Soccer Bashi (Bashi Blocks) Review—Breaking the Trend
Soccer Bashi, at first glance, looks like just another Breakout clone, but looks can be deceiving. Icon Games Entertainment has put a new spin on the classic theme, where instead of simply destroying various block patterns to advance through each stage, you are also able to “smash” the ball into the opposition’s goal. If this isn’t enough, there are also 90 stages, a level editor, a tournament mode, nine different bosses—one at the end of each zone—and plenty of enemies throughout each stage for you to contend with.
I have always been a fan of block-breaking games, ever since playing Breakout on the Atari 2600 as a kid, and even now, I enjoy playing games like Warkanoid on the PC. Unfortunately, most of the Breakout clones that have hit the PSP seem to have suffered one or two flaws. Usually, it’s the controls that have suffered, in some of them, while others have just been uninspiring clones.
Soccer Bashi, on the other hand, is not only unique but actually, as a game, is very well put together. It’s set in a future where you will play rounds on many different planets, facing countless defender bots and bosses. As I mentioned before, the most common complaint of many block-breaker games is the controls; usually, they are just not responsive enough. Icon Games Entertainment has obviously taken note of this and has really put in the effort to make the controls more flexible for the player. For example, to move the paddle, you can either use the D-pad or the analog stick. I found the analog was useful for quick sweeping motions from one side of the screen to the other, whereas the D-pad was a little better for shorter, more accurate movements. On the other hand, if you feel you need to move that little bit more quickly across the screen to reach that ball that unexpectedly bounced off an invisible block, you can hold the right shoulder button to move your paddle rapidly across the screen. If you feel you’re moving just a little too fast even when using the D-pad, you’re able to slow your paddle down to almost a crawl by holding the left shoulder button. If that’s still not slow enough for you, you’re able to use the Square button to quite literally move inch by inch across the screen, although I find this to be of little use, as I very rarely need to move so slowly. If, for any reason, you find the ball isn’t moving fast enough, you are able to “volley” the ball by pushing the Circle button, which causes the ball to move at more of a rapid pace. Although it’s clear they put a lot of thought into these controls, I still found that the analog stick and D-pad do not compare to a computer’s mouse for accuracy.
As you progress through the game, you will face a variety of enemies, most of which will fire lasers or bullets at your paddle which will disable it momentarily (unless you have collected a power-up, which you would lose if you were hit by the lasers), while you try to destroy the blocks. Fortunately, with a few hits from the ball, you can easily dispatch them. Enemy bots are not the only thing you will have to contend with; there are also invisible blocks that can cause a few problems, especially when the ball ricochets off one and careens straight past your paddle. Blocks that fire lasers at your paddle will also disable it (much like the bots), which I found very frustrating throughout the game; in hindsight, though, it does add a little more of a challenge to the game. At the end of each zone, you are pitted against a boss, each one different from and harder than its predecessors. Many of these will actually test your skill with the paddle, and, in fact, you may need a little luck to defeat a few of them. Several of the bosses did remind me of bosses you face in R-Type and many of its clones. This added to the futuristic feel of the game.
Each zone has its own theme, and a lot of them are amazing, but the backgrounds in the first few zones are a little bland. The first background is a football pitch, and the second one looks as though it’s just laminate flooring, which I’m assuming is supposed to be either a basketball court or indoor football pitch. After those, the backgrounds vary from futuristic to urban.
As you make your way through each zone, the BGM changes to suit each area, which I thought was a nice touch. A lot of games of this sort would have stuck with just one or two different pieces of music. Icon Games Entertainment has put the effort into adding different music to help with the atmosphere of each zone.
Some of the levels in the zones are insanely hard, and I found it became increasingly frustrating after numerous attempts. Fortunately, you are given a few continues, so you are able to pick back up on the level where you died. But, after you run out of retries, it’s game over. Don’t fret, though, because you can still continue from the beginning of the last zone you reached. You are also able to go back to any zone and try to beat your previous score or just replay the zone for fun! Once you have completed all the zones (and trust me, this will take some time, as I’m yet to complete them all), you also have Tournament Mode, where you can create and name your own tournaments by selecting any of the levels in any of the zones you have unlocked through the regular mode. You are also able to add any of the levels you may have created in the level editor. Yes, that’s right; even if you have completed all of the levels that were already made for you, you are able to create your own levels, adding an infinite amount of levels for you to test your ball-and-paddle skills with! In the level editor, you can create your own levels with any of the backgrounds in the game, plus any extra backgrounds and blocks you have unlocked while playing the regular game mode. It would have been nice if you were able to share the levels you have created with friends or download levels other people have made, but unfortunately, we are unable to do this, as Sony have not made such features available to Minis.
There were a few things that I did find let the game down a little. Firstly, there is no explanation of what any of the power-ups do, so you have to just collect them and find out. Some of the power-ups are fairly self-explanatory, for example, increasing or decreasing the size of your paddle, but as for some others (even after collecting), I still have no idea what they do. The second problem and probably the worst was that the game occasionally froze (and by this, I literally mean just the game, because you are still able to exit by pressing the Home/PS button on your PSP) after completing a stage, which could become infuriating, especially if it had taken numerous attempts to complete.
Overall, Soccer Bashi is not just another clone and is an amazing, well thought-out game that can give hours, if not months, of gameplay with an endless opportunity to be creative. For £3.49, Soccer Bashi is great value for the money and a must-have for any gamer’s collection.