A new entry into the car combat / football sub-genre, Foodtruck Arena places you in the shoes of a number of zany characters, as they aspire to become the world’s greatest Chef. To do this, they have to win a tournament where the Chefs compete against one another in a – certainly unique – rendition of football.
As you can imagine from the name alone, you control various different food trucks as you attempt to guide a tomato (football substitute) into the net.
This is broken down into two base game modes: tournament (the story) and free match.
Inspired by the success of Rocket League, is Foodtruck Arena able to use this inspiration to carve out a tasty new side-dish in this genre?
The Bad news:
Look – there is no way to sugarcoat this: Foodtruck Arena is not good.
I went into this game intrigued – excited even – by the promise of a fun, humorous experience with solid gameplay and a unique style.
Unfortunately the game doesn’t ever get going.
The absence of a tutorial, combined with extremely clunky movement, means that the game presents an instant wall for the player to overcome. Whilst the game itself has a very minimalistic control scheme, with basic movement options, as well as a jump and skill move button, the sheer awkwardness of simply directing and moving your truck makes the experience immediately painful.
Add in a lack of a tutorial to properly explain the different Chefs abilities (that do actually have strategic value), this game put me off straight away.
All of this leads to incredibly sluggish and slow gameplay. You then add in the long loading times between matches, and it just gets worse.
The story and characters were an aspect that I was looking forward to. You start off with being able to play as four different characters (you unlock a further four as the game progresses), who all have incredibly distinct and inspired designs (albeit, very stereotypical). You also get a small biography on each character, that briefly details their backstory and motivation for wanting to be the world’s best Chef.
There are also really cool comic strips that play at the end of each tournament.
Sadly, this is the pinnacle of the game’s storytelling. There is no real story here, with the gameplay being the priority. Whilst I enjoyed learning how to use each truck’s skill, the sheer painfulness of just trying to steer the damn tomato into the net sullied any enjoyment I could briefly get from this game.
When the base gameplay just doesn’t feel good, this deeply affects just about every other aspect of the game. This was the case for me, sadly.
Constant own goals:
A recurring theme with this game is that whenever I found a positive – that I so desperately tried to latch onto – it was immediately undermined by a number of negatives.
The cel-shaded design is cool, but when actually playing the game it looks kinda cheap and mobile game-esque.
The music for each character is actually quite good, but there just aren’t enough characters or modes to keep the gameplay loop interesting. Limiting the gameplay to a maxim of 2V2 doesn’t help.
There is certainly a strategic aspect to gameplay, with the different abilities all offering unique advantages for the player, and the various arenas also having their own variables that affect gameplay. But this isn’t fun to experience when the base gameplay is so clunky.
Couch co-op and being able to map the control to a single Joycon is definitely a plus, but the fun of playing with friends is mostly just laughing at how frustrated they get with the game’s controls.
Also, there is no online play. The absence of a real competitive skill-climb is really disappointing, and again, makes this game pale in comparison to the likes of Rocket League.
All of this is a real shame. I think on paper, the premise of this game sounds really fun. Combining food with trucks and football sounds like an absolute blast. With smoother gameplay, a proper tutorial and online play, I could see myself really enjoying this game.
Unfortunately, the developers have failed here to translate a good idea into a fun gaming experience.
A tough one to recommend.