’t want to have to hold the L this time and I can understand that. Still, the fighting is always one of the best parts in these games so I was sad to see it go. Maybe there’s a better way to pick a fight but based on the tutorial just pressing triangle should do the trick when you’re near them. It typically makes your player mess with their hair.
This time I also went ahead and tried one of the bonus modes. The name of this one was Shootout and basically the concept is that it’s a 1 on 1 battle against the goalie. You have to get the puck past him and you’ve got 5 tries to do it. Likewise the computer also gets that many opportunities. I’m happy to say that I actually did win this round. I may have not done so well in the real games, but I like to think that this meant I was finally able to step up during crunch time. When the chips were down, my puck wasn’t. It took a bunch of attempts before I got the puck in, but the computer couldn’t make any shots so that’s why my team got the victory. The mode seems to go on past the 5 players until someone scores or at least it felt that way to me because I’m pretty sure I tried to shoot more than 5 times.
As always there is a ton of replay value here as long as you like soccer. While the shootout mode may not work for long periods of time, it is a good way to take a break from the main gameplay while also working on your fundamentals. Then of course you’ve got the full season to play and in general every game will always be unique. You can get this game for a dollar or two so that’s a lot of value for such a price. As I mentioned the graphics definitely look quite nice here and the presentation is definitely on point.
Overall, NHL 11 is a great follow up. NHL continues to be operating at a high level and I don’t expect that to stop anytime soon. It seems like a consistent series much like all of EA’s other sport titles. They may not have the best reputation, but I don’t think you can deny the fact that they tend to hit it out of the park with all of these franchises. Even if Hockey isn’t really your thing you’ll likely be able to appreciate how smooth the gameplay is. Soon I’ll be trying out NHL 12 so we’ll see if that one also shows a noticeable improvement around the board or if it’ll be the same. So long as it doesn’t get worse I can’t say that there would be any problems here.
No stats this time!
It’s time to look at another soccer game. This one takes things to the next level with it’s more arcade-like gameplay and I’d even put it on the level of the main FIFA titles. Pure Futbol will always be the definitive football game for me, but this one does a good job of handling the sport and scoring actually feels possible. I was actually dominating in one of the rounds although as a disclaimer I do need to mention that the game was on Easy mode.
I tried out quite a few difficulty levels but the rest were too tricky for me to win. On normal mode it was pretty close but it was definitely back to being a shut out type game. As I went to expert and master the opposing team started to destroy me. I just can’t figure out how to drive the ball without it getting stolen. If I try to pass the ball then they intercept it and if I try doing it myself then I get stone walled. These defenders definitely aren’t playing around and really do their best to stay one step ahead. I guess I still need to work on some fundamentals.
Playing on easy at least once does help in a tutorial sort of way though. You get to experiment with a lot of different styles and techniques against a team that isn’t really fighting back. You can’t get too crazy or anything, but it’s still a good way to prep yourself. Then it is a little sad to get completely destroyed in the follow up round, but that’s just how it is sometimes. You gotta take the Ls along with the wins. As I mentioned this one does throw in more of the momentum and speed compared to the other soccer games which is a good thing.
One part of the game that felt pretty rewarding was passing into a shot. Using plays with assists was always my go to strategy in Mario Strikers and it also felt pretty realistic because you always see the players passing the ball when you watch real soccer matches. It just makes sense that you would have one player distract the goalie while the other fires. It worked like clockwork and at least you get a feel for where you should be when you make the goal. At the same time, the tough part is getting that far.
I tried out a lot of things while playing and one tactic that works a little bit is quickly making a circle. The defender will then be on the wrong side of you so you get closer to the goalie. The problem is that even at that point there is nobody to pass it to so then you’ve just traded one problem for another which is not good. I made a lot of shot attempts, but I just couldn’t make any goals after the opening goal. The goalie truly feels impossible on this level and your teammates aren’t helping much so it’s like 1 player against an army.
As always I have to give the disclaimer that I’m sure the game is balanced well enough. I just need to figure out the tricks to get through or I’ll never be ready for the tournaments. I think a truly good game is one where you have fun even if you’re always losing and this title passes that test. Winning would be a nice change of pace but I’ll just have to wait a little longer before I can claim that kind of glory.
The graphics are also very solid. They may not have the realism of FIFA, but you don’t need that to still be considered as a top tier contender. You always know what is happening and the plays are very smooth. The ball stands out without being distracting. There isn’t much of a soundtrack to speak of since I didn’t stick to the main menu for long. It was always time to just keep on going to the next match.
There’s definitely a lot of replay value here since aside from quick matches you can practice and jump into a season. That may sound like there isn’t a lot of content here, but you have to understand that a game about soccer is going to focus on the sport. As it stands there is enough to keep you busy here for a very long time. Keep on polishing your skills until you can defeat an opponent at any level. I feel like that would take me months or even a year but if this is the game that you choose to dedicate yourself to then you should be fine.
Overall, This is definitely a game to check out. It’s only around 2-3 dollars so it’s a steal and you’ll gain a better appreciation of soccer by the time you are done with it. With this game done I’ll be heading to the Hockey series next but I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of the soccer reviews. There’s always another sport game right around the corner after all.