Football for puzzle fans, and puzzles for football fans

Tired of candy, jewels, and cute animals in your puzzle games? Need something a little more exciting? Something like, I don’t know, football? Part Time Evil hears your cries for more hard-hitting action in your puzzle games, but the indie studio isn’t just stopping there. Its crowdfunded project Puzzle Football: Quest of the Gridiron takes things to another level by mixing in a heavy dose of RPG goodness too.

Inspired by classic RPGs like the Final Fantasy series, old school football games like Tecmo Bowl, and even card-battle games, Puzzle Football has one of those “so crazy it just might work” types of high concepts. The idea is to build a team of players, complete with equipment that complements the style of play you have in mind.

Out on the gridiron is where the puzzle element enters the equation. Below the playing field is a board full of tiles similar to the ones seen in puzzle games too numerous to mention. The difference here is that you’ll be lining them up to enable your team to run short passes, long passes, or running plays, any of which can be boosted by power cards that can turn the tide when used judiciously. According to Matt Udvari, Lead Designer for Part Time Evil, a lot of thought went into how this intriguing mix of elements would work when combined together.

“The most challenging part of the puzzle aspect is making that affect your football plays in a very clear way,” he said. “The player should know that the thing they do on the puzzle board makes things happen on the football field. From the beginning, I personally made it my goal to avoid moments of ‘why did that just happen,’ which I see a lot when I play puzzle games for fun. That’s why we do a ‘play breakdown’ after each play that says why the play happened the way it did.”

That also means that you won’t need to be a fanatical football enthusiast to get something out of the game – though it won’t hurt either. The mechanics are intended to strike a balance between people who pick it up because it’s got football in it and those who just like puzzle games and are looking for something different. Turn-based, head-to-head network play is planned, and players with all kinds of backgrounds should be on relatively equal footing.

Puzzle Football: Quest of the Gridiron

“It’s designed so that good puzzle players will do just fine, and unlike a console football game, you can play an entire game from start to finish with zero football knowledge,” Udvari said. “We want the international fans who are curious about football to be able to play it as a puzzle game. If you’re great at puzzle games, but playing a football expert with no puzzle game skills, it will be an interesting match-up!”

The single-player mode is designed as a series of quests where you’ll be able to add new players, level-up existing ones, collect new items, and more. In its Indiegogo pitch, Part Time Evil describes the RPG progression as the most time consuming part of the entire process, but one that is obviously near and dear to the team’s hearts.

And since any good RPG has loot, Puzzle Football has everything from leather gloves to titanium helmets to outfit your players. When asked if these items are equivalents to weapons and armor in a fantasy RPG, Udvari says they’re similar but not exactly the same. “In some ways, yeah,” he said. “Except this game isn’t based on damage mechanics. So I see them more as an analogy of talismans and magical amulets in RPGs, because they strengthen the specific aspects. For example, some shoulder pads are light and you can run fast, but they are less strong for blocking other players. We like the systems of tradeoffs.”

Puzzle Football: Quest of the Gridiron

Players in the game run the gamut from normal football athletes to pirates, zombies, and robots, so there’s a slight tongue in cheek feel that looks like a natural fit with the pixel art and retro sound effects. Part Time Evil plans on having about 20 different players in the game at launch, enough to make selecting a roster a real part of the strategy.

Even more cool-sounding stuff is among the game’s stretch goals, including more teams and players, injuries (complete with an ambulance rushing onto the field to cart off the affected player), pass-and-play multiplayer and multiplayer seasons. Putting features like that into the stretch goals allows players to have a say in what they really want, though Udvari has a favorite of his own in mind as well.

“Personally, I really want to build the feature where you can trade players and teams over the networks,” he said. “I think that would open a lot of doors for a game like this, because as a player, I like games in which you can build up your inventory and team in single-player, yet trade in multiplayer, much like Animal Crossing.

Puzzle Football: Quest of the Gridiron is off to a good start on its Indiegogo campaign, which runs through December 22. Funders can help back the game with as little as $3, so be sure to check out the campaign page if you’d like to puzzle and quest your way to football glory on iOS and Android in 2014.