REVIEW: ‘PandaBall’ Is Decent Arcade-Style Soccer (Switch)

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PandaBall - But Why Tho

PandaBall is an arcade-style soccer game from developer GetAGame and publisher PandaBall Aps. In this simplistic sporting game, you play a 5v5 soccer match as a team of pandas, each with unique skillsets in quick matches against computers or friends.

I love an arcade-style game where an otherwise complicated concept is stripped down to its simplest form. Of course, complexity and nuance can be great, but sometimes, straightforward does just as well. That is, just as long as it doesn’t strip down so far that it’s missing key elements or mechanics. PandaBall is almost exactly what you need from a simple soccer game. It’s got a great AI when it comes to the movement of your team. Passing is crisp, shooting is challenging, and the occasional special balls and status effects keep things interesting.

At first, I was not particularly fond of the game, I’ll admit. Having played a lot of FIFA in my life, there are certain things I just naturally expected out of a soccer game. But once I took a step back and assessed PandaBall based on its own merits, I found I enjoyed it. The key here is that the AI controls the teammates who are not under your direct control, which is quite smart. They’re basically always fighting for the right positions for passes and shots, letting you focus more on dodging defenders and getting yourself open for passing.

The powerups don’t really do it for me. I can barely tell what many of them do, besides a few ball augmenters. I do enjoy, though, that some of them render goals worth more than a single point. And I generally enjoy the status effects like getting burnt or knocked out. It forces you to be less sloppy with your offense and defense alike. Sliding is hit or miss; it sometimes feels satisfying, especially with players who seem to be better at it. On the other hand, sometimes it seems hardly worth it. Shooting is mostly good. Straight shots are based on a power meter and direction, while you can do fancy one-time shots off of passes with potential for great results. Those results depend on which character is on the receiving end, though, so picking which players to play in which position is actually pretty important.

The one mechanic I can’t get past, though, is the passing. You have very handy indicators above your players’ heads corresponding to which button you use to pass or switch to them on defense. They line up with the order of the buttons on an actual controller, which is great, especially on the Switch, because I can literally never remember which button is which, so you can just rely on direction instead. But when you pass, it basically stops the receiver in their tracks and goes only straight to them. I wish very much that there was a through ball option. It’s fine, and I got used to not having it. It just requires more running around, but it would have felt much stronger with one.

There is also a leveling system, which is how you unlock other pandas and, for individual characters, completing certain accolades results in wearable items. This is fine in theory. The only problem is, the game is of rather low graphical quality, and everything is so darn small, so it’s not really the most valuable. It’s hard to distinguish between pandas besides their general body shapes and even harder to read the constantly tiny text. There’s not much to read—it’s not like there’s a plot with dialogue—but it is still frustratingly small.

Not perfect by any means, but PandaBall is a pretty solid arcade-style soccer game. It’s missing a few things I wish it had, and some things like the text size are less than ideal, but overall, it’s an enjoyable take on quick and simple soccer matches.

PandaBall is available now on Nintendo Switch and PS4.

PandaBall
  • 6.5/10
    Rating - 6.5/10
6.5/10

TL;DR

Not perfect by any means, but PandaBall is a pretty solid arcade-style soccer game. It’s missing a few things I wish it had, and some things like the text size are less than ideal, but overall, it’s an enjoyable take on quick and simple soccer matches.