Square Enix is renowned for their visually stunning and gripping titles that leave lasting impressions on players for years to come. Foamstars, the newest development by the studio, feels like a title that will be lost in mediocrity before long. While the game tries to feel like a fresh addition to the competitive shooter genre, its repetitiveness, oversaturated visuals, and obscene microtransactions only make it another forgettable experience. The foamy shooter isn’t the worst game I have played, but the mediocrity it provides feels like something fun only in small bursts.
“While competitive multiplayer shooters don’t typically need a compelling story, Foamstars’ lacks any real weight, making it hard to care about the characters or unfolding events.”
Foamstars takes place in the fictional Bath Vegas, where contestants known as Foamstars compete in the Foamsmash competition for prize money. While partaking in the event, they also protect the city’s energy sources, known as Energy Cores, from the hostile Bubble Beasties. However, none of this really matters, as the story in Foamstars is incredibly shallow and takes the furthest back seat within the game.
While competitive multiplayer shooters don’t typically need a compelling story, Foamstars’ lacks any real weight, making it hard to care about the characters or unfolding events. As Square Enix has presented many notable narratives in the past, it is a shock to see what little there is in Foamstars. From the start of the game, there are no obvious reasons as to where the Bubble Beasties come from or why they are doing what they do besides trying to cover the world in foam, which is odd considering most of the gameplay consists of using it as a weapon. Shortly after receiving any background dialogue about the story, I had forgotten the premise entirely. I moved on to compete in the tournament through its different modes.
“With just how chaotic everything becomes in matches, it is hard to tell what is happening.”
Foamstars’ gameplay is, unfortunately, very repetitive. While it initially may seem like a fast-paced PvP title, it is, in fact, a much slower shooter than you might expect. The core combat loop involves “chilling an opponent.” This involves hitting the enemy with foam until their health runs out and using the L2 button to ride their surfboard into the foam ball representing the opponent. While in theory it sounds engaging, in practice, it gets tedious after the first few attempts, hardly having the longevity that other competitive shooters promise.
When it comes to PvP game modes, there are few to choose from. Smash the Star sees players in a team deathmatch setting, where lives are counted down by chilling an opponent. When all lives are expended, the best-performing player, known as the “Star,” must be eliminated by the opposing team to win. While the mode is a neat concept, players can continue to respawn on both teams until the Star is dealt with. The other mode I fought through, Rubber Duck Party, is similar to moving the payload mode in Overwatch 1 & 2. The slight twist in this mode is that dancing on top of the objective will shoot it along the path faster.
However, with the competitive modes, they are over in such quick succession that there were no lasting feelings of what I had experienced, just blasting foam at opponents to win and moving on. Furthermore, with just how chaotic everything becomes in matches, it is hard to tell what is happening. It had me feeling bored during the matches, especially with movement only being faster if you surf around on your teams’ foam paths. Ultimately, this mechanic feels more irritating than innovative.
“The Foamstars Missions are a unique change in pace, giving players a tutorial on how to play different characters.”
The cooperative mode and character missions are separated into Squad Missions and Foamstars Missions. In the former, players team up with three other players for a 10-wave-based survival. They must protect the Energy Core from being destroyed. With the completion of each round, players can choose a perk to help them in the match, similar to a roguelike component in other games. The Foamstars Missions are very similar in being wave defense-based. However, they’re provided as a means for players to practice using different characters and learning how they play.
Both modes provided a much more unique experience than their competitive counterparts. They allow players to better their experience with the roster and play something separate from the hecticness of PvP. The Squad Missions are simple, but with both Normal and Hard difficulty settings and the roguelike perks, it feels like the most enjoyable and attention-grabbing part of an otherwise mediocre game. The Foamstars Missions, although similar, are a unique change in pace, giving players a tutorial on how to play different characters.
“I felt that Foamstars’ sound design was incredible, working well in conjunction with the game’s aesthetic.”
Visually, Foamstars is an oversaturated mess. As foam is scattered across the map, it gets harder and harder to see both your teammates and the enemy. The only way to recognize them is through the outlines of the team colors. Additionally, the different ultimates and abilities played throughout the match only add to the visual chaos and distract from important aspects of the gameplay. I sometimes felt like I had lost track of what I would do because everything around me had pulled my focus. Having all of the bright colors and visual noise takes away from the action in ways that make you want to take a break. Fortunately, the game’s audio tells a different tale.
I felt that Foamstars’ sound design was incredible, working well in conjunction with the game’s aesthetic. The various sound effects in matches, such as the foam being spread across the map, felt incredibly immersive, with each one filling the arenas with explosive life. Additionally, instead of serious action music, Square Enix has opted for a more hip jazz theme that had me bobbing my head while dodging foam. Lastly, in terms of the characters, each sounds unique and quirky. From the edgy Rave Breaker to the smooth-talking Baristador, the characters are fun, and their banter was an excellent addition while in fights.
Accessibility is also absolutely essential in games, so it’s a shame Foamstars lacks any accessibility tools for players other than toggling colorblind visuals on or off. There aren’t even filters to help differentiate different types of color blindness for players. There are no hold instead of press options, menu narration, or text options other than dialogue and subtitles.
“Foamstars is a game that, to sum up in a word, feels mediocre.”
While I received Foamstars for free through PlayStation Plus, it retails at USD$29.99. However, as it is also a live service title, there is a cosmetic shop where players can spend real money. Unfortunately, the pricing on many of the cosmetic items is ridiculous, with emotes costing around USD$4 and character decorative sets reaching upwards of $50. Frankly, these microtransactions are absurd, especially with the game having a price tag attached. From what little content is on offer, coupled with these microtransactions, I truly believe the game should have been released as a free-to-play title.
While I can usually forgive many games for their faults, Foamstars is not one of those titles. There are simply too many issues holding it back, from the repetitive gameplay loop that leaves plenty to be desired to the chaotic visuals within matches and illogical microtransaction pricing. Foamstars was a game that I was excited to jump into at first. However, I have been left disappointed, primarily as the title is published by the same company that not only crafted one of the most incredible action RPGs but also Final Fantasy 14, a prevalent live-service title that only continues to grow. Foamstars is a game that, to sum up in a word, feels mediocre. As it is now, the game can be fun, but only in small bursts here and there, and should have been left to soak a little more first before being put out to dry.
Foamstars tries to bring something new to the table but has almost immediately been drowned out thanks to its repetitiveness. From an almost absent storyline to limited modes, it can start to feel old very quickly. While the co-op survival mode, thorough character tutorial missions, and impressive audio are strong, they are not enough to hold the game together. Adding insult to injury is the absurd pricing and awful microtransactions which ultimately make this a game that players should stay away from.