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New Star Soccer won this year’s British Academy of Film and Television Arts’ Best Sports/Fitness game, beating out the likes of FIFA 13 and Forza Horizon. Here's our belated take at what makes it so impressive.
Stripped down, yes. But less fun? Definitely not.
How do you port a soccer game over to phones and tablets? Simple, just take out the boring parts. Who needs to command your player to run continuously when you can just do the kicking?
Of course, it’s much more complex than that. Yet amazingly, in New Star Soccer, developer Simon Read has figured out how to make a soccer game incredibly fun to play on a touch screen device of your choice.
A lot of it traces back to the original PC game’s concept, where it’s one part “Be a Player” and one part The Sims, where in addition to playing the match, you can partake in off-field activities to improve your skills, earn extra cash, and have relationships. Well, relationships in a rather shallow sense anyway, as it is determined solely by your possessions and how much time you spend with your partner (though some may argue that it's just a realistic portrayal). Sprinkle a liberal dose of satire of the football world-- the post-match interviews where you string along a bunch of clichéd phrases will have you chuckling to yourself-- and you’ve got the makings of an incredibly charming and addictive game.
If you’ve played the PC version of New Star Soccer before (NSS 5 being its latest iteration), the premise is very much the same. You create a player, pick a league to start in, and work your way to the top. There are several important differences in the mobile version. First of all, instead of controlling your player for the entire duration of the match, you only get the highlights package: most of the match is done in text commentary, except in moments when your player is involved in the action — either a chance to make a pass, take a shot, or make an interception — at which point it switches to the in-game view. As a result, matches go by briskly, and you get to play only the fun parts.
The second difference is that you don’t have to move your player unless you’re trying to intercept an opposition pass. That’s not a bad decision, since the dragging can be frustrating at times, especially if you need to change directions. So it comes as no surprise that the interception module is the weakest of the three, as the dragging sometimes can be too unforgiving—your player won’t stick a leg out even if the ball rolls just to the side of him—plus it’s hard to keep tabs on what’s going on on the pitch when your finger is covering a good deal of it.