New Star Soccer was one of the best football games on Mobile. The combination of player improvement and physics was a great distraction when you had a few moments and deep enough to go through multiple seasons when you were on holiday. Now Five Aces Publishing Limited have released the sequel which allows you to take your experience even deeper. Think of it as a mix of Football manager and Pro Evo with FIFA cards thrown in.
New Star Soccer was revolutionary at the time for letting you take control of only important situations to your player, whether it was a 50/50 passing situation, a cross, header or shot on goal. You picked the direction, then the spot on the ball where you wanted the contact to take place. The simple but addictive gameplay garnered a cult following and a BAFTA for the developers. Now the first fully-fledged sequel is here and things have definitely stepped up a notch.
You are now the manager of the team and have assumed an Alex Ferguson like control of the football club. You hire the backroom staff, decide on improvements to the ground, pitch, and even club shop. All these improvements lead to more revenue and better resources. The youth setup will generate you better players, the pitch will make your players retain more energy, improve passing and avoid injuries and improving the stadium will yield greater gate receipts. While this is all interesting and addictive in itself the addition of skills coaching is what really adds to the depth of the game. As there is no specific training to improve your players you have to have a skills coach to earn the cards that improve the players. If you don’t improve the players they become unhappy at their lack of development and don’t become better on the pitch. It’s a vicious circle, that if neglected can spell disaster later in the game.
On the pitch things have vastly improved because you are no longer the star player, you control all members of the team, meaning you can hit through balls, draw running lines for other attackers, dribble forward and of course cross and shoot. While a little overwhelming at first, by the end of your first few matches you will be thrilled to have all the extra options available to you. Because defending in the matches is down to the AI the chance to score a goal on every attack is essential, stopping the game zooming out and taking a look at the situation, then working out your passes, runs and tactics to make a chance is thoroughly enjoyable and never gets old. An added bonus is the localised team names or at least approximations of them. Picking Northern Ireland and seeing real abbreviations for the teams is enough to make you smile.
Unfortunately, there are a few balancing issues with the game that began to creep into the predecessor New Star Soccer and continue here. Because the game is free the developer has to make money on it someway and you can buy money to use in the game, energy cards and even players. There is nothing wrong with this at all except for some balance issues. For example, energy or NRG in the game depletes quickly amongst all your players and you only can get two tins of NRG to replenish this per match. If you choose to get these two tins you forgo the chance to get skill cards or a young player at the end of the match. Either a reduction in energy loss or more tins would balance this up. You can, of course, buy tins, but then the real world cost begins to outweigh the game. If you got a weekly allowance of energy when purchasing the ad-free version then no one could really complain. The same can happen with skill cards and the other resources so the micro-management is difficult but rewarding when you grind out a perfect team you just feel that the odds are ever so slightly stacked against you. Despite this, the game is only out and balance can be achieved.
So there you have it. New Star Manager is a worthy successor to the original New Star Soccer and I can see everyone that likes football getting something good from this. I would hope they tone down the in-app purchases or at least give you some more value for money for them, but the developer needs to make money although I’d have preferred a full price release rather than freemium.