Table Soccer is the only one of Sony's three free AR games to use all six of the augmented reality cards that come with the PS Vita. It's more complex and ambitious than either Fireworks or Cliff Diving, but unfortunately that doesn't also add up to more fun. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit up front that I didn't spend nearly as much time with Table Soccer as I did with either of the other two games, partly because I simply couldn't get the hang of the controls.
- Title: Table Soccer (North America) or Table Football (elsewhere)
- Publisher: Sony
- Developer: Sony
- Date: February 2012
- Format: PS Vita
- Rating: ESRB E (Everyone)
- Genre: sports
- Other Platforms: none
Set It Up
Your first task in Table Soccer is to set up your stadium, and you'll need all six AR cards to do it. Cards 01, 02, and 03 are the field itself. If you move the two end cards farther apart or closer together, you can change the size of the field, though of course you have to be sure the PS Vita's camera can see them all when you first set them up. Once you're set up, it only needs to keep one card in clear view at all times, which makes zooming in and out and moving around to change your view much easier.
Once your field is set up, you can add cards 04 and 05 to once side to create the stands for your cheering fans, and use card 06 for the scoreboard. I had hoped, when I first started, that moving different cards to different positions--for example, using 03, 05, and 06 for the field and the others for the stands and scoreboard--would create custom fields with different looks. Alas, no. You have to use the cards as instructed, and the only things you can change are the size of the field and the positions of the elements in relation to each other.
Once you're ready to go, your team hops onto the field. I say "hops" because this isn't a serious soccer sim. Each player, though animated to look realistic in the opening video, is firmly attached to a little plastic base. So it's a sim of a tabletop game, rather than a sim of the actual sport. For me, as a non-sports-gamer (nor even a sports fan of any stripe), this was actually a bit of a relief. I wouldn't have to keep real-world soccer rules straight, just play by the rules presented in-game.
You move your players and pass the ball in Table Soccer by flicking with your finger. Fairly simple, except you then have to choose between being zoomed in enough to be accurate but not being able to see the whole field, or being able to see the whole field, but zoomed out too far to be accurate. And you have to do that while holding the PS Vita steady with one hand so the camera can keep the AR cards in sight. Quite possibly, many gamers would find this juggling act a welcome challenge, but if you're already having trouble just getting your finger gestures to produce the results you want (I won't tell you how long it took me to get through the tutorial, but I was stuck on one simple gesture for a very long time), it quickly becomes an exercise in frustration.
Assuming you get past the awkward controls and such, the game proceeds on a turn-by-turn basis. This is helpful for those of us who need to take time to see what's going on, but certainly cuts down on the excitement for people who like fast-paced, hectic, everything-happening-at-once games.
The real appeal of Table Soccer, though, and a good reason to download it if you're a more social gamer than I am, is the multiplayer aspect. The game uses ad hoc wi-fi to connect you to other players, where you can go head-to-head with a real opponent instead of playing the computer. You can challenge your friends to a single match, or you can compete in a whole tournament. That alone will make the game worthwhile for some players. For me, non-social player that I am, it just didn't add enough appeal to keep me playing beyond the minimum I needed to write this review.
That said, if you're an avid sports gamer or a big soccer fan, Table Soccer is probably worth the download. And if you end up disliking it, you didn't waste any money, and you can always delete it.