Format: iPad (Reviewed – version 1.23), iPhone
When I was nine years old, I was given Subbuteo as a Christmas present. It came with a Manchester United team set, corner takers and even a miniature European Cup, but like most toys, it wasn’t really for children as I broke, lost and generally neglected every piece of the game.
At least I can’t lose anything from Soctics League, which is a bit like a turn-based version of Subbuteo that closely resembles air hockey. It’s a simple game, both visually and in terms of how it plays, and has a strong focus on online multiplayer, but its appearance masks a game of tactical depth.
Matches are played out from a top-down angle, with players denoted by coloured circles. You control three players and must get the ball into your opponents net with the first to score three goals declared the winner.
At the beginning of each turn, you set the direction you want each player to go by drawing a line on the touchscreen and your opponent will do the same.
The range of each player is dependent on their size and can be changed at the beginning of the game or after a goal has been scored. Larger players have a greater presence on the field but can cover less ground, while smaller players have the opposite qualities.
If you don’t want to a move a player, you can make them ‘stick’ by tapping them, meaning that they can’t be moved by the opposition, who will simply bounce off them.
At first, the results are generally chaotic. Players and the ball bounce of each other and the sides of the pitch and the ball can go pretty much anywhere, especially if you’ve applied a lot of power to a player’s movement.
It can be difficult to be methodical, but once you gain an understanding of how the physics work, strategic and tactical options will become clearer, as will considerations about how many players to take forward and how many should be left to defend.
Always better together
Single player options extend to recreations of major international tournaments such as South Africa 2010 and Euro 2012, but the AI is no substitute for a human opponent. Local and online multiplayer is the best way of playing Soctics, something that is both its strength and weakness.
While playing online is a lot of fun, it does mean that you need to be near a Wi-Fi connection or have a good 3G signal to play. Without such connectivity, you are exposed to the fact that there is little depth to the game, no matter how good it is.
Another gripe is the binoculars power-up which predicts the path of the ball before you make a move. These can be bought via an in-app purchase and can potentially hand one player an unfair advantage – something that is undesirable in a multiplayer environment.
Fun, frantic and at times anarchic, Soctics’ beauty is in its simplicity and online multiplayer is a riot. It’s just a shame it’s not that much fun alone.