New Star Manager Review
New Star Soccer is absolutely brilliant. A total timesink, where seconds can become minutes, minutes hours and hours days, or something which can equally fill only the spare ninety seconds you have on that particular day. For me, I first played it upon release on mobile phones, specifically Android (although also on iOS and Windows Phone), in 2012. Starting out as a young and new footballer at a lowly club, you had the opportunity to play good football, build your reputation, earn money and soon enough you’d be at Liverpool, or Barcelona, or wherever your fancy took you, winning all the trophies.
The game itself was quick-fire, giving you the chance to play key moments in matches — typically where you got to score a goal — and then regain fitness, buy consumer goods and keep your relationship with your girlfriend top notch. Bringing back memories of Ultimate Soccer Manager from the ‘90s, it was a totally engaging game which never seemed to get old. Of course, it did, and in time players drifted away. But then came its successor — New Star Manager, which is now on PlayStation 4 to go alongside its Android, iOS and Nintendo Switch releases.
This version takes its lead from the Nintendo Switch version. One flat fee for the game, compared to a free to play title with an awful lot of microtransactions on the mobile devices. New Star Manager is what you’d expect, really. It’s New Star Soccer, but bigger, like any good sequel should be. You start the game as a new manager at a lowly league club tasked with keeping them up when near the end of the season. Throughout a very long tutorial you’re introduced to the game’s mechanics, and what you can do now you have the management gig. Your responsibility ranges from building a training ground, to recruiting a scouting team and managing transfers. It’s pretty much all the stuff you get in Football Manager, at a vastly less detailed level, alongside some of the more operational facets of a football club.
You still though of course get to play football. This time alongside shooting and taking free kicks, you get to dribble and all kinds of things, with the fixed camera angle or one more akin to your preference. There’s a replay mechanic too if you royally screw something up and know you could have done better, although this, unsurprisingly, is limited. The football still feels glorious, despite its simplicity. WIth the added dribbling — which I tended to do every time it went to a key footballing moment, rather than just shooting and passing — there’s an early ‘90s football game vibe, Striker or Italia ‘90 perhaps, which is just brilliant. The problem is that football is now much less of the game in totality.
As you’re now manager you have so many more things to think about than before. Not only do you still have to beware of relationships with the fans, journalists and the board, but you have to manage the team and make sure the formation is right, the positioning, the development. That’s in addition to the training, scouting, transfers mentioned previously and more. This all takes time but honestly it doesn’t matter initially if your players are rated highly if you’re good. I saved the time initially and raced up the table thereafter. I spent my in-game cash on things like a coach to make sure I could generate training cards for my players, and use those cards to improve their overall rating. But this was done largely because it was there and the fact I had to as part of the tutorial. Not in order to build the best side, and win because of it.
This did create a bit of a problem. As things got harder, and I got further in the game, I needed to really think about the mechanics and how best to support and build my team, rather than just spending cash on that new club store because it sounded great. This in itself isn’t really a problem, except for two things: one, the game doesn’t encourage you to invest time in understanding early on if you don’t want to and two, it’s less interesting than the actual football. This latter point is subjective, sure, but for many it will be a factor, and this can lead to a mid-game challenge which is imbalanced, or frustration which may cause you to drop out of the game.
The game is a PlayStation port and the user interface was created with a touchscreen in mind. The actual football is really quite lovely with analogue sticks and buttons, working as you’d expect a football game to work. However, outside of that there is so much clicking left, clicking left again, up a bit, down a bit, to navigate the multitude of onscreen menu items that it’s really laborious and at times irritating when you can’t get done what you need because you’ve forgotten to press a face button after moving left three times, before moving in various directions again. It takes time to move around the menus, and that again lends itself to ignoring the finer parts of the game. For this reason, it seems likely that the mobile origins, or the Switch version would be preferable given the choice.
Overall though, the feel of New Star Manager is familiar and one which won’t fail to engage, at least in part. The flat one-off price of entry allows you to just crack on with the game, although it’s this — where you don’t have to think about your limited resources in-game or otherwise and what to spend them on to best help the club — which can cause you to move away too quickly, avoiding the game’s depth until forced to, and perhaps when it’s too late in that particular save. If you’re able to navigate the new parts of the game though, and enjoy doing so, your experience here will no doubt be strong. I think the best way to make this happen is to get the game on Nintendo Switch, although if the PlayStation is your only option, it should still be a game you drop in and out of for a long time.
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