While some may decry a perceived lack of great games for the PSP, let it be said that soccer is well-represented on Sony's slick little handheld. Between the World Cup and Winning Eleven games (let's ignore FIFA Street 2, shall we?), fans of the world's most popular sport have a plethora of good choices. Into the fray steps the latest footie title, World Tour Soccer '06. It's a nifty little game that purposefully goes in a different direction than the others, giving it a sense of style and playability all its own.
World Tour eschews the standard just-score-more-than-your-opponent-to-win methodology. In its stead is a style-inspired point system that rewards deft passing, shooting, and defending. The game's primary mode - World Tour - sends you on a campaign of planetary conquest starting in Africa and ending in Europe, allowing you to pick any national team to do battle with (note to self: Brazil is really good) against a regional foe.
Game types like "Shot Clock" (score within a certain time frame), "All Rounder" (everyone's got to touch the ball before you can score), "Totally Outnumbered" (duh), and several others await, requiring more than just a lead foot to advance up the ladder. The other single-player game type, Medal mode, offers up specific targets and opponents for each kind of challenge.
While that may sound like a strange way to play soccer, it quickly becomes enjoyable - even a little addictive. Points are constantly awarded and deducted as your level of play dictates. Achieving a gold medal-caliber threshold is challenging, but not impossible; just enough to keep you re-upping until that magical plateau is reached. It's a quick study to learn the basics, and the action feels as if it was designed with the PSP's unique controls in mind - making your Ronaldinho and Figo moves simple to pull off.
The referees don't frown too much on rough play, as yellow and red cards are thrown around like manhole covers. Feet-first tackles from the side or behind are flagged for fouls less than expected, which translates into a fast-moving, back-and-forth match. Sometimes it seems like nothing short of whipping out a foreign object to break your opponent's ankles will get you tossed off of the pitch - and we don't say this as if it's a bad thing.
Despite having no FIFA license, World Tour Soccer '06 thankfully boasts real players playing for their home countries. Unfortunately, what should be standard for any and all sports titles is missing, as - sacré bleu! - there is no traditional "season" with standings, scoring tables or card carryover, nor any way to participate in a tournament of any kind. To its credit, the game boasts Wi-Fi, ad hoc and even game-sharing multiplayer options - important factors in replayability.
With its simple learning curve, snappy controls and quick match times, there's no doubt that World Tour is built for on-the-go gaming goodness. Snooty soccer purists may scoff at the arcade-y nature, but this is a handheld title, after all. Simplicity and fun win out over complexity every time.