By Jorge Figueiredo - November 16th, 2009
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with Carsten Myhill from Ubisoft Vancouver to take a look at that studio’s very first title, a fantasy soccer game called Academy of Champions. I was intrigued to see how this game would play, especially considering that while the game is good for all ages, it seems to be targeted at the ‘tween’ demographic. In an industry that often strives for realism (read: FIFA series), how would a cartoon-y soccer (Carsten: “Football!”) game turn out? Surprisingly well, actually.
In the game you portray a young soccer player (your choice of male or female) attending soccer legend Pélé’s Brightfield Academy, a soccer university of sorts (many comparisons were made to Hogwarts from the Harry Potter series). Here you will take your character on a journey that will lead him or her to become a great soccer player. Through a series of training, conversations, and actual soccer matches, you will provide your character with loads of experience and special tokens that allow you to unlock goodies in the store. The 16-hour single-player campaign (20 or so hours if you want to unlock everything) seems to be a good mix of hands-on and observation.
This game does not claim to be an accurate sports simulator. But I believe that it’s good because of this fact. While not as intense as other sports games, Academy of Champions has a decent physics engine. It’s caricatured and feels like an arcade title, for certain, but the engine replicates the feeling of a great soccer match. The training exercises are mini-games and are cleverly disguised soccer drills that allow you to hone your skills while ultimately bringing a smile to your face (some of the mini-games actually allow you to use the balance board, too). The actual matches are also real enough, but concentrate on the essence of the game, and remove the trappings of penalties, throw-ins, and corner kicks which, while authentic, ultimately slow down play.
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