In the past I've always had praise for Armor Games, a site that maintains a consistently high quality of online titles. Of course, we all make mistakes from time to time. Nobody's perfect, after all - just look at Idi Amin. And so Armor Games has sadly suffered its own wave of psychotic, xenophobic deportation, by which I mean they're hosting a game called Axis Football League and it sucks.
This is a game that clearly has the best of intentions. In fact, it describes itself as the "first, great online football game," which made me chuckle heartily, as there is nothing great about this title. I guess it looks nice, but if you're a long time reader of Big Mean Flash Gamer, you'll already know that looks can be deceiving. Sometimes that hot chick is really a man and sometimes a pretty game is really a pile of garbage. But only one of those events will change your life and make you ask questions on the concepts of gender and sexuality, and it's not the second one.
I suppose, being someone with little interest in American football, this game wasn't going to appeal to me too much. But hey, there are plenty of sports I don't follow and as long as the game based on it plays well, I can still have fun. Obviously they couldn't use the names of real teams due to copyright purposes (because, you know, the Steelers worry about Flash games stealing their logo.) I decided to play as the New England Volunteers. Wow, that name must strike terror into the hearts of their opponents.
You pick a play to run and then you go to the game screen. Here's where things start to get tricky. I've never seen a game with so simple a control system sound so complicated. I can't even tell you what the problem is; it doesn't seem natural, you don't find yourself slipping easily into the controls like you might with other sports games. I think part of the problem lies with the use of both keyboard and mouse controls. That works fine for me, since I played it on a laptop. But if you've only got one hand to take care of the keyboard buttons while your other is occupied solely with clicking the left mouse button, it would no doubt be a big hassle.
The nice graphics come back to bite you on the ass at this point, too. So determined were the programmers to show as much of the field as possible, we're left with a top down view seemingly from the bottom of the Goodyear blimp (oh, wait, we can't use copyrighted names. Um... the Nice... Month... Balloon.) The animation is fluid, but there's just one problem that would sour my opinion of any football game: I can't see the God damn ball!
I'm doing my damnedest to block passes and take down the other team, but how do I do that when I'm not even sure who's holding the ball? Usually, by the time I know, it's too late to stop my opponents from gaining another twenty yards.
The vast array of plays you can use is impressive but hammers home the feeling that this is not a game for casual fans. I have no idea what most of these names mean and was randomly picking whatever play I thought gave me the best chance of success. Odds are this approach was no less effective than if I'd known what I was doing. In the end, Axis Football League is a frustrating game for anyone but the commited pigskin fan. Even then, I'd probably suggest throwing a ball around with some friends before wasting your time on this well-intentioned mess.