I’m going to be upfront and honest over the fact I haven’t really ever played Soccer — or Football as it’s known everywhere else — before I begin this review, so your personal opinions on the following might vary. Anyways, we’re here today to review Soccer Rondo (out now, free) by Masayuki Ito, a game that — assuming you’re not familiar with Soccer strategy terms — perhaps isn’t what you’re initially expecting. More commonly known as Tiki-Taka Football in most other parts of the world, Soccer Rondo is a strategy centered around constantly — and accurately — passing the ball around a spread out team.
In Masayuki Ito’s Soccer Rondo you’re challenged to either pull off ten successful passes — or perform a single mighty “Through Pass” — in order to advance to the next stage, rather than being concerned with shooting any goals. To this end most stages will see you with a circle of your men placed on the outside of the action, and a handful of challengers in the middle all trying their best to intercept the ball as you’re constantly passing it. Those whom have never really before concerned themselves with Soccer might do well to envision this entire process as a somewhat large-scale version of “Monkey in the Middle”, complete with scoring rules.
Soccer Rondo keeps things simple with players grabbing someone and slowly dragging them to dribble the ball, or — perhaps — run towards the ball if they’re frantically trying to recover from a wild pass. Meanwhile, quickly swiping across the screen will cause the soccer-player — assuming they have the ball at all — to pass it across the field, with the direction of the pass being based on the swipe itself. This will be a normal kick if the swipe doesn’t begin behind the ball, and a mighty upwards lob if the swipe is begun somewhere behind the soccer-player currently in possession of the ball.
As previously stated you’ll score a single point each time you complete a successful pass, but your attempt to score ten consecutive points will end instantly if any of the people in the middle obtain control of the ball. Thankfully passing the ball around the opposing challengers is a fairly simple task, this — however — is perhaps not the most interesting way to successfully complete Soccer Rondo. Far more interesting is to instantly win a round by pulling off the rather stylish “Through Pass”, causing your opponents to instantly collapse to the floor in shock at your passing prowess.
To pull off a “Through Pass” you need to position both a soccer-player possessing the ball, as well as the opposition, such that you can successfully launch a pass straight between two of your opponents. When you can both complete this, and then successfully gain control of the ball afterwards with someone other than whomever initially began the pass, you’ll have scored a “Through Pass” and instantly win that round. Since the opposition in the middle will always be charging directly towards the ball itself, successfully setting up an opportunity to pull this feat off is often easier said than done.
Now in case you should have potentially heard from anyone that Soccer Rondo is virtually unplayable as the game nearly always confuses passing attempts for dribbling efforts, I’m here to thankfully say that particularly nasty bug has already been rectified. In fact, you’d all have likely been reading a very different — and altogether far less positive — Soccer Rondo review right now if that patch had arrived even just a few days later. Especially since the earlier existing controller-confusion issues were admittedly quite good at making the game’s tutorial nearly impossible to finish (the game would often demand you perform a swipe to begin a level, and constantly misread your inputs).
With that fixed, the current issue baring down on Soccer Rondo is that the game play itself — once you’ve finished the rather short tutorial — doesn’t exactly have a whole lot going for it. Although I do fully respect the fact that Soccer Rondo is being given away for free, without any IAPs to harass your progress, the most you can do here is see how many ten-point rounds you can safely survive. Worse yet, the high score table doesn’t differentiate between whether the bulk of these points came from simple passing — which is fairly easy to do — or from the much more challenging to pull off “Through Pass” shots.
Of course — depending on how much you like the idea of having an endless mobile-edition of Tiki Taka Football practice — your personal mileage with Soccer Rondo might very well differ, which is — after all — why I initially gave my opening warning.
Masayuki Ito’s Soccer Rondo — based on the premise of Tiki-Taka Football — has players practicing the important concepts of constant passing, in a game that’s not unlike “Monkey in the Middle”. The controls — thanks to a recent update — work reliably, enabling players to successfully line-up skillful “Through Pass” shots without wanting to also toss their iDevice through the nearest available window. The extreme lack of content available — however — coupled with there being little difference in how Soccer Rondo acknowledges Passing and “Through Pass” strategies on the high score list, may leave some feeling unsatisfied (despite being a free game).