XS JUNIOR LEAGUE SOCCER / Wahoo Studios / Playstation 1
 
 
Usually for a few years after a console's "unofficial" death (when the next generation comes out), there's still a tiny trickle of new releases for it. Overwhelmingly these are extreme budget games for the casual market; pitched mostly at the People Of Walmart who still have the old generation of consoles hooked up in their trailer.

XS Junior League Soccer is one of these, released in 2004, a solid 3+ years after the Playstation 2's release. It basically clones the Backyard Sports series; it's a simpler, more arcadey version of soccer, entirely starring (and pitched at) young kids.
 


Instead of formal teams, the game is "pick-up game" style, reflecting a bunch of kids actually playing on the playground after school or something. It's like Barkley Shut Up And Jam for kids, basically. Each game starts with you alternating turns with the computer/other player, picking 5 players. So you'll probably roll at least a slightly different roster with each new game.

There's two modes of play - Arcade and Tournament. Arcade is just a one-off match. Tournament lets you keep the team you originally rolled for four matches in which you keep playing the same other kids, but they get increasingly difficult. The budget nature means that nothing but a simple text splash screen connects these matches, no epic story mode or cinematics. Also no music whatsoever, just kids chattering and laughing as ambient sound. Well, there's one hip-hop-ish tune as you pick your players ... no clue what's up with the porny moaning in the background of it, though.

Spartan production values probably had as much to do with the "playground" theme as kid marketing; each pitch is usually a one-color flat surface, the bounds of which are denoted by orange traffic cones. The AI raises another interesting debate along this line. It's a bunch of average kids playing, so they forever kick the ball out of bounds and make odd mistakes ... janky budget AI, or intentional simulation? Whatever the case, don't expect to see anything elaborate or hyper-athletic ... no Super Shots, no bicycle kicks, you can't even really properly do a one-timer as there isn't really a particular mechanic for it, the kid usually just ends up whaling it out of bounds in some random direction when you try it. They're really married to this concept of unskilled little kids just messing around in the backyard.

Anyway, XS Junior League isn't bad, in a very basic way. Play control is acceptable for an under-$10-new title, as is teammate AI (usually). As with other arcadey soccer games, however, you'll quickly find repeatable exploits that always seem to work against the computer. The computer also seemingly has no strategy in picking its players; aside from picking the two Asian kids in hats whose offensive stats and speed are way the hell above everyone else's, there's also only two who are really good at goaltending; take them both and the other team will be stuck with some clod who sometimes lets shots between his legs.
 
 
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