Long before FIFA, long before Sensible Soccer, the only way football enthusiasts could get their kicks without going outside was with Subbuteo, a table football game in which your flicking fingertips did all the talking and scoring. Staring the more complex emulations of football right in the goal mouth, Four Door Lemon has brought back this simple concept for its contribution to Vita's Augmented Reality Suite, Table Football.
Despite its small scope, Table Football brings a full representation of the beautiful game to, quite literally, the table. Its seven-a-side games feature all the fouls, throw-ins, corners and penalties that you would expect of a football title, only miniaturised, simplified and played in five minute matches.
Unlike the Pro Evolution Soccers of the world, Table Football takes a slightly slower approach – this is a turn-based game of footie. Each side is given four moves per go, one move being a player movement, a pass, a challenge or a shot. Within these restrictions you've got to shift players into space and break through the opponent's defences to go for goal.
The small number of actions works twofold. Firstly, it keeps the game fairly fast and the flow smooth despite the turn-based approach. Secondly, it brings an element of strategy bubbling to the top, every move needing consideration lest you leave yourself a kick too short to reach the net.
It's entirely, and accurately, touch controlled: players are slid into position and the ball is captured, passed or shot entirely through quick, sharp drags on the screen. The ball can be lobbed by swiping towards the target and hooking your touch back in a U-turn; shots can be bent by sweeping your finger in a curve instead of straight. Power is decided by the speed of your motion.
Where PS Vita's other AR games only use up to three of the magic cards, Table Football goes all out and lets you use the full six. Cards one to three form your pitch, one sitting at either net and the number two card making up the centre circle. Optionally cards four to six can be added to the desk, bringing stands filled with paper thin crowds and a scoreboard to life. Moving the cards around will adjust your play field, so you can mess with the size and positioning of your pitch as much as you like – as long as you keep the area adequately lit.
There are your standard single matches to be played, plus multiplayer via local wireless or in pass the parcel fashion if there's only one Vita to hand. For a longer session you can also try your foot at glory on the world stage in tournaments. Wins award you with extra trinkets, such as different balls and scoreboards. There's nothing in particular to achieve, though, so how much you return very much depends upon how much you — and your friends — like flick football.
Table Football isn't the deepest, most full-featured game, but that's no foul; it's an addictive little slice of fun that hits the back of the net nicely. It won't sustain you for too long in single player due to its lack of structure to progress through, but with a friend it's an amusing throwback to simpler times. It's a free download, so it's worth a shot either way.