Apr 18, 2012
Sensible Soccer, as any
sensible regular person will tell you, died in 1996. Sure, there were a couple of attempts at bringing the Amiga/PC classic back to life with all singing-all dancing graphics, but they fell short of the fans misty eyed memories.
All is not lost, however. New Star Soccer is a long running indie football game, which could at a glance pass for the Sensible Software classic. They both offer a top down playing angle, and a simplified view of the beautiful game, without any of FIFA’s flash and pizazz. For the first time, the series lands on mobile, and rather than trying to cram in some kind of awkward touch screen D-Pad, monstrosity, NSS takes the sensible option of breaking the on-the-pitch action into minigames.
The player takes the role of a single footballer trying to become a superstar both on the pitch and off of it. On the pitch, the game gives a certain number of opportunities to impress with a shot, a pass or an interception, depending on the strength of the team and how much teammates like the player. Off the pitch, the player can train to improve skills, buy houses, cars and tat to get people talking about their superstar, or work on relationships with the fans, team mates or manager. None of these are particularly deep, but it does complement the main game, and pushes the player to try to get to bigger clubs, as your money increasingly doesn’t go far enough (sometimes, just like in real life, a bike won’t cut it, but a personal jet will).
The mini-games are simple affairs, but very satisfying. Firstly the game provides an overview of the pitch, and the player has to pull back on the ball to set distance and direction. When you let go, the ball comes in from a first person perspective leaving the player to tap it in the right spot to add height, spin, or keep it on the ground. This makes all the difference between chipping the ball neatly over a defender, or sending it towards the corner flag. It’s simple, but hugely rewarding, and the game does make the player think about the consequences their actions â€“ send too many shots over the bar, and teammates will resent the player for not passing enough. And the manager will drop him, of course.
Slight issues creep in further into the game, with the age old problem of how to prevent it becoming too easy when you sign for a massive club. NSS tackles this by ramping up the price of energy drinks. It sort of makes sense, but knocks into the soccer superstar fantasy world, and even then it’s not that successful: four seasons in, and I had maxed out my player and matches were getting a little samey. Likewise, players may moan about the pricing difference between iOS (where it’s free, with a 99c IAP for the main game) and Android, where it’s over $3.
But these complaints are pretty minor for a game that’s eaten as many hours as NSS has for me. By thinking outside the box on how football should play on mobile, New Star Games have created something that feels new, fun and addictive. It’s not FIFA, but its stolen away many of its previously unchallenged hours.