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Mario Strikers Charged Football: Extended Playtest
Written by James Hobbs

I must confess to not having played a football game properly since ISS 64 on the Nintendo 64. I'm not really into football games, as for the most part it would seem they're stagnant, repetitive, and generally unwholesome to somebody who much prefers large explosions and fast cars in games. Oh god, I sound like an FHM reader.

Mario Stikers Screenshot
It was f**king offside, dammit!

Mario Strikers Charged Football certainly isn't your average football game, however. The lengthy, pre-rendered introduction sequence reminded me of Super Smash Bros Melee on the GameCube very fast, shiny, and pretty, and it does set the scene somewhat for the rest of the game. It's a shame, however, that the rest of the game doesn't look quite as good.

The televisions in the brand new Wii Flat probably didn't help I personally think LCD TVs are absolute cack for playing non-HD games on. Irrespective of the television, Mario Strikers Charged doesn't look amazing. What it lacks in overall detail, however, it makes up for with a charming graphical style and a level of complication that makes it feel absolutely frantic and insane when you get the hang of the controls. Some levels feature a fully rendered crowd of hundreds, all of whom move around, and it complements the madcap nature of the game well. Graphically it reminds me somewhat ( that's somewhat, before I get flayed alive ) of Twilight Princess low-res by nature, but well put-together.

Football is the name of the game, and that is what everything revolves around or at least a bastardised, violent version. Upon loading the game you can choose from a number of different modes, including Tournament, VS, Challenge, and Wi-fi all of these modes support two player as well as single player. We didn't get a chance to try the online mode, as the game isn't actually out yet.

The training, whilst typically tedious, is definitely worth doing the game is quite confusing initially until you begin to get the hang of the controls. The B trigger is used to shoot, A to pass, and Z to chip the ball, whilst the analogue stick moves your character. You also have a range of 'tricks' at your disposal, activated by the D-Pad some of this are fairly absurd, such as firing huge koopa shells or tunneling into the ground. The D-Pad is also used to tackle, as well as shaking the Wii remote. It doesn't take itself very seriously at all, but somehow manages to build up tension, particularly as the clock ticked down we ended up roaring with joy when a ball snuck past the goalkeeper with 2 seconds on the clock.

Pressing A allows you to change player this is handy when used strategically, but I repeatedly kept getting confused with A and the D-Pad, resulting in a lot of unwanted moves being pulled. Undoubtedly this was down to practice, but it was still mildly annoying, particularly as the game is so fast. The goalkeeper is largely automatic, and initially incredibly hard to bypass eventually you realise you have to give up on being accurate and try and time your shot to throw the keeper off. It's very difficult, but excellent fun, particularly with 2 players it's incredibly competitive.

There are a variety of levels, of which we only had time to try a few massive space stations, indoor arenas, and deserts all made an appearance, each time with a humourous introduction sequence featuring a character skydiving into the arena. Whilst the backgrounds are largely immaterial to the game itself, they do look nice, and the introduction sequences sport the use of camera focus a nice touch.

Over the few hours we had with the game we found it to be initially hard, but also excellent fun. 2 player is definitely far more entertaining than the single player we tried, particularly if you have a competitive streak. However, some elements of the game don't seem to be implemented that well the 'Mega Strike' mode, which requires the player to control the goalkeeper's hands with the Wii remote, seemed pointless and flawed, and entirely unnecessary. The game also suffered from fairly noticeable slowdown, on the menus and occasionally in-game when a replay was being shown. Another concern could be longevity the game is entirely based around football matches, even with the challenge mode.

First impressions of Mario Strikers Charged Football are good it's an entertaining, involving, and fairly well-realised arcade football game. However, we'll need to spend a lot more time with it before we can bring you the final verdict.

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