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Games: Mario Strikers: Battle League Football is a fantastically demented take on the beautiful game

Mario and co are back on the pitch for another frenzied football title
Neil McGreevy

Mario Strikers: Battle League Football (Switch)
By: Nintendo

FIFA may be the only game in town for the hardcore, but Mario Strikers proves a worthy kickabout, stripped of the pomp, licenses and wallet-gouging mechanics of EA's warhorse.

It's a long-overdue return for the long-dormant series, which last drew breath 15 years ago on the Wii, but with the Mushroom Kingdom's finest taking to the pitch, Mario Strikers is a spin on the beautiful game only Nintendo could deliver.

With the rules of football merrily tossed to the wind, winning possession is a violent free-for-all on pitches ringed with electric fences – and, with no penalties or fouls, players are free to lay down the hurt.

A finely-curated team is key to success as you stuff your roster with a balance of strength and speed. And while easy to pick up, there's a surprising depth to its controls, which are loaded with advanced techniques and helped by buttery smooth gameplay where players turn on a dime.

New gear can tweak the strength, speed, shooting and passing chops of your team, adding a layer of management to its short, punchy bouts of high-tempo madness.

The launch line-up of ten players may be thinner than Luka Modric, but individual characters shine. Much like their Mario Kart incarnations, Bowser is slow but powerful, Toad proves nippy and nimble, but personalities also come into the mix. Wario, for example, is a born cheater, and will pick up the ball with his hands and chuck it into the onion bag.

Granted, single-player isn't much to write home about, with Nintendo's energy instead poured into a tour de force of competitive multiplayer, where up to eight players can join in on one console. Couch-side larks inevitably offer the best craic, though local wireless and lag-free online play are part and parcel.

With an edgier style than Mario's platform-hopping, Battle League Football offers the kind of jumpers-for-goalposts joy that's long been missing from gaming's big-ticket football franchises. And while options are anaemic, expect Nintendo to flesh things out in the coming months with added characters and gear.

A fantastically demented take on the beautiful game, Mario Strikers may not have the po-faced realism or cash-rich licenses of FIFA – but why play as, say, Wayne Rooney when you can instead choose a gormless mushroom-headed mutant?

OK, bad example.

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