I’m not a terribly energetic person. To me, getting out of bed and switching discs in the DVD player is a form of exercise. Repeat three or four times and you’re done for the day, anything else is just burning precious muscle mass. With this in mind, you won’t be surprised to know that I absolutely suck at football (soccer to the majority of readers, but we’ll go with football since the development team are based in the UK and so am I). I suck not just in one respect, but all. I suck at playing football, watching football, enjoying football and perhaps most of all… I suck at understanding football.
None of this really matters, because KickSwerve by Pixelcocoa isn’t strictly a football game. Once you strip away the textures and the sound effects it could be just about anything… at least, anything involving ball physics and a target. Now this grabs my attention, I’m all over physics games, and what better use for an object with physics applied than to throw it at something?
The aim of the game, quite simply, is to score a goal. Flick the ball past the opposing team and it’s goalkeeper and deposit it safely inside the net. You’re given 50 scenarios in which to finish in as few kicks as possible. There are two difficulties, Amateur and Pro (though quite what the differences are I’m not sure, as far as I can tell the goalkeeper becomes slightly more nimble on his toes) and also a couple of training modes: one requires you to hit the crossbar as many times as possible within the time limit, while the other has you kicking balls through tyres (or uh… “tires”, if you prefer).
Physics: Oh but of course. The main appeal of the game was always supposed to be the physics, and luckily, it is. The swerve mechanics play out pretty well. Swipe along the side of the ball to initiate spin, with the speed and length of the stroke controlling the speed, height and distance of the ball. Of course there’s always the alternate option of swiping directly through the centre of the ball for a straight kick, but that’s not nearly as fun. Swerving truly is the name of the game (literally, although I didn’t actually notice until after I’d written this sentence), and it’s where the most fun is to be had, which leads me nicely onto my second point…
Sense of achievement: Time to be brutally honest. After the first few minutes of play, I was expecting to give KickSwerve a somewhat negative review. The problem is that it’s flaws make themselves apparent before the good stuff does, but once I started scoring goals my opinion gradually started to change. The sense of achievement is a very strong emotion indeed, and directing the ball cleanly between two players and through the arms of the keeper from 30 yards away, in all honesty, made me smile more than once. As did rebounding the ball square off a player’s face. The replay function does a good job of heightening the thrill you get from goal scoring, as the different angles available allow you to admire your skills much closer up. An addition I would like to see implemented is the option to use the “follow ball” cam during the actual kicks, as it’s somewhat better at showcasing the games graphics and character models.
Physics: Yes, it’s in the Likes sections as well. I like it when it behaves the way it’s supposed to, which is probably around 70-80% of the time. The other 20-30% (which is really too much) results in your ball firing off into the distance at the speed of light. It’s unclear to me whether this is strictly due to the iPhone’s touchscreen not being accurate enough, or if perhaps the games physics engine could have been tweaked a little better. The game does specifically mention that the screen has difficulty recognising fast swipes and that controlled swipes are preferred, but some of the shots actually require fairly fast swipes in the first place. All too often it seems you’re doing exactly the same gesture, but with vastly different results. It doesn’t totally ruin the game by any means, but it’s an annoyance, and when you’re aiming for as low a score as possible, it’s really something that should be minimalised.
Sound effects: Please, for the love of all that is holy, give us the option to silence that crowd noise. It felt like punishment for a crime I was unaware I’d even committed. Crowd noise in general is acceptable (the game does take place in a stadium after all), but the way it loops constantly really grates on your ears. By the time I’d finished all 50 scenarios I had to turn the game off just to preserve what was left of my sanity. The rest of the sound effects are decent, there aren’t really that many to speak off, but they’ll do. One thing I did notice is the ball’s “bounce” sound effect is the same volume regardless of how far away the ball actually is… so making distant bounces quieter would be a subtle yet welcome modification.
Animation: It’s difficult to tell whether the animation in KickSwerve is the way it is for the sake of artistic style, or because someone just isn’t very good at it. There’s only one object in the game that really has any animation, and that’s the goalkeeper. He dances left and right in the most bizarre fashion I’ve ever witnessed. I’d place it somewhere between a mime artist and a ballet dancer. More animations would also be nice, perhaps move the players a little, maybe even give them facial expressions when they’re hit. It’s the little intricacies that make games stand out, and KickSwerve would benefit from having a few more of them.
There are a number of similar games to KickSwerve in the App Store, Paper Toss being perhaps the most obvious, and Flick Kick Field Goal being one of the closest that springs to mind. They each have something different to offer, and they each carry that certain addicting quality that encourages players to try, try and try again in order to refine their skills and better their score. What KickSweve brings to the table is additional modes, more varied scenarios, a replay function (not forgetting the option to save and even upload replays, viewable at www.kickswerve.com) and… a football theme.
KickSwerve is a decent game by all accounts, but it’d be a lot easier to recommend if there weren’t so many alternatives available. If you’re especially fanatical about football/soccer then this could very well be your object flicking game of choice, but if not then it’s worth investigating all the options available to you before making a decision. For KickSwerve to really elevate itself above the crowd, it needs just a little more polish and a few more finishing touches.