We look at two games from the opposites end of a spectrum: an unnerving horror title and a hilariously madcap ‘football’ game.
Can you think of anything more scary than a football game, or a sport more popular than being trapped on an island full of horror monsters? We couldn’t, so today we’re going to talk about Motte Island and FootLOL: Epic Fail League.
Motte Island is a horror game, and if you’ve played any other horror game you’ll probably find the setup familiar. Ready? Here we go: the hero is a character with a mysterious past who returns to a mysterious island to find a mysteriously missing loved one.
Everyone on the island acts really strange, then suddenly a storm rolls in to cut off the power, leaving the hero stranded in the dark. Can you guess what happens next?
If you screamed, “monsters!” then hooray, you win a prize: the chance to be disembowelled by a monster! Seriously, you should have known better than to go visiting a mysterious island.
At first glance, Motte Island seems like a bit of an odd offering. It’s trying to offer a horror experience, but it’s built as a top-down 2D game with visuals that reminds us of browser-based Flash games.
We’re not dissing Flash games — they’re great for certain types of titles — but horror often relies on you being able to appreciate the scary environment and terrifying monsters. You can make a great horror game in simple 2D (just look at Lone Survivor), but if you are spending most of the game looking at the top of people’s scalps and their shoulders, you are going to have an immersion problem.
Motte Island’s graphics is pretty much a hit and miss affair. We’ll talk about the “hit” later, but here’s how it misses: even at the start of the game we couldn’t figure out which fuzzy patch of green was the top of the tree and which smudge of green was grass we could walk across.
If you can’t tell what you’re looking at, you can’t immerse yourself in the world. And if you’re not immersed, you can’t be invested in the game.
That said, at least the visuals have some positive points we’ll cover later. The writing of the game, on the other hand, is only scary if you’re trying to find something positive to say about it.
The plot points are telegraphed way too obviously in the dialogue and, again, this is an immersion problem.
At least the game mechanics themselves are okay. The game has some decent stealth mechanics, but we question the logic of having monsters respawn whenever we enter a room and the slowly regenerating health bar. Those things shift the tone of the game from survival horror to straight up action horror.
We mentioned earlier that the visuals are hit and miss, so this is where we explain the “hit”: after the storm hits, you can’t see a damn thing in the game.
You heard us right: Motte Island looks the best when you can’t see what’s going on. After the big horrifying monster moment, you’ll have to rely on a dinky little flashlight to navigate through an island full of marauding creatures. This flashlight also alerts monsters to your location if you’re careless.
This is great, because while the monsters actually look comical when you see them, the thought of actually running into these buggers is absolutely terrifying. A single hit pretty much takes out half your life bar.
If the writing in this game gets a D on its report card while the visual sits happily with a B-, then the audio design tops the class with an A+. If you think skulking around in the dark is scary, never knowing when you’re going to run into a godforsaken abomination, then try doing so with the eerie sounds of an empty mansion in the background, or the sound of a storm constantly reminding you that there’s no escape.
Geez, we may need to do a 180° on what we said about immersion. as Motte Island can be terrifying when it wants to be; its only real problem is when we see its seams.
We’ll be honest: we didn’t play Motte Island all the way to the end. The fact that the writing wasn’t engaging enough was one part of the reason why.
The bigger part, though? We were too unsettled to continue. Really, when your horror game’s scary enough to make people stop playing, that has to be some sort of recommendation.
Motte Island’s many flaws prevents it from being a really engaging game, but we give it an A+ for effort.
Epic Fail League
After a terrifying outing on Motte Island, we decided to take a break and relax with a simple game of football. So we picked up FootLOL: Epic Fail League, a game where two teams try to kick balls into each other’s nets... while cows trample through the opposition, UFOs suck up teammates, bombs blow the goalkeepers into oblivion and speed boosts send players careening across the field.
Bend it like... Bugs Bunny
The most important thing about FootLOL is that it’s not really a football game — you don’t play as a player scoring the goals and you don’t play as the manager who runs things. No, the football aspect is just a foundation upon which the mad gameplay is built upon.
Your job? To ensure your team wins by deploying as many absurd weapons onto the battlefield as you possibly can. You’re like an omnipotent football-watching deity who helps the team succeed by performing hilariously violent miracles.
Enemy goalkeeper blocking a shot? Drop a landmine under him. Meteors raining down on the field? Pop a shield buff on your players. Enemy defence proving difficult to break through? Release the cows!
Here’s how the game works: you’re placed into an ostensibly normal football match, and at first you have very simple goals. For example, score more goals than your opponent within one minute.
Before you begin the game, you have a number of points and slots to load up with weapons. These weapons range from speed boosts to UFOs to cows, and each can only be used a limited number of times each game.
Do well and you’ll earn cash that lets you upgrade your team, from improving their accuracy to kitting them out to look like Spartans.
As you progress, you’ll unlock progressively more outrageous matches, which include matches where you need to reach a specific 2-1 score, to matches where both goals are on the same side of the screen, to matches played on the dusty red fields of planet Mars. Sure, why not!
Skill vs strategy vs chaos
It’s clear that the main attraction of FootLOL is its madcap insanity — a typical game for us often involved explosions riddling the battle/football field while a dozen extra balls — some on fire — bounced around the perpetually smiling, perpetually injured players. However, it’s not all brainless fun.
When we started writing this review, we were going to complain how FootLOL isn’t much for skill or strategy. Surely a game this silly is just a chaos generator made just for laughs, and the chance of actually winning a round is purely random, right?
As we played, we found this wasn’t true. At least, not entirely true — the matches sometimes did drive us insane with their unpredictability, but skill and strategy did come into play.
Once we reached the later levels, we realised that the enemy AI started deploying weapons of their own, so we needed to figure out the best way to counter their tactics.
FootLOL does a good job in steadily introducing the number of crazy things that can happen, and it’s always a joy to win so you can see what the next match has in store.
Where does the skill come in, you ask? Well, let’s put it this way — with matches moving as fast as they do, you’ll need to learn to be really precise with your weapon deployments or else you’ll end up blowing up your own team or boosting your opponents.
For the LOLs
Apparently, FootLOL was originally released on Steam in August 2013, but we only just came across it. Honestly, it’s too hilarious not to share — the game is basically football as organised by Wile E. Coyote. It’s a combination of sports, cartoony violence and hilarious insanity.
It may not be a title for hardcore football fans, but it’s definitely a game you’ll want to pick up if you’re just looking for something silly and fun to kick around.
Playing Motte Island and FootLOL back to back has given us an idea to create a football-themed horror game. We’ll call it... Resident E-Ball.
Take that, Motte Island! You might be scary, but nothing’s more terrifying than our terrible, terrible puns.