For someone who has less than zero interest in football, I do get the occasional hankering to play some FIFA. Can’t explain it, usually regret it. Sports games can be fun even for someone with little interest like me, especially so when you put a twist on them. World Soccer Strikers ‘91 has a twist, and the twist is what if the last thirty years happened, but no one bothered to advance technology or game design. But in a fun way!
If you ever played a football game on a Super Nintendo or a Megadrive, this will be a familiar vibe. The graphics are clean and simple, fitting for the no-nonsense style of the game. 90% of the game is pixelated and sprite-based, save for a few small details. 3D modelled corner flags, and footballs add a bit of flair to the look of the game, and really it’s just a nice touch.
So we don’t use our hands?
This game exists purely for the love of simple soccer. You get a pass button, a shoot button, a tackle button and a dodge button. What more could you need? The game does well to use these mechanics to create interesting gameplay. Each player has stamina, tackling will use that stamina and slow you for a brief period. Likewise with the dodge, which you can only do in possession of the ball, but lets you completely immobilize nearby opposition.
Possession is maybe the most interesting mechanic in the game. It might be more accurate to say a lack of a possession mechanic is interesting. “No magnetic feet” is how the developers describe it, instead interacting with the ball is entirely physics based. A bit like flinging a Subbuteo player around the pitch, your player will send the ball ahead on contact. Timing becomes an important skill, as you’ll need to hit the pass and shoot buttons at the right time, from the right angle.
Then we score goals?
This all might sound like a recipe for some six year olds chasing a ball around type mania, and I won’t lie there is plenty of that in this game. In many of the games I have played the enemy team spent a decent chunk of time gathered in the corner all attempting to kick the ball at once. That said, I was impressed by the amount of competence the AI shows. Not at all times, but I never once found myself in a position to cheese the game. All in all I found the AI quite balanced, not difficult to beat but never a complete pushover.
Music is very on point for a game inspired by the year 1991. Lots of synths, very upbeat vibes. I found it very reminiscent of Street Fighter 2, which is always a good thing. Another small detail that also reminded me of SF was a frame freeze whenever a shot hits the post. A little trick older fighting games used to make hits feel more impactful was to have the game freeze for just a frame, an idea this game uses to good effect.
All in all World Soccer Strikers ‘91 comes across as a game with a plan and a goal, it executes that plan effectively and achieves its goal. I find little fault with it, whatever it tries to do it does competently. If you are in the market for a throwback football game, this game has it. If the “no magnetic feet” idea sounds interesting to you, I feel like they’ve done it right. Being early access this game is understandably not feature complete. That said, what’s here now is a solid basis for a fun throwback football game that’s bound to give nostalgic fans exactly what they want.
[Reveiwed on PC]