“SLAMJET STADIUM!” This is the first thing you hear when you start up Alistair Aitcheson’s newest mobile game, and the corny announcers intonations mean that you are instantly aware of the type of game you are playing. Loud, bright and imbued with the same personality and charm as Alastair’s last game (the brilliantly titled “Greedy Bankers Versus the World“), Slamjet Stadium initially feels like a SNES or MegDrive game in the best possible way. In fact, the presentation reminds me of one very specific (and brilliant) 16-bit game. Mutant League Football!
While Slamjet Stadium may resemble Mutant League Football in its bright and colorful madcap selection of zany cartoon teams with amusing back-stories though, it’s a game that could only work on touch screen devices. Gameplay couldn’t be simpler; you have two onscreen players to control, competing against a rival team on a slidey ice-type surface and you have to push a ball into your opponents goal. Imagine ice hockey, but with only two players on each side, and power ups, pinball bumpers and random traps like Wormholes that make the whole thing even more chaotic. You move your two players around by touching them and pulling back to wind up a shot, like firing off an Angry Bird. The whole thing is viewed form a top-down perspective, and it’s fast-paced, with the ball (as well as the players) bouncing around the arena unpredictably. Quick reactions and timing are essential, as is positioning of your players to defend your own goal.
Slamjet Stadium has a hand-drawn art style that’s basic but endearing. Everything is wavy lines and all the teams portraits have a child-like quality to them. The design and concept of the teams are brilliant – like the space fairing children who never grew up – and each team has a corresponding little snippet of appropriate music to characterize them when they score a goal. These range from a Star Trek-like theme for the aforementioned star children (called “The Fanboys”), to a chunky eighties theme for the action movie star-themed “Astro Marines”.
The sketchy visual depictions of the teams are overshadowed by the generally high production throughout the rest of the game. From the menus to the moving obstacles to the little incidental animations, Slamjet Stadium always has lots going on, and it’s all so bright and inviting that people will crowd around to try it. And while the singleplayer game is fun (if somewhat basic) it’s in the multiplayer mode that the game comes into its own. With two players fighting against each other in the game as well as in the real world, it’s a great party game. It’s impossible to describe how much chaos can be involved and how competitive games can get. Suffice it to say you will want to keep your iPad on a safe, flat surface and ensure that the people who play against each other don’t hold any outstanding grudges.
The game is aware that it’s easy to cheat and move your opponents players (or simply get in the way of your opponents hands so they can’t get to the screen), and it encourages you to do so. As we played we developed all sorts of house rules, like only using one hand, or never touching your opponents players, but in truth these rules always broke down and most of the fun was in breaking them.
As a result, the winner of a game of Slamjet Stadium is generally the one who wants to win the most rather than the one with the most skill. That’s fine though, and if players want to take the game very seriously then there is complexity and depth to it, and a great deal of practice can result in improved skill and a better win-loss ratio.
Sadly the singleplayer experience is rather anemic. There are difficulty levels, but effectively you just play against all the teams one after another until you beat them. A layer of complexity might have made the game more compelling as a singleplayer game, perhaps with customisable teams and skills for players. The game also moves a little too fast, with your players often rocketing off very quickly. If the overall speed of the game was reduced, or if the movement of the individual players was a bit more subtle and the sensitivity of their movements was tweaked, then the game could be a little more strategic and easier to follow. As it is, it’s often just a bit too chaotic and as a result you’re as likely to push the ball over your own goal line as your opponents.
Still, as a party game or as a casual bit of chaotic fun Slamjet Stadium can’t be faulted. It’s the kind of game that almost everyone will want to play for a little while at least, and every time you meet someone new who fancies playing about on an iPad, it’s amongst the first things you are likely to show them. For example, I played against my mum, and completely pwned her. And we both had a great time.
8 fingers bruised, bent and broken in the name of victory out of 10