Sir Alex Ferguson once said that Filippho Inzahgi "must have been born offside." You could extend the same sentiment to Kick Off Revival. Of course the former Manchester United manager was referring to Inzaghi's status as being the world's most offside footballer, but in terms of Dino Dini's return to the field, it feels like they played this particular ball a bit too late, and they've made their run far too early. It makes for a good analogy, but there's actually no offside in the game.
The world has moved on since the original games launched back in the late '80s and early '90s, and while Kick Off Revival isn't without some merit, it's also built on undeniably old-school foundations, and it shows. It looks low-fi and feels primitive. That's kinda the point, so it's not a criticism, but it does mean that it sits in the same bracket as so many other quirky but ultimately simplistic top-down football games that already exist on mobile (and there's a lot of them about).
Kick Off Revival is not a particularly fun game to play by yourself. The aforementioned lack of offside means that the CPU often just gets the ball and punts it up the field to the striker who by default stands and receives the ball while in an offside position. Kick Off is clearly not a football sim, but then again it's not pretending to be, however, by ignoring the rules it then has to rely completely on arcade gameplay and retro style, but it's too hard to control and at the moment it's hard to argue that it's even finished.
You can play a match through; we don't mean to say it's completely broken. But you can't, for example, do anything with your goalkeeper beyond kicking the ball down to the halfway line. Every single time a keeper gets the ball, it's essentially a reset, like the ball being dropped into the middle of a fussball table; it somewhat defines the tempo of each and every match. The devs have suggested that changes are coming in this department, which makes it clear that they know that this feature needs further iteration. When you consider the football tournament that's currently playing in France at the time of writing, and the fact that the teams included at launch are all from Euro 2016, it's clearly a case of wanting to get the game out as soon as possible.
There's further evidence of this being a rushed job. There's no red or yellow cards. There are penalties if there's a foul in the box (although the goalkeepers don't seem to do much), but none after cup games, and instead draws are replayed. If the keeper is holding the ball when it crosses the line, the game continues on as if nothing has happened. It looks really simplistic, and there's not a lot of pleasing detail in the background, on the pitch, the players, or anywhere really. Visually it is very low-fi, and perhaps extra effort should have gone into making it look more appealing, giving the players a bit more personality, or the crowd a bit more energy. It's functional, but not much more.
There's admirable simplicity to the controls, but even if they've managed to map everything to as few inputs as possible (one analog stick and one button), there's no denying that it takes too long to become even vaguely proficient. Because there are so few options, those available to you become extremely nuanced; you may not need to press so many buttons, but it still takes longer to learn the basics. We're sure there'll be some who gel with it, who take satisfaction from taming the controls, because there's plenty of room for player expression once you've mastered the setup. However, as far as we're concerned, any enjoyment derived from the control scheme is muted by limiting design decisions made elsewhere (the goalkeepers, the AI, and so on).
There's a single-player campaign where you can select any team in Euro 2016, and then play the tournament through. However, as we said before, it's not much fun playing the solo game right now (and good luck with the practice mode). Things do get a bit better when you rope in a friend, but this is largely because the skill deficit shrinks and games are more competitive. To start off with the tricky controls ensure that both players make silly mistakes, but it's less frustrating because you aren't punished for them as heavily. After that, as you get mastery over the controls (or something approaching it) games do get more enjoyable if you're up against a similarly skilled opponent. It's a similar story if you venture online and play against randoms, but the lack of consequences for aggressive play means that if you come up against the wrong sort, they'll just hack the crap out of your players every time you get the ball down and actually try to play. Despite these criticisms, there's still an undeniable purity to the gameplay that some people will get a kick out of, but we reckon most will be put off by the flaws long before they ever get close to falling in love with them.
There's obviously going to be more content coming in the months ahead, both in terms of much needed refinement and DLC. It needs an editor for player names, kits, and whatnot. They could build in all sorts of customisation options and let players have a lot of fun with it if they wanted to, but it's more likely that they'll focus on bringing in new teams, tournaments, and perhaps even game modes. The offering at launch (practice mode, the Euro 2016 teams, tournament mode, local and online PvP) is so lean it's practically skeletal. That would be less of an issue if there was more variation in the single-player matches, and if there was more charm in terms of presentation, but with so many other options available on the market, and with the launch version feeling distinctly incomplete, at this stage it's hard to recommend.
In concluding we'll mention Rocket League, but only because it was referenced several times during our meeting with Dino Dini earlier this year. We all enjoyed Psyonix's vehicle-filled take on the beautiful game, because not only is there opportunity for expert play, but the journey towards expertise is just as fun. While it's both mechanically balanced and full of hidden depth, it is also accessible enough that anyone can pick it up and have fun with it straight away. Kick Off Revival doesn't have the same instant charm or pick up and playability. And where Rocket League draws spirit from teamwork and chaos, this reboot feels unfinished, malnourished, and ripe for game-breaking exploitation. This might one day get better, but The Digital Lounge needs to up its game significantly if Dino Dini wants to once again play in the big leagues.