Friday, June 27, 2014

Feature Friday #16 - Score! World Goals

Every Friday on our blog I’ll feature a game that’s doing something unique, innovative, and truly noteworthy. This isn’t just an app review; it’s an analytical look at a fresh game from the perspective of someone within the game industry. 


The World Cup’s here and everyone seems to be talking soccer (or football, or fútbol, depending on where you’re from). So I felt it was only right to check out a soccer game this week in hopes of getting even more people interested in the world’s most popular game. I’ve played many of the popular soccer simulators like Fifa, but wanted something different. I was excited to have found it in Score! World Goals, but my initial enthusiasm waned as I got further into the game. 

Score! doesn’t have you play out a whole soccer game, but instead puts in you climatic situations and has you control the key passes and shots leading to major goals. This is fun, different, and often very well done. A lot of the levels are really intuitive and play out smoothly, making you feel like a soccer star, even with little or no prior knowledge required. I like the bitesized pieces and the attention to detail with regards to players, teams, and historical events - cleverly working around the lack of league or FIFA rights - making the game unmistakably about soccer while simultaneously focusing on precision as much as the sport itself. The problem is that the control (which is the key to gameplay) is really hit or miss, at times feeling just right, but often leaving me scratching my head. 


Taking full advantage of the touch interface, you drag the ball to its target - whether pass or shot. The game follows your motion pretty well and there’s no time limit, but the biggest problem I’ve had is that Score! often shows you a path that’s inconsistent with the action required to actually beat a level. Before each level you’re shown a diagram detailing the ideal path of the ball (you’re also able to refer back to this map whenever you want during play), and the game stops each time action is required. While you can see where the ball needs to end up, how it gets there becomes the challenge, though I’ve found it’s not always a good one. The game uses a three-star scoring system, as each pass and shot is rated “Ok”, “Good”, or “Excellent”, though this is extremely inconsistent in its own right. So far Score! has mostly alternated between mindlessly easy and impossibly difficult, rarely reaching that hallowed middleground. This isn’t the worst thing in the world, because each Excellent pass is satisfying in itself, and many levels can be repeated at rapid fire, but it also bogs down more than I’d like. In between passes the computer runs the rest of the play itself, kind of neat if you like soccer, but more often building frustration, especially on levels that require a lot of tries. I’ve found these instances to crush replayability and hamper my overall impression of the game. 

I only briefly mentioned the issues with the scoring, and I won’t go too much deeper, but it does deserve a little more explanation. In a level with only one or two actions required (such as a free kick), there can only be so much variation in your movements. I feel the game does a poorer job in these instances, giving too much leniency on some bad plays, but making others frustratingly vague. Plenty of passes also seem to get near enough to your players, only to have them run right past the ball or stop short because it didn’t quite reach the game’s hit box. These cases could certainly qualify as Ok, allowing for more differentiation between Good and Excellent passes, a much bigger problem I’ve seen overall. Way too often I’ve seemed to make an identical motion, only to have it scored drastically different between tries, this is frustrating and devalues the experience by making performance seem much more random than it should.

The ball is literally behind you

The worst part is that a lot of these things could’ve been avoided, and Score! could be a really great game. A simple way to skip dead time would make me much more willing to replay levels, subsequently earning more in-game currency, "credits", and eventually playing longer. Other small tweaks to the actual scoring and players’ ability would’ve made a big difference too. It would also be really cool if the quality of your passes affected your subsequent passes and shots - for instance, an Excellent first pass makes it easier to have a high scoring second pass, while an Ok first pass makes it that much more difficult based on the players’ positions. Something like this happens in a couple of levels, but it seems like a fairly minor change that would’ve made the game much more dynamic. The gameplay is pretty cool, and if it were polished a little more, could be something truly great. 

Another interesting thing I’ve noticed playing Score! is the game’s advertisements. It’s a free title and I certainly don’t mind them showing ads, especially because they’ve done a really great job in a couple of areas. First, ads seem to be shown at a pace proportional to your in-game progress. That is, when you’re rolling through levels in just a try or two each you don’t see many ads at all, but when you get stuck for a few minutes on a level you’re sure to see one when you finally do advance. Secondly, a good percentage of the interruptions aren’t actually the ads themselves, they’re a prompt asking if you’d like to view a video ad in exchange for credits. Not unique, and I can’t fully assess how this affects their advertising revenue, but certainly more user friendly than they need to be. 

Score! is also an extremely deep game, with close to 50 level packs, each containing 30 original levels, played out three times each at different difficulties. That’s a lot of soccer, coupled with a unique daily goal as well. I’d argue that the game could use some serious work in its UI - the main menu is more than a little cluttered, and the level selection screen isn’t as fluid as I’d like - but cosmetic preferences always come second to functionality. With the depth offered I hoped Score! would be a little more generous with their credits, though I’ve found the pace is basically one level pack at a time, after which you’ve earned enough to unlock another. 

Too. Many. Options.

All things considered, Score! is unique and certainly has its fun moments, but lacks a lot too. I’ve been constantly frustrated with the controls and even left levels unbeaten on more than one occasion - truly a rarity for me. The game’s daily goals keep it going, and my desire to try new level packs have kept me interested (especially during the World Cup), but I often feel that my interest is not being fully rewarded, which isn’t exactly ideal. If you’re looking for something a little different to satisfy your soccer cravings, check out Score!, just make sure you bring plenty of patience too. 


Score! World Goals is free on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. While it may not be perfect, Score! is pretty fun and definitely something different, so if you’re going a little soccer crazy right now it’s worth checking out if you have any of those platforms. 

Josh Dombro Community Manager

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