Golazo! Switch Review by SwitchWatch

Developer: Klabater

Publisher: Purple Tree Studio

Release Date: September 12th 2019

Price as of Article: $14.99, £11.46

Download size: 999 MB

Another entry in the Nintendo Switch’s ever-growing stable of indie soccer titles. Does Golazo! win the cup, or languish in the lower leagues?

Story

As you’d expect, there’s not much of a story in Golazo!. Away from titles like FIFA, soccer games rarely have a narrative running through them – unless, of course, you create your own. Of course, Golazo! offers single match, World Cup, and World League play modes, and you could write your own story of footballing glory or bittersweet failure on the world stage…but then that’s down to you and not Golazo!

Gameplay

Golazo! is not a soccer simulator, and furthermore, it only loosely resembles the real world sport. One of the major points that the game’s marketing materials boast about is that there are barely any rules – fouls are encouraged by way of pushes and outlandish sliding tackles, and while there is a referee on the pitch during games, he will (oddly) only ever blow his whistle if you commit a foul in the 18 yard box. Offsides, similarly, are absent and this does make for some frantic and fast paced matches as balls are punted down field for forwards to run on to with wanton disregard. The downside to this no-holds-barred take on soccer (anybody remember Red Card on the PlayStation 2?) is that matches can degenerate into midfield sliding tackle contests, with neither side able to get near to goal due to the constant turnaround in possession of the ball. It becomes apparent quite early on that Golazo! might actually have been a better game if it included a mode that adhered to the proper rules of the beautiful game.

Another thing that isn’t mentioned in the promo guff, is that Golazo! is a 7-a-side affair. Each of the 52 international sides comprises 6 outfield players and a goalkeeper. This doesn’t really detract from the experience, but it does mean that traditional tactics are out of the question, with only a few unorthodox formations to choose from. There is no managerial aspect to proceedings either, and even though players are given (fictional) names on the team sheets and there are some comical manager portraits, complete with embellished ethnicity derived characteristics, they serve no purpose whatsoever.

Out on the pitch, Golazo! fares substantially better than pretty much all of the other indie soccer titles released on Switch so far. Passing is pretty tight, shooting when in range of goal can produce some spectacular goals and acrobatic saves, and overall it just plays a decent game. A lot of indie titles just feel ‘off’ compared to the big titles such as FIFA and PES, but here, Golazo! seems to nail down the fundamentals and actually feels (and looks) a lot like the ISS games of the 16-bit era. Passing to a nearby player will invariably result in the ball getting to its destination, and likewise letting off a well-charged shot at goal will result in the ball pinging cleanly towards its target. There’s also the usual sprint and cross/lofted pass commands, and with the lack of any kind of fair play rules, some rudimentary skill commands are a welcome touch. With sliding, tackles, and barging being the order of the day, these skill moves become invaluable when trying to dance past oncoming defenders or crunching midfield beasts.

To further aid you in in your quest for glory, Golazo! occasionally bequeaths each team with a random power up, such as improved speed boosts, better tackling, more accurate passing or more powerful shooting abilities. It’s not immediately clear what the criteria is for these powers to be activated, but when they are, it can make a big difference to your ability to get the ball into the opposition’s box and score that crucial goal.

As an indie title created by a small team then, Golazo! is quite accomplished in the way it plays. It isn’t perfect though, as you’ll discover when the lack of heading or aerial play becomes apparent; and likewise, when the super-powered opposition goalies continue to keep even your most well placed power shots at bay for the hundredth time (while your man between the sticks might as well have stayed on the bench). Also, of much annoyance is the way the CPU opponent always seems to be able to expertly avoid your tackles and make pinpoint passes with ease. It does get rather infuriating as even on medium difficulty, the Switch hands out yet another 3-0 drubbing… but then I suppose that’s just encouragement to “git gud” at Golazo!

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Audio

Audio is generally quite solid. Music tracks in the menus aren’t overly offensive and chug along in the background, however during gameplay, the repetitive elevator music that plays can get a little annoying. There is some minimal play by play commentary, but it’s not on a par with the type of thing you’d get from a AAA soccer title. Think more along the lines of ISS Deluxe on the 16-bit consoles, with the announcer occasionally quipping that the ball has gone out for a throw in, or that a shot went just wide. Crowd effects are fairly limited, only really being audible when a goal has been scored; and the usual whistles and ball effects are pretty standard stuff.

Visuals & Performance

Golazo! is a game that doesn’t take its representation of the beautiful game entirely seriously, and this is reflected not only in the gameplay, but also in the visuals. While not authentically cel shaded, the players and stadiums certainly have a charming low-poly look to them, and the overtly retro aesthetic even stretches to the players sporting 1970s style short shorts and decidedly period hairstyles wherever possible. 

The stylised, long-legged character models may initially put some people off, but the game runs very smoothly in both docked and handheld modes. Granted, Golazo! is never going to challenge the visuals of an EA-produced soccer title, but it makes do with what it has and does surprisingly well in the face of such overwhelming competition. The pitch and the players are all well depicted, everything is bright and cheerful, and the stadia, while basic and sparsely populated, does lend an air of Virtua Striker-esque carnival atmosphere. There are some basic weather effects too, with rain, snow and fine weather altering the look of the turf, but this doesn’t really affect gameplay and is purely cosmetic. 

While Golazo! may be perfectly functional if not spectacular on the pitch, the menus and overall presentation should be applauded. The menu screens feature some really nice artwork and everything is bright and clear – no confusing menus or bizarre font choices here (take note, Konami!). 

The overall general retro aesthetic is bolstered by a choice of visual filters that add a CRT or VHS style distortion to proceedings, and while they’re both totally unnecessary, it’s a nice touch. In truth, the impressive animation of the players and goalies, and the slick frame rate hint at an engine that could – with a few update patches – really pop on the Switch. I’m not a programmer, but there’s a tantalising hint of a base game in Golazo! that could hold something really special if there was ever a sequel or update.

Value

There are only 3 play modes in Golazo! – a single match option, a Wold Cup competition (which does actually follow the format of the real competition quite accurately) and a World League. There are zero customisation options, meaning tinkering with tactics or even making substitutions is sorely lacking. On the plus side, the price of entry is relatively low compared to games like FIFA, but even when marketed as an arcade style experience, you would expect some extras such as a proper training mode, a selection of stadiums or even the ability to change the weather and lighting options (you can’t – these are assigned randomly to each match).

There’s some challenge to be had here, especially due the somewhat cheat-prone AI in the single player modes, and the coin collecting to purchase new kits and balls does add some longevity. Overall though, once you’ve played a handful of games, you’ll have seen everything there is to offer out on the pitch. Gameplay isn’t deep and the number of ways you can score is fairly limited. As a multiplayer experience though, Golazo! shines. It’s clearly intended as a party game, and the lack of fouls and offsides, and emphasis on outlandish action means it can be entertaining for a while. As a single player experience then, Golazo! is limited in replay value. As a local multiplayer game though, this is certainly worth a look – just be warned that there is no online multiplayer, which is a missed opportunity.

Pros

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Looks good

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Plays a decent game

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Tight controls

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Nice menus and artwork

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Lots of fun in local multiplayer

Cons

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The ‘no rules’ gameplay actually detracts from the experience

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AI goalkeepers are superhuman, yours is not

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Limited tactical options

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No online play