Association football is a game that transcends cultures, ages, and other demographics to be a universally beloved staple, but it is not alone. Another property that achieves the same status is the colourful plastic bricks of Lego. Inspiring minds and imaginations for countless generations. In 2002, these two were blended into a unique video game experience, imaginative, easy to learn, and fun to play In Lego Football Mania.
The main menu has a surplus of options, outside the traditional exhibition match that allows you to play with any Lego team unlocked. There is also Quick Start, for those who cannot choose and want the game to pick for them. Or play in Skill Zones mode, these work exactly as the name suggests, offering brief minigames to test your skills with. But I am getting ahead of myself. There is a story, you compete against teams in a fictional Lego city tournament, these get fantastical quickly, facing off against Knights, Cowboys, Aliens, Arctic Explorers, among others. But the evil Brickster has stolen the trophy, sending you on a quest to track him down, one that will lead you into the depths of space. You can customise your story squad from the teams you vanquished and unlock them for the modes listed above, so it is recommended you take a crack at the Story first.
You might think that personified pieces of plastic, might not make the best football players. They seem skilled. The simplified controls help with reducing the barrier to play. The game automatically selects the player closest to the ball, and the available options are simple but formidable. You shoot with the same velocity as the bazooka in Worms. You can also pass and do some fancy footwork to keep possession of the ball. The game comes into its own with special items. These allow the player some trickery like turning the ball into a goal-seeking missile or magic the ball back to the active player. They add a lot more tactical opportunities to the game, but if you want a more traditional football experience, they can be disabled.
You can also simulate a World Cup tournament, albeit a tad shorter one than the real-world ones, but still international fun. Each of their matches does take place in a generic Lego city stadium but this feels more of a technical limitation than a creative one, as the game does not skimp on the presentation. The variety of teams, each drawn from a popular Lego theme at the time, along with Football fields that represent them. Though through the process of the story, it feels like the totality of these sets are utilised. The soundtrack is also loaded with a lot of catchy songs, and a menu theme that sounds like an era-appropriate song for television coverage of the sport. As such, it manages to be very evocative of the microcosm of time that Football Mania came out in.
Lego Football Mania marries arcade-like football action to the Lego licence in an abundance of fun ways. It has a lengthy campaign, a multitude of modes, and an impressive presentation. Engaging enough to keep varied audiences entertained and is simple for all ages to pick up and play, like both Lego, and football itself. Lego Football Mania may have a lot to live up to, but it certainly shoots at the target.
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