Football management games are titles that I’ve always held in high regard. The majority of my gaming history can be boiled down to sitting in front of PC’s that were never quite good enough to run them smoothly but yet have a wonderful time attempting to take my teams to the promised land. From the likes of Championship Manager and then Football Manager and my all time favourite sim game, the mighty Ultimate Soccer Manager 98 (a game I would do truly unspeakable things for a way to play it again on my current setup).
But mobile? Nah, I don’t play games on mobile anymore. The last one I played to death? Rather conveniently, New Star Soccer. A football game that shared sensibilities with a management sim rather than a full on sport title. It was gratifying, rewarding and a lot of fun, encouraging looking after your player off the pitch as well as on it. A fresh New Star game was always going to grab my attention, then. Enter New Star Manager.
New Star Manager (NSM) has had a rather healthy life on mobiles, having released on iOS and then on Android, developers New Star Games are now moving the game to consoles, specifically the Switch. How does it play? And does it knock Football Manager 2019 off the perch as your go-to football management game on the handheld hybrid?
If you’ve played New Star Soccer, you’re going to feel at home here. Manager however, as you might expect puts you in the seat of an entire club, rather than a single player. You’re in control of the team, the training facilities, the merch stores, essentially the entire infrastructure of your team is in your control, so you’re going to need to brush up on the games rather hefty tutorial before you attempt to start signing the worldies.
Keeping on top of your teams fitness, tactical knowledge and formations are just a single part of NSM as you’re also responsible for effectively every aspect of the team you can imagine from signing sponsors to keeping tabs on the number of tickets you’re selling. There are various discussions with the board who have zero qualms with telling you how badly you’re doing, even if you’ve only been in the job for a couple weeks. They expect results and quickly, so you’re going to have to get your head around it all sooner rather than later.
I’ll admit I was hugely surprised at the depth of NSM. I’m not entirely sure I was expecting just how hands-on the game makes you almost immediately. There’s plenty to be getting on with at any one time, you’ll never find yourself twiddling your thumbs waiting for something to happen. If your tactics are sorted you’ll probably then need to go and speak to one of your players who feels like they’re not getting enough game time. Once that’s done you’re going to a press junket which is essentially a lesson in what you’ve learned so far about the team. If you don’t get the question correct the press will tear you a new one. Far to say the game is challenging to kick off, but there’s just so much to be getting on with you don’t have time to not learn how to do everything. In at the deep end.
Whilst this is all happening, you need to keep the results up. You start the NSM taking charge of New Star FC, near the end of their season and close to relegation. It’s up to you to keep them up, keep the board satisfied, along with the fans and sponsors and keep the media on your side. It’s quite the juggling act, but to New Star’s credit they never let the game get overwhelming. There’s plenty to do but you can do it at your own pace. If you want to learn more about the scouts, the training facilities or anything else you can before you hit that all important match button.
And this is where fans of NSS will feel more at home. Not unlike other management sims, NSM offers highlights of the game you can play, primarily attacking segments of the match where you’re able to attempt shots at goal or solid passing runs through the midfield resulting in a beautiful through ball your star striker can get on the end of. The movement of the players is dependent on you, as the game freezes whilst you choose your moves. Playing NSM on the Switch’s lovely touch screen allows you to play the game in a similar way to its mobile counterpart, tapping players to pass or pulling back to shoot with the right amount of power. Of course playing the game in docked mode allows you to control the onscreen and it does feel like you have a little more control this way. It’s not going to bother FIFA in the realism stakes but the top-down strategic approach allows just a little more precision in the passing, shooting or through balls.
Fortunately, the beauty of the Switch is you have the option and New Star Games have done a sterling job with the physical button mapping atop their traditional touch-screen experience.
A part of the game that is worth shouting from the rooftops about is the strategy elements, treating formations and player upgrades like a tabletop card game. Your team is your deck, swapping players cards in and out in terms of whether or not they’re suitable to play the next match. If necessary, you earn boost cards throughout the game in various scenarios, whether it be winning a match or the aforementioned press interviews. You use these boost cards at your leisure, and it’s up to you if you want to risk them on players you need for the big games or throw them on young startups to give them a leg up in a smaller match. It’s tricky to know when is best to use them, as choosing wrong can have devastating effects on a season.
There’s much to love about New Star Manager and New Star have done a cracking job with this Switch port, making it feel right at home. I’ve dropped nearly 25 hours into it this week and I’m currently halfway through a season and I’ve finally found that all important ‘football management sim’ rhythm, ensuring I know what to prioritise and what not to worry so much about. The touch screen controls are a delight and the additions of Joy-Cons have elevated the in control segments of matches allowing you to feel like you’re having far more of an effect on where the ball is heading.
Plus you can build up your stadium, which is my favourite aspect of any football management sim and yes, that earns it an extra point.
New Star Manager is out now on Nintendo Switch (reviewed), iOS, Android and Steam.
Developer: New Star Games
Publisher: New Star Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.
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