At the nucleus of every great mobile game there exists a simple yet instantly gratifying core mechanic; an easy-to-grasp artifice that serves to strengthen those ethereal tethers between neural reward centres and smartphone.
Tiny Wings epitomises this truism. Here is a game with a conspicuously feather-light body that was seemingly always destined to reach the highest perches of the download charts, by virtue of an ingenious mechanism of inertia. Although certainly not bereft of embellishments, New Star Soccer also manages to capture that same elusive, visceral pleasure – albeit through the rippling of nets rather than the ruffling of feathers.
New Star Soccer provides an unashamedly basic representation of the beautiful game. At the commencement of each match, a Football Manager-esque highlight-feed scrolls down the screen detailing the key events. At random points throughout the 90 minutes you gain control of a nondescript member of your team, giving you the capacity to influence a handful of said key events, be that through taking a set-piece or threading that immaculate through-ball into the path of a grateful teammate.
The passing and shooting mechanics are essentially the same: to determine direction and power you simply drag your finger back on the ball and release. This then triggers a second screen, through which you can dictate the flight and curl of the ball by touching the appropriate section of a passing football.
The beauty of this system is that it’s pitched perfectly: it’s nuanced enough to feel like there’s a satisfying degree of control, whilst retaining a level of simplicity that ensures a smooth learning curve. Within no time you’ll be pinging them in from 40+ yards with the precision and poise of a Ronaldo free-kick.
In a similar vein to the market trend, there exists a substantial role-playing element. Through way of a series of related minigames you can upgrade a set of attributes that will determine your effectiveness on the pitch. For instance, to increase your character’s Power rating you are tasked with scoring past a keeper from increasingly further distances. Similarly, there are a set of lifestyle attributes that will deviate according to your performances on and off the pitch. Your Team rating will rise and fall according to how often you pass to your teammates, whilst your alarmingly capricious manager will alter his opinion of you on a match-to-match basis, affecting your Boss rating – you may even be demoted to the bench after a string of poor performances.
The ramifications of neglecting to maintain these meters at a healthy level are slight, but noticeable. For example, failure to establish a good relationship with your fans will result in a lambasting mid-game, to the detriment of your performance. It’s by no means a game-changer, but it’s one of the games many neat touches.
Elsewhere there’s a casino tab where you can fritter away your hard-earned wages. Or instead, the more amorous amongst you may decide to invest in a multitude of material goods to placate a restless girlfriend. These are hardly emergent concepts then, but that’s not the point; they are merely the dainty garnish atop an incredibly moreish cake.
The bright and cheery palette of New Star Soccer accentuates that arcade vibe which colours every facet of its design. In a way it complements the smatterings of humour; you really get the sense that the designers have a lot of fun working on this game.
New Star Soccer simply gets the balance right. It encourages the pick-up-and-play attitude that’s pivotal in mobile gaming, whilst retaining that scope for longevity. Of course, as with any title, you will eventually reach a point where it all becomes a bit blasé as that initial spark dissipates. It’s great then to see that NewStarGames are committed to updating the game on a regular basis, with a big IOS update due to hit the marketplace any day now.
In the words of Harry Redknapp: “t’riffic!”.