Big Match Striker is a (free) clever hybrid of game types in which you create a cartoon like football team and play matches against other teams. However this is no FIFA 11 clone, because instead of controlling the players directly, the game makes you answer football themed trivia questions to attack or defend. From there you find yourself making the decision to take a short or long pass (short passes give you a grace period to answer the question first whereas the period is shortened for a longer pass) and ultimately making your way to have a shot at goal and score.
The cartoon like graphics are incredibly charming and do suit the style of game that Big Match Striker falls into. It keeps everything light and far away from becoming an intense sports simulation game like FIFA or even Football Manager, however it still manages to keep the core elements of what makes those games so successful. They have also understood the desire of gamers in the last few years to have the ability to fully customise whatever they are playing. Customisation is tied in with your performance – meaning the better you do the more revenue you earn to spend on customising kits, players, formations, stands etc. The User-interface is well made and is very attractive, with a large number of bright colours and every section is clearly labelled. This has a great layout and has incredible depth in which you can study every level of you team to your performances and why/where it was that your knowledge was lacking resulting in your loss.
I found myself asking what made this game worthwhile and it lead me to a number of conclusions. Firstly there is the way in which you can customise everything (as mentioned before) from the stands in the stadium to the players and formation that you put out against other teams. This is great because it adds depth to what would otherwise be a simple football quiz game. Secondly it doesn’t matter how amazingly fast you can answer your football themed questions, because if you do not ultimately score the ‘goal’ question you will not win. In addition to that, your team still competes while you are offline and its success is based on your players’ skill, formation and finally your I.Q rating. This really helps the replay rating of this game because you get that same kind of Football Manager addiction where you’re simply just playing games to improve your squad and stadium – not actually for the result of the game.
One slight issue I had was that I found myself occasionally getting asked variations of the same question a large number of times in one match. One example I have of that is being asked about the Arsenal Vs. Stoke game; what the score was, who scored, who played against Arsenal on Wednesday, who played against Stoke. I appreciate that the developers have access to this database to enable me to answer up to date questions as well as older style (lets say) typical trivia, but equally I do feel there was too much emphasis on newer questions and not enough general knowledge older style ones. Also there are questions where you have to guess what team wears the kit you are shown, however due to the cartoon like nature of the drawings this sometimes is impossible to judge. None of these problems are really game-breaking and I must admit that I only encountered the problem with similar questions on two separate occasions.
Aside from that I was impressed with the voice-over capabilities which are in your stereo-typical football humour and does not sound even slightly robotic, as football game voice-overs quite often do. Also the ability to play on a Monday encountering questions from a Sunday game is really quite impressive and I must say caught me off guard in one of my pre-season games for the mighty Mana Pool Badgers resulting in a painful loss.
While you play against other user created teams, there is no multiplayer which is a shame as I feel it would elevate this causal football themed game to another level and a broader audience. What is interesting is that each player is given an IQ rating on every aspect of the quiz and that becomes the A.I that you compete against so its a strange multiplayer experience without actually having another person… spooky, yet a very clever compromise that had me seriously impressed. Equally the depth in which you can study your own intelligence on every level of the game and aspect of your question answering is really quite fascinating.
Finally I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised by how fun this game is and how addictive it can be trying to upgrade your team and improve your I.Q rating. I can’t say that I loved the game but I appreciated the effort that went into making a smooth and addictive football experience. The beauty of Big Match Striker is that it should attract all kinds of people regardless of whether they are into gaming, in fact it might honestly be more suited to people who are die-hard football fans, rather than gamers who like football.