Football Game review for PS4, PS Vita, Switch, Xbox One


Platform: PS Vita
Also on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Developer: Cloak and Dagger Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: M

Even though I kind of liked Football Game — for reasons I’ll explain shortly — I’ve got to start off my review of it with a complaint: it was way too dark.

And not in a good way, either (though it certain was dark in that respect, too). No, Football Game was literally way, way too dark to see what was going on half the time. No matter how I squinted, no matter how much light I shone (or didn’t shine) on the screen, for the most part it was just a dim, inscrutable blob.

Some of this was undoubtedly intentional. After all, it was designed to be a creepy adventure game and, like any good horror movie, Football Game’s developers realized that it’s much easier to create that mood with lots of shadows.

But the fact is, I have no idea what happened during the game’s climax, because I couldn’t see anything on the screen when the game made its big reveal. I’m assuming it was something shocking, because why else would they have made so much effort to build that mood, but if you were to ask me how the game ended, I’d have to respond with a shrug.

This is a shame, because Football Game does a pretty good job of building up a mystery over its short (and I do mean short — like, under half an hour) running time. You play as a high school football player trying to get to the big game and meet up with his girlfriend, except he can’t find her anywhere. He gets progressively more annoyed as more and more people give him cryptic answers, and all of it is interspersed with the odd bit of static and dissonant guitars. It’s not a perfect build, and you can tell that there’s going to be some crazy twist from a mile away, but it’s good enough for what the game is.

Likewise, the puzzles here are hardly what you’d call challenging, but they’re solid enough that they don’t get in the game’s way. Pretty much everything makes sense in Football Game, in the sense that it’s all pretty linear. It doesn’t call for any huge leaps of logic: you find a key, and it’s for your car. You get a coin, and you use it to buy a can of pop. It won’t tax your brain at all, but that means you can fully pay attention to what’s going on in the story rather than trying to figure out some bizarre internal logic.

Which makes the decision to make the game so hard to see so puzzling. Football Game is clearly trying to tell a story that’s simple, straightforward, and super-creepy. But instead of coming away from it feeling vaguely uneasy, you’ll just be wondering what actually happened underneath all that very literal darkness.

Ratalaika Games provided us with a Football Game PS4/Vita code for review purposes.

Grade: B-