As a rule, I refrain from paddling on the way. I love the idea, but seldom make it up. It doesn’t matter whether I have a smartphone or handheld with me. I don’t even know what it is. There are so many good games besides TV and computer monitor. Clash Royale had grabbed me for a while, Pokemon Go anyway, Jetpack Joyride a bit before that, but mostly in the toilet. But there wasn’t much more.

I always viewed the implementation of traditional concepts and brands with the help of an emulated controller with particular disparagement. As soon as I’m supposed to use the screen like a joypad, the fun stops for me. It was always little more than an emergency nail and the lack of haptic feedback from the control pad and keystrokes sucked any fun out of the process. For me it was always a crooked emergency nail for those moments when it absolutely had to be a video game. The only difference is that such moments don’t really exist. I can pull myself together by the time I’m home.

Now PES 2017 is coming in its mobile version and thinks it could teach me the opposite: This game is firmly convinced that even a classic home console concept from top to bottom fits without major compromises on a small screen without physical input aids. And I have to say, almost grudgingly, they had some darn good ideas and almost completely offset the deficits of their control medium with moderate adjustments. I can’t believe I’m getting this out of my mouth, but … I was having fun.

PES Productions has made a good start to part with the well-known strict controller structure. Anyone who thinks of virtual analog sticks, control crosses and on-screen buttons is on the wrong track. Instead, the developers rely on catchy and surprisingly precise gestures as well as a moderate knack for assisted accuracy, which “interpolates” sloppiness due to the small screen and guesses what you actually wanted.

The screen is basically split in two. Movements of the thumb anywhere in the left half control your player, tapping, holding and dragging on the left controls the actions. It’s really strange how quickly you realize what to do here. In possession of the ball, you pass the ball with a short wiper in the direction of the other player. Pull and hold somewhere in the room for a moment and the ball will go right there, so the player is physically able to do so. For high balls you need a wiper that you pull back a little beforehand and shoot (or clear) with a double tap. You can even shoot manually if you prefer a little more control.

Overall, I was surprised at the level of fine control anyway. Whether double passes or the distinction between single and double pressing, I quickly only missed the Super Cancel to cancel certain actions. But it is very possible that I just haven’t discovered this in the short beta phase that Konami invited to in October. In addition, the beta was mostly still in Japanese and it was primarily about controls and connectivity. That’s why Konami has not yet said anything about the payment model, and I cannot yet say whether and to what extent microtransactions will be used here and how the composition of the player team works. It was at least apparently a championship league format, with fantasy players in well-known teams who were then exchanged for better footballers as part of a management part. But as you can see from the pictures, there will probably also be matches with original lineups. Again: Japanese – if I could speak it.

Konami is still keeping a low profile, but it is clear that this is multiplayer, which the nicknames of opposing players above the cursor also confirmed. The fact that I found opponents directly in the beta without waiting or great mediation who never fiddled with the lineups or paused, however, suggests that you will at least partially compete against AI-controlled teams. Konami said that you would also play “live” against others, but it would make sense if a player-managed team were sent into the race during non-productive times or if the CPU had connection problems.

Visually, it looks decent here, even if you have to accept slightly flatter and less detailed players in order to shrink the experience down to phone format. In the long shot, the game doesn’t lose much – and it looks like PES, which surprised me a bit. In this respect: Playful, so pure on the pitch, this is the unexpected best-case scenario that I didn’t know existed at all. Could be good – if they still shake hands with the goalkeepers, because they really didn’t catch anything. But even here it is possible that beginners can be waved through a bit in the first few games. In addition, such balance stories at Pro Evo are traditionally only straightened out in the last few meters.

I don’t know, almost ten years ago people were wondering how a PES should work on the Wii. Konami surprised everyone with clever ideas for gesture and pointer control, which resulted in a different, but tactical, and pleasant PES. Now they could do the same coup again on mobile, a platform that I actually considered completely unsuitable due to its structure alone. It’s nice when you’re wrong and can be happy about it for a change.

Order PES 2017 from Amazon

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