Some games are just nice. Something you can stick on your Steam Deck or Switch and just chill out with for a while. One such game, which also happens to be a day one release on Xbox Game Pass for consoles and PC, is Soccer Story. Given that we’re in peak football season at the moment, I gave it a whirl and came away rather impressed with its mixture of RPG, football, and puzzle gameplay.
Soccer Story is full of knowing one-liners and little in-jokes, and the game’s entire premise is just as out-there. Football has been banned, meaning no one can just pick up a ball and kick it. It’s outlawed. Soccer Inc has taken full control of the sport, meaning kids can’t just play football with each other, local teams have ceased to be, and no one has seen a football in the flesh for a year. That is until a magical football arrives and it’s up to you to bring the beautiful game back.
The premise is an odd one, for sure, but the game is wrapped up in the kind of whimsy and charm you’d find in a Pokemon game, so it just kind of works. The adventure is centered on finding and bringing back old football clubs, each with a club office located in a new area to explore. These clubs are just as bizarre as the game itself, with toddlers, OAPs, and even sharks making up teams that you can play against.
Most of your time in Soccer Story is spent exploring the world, solving little puzzles and interacting with objects by using your magical football (of course). But you do play in actual matches, and to do well you need to level up your team’s players by using upgrade tokens – some earned, others bought using coins that you collect. The football gameplay itself is on the arcade side of the genre, being immediately fun rather than in-depth – although it’s not easy, as I found by losing five times in a row to The Toddlers.
What I like the most about this cute little adventure from developers PanicBarn (published by No More Robots) is its tone. There are some neat nods to the real-life football world here and plenty of wry humour. A moment not too far into the game, sees what I am convinced is a reference to the now famous Keanu Reeves Cyberpunk 2077 E3 showcase moment. See for yourself below:
I won’t pretend Soccer Story is Game of the Year material and I wouldn’t describe it as breathtaking, but I’m enjoying every moment I spend in the world. Sometimes all you need in a game is smart twist on a fairly standard genre, and Soccer Story delivers that. It’s on Xbox Game Pass so you can try it as part of your membership for PC, Xbox, and Cloud (if you have Ultimate), plus it’s out to buy on PlayStation, Switch, PC, and Xbox for those not into subscription gaming.