You know how soccer is played with feet? Well instead of kicking the ball, imagine using a baseball bat. And then imagine using that bat to whack the crap out of your competitor. Then imagine holding down the button to warm up a power attack to really whack the crap out of the ball or your opponent. Throw in twin stick shooter controls and a character specific super ability and you have yourself Guts ‘N Goals.
This is an over-the-top, fast-paced 2D pixelated soccer sim with bats. Each match is stupidly ridiculous and usually only lasts a minute or two. The Grand Prix mode, even though there are no racing elements involved whatsoever, pits the player against one challenge after another almost like a fighting game tower. Starting with a simple match against AI players, the player will encounter a mini-game every other match. This puts some spice into gameplay and win or lose, the player is rewarded gold that can be spent to unlock new characters, stages, weapons, and mutators (gameplay modifiers). There is a lot here and unlocking it all with take a lot of time; there is always something to strive for which is why gameplay can be addicting.
The majority of the Grand Prix mode provides fun over frustration. Unfairly, the player will eventually encounter a 2-versus-3 match that is overly difficult. In an unbalanced match like this, the player gets totally ransacked by the AI. Once enough damage has been taken, the player falls on the field and must wait precious seconds before respawning. Since each stadium is smaller in scope, one faint could be the difference between winning and losing. Thankfully, the one other friendly AI partner is smart enough to usually stay behind and play goalie but that doesn’t make these mismatched challenges any easier.
Even though some matches are designed to be stacked against the player, there is still plenty of bat-whacking fun to be had. The 2D pixel presentation is well done and filled with personality. Some stadiums feature unique elements. The wheat stage, for example, has the ball and players hidden when walking through the crops on the perimeter. Or players float in rafts, smacking a beach ball in the water stage. There is a ton of personality here and what makes the experience put a dumb smile on your face.
Best played in short bursts, Guts ‘N Goals is that ideal arcade experience ideally played with couch co-op in mind. It is a bummer there isn’t a more robust online offering and the mouse pointer menu interface is a little weird for a console game but there is plenty of mindless fun to be had even if you hate soccer.
Also available on PC, PS4, PS5, and Switch.
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